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Hier — 23 janvier 2022Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

Go pre-built with one of these excellent Dell gaming desktops

Dell has a sizable lineup of gaming desktops, and each of them has a range of different pros and cons. With gaming desktops, power, price, and style are what matter the most. For that reason, the Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition is the overall best Dell gaming desktop that you can get your hands on because of its outstanding balance of power and price and also its incredibly unique-looking aesthetic.

Best overall: Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition

The Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition takes our top spot thanks to its wide selection of AMD's Ryzen 5000 Series processors, which currently outperform Intel's top options. Everything from the mainstream Ryzen 5 5600X to the beastly Ryzen 9 5950X is available to choose from. It also offers incredible graphics hardware, with up to an RTX 3090 available. Additionally, up to 128GB of RAM and up to 4TB of SSD and HDD storage can be added to the mix, making this PC an absolute beast at its highest specs. There are tons of less expensive specifications that you can create as well, making the Alienware Aurora R10 an amazing choice whether you want a mainstream machine or a cutting-edge one.

It's also worth pointing out that the PC case is incredibly unique and otherworldly looking with its rounded shape and snazzy RGB lighting, which is very fitting for the Alienware brand. If you want a PC that will catch eyes, you won't find anything more striking than this.

Pros:

  • Immense power
  • Striking, bold aesthetic
  • Tons of RAM and storage space
  • Very configurable
  • Best for top-end range

Cons:

  • Can get expensive fast

Best overall

New Alienware Aurora R10 Gaming Desktop

Team Red fans, rejoice!

The Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition is at the top of our list due to its immense power, configuration options, and bold look.

Intel alternative: Alienware Aurora R12

If you like the sound of the Alienware Aurora R10, but you're not a fan of AMD Ryzen hardware, then the Alienware Aurora R12 is for you. Whereas the Aurora R10 comes with Ryzen CPUs, the Aurora R12 features a wide selection of Intel 11th Gen chips. These processors aren't as capable as Ryzen 5000 Series ones, but they come close. You get the same GPU, RAM, and storage options that come with the Aurora R10, so you don't have to make sacrifices in other areas to go Team Blue. Lastly, the Aurora R12 comes with the same case design as its AMD-powered cousin, albeit with a white color scheme.

Pros:

  • Immense power
  • Striking, bold aesthetic
  • Tons of RAM and storage space
  • Very configurable

Cons:

  • Can get expensive fast
  • Slightly less capable at the top end

Intel alternative

New Alienware Aurora R12 Gaming Desktop

Team Blue fans, rejoice!

The Alienware Aurora R12 is the Intel variant of the Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition.

Best mid-range: Dell G5 Gaming Desktop (RTX 2060 SUPER)

The Dell G5 Gaming Desktop is ideal for folks who want something on the more affordable side but still want to enjoy strong performance. This is currently Dell's budget gaming PC. Still, they make a special version of it that comes with the RTX 3060. You can pair this with a selection of capable 10th Gen Intel CPUs, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of SSD space (plus additional non-SSD storage) for an overall great price.

In terms of aesthetics, Dell went with a less aggressive and more traditional PC tower design with the G5 desktop. However, there are still RGB accents and decorate angular design elements, meaning that your rig will come off as a gaming system to friends and family who take a peek.

Pros:

  • Good power
  • Traditional design with "gamer" accents
  • Plenty of RAM and storage
  • Best for mid-range

Cons:

  • Not as powerful as Alienware options
  • Not as configurable

Best mid-range

Dell G5 Gaming Desktop (RTX 3060)

Balanced offering

Dell's G5 Gaming Desktop with an RTX 3060 is an excellent option for mid-range buyers.

Best budget: Dell G5 Gaming Desktop (RX 5300)

If you're looking for something that can perform well for a more affordable cost, the Dell G5 Gaming Desktop's standard variant will be right up your alley. Its AMD Radeon RX 5300 isn't as performant as the previous model's RTX 3060, but it's also less expensive, and it still delivers solid performance overall. Additionally, its i5 10th Gen Intel CPU isn't bad either, and you can get up to 32GB of RAM and 1TB of SSD storage for the PC as well. Ultimately, you won't get top performance with this PC, but you will save a lot of money.

Pros:

  • Solid power
  • Traditional design with "gamer" accents
  • Good RAM and storage
  • Best for people on budgets

Cons:

  • Least powerful option on this list
  • Not as configurable

Best budget

Dell G5 Gaming Desktop (RX 5300)

Go low, ride high

The standard Dell G5 Gaming Desktop is a superb option for budget buyers, offering good performance at a fair price.

Bottom line

When it comes to the top gaming desktops, a good balance between power, price, and style is essential. When picking a gaming rig to purchase, you need to make sure that your system has a strong GPU. You'll also need a reliable processor, 8GB of RAM minimum (16GB is recommended, 32GB is good for prosumer systems, and 64GB is overkill), and enough storage to support your game library. Using an SSD for storage is preferred since their faster speeds will allow you to get through loading screens quicker.

Dell's gaming desktops are among some of the absolute best on the market. Among them, our favorite is the Alienware Aurora R10 Ryzen Edition. It offers a phenomenal amount of power, storage, RAM, and style. Additionally, the many different configurations available means that you can get the exact specs that you want with it.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. He's relatively new to the writing scene, but he counters that lack of experience with a rock-solid work ethic and a desire to improve at every opportunity. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

Raven Software ends strike pending recognition of newly formed union

The striking employees have asked leadership at Activision to formally recognize their newly formed union.

What you need to know

  • Employees from Raven Software went on strike following the layoff of 12 QA team members in December.
  • 34 Raven employees have requested that Activision leadership formally recognize their union, Game Worker's Alliance.
  • ABetterABK, the Activision Blizzard King worker's alliance, says ending the strike is "in good faith" to encourage union recognition.

After seven weeks on strike, employees from Raven Software may be returning to work. On Jan. 21 thirty four employees united officially to form the Game Worker's Alliance, a first of its kind union among the gaming industry. The unionized employees then petitioned Activision and Raven Software leadership to officially recognize the worker's alliance.

Pending the recognition of our union, the Raven QA strike has ended. Unused strike funds are being stored for future organizing/strike efforts.

We'll post or retweet any GWU updates here. Appreciate all the community support throughout the strike!

— ABetterABK 💙 ABK Workers Alliance (@ABetterABK) January 23, 2022

ABetterABK, an established worker's alliance of Activision, Blizzard and King employees that has been supporting Raven Software's employees amid throughout the strike, tweeted on Saturday, Jan. 22 that the GWA would be ending their strike "in good faith" pending a response from leadership regarding whether or not they would recognize the union. In a statement to Bloomberg, Activision's spokesperson claimed the company is "carefully reviewing the request for voluntary recognition".

In the event that Activision chooses not to recognize the newly formed union, the employees next step toward having their union recognized in an official capacity requires them to file a petition for a union election with the National Labor Relations Board. As it stands, the employees at Raven Software currently have a supermajority of employee sigantures seeking to formally unionize.

FFXIV director Naoki Yoshida wants to work on the MMO for another 10 years

Announcements have been made regarding the future of Final Fantasy XIV.

What you need to know

  • Naoki Yoshida, the game director and producer of Final Fantasy XIV has announced new pieces of information for Square Enix's MMORPG.
  • There will be a live stream in February detailing future content for FFXIV: Endwalker and Square Enix will show a preview of Patch 6.1 in March.
  • Yoshida also says that he intends to work on Final Fantasy XIV for another 10 years.

After a taking part in Square Enix's annual livestream of playing Mahjong with fellow developers and voice actors for the popular MMORPG, Final Fantasy XIV, its game director and producer Naoki Yoshida (a.k.a. "Yoshi-P") had a few announcements to make. From this previous live stream (translated by reddit), Yoshida has announced that there will be a "special edition" Live Letter from the Producer stream in February. It will contain information regarding the post-launch content roadmap for FFXIV's latest expansion, Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker and the future for Square Enix's beloved MMORPG as a whole.

Yoshida then mentions that Square Enix will showcase a preview of Patch 6.1's content for Endwalker In March. The only piece of content that has been revealed for Patch 6.1 so far is that the Data Center Travel System will be implemented into the game as part of their plans to migitate server congestion. He also brings up that the upcoming Patch 6.08 will mostly feature numerical adjustments to player Jobs and that more major Jobs changes will be arriving in Patch 6.1.

Moving on from major announcements, Yoshida states that he's in good health and is willing to continue working on Final Fantasy XIV for another 10 years. Yoshida started working on Final Fantasy XIV all the way back in 2010 to help the, at the time, struggling MMORPG get back on track after a disasterous launch. Over the next decade, Yoshida and his team of development were able to help elevate Final Fantasy XIV into becoming the most profitable entry in the entire Final Fantasy franchise and one of the best multiplayer games on PC.

Will Patch 6.1 contain the next part of the 8-man Pandaemonium Raid, more job changes, more sidequests or even the first part of the 24-man Alliance Raid "Myths of the Realm"? Find out in February and March as we continue to provide news updates on Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker.

We forge ahead!

Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker

$40 on Square Enix Store $40 on GMG

The Final Days are fast approaching.

An epic saga, ten years in the making will soon be drawing to a grand finale in Final Fantasy XIV: Endwalker. In this MMORPG adventure, you will be exploring diverse new lands, take the role of the new Reaper and Sage Jobs and strive to avert a calamity that will spell doom for all life should it come to pass — "The Final Days."

Best motherboards for Intel Core i5-12600K 2022

You don't need to go all-out with an incredibly expensive motherboard for the Intel Core i5-12600K since it doesn't require an overkill power delivery design, but it can take advantage of high-quality components and DDR5 support. We've compiled a list of only the best motherboards for the Intel Core i5-12600K.

Best overall

ASUS ROG Strix Z690-F Gaming

Staff pick

The ASUS ROG Strix Z690-F Gaming is the sweet spot for the Intel Core i5-12600K. It has PCIe 5.0 and DDR5 RAM support, a 16+1 power delivery design, high-quality components, 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi 6E, plenty of USB ports, and a striking yet subtle design. It's also the successor to one of our favorite boards for 11th Gen processors.

$400 at Newegg

Runner-up

MSI MPG Z690 CARBON WIFI

If you're not a fan of ASUS motherboards or want something a little different, we recommend checking out the MSI MPG Z690 CARBON WIFI. You've got a similar power setup with full support for DDR5 RAM and PCIe 5.0. The 2.5Gb LAN port and other highlight features like high-quality components are worthy additions to an already excellent package.

$390 at Amazon

$400 at Newegg

Best performance

ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero

The ASUS ROG Maximus Z690 Hero is complete overkill for the Core i5 processor, but if you feel as though you will upgrade the chip down the line and want to keep to this generation, it's a worthwhile investment. The VRM setup and power delivery design are exceptional, allowing you to safely overclock even a Core i9 without power issues. There are plenty of M.2 slots, PCIe 5.0 support, DDR5 RAM support, and a gorgeous design.

$591 at Newegg

Best budget

MSI PRO Z690-A

You don't have to settle for less when wanting to save some pennies. The MSI PRO Z690-A is worth considering when building a more affordable PC. Because it's cheaper than other motherboards, you're got DDR4 RAM support which may be a bonus for anyone with leftover modules. It has an 8+4 power delivery design with PCIe 5.0 support and plenty of USB options.

$220 at Amazon

$220 at Newegg

Best DDR4

ASRock Z690 Steel Legend

The ASRock Z690 Steel Legend isn't the most affordable motherboard for 12th Gen processors, but it does offer support for DDR4 RAM, which may be handy for anyone moving from older platforms. It has a 13 phase power delivery design with 2.5Gb LAN, Wi-Fi, enough M.2 slots for your OS, software, and games, as well as PCIe 5.0 support.

$250 at Newegg

Best ITX

ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming WiFi

The Core i5 would be ideal for smaller and more compact PC cases since it doesn't require heavy-duty cooling. The ASUS ROG Strix Z690-I Gaming Wi-Fi supports PCIe 5.0, DDR5 RAM, has a 10+1 power delivery design with high-quality components, and can even handle a little overclocking. The 2.5Gb LAN and Wi-Fi are excellent for a smaller PC that can double up as a media center, and you've got two M.2 slots for speedy storage.

$440 at Amazon

$440 at Newegg

Choosing the best motherboard

You can't go wrong with choosing a good motherboard for the Core i5-12600K. It's a 10-core processor with fairly low requirements, meaning you can get away with a budget motherboard and even push the chip a little further than factory settings. The ASUS ROG Strix Z690-F Gaming is our go-to board for this processor, thanks to its impressive power setup and feature list.

If that's a little too much and you won't find yourself using DDR4 RAM, which will add yet more additional cost to the upgrade, there's always the budget-friendly MSI PRO Z690-A. This would be a match made in heaven should you already have DDR4 RAM modules available and wish to cut down on waste.

One of our favorite mice, the Razer Viper Ultimate, is on sale for $90

The Razer Viper Ultimate is a great wireless gaming mouse and has been a recommendation of ours since we first reviewed it. Today you can get the Mercury White version of the mouse with its RGB charging dock for just $89.99 at Amazon. This is the lowest price we've ever seen, even if it has dropped this low a couple times since Black Friday. It was as high as $150 for most of December and January though, so if you missed the previous drops you should jump on today's deal. You can get the black version for about $5 more, too.

Razer Viper Ultimate gaming mouse | $60 off

While we have seen these mice go on sale before, today's price is as good as it gets if you also want the charging dock.

$89.99 at Amazon

The historical problem with wireless gaming mice is that they usually aren't nearly as responsive as a wired mouse, especially if they use Bluetooth. While they might work for some casual laptop work or whatever, you don't want to game with one. Razer has changed that with its HyperSpeed technology. This feature gives you the best possible wireless connection and removes a lot of that latency you might expect while also ensuring no interference from other signals. It won't even feel like a wireless mouse because that delay will be gone.

In the same vein of upping the responsiveness, the mouse only weighs 74g. Having your mouse be as lightweight as possible is essential for competitive gamers and twitchy gamers. Your reactions are only limited by how fast you can move the mosue, and a light mouse is easier to move. It also comes with a 20,000 DPI optical sensor that is insanely precise and fully adjustable by you.

Both left handed and right handed gamers can use this mouse since it is ambidextrous. It even has programmable buttons on either side of the mouse depending on which way you hold it. Use the Razer Synapse software to program these buttons and create complex functions like macros based on the game you're playing.

With a wireless mouse, you need to think about battery life, but the battery in the Viper Ultimate lasts for up to 70 hours. That's a long, long time even if you spend hours in front of your computer every day. With the charging dock, you can easily keep it topped off.

The sleek HyperX Alloy Origins 60% mechanical keyboard has dropped to $80

The HyperX Alloy Origins 60% mechanical keyboard is on sale for $79.99 at Amazon. This is a match for its lowest price ever, and Amazon is actually matching Best Buy here. That means the price could disappear at any time, and the last time it dropped this low it only lasted for a day or so during the holiday shopping season.

If a 60% keyboard isn't your style, you can also get the full-size HyperX Alloy Origins for the same price. While that's also a low price for that version of the keyboard, it has been sitting at $80 since early November. Good value either way.

HyperX Alloy Origins 60% mechanical keyboard

The only mechanical keyboard you're going to need because it's going to last forever. It's made with an ultra durable aircraft-grade aluminum body, and the mechanical switches are rated for 80 million keystrokes.

$79.99 at Amazon

HyperX makes some really high quality keyboards, and the Alloy Origins is no exception. This keyboard is ultra durable and built to last with a full aircraft-grade aluminum body. You'll be able to go nuts with this keyboard without even noticing the wear and tear for quite some time. That includes your typing as well. If you type really fast or need to get your actions per minute up for some real-time strategy games, you'll be able to do that with this keyboard without breaking it. The mechanical switches are rated for 80 million keystrokes, which is a whole lot of button pressing before they get tired.

You also get full RGB lighting with the Alloy Origins. There are even dynamic lighting effects you can pick with the HyperX NGenuity software, which adds a ton of customizability options. Save your settings on the keyboard with enough onboard memory for three profiles. That lets you pack this keyboard up and take it anywhere and plug it into any machine without losing your preferred settings.

Other features include 100% anti-ghosting, N-key rollover, and a Game Mode. You can adjust the keyboard to sit at three different angles, and the detachable cable helps with its portability.

À partir d’avant-hierWindows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

Which Activision Blizzard IP do you most want to see Microsoft revive?

It's time for the greats to return to the limelight.

In case you haven't been following the news, Microsoft gobbled up Activision Blizzard, meaning the latter's properties are being injected into the ever-expanding body of Xbox. Therefore, if you want a new Spyro or Tony Hawk game, you need to be praying to Phil Spencer, the CEO of Microsoft Gaming.

But which franchise deserves said thoughts and prayers? After all, Activision Blizzard has been sitting on a lot of IPs that could use a full-on revival or, at the very least, a loving dust-off. Which one do you most want to see Xbox bring back to prominence?

Which Activision Blizzard IP does Microsoft need to revive ASAP?

Spencer has openly acknowledged that Guitar Hero is cool, so the fact that that particular franchise is on his mind bodes well for fans of the series (air guitar with a next-gen version of the cast-aside Kinect??). HeXen is also in his sights. In case you don't know what that is, it's the 1995 DOOM-with-magic shooter that made our list of the 5 Activision Blizzard franchises Microsoft should revive (in our opinion).

With that said, not every Activision Blizzard IP in need of a tuneup is ancient or completely defunct. It's worth mentioning Crash Bandicoot, for example. Sure, the zany orange guy got a brand-new adventure with Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time, but since a lot of that game's devs got shuttled over to the Call of Duty mines, it's worth hoping Xbox will remember that Crash is awesome and deserves to stay in the public consciousness.

In summary: Activision Blizzard is sitting on a mountain of beloved intellectual properties, many of which have seen recent action and many of which haven't. There are too many to list in a poll or address in an editorial, so if the gaming love of your life wasn't mentioned here but qualifies for a Microsoft revival thanks to the Activision Blizzard acquisition, by all means, sound off in the comments.

Halo Infinite Season 2's Battle Pass will feature earnable credits

You might not have to spend real money to buy items from the shop in Season 2.

What you need to know

  • 343 Industries has announced that starting in Halo Infinite Season 2, players will be able to earn credits by progressing their Battle Pass.
  • Halo Infinite Season 2 is expected to begin in May 2022.
  • The developers also revealed that starting soon, players will be able to buy shop items from bundles individually. Big Team Battle challenges are also being temporarily removed due to the mode's ongoing matchmaking issues.

343 Industries' Head of Design, Jerry Hook, has announced that starting in Halo Infinite Season 2, players will be able to earn credits from the seasonal Halo Infinite Battle Pass. Credits in Halo Infinite allow players to purchase items from the game's microtransactions shop, meaning that once this change is implemented, players will be able to engage with the shop without having to buy credits.

It's unclear whether or not the credits will be exclusive to the $10 paid tier of the Battle Pass or not at this time, but either way, it's good to know that players will be able to earn credits by completing gameplay challenges and progressing their Battle Pass. Hook says that 343 "will have more to share on this as we get closer to Season 2," which is slated to begin at some point in May 2022.

Additionally, Hook also shared information about some changes to Halo Infinite's shop and challenges that are being implemented soon in a blog post. Specifically, players can expect more individual items that are independent of bundles to become available in the shop next week, and the developers are temporarily removing Big Team Battle challenges due to the ongoing matchmaking issues with the mode as well (if you've been experiencing these issues, try our fixes for Big Team Battle not working).

Halo Infinite's multiplayer is free to play and is available on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One consoles, and Windows PCs. It's a ton of fun, and paired with the Halo Infinite campaign, it's easily one of the best Xbox games available right now.

Halo is back

Halo Infinite multiplayer

Free at Microsoft (Xbox & PC)

Halo Infinite's multiplayer has launched a few weeks early, compiling its classic arena multiplayer modes, expanded 24-player Big Team Battle, and more into one free-to-play package.

These are the best laptops with Thunderbolt 4

If you're planning on hooking up several peripheral accessories to a new device, you're going to want one of the best Thunderbolt 4 laptops. Shaped like a USB-C slot, Thunderbolt 4 ports give you the freedom to attach valuable peripherals like docking stations, external displays, and even the best eGPU enclosures to your laptop, thanks to Thunderbolt 4's 40Gb/s bandwidth. Thankfully you don't have to make any compromises for Thunderbolt 4, either, as most of the best laptops on the market now come with Thunderbolt 4 support. This includes the Dell XPS 13, which is Dell's flagship Ultrabook and one of our absolute favorite laptops available.

Best overall: Dell XPS 13 (9310)

The Dell XPS 13 is often considered to be the best overall laptop available, and between its cutting-edge specs and impeccable design, it's easy to see why. It's got powerful Intel 11th Gen CPUs, Intel's impressive Xe integrated graphics, up to 32GB of memory, and up to 2TB of SSD space (there's a microSD slot for expandable storage as well). The display is nothing short of gorgeous, with anti-reflective HD and 4K options that sport up to 500 nits peak brightness and industry-leading color accuracy. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 round things out with some of the best connectivity options available, and the laptop has no problem lasting for up to 14 hours thanks to its 52WHr battery.

Design-wise, the Dell XPS 13's large keycaps and trackpad make are superb, as they're easy to use and don't have any kind of wobble, looseness, or mushiness to speak of. The keyboard's backlighting is also pretty bright, making the laptop easy to use in low-light conditions. Of course, we can't forget about its dual Thunderbolt 4 ports, which you can use Dell's included USB-C to USB-A converter on if you need to connect a USB-A accessory in a pinch. It doesn't come cheap and the webcam isn't the best, but ultimately, the Dell XPS 13 is nothing short of incredible and we can't recommend it enough.

Pros:

  • Top-notch specs
  • Superb display
  • Great battery life
  • Outstanding design

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • Webcam could look better

Best overall

Dell XPS 13 (9310)

From $804 at Dell $1,603 at Amazon

It's good to be king

The Dell XPS 13 has excellent specs, a superb display, awesome battery life, and an impeccable design. It's easily one of the best Thunderbolt 4 laptops available, period.

Best 2-in-1: HP Spectre x360 14

If you're in the market for a Thunderbolt 4 laptop that can convert into a tablet, look no further than the HP Spectre x360 14. Between its 11th Gen Intel i7 processor, Xe graphics, 16GB of memory, and 1TB of SSD storage, this is easily one of the most powerful convertible laptops available, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a 2-in-1 that's more impressive. Other highlights include its stunning 3:2 HD or 3K2K display with inking support, an anti-reflective coating, and stellar color accuracy, 720 webcam with a privacy shutter, quad Bang & Olufsen speakers, large 66WHr battery, and the inclusion of Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0.

The HP Spectre x360 14 also features a unique gem-cut style design with sleek, angular edges, helping it stand out from the crowd. The keyboard is enjoyable to use thanks to the large size and satisfying travel of the keycaps, and the backlighting is plenty bright for low-light use cases too. Port-wise, the device features dual Thunderbolt 4 as well as a USB-A port. Overall, the HP Spectre x360 14 is simply the best 2-in-1 Thunderbolt 4 laptop on the market, though it's a little expensive and doesn't have an option for LTE.

Pros:

  • Excellent specs
  • Incredible 3:2 display
  • Webcam privacy shutter
  • Quad speakers

Cons:

  • Expensive
  • No LTE option

Best 2-in-1

HP Spectre x360 14

From $1,050 at HP $2,499 at Amazon $1,730 at Best Buy

Flexible excellence

The HP Spectre x360 2-in-1's top specs, amazing display, quad speaker audio, and webcam privacy shutter make it our favorite Thunderbolt 4-equipped convertible.

Best workstation: Surface Laptop Studio

Looking for a versatile device with more power under the hood than what you'll get with Ultrabooks? The Surface Laptop Studio will be right up your alley. Specs-wise, it's a heavy-duty machine that can be equipped with up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-11370H, NVIDIA RTX 3050 Ti or A2000 graphics, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 2TB of SSD storage. The 14.4-inch 2400x1600 display is fantastic, too, as it comes with full touch support and a 120Hz refresh rate, though we do wish it was less reflective. Other notable specs include the 56.3WHr battery, front-facing HD webcam, quad speakers with Dolby Atmos, dual mics, and both Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1.

What truly makes the Surface Laptop Studio special, though, is its design. In addition to the standard laptop mode, you can also tilt the display forward and rest it in front of the keyboard for "stage mode" or fold everything down for a tablet-like "studio mode" that's ideal for use with a stylus. Switching between these postures can often be a little tricky, but it's worth it for the unrivaled flexibility offered by this design. The keyboard is great, too, and the haptic trackpad is pleasant to use as well. Like with many of the laptops in this roundup, the Surface Laptop Studio also comes with dual Thunderbolt 4 (as well as a Surface Connect port).

At the end of the day, there's simply nothing else that blends power and versatility together like the Surface Laptop Studio does, making it our favorite workstation laptop.

Pros:

  • Excellent workstation-grade specs
  • Tons of storage
  • Quad speakers with Dolby Atmos
  • Awesome display that can tilt and fold

Cons:

  • Display could be less reflective
  • Switching postures is a little awkward

Best workstation

Surface Laptop Studio

From $1,496 at Microsoft From $1,479 at Amazon From $1,600 at Best Buy

Adapt to any task

The Surface Laptop Studio's premium specs, large amount of storage, and versatile design all make it the perfect Thunderbolt 4 workstation device.

Best business: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

Business laptops need to be thin, light, and designed with mobile use in mind. Enter the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano, which ticks all three of those boxes while also offering excellent Ultrabook performance that you can rely on. Between 11th Gen Intel CPUs, Intel Xe graphics, up to 16GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of SSD storage, this laptop has all the power you could need from a business-focused laptop. Additionally, the 13-inch 2160x1350 display has awesome color accuracy, an option for touch support, and a satisfying peak brightness of 450 nits. Business-oriented features include options for 4G LTE and 5G, a fingerprint reader, an IR camera with human presence detection, and Lenovo's ThinkShutter camera cover.

Compared to other Ultrabooks, the ThinkPad X1 Nano has smaller dimensions and a lower weight, coming in at 11.5 x 8.15 x 0.55 inches (292.8mm x 208mm x 13.87mm) and 1.98 to 2.17 pounds (898 to 984 grams) respectively. This makes it even easier to carry around in a sleeve or bag, which is ideal for travel situations. The keyboard and trackpad are great, too, and dual Thunderbolt 4 ports ensure that you'll always have the peripheral connectivity you need. The webcam could look better, and the 7-10-hour battery life isn't the best out there, but overall, you won't find a better business laptop on the market than the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano.

Pros:

  • Fantastic business-oriented design
  • Excellent specs
  • Mobile connectivity options
  • Very thin and light

Cons:

  • Webcam could look better
  • Battery life is just OK

Best business

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano

From $1,487 at Lenovo $1,600 at Best Buy

Back to business

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is the quintessential Thunderbolt 4 business laptop, blending a remarkably thin and light design with a great display and killer specs.

Best for gaming: Razer Blade 15

The Razer Blade 15 has remained the king of gaming laptops ever since Razer introduced the "Advanced" model in 2019, thanks to consistent refreshes from Razer that include cutting-edge hardware, and we don't expect that to change anytime soon. With up to an 11th Gen Intel Core i9-11900H, up to an NVIDIA RTX 3080 Ti, up to 32GB of RAM, and up to 1TB of SSD space, the Razer Blade 15 is unrivaled when it comes to raw gaming performance.

There are a wide variety of excellent displays available, too, ranging from simple 144Hz HD panels all the way up to 4K OLED ones. You can also get HD displays with up to 360Hz for maximum FPS support, or you can opt for a jack-of-all-trades QHD display with 240Hz. Razer also includes Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 for top-notch connectivity.

The Razer Blade 15's keyboard could be better, but the trackpad is excellent, and the laptop also comes with a superb collection of ports. This includes one or two Thunderbolt 4 slots as well as up to three USB-A ports (ports vary depending on which model and configuration you opt for). Ultimately, the Razer Blade 15 may be far from affordable, but it's nevertheless the best gaming laptop available.

Pros:

  • Superb gaming performance
  • Wide variety of excellent displays
  • Great trackpad
  • Strong port selection

Cons:

  • Very expensive
  • Keyboard isn't the best

Best for gaming

Razer Blade 15

From $1,800 at Best Buy From $2,500 at Amazon From $1,800 at Razer

Get in the game

You won't find a better gaming laptop than the Razer Blade 15, which features Intel's most powerful 11th Gen chips, cutting-edge NVIDIA 30-series GPUs, plenty of memory and storage, tons of different display options, and Thunderbolt 4.

Best budget: Acer Swift 3 (SF314)

Thunderbolt 4 laptops don't come cheap, but the Acer Swift 3 comes cheaper than most. It's got a surprisingly strong specs lineup for the price — an 11th Gen Intel Core i7-1165G7, Intel Xe graphics, up to 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of SSD storage — but the display is a basic FHD panel that's just OK, and the webcam has a very grainy look to it as well. Still, for people who simply need a competent device for productivity and general computing, the Acer Swift 3's specs don't disappoint overall, especially since you get Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.0 support too.

A bigger problem is the Acer Swift 3's keyboard and trackpad, both of which could be better. The keyboard's keys are small, and the white-on-silver backlighting makes it difficult to identify the keyboard font in normal lighting conditions, while the trackpad feels hollow and rattles a bit when clicked. The laptop does include a Thunderbolt 4 port as well as dual USB-A ones, though, which is awesome. All in all, this is far from the best Thunderbolt 4 laptop out there, but it is the best one for people looking for a more budget-friendly option.

Pros:

  • Great specs
  • Strong connectivity
  • Great port selection
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Display is just OK
  • Keyboard and trackpad could be better

Best budget

Acer Swift 3 (SF314)

$806 at Amazon $780 at Acer

Small price, big win

The Acer Swift 3 is a more affordable option that still delivers a strong experience overall, making it our favorite budget device for using Thunderbolt 4.

Bottom line

Laptops with Thunderbolt 4 represent some of the best devices available on the market, and out of all of the superb laptops we featured in this roundup, our favorite is the Dell XPS 13. With its premium specs lineup, industry-leading display technology, great battery life, and outstanding design, the Dell XPS 13 represents the best of what a Thunderbolt 4 device can be. It's easily one of the best Windows laptops out there, and we can't sing its praises loudly enough.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Brendan Lowry is a Windows Central writer and Oakland University graduate with a burning passion for video games, of which he's been an avid fan since childhood. You'll find him doing reviews, editorials, and general coverage on everything Xbox and PC. Follow him on Twitter.

A Halo Infinite-themed gift car is available to players in Forza Horizon 5

Players who log into Forza Horizon 5 can obtain this unique car right now.

What you need to know

  • Forza Horizon 5 is an open-world racing game from Playground Games and Xbox Game Studios.
  • On Friday, Playground revealed a unique 2016 Jeep Trailcat decked out in a Halo Infinite-inspired livery and design.
  • Starting today, players who log into Forza Horizon 5 can obtain the gift car for free through the in-game Message Center.
  • The custom car features Master Chief, the UNSC logo, and many more easter eggs and Halo-themed details.

Playground Games has already set a precedent for gifting custom cars to players in Forza Horizon 5, and the studio is doing it again. This time, Playground is paying homage to 343 Industries and its latest title, Halo Infinite, with a custom 2016 Jeep Trailcat decked out in a unique Halo Infinite-inspired livery, complete with a myriad of details and easter eggs. Starting today, players who log into FH5 can add the car to their own garage through the in-game Message Center.

This is not the first time Playground and 343i have teamed up, and it's not even the first example in Forza Horizon 5. The legendary Warthog, heavily featured in Halo Infinite, can be obtained and driven in FH5 as the ultimate off-roader. The 2016 Jeep Trailcat is a real-world off-roading monster, and it's the perfect fit for the Halo-inspired livery wrapped around it. It's unclear how long the car will be available to FH5 players. Still, starting today, all you have to do to acquire this awesome vehicle is log into FH5 and navigate to the "Gifts" section of the Message Center.

Both Forza Horizon 5 and Halo Infinite have secured their places on our list of best Xbox games, and are well worth a play. When the two legendary franchises come together, it's even better.

Both games are also available through Xbox Game Pass, making it a simple matter to hop into both titles. If you want to see what other cars Playground has gifted in FH5, check out our Forza Horizon 5 car list for all the details.

A catalog of games

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

From $1/month at Xbox $45 at Amazon (3-month subscription) $15 at Amazon (1-month subscription)

All your gaming needs, in one subscription

Is the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best value in all of gaming? It's possible. Ultimate bundles your Xbox Live Gold subscription, Xbox Game Pass for Xbox consoles and PC Game Pass for Windows devices, and Xbox Cloud Gaming for on-the-go fun. That means access to hundreds of games, with more added all the time, for a single monthly subscription cost.

The unchallenged champion

Forza Horizon 5

$60 at Xbox (Xbox & PC) $60 at Amazon (Xbox & PC) $60 at GameStop (Xbox physical) $60 at Steam (PC)

The best open-world racer

Playground Games has delivered their latest masterpiece with Forza Horizon 5, which features the series' most diverse map and largest car list yet. Forza Horizon 5 somehow fulfills its ambitious promises to be the best open-world racer right now, and one of the best racing games in general.

Is the Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle DLC worth it?

Best answer: No, not for most Forza Horizon 5 players right now. Until FH5's expansions are revealed, there's just no way to tell whether the Expansions Bundle is worth it to you. If you're interested in owning everything Forza Horizon 5 has to offer right now, you're better off spending a little bit more to obtain the Premium Add-Ons Bundle DLC, which includes the Expansions Bundle and so much more. Until Playground announces the two expansions included in the Expansions Bundle, though, this DLC is a mystery.

An expensive mystery

It's no secret that Forza Horizon 5 features a colossal amount of content, with a map and world packed to the brim with ways to explore, things to do, and more. However, Playground Games has ambitious plans to expand Forza Horizon 5 after launch with free updates and two full-blown expansions. While players won't get these expansions when buying Forza Horizon 5, you can still purchase the Expansions Bundle DLC to be first in line when they do release.

However, the Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle DLC is relatively expensive compared to other DLCs — all of which provide immediate benefits right now — while nothing is known about what's to come in FH5's two expansions, or even when they can be expected. This means the value of the Expansions Bundle is dubious at best. Unless you're certain you'll want the expansions the moment they launch, it might be better to hold off on purchasing this particular DLC.

Additionally, if you are a committed Forza Horizon 5 player and know you want the expansions, you may be more interested in the Forza Horizon 5 Premium Add-Ons Bundle, which includes the Expansions Bundle and a ton of other DLC and additional content for only $15 more. This DLC gives you instant benefits when you first start playing Forza Horizon 5 and beyond, and will net you both expansions the moment they release.

Until Playground announces one or both of the Forza Horizon 5 expansions, many players may want to wait before buying the Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle, or spend a little extra to nab the Premium Add-Ons Bundle for considerably more content. This is especially true since the Expansions Bundle may go on sale at some point, cutting a little off the high price tag. It's likely that both individual expansions will also be available for individual purchase, if only one of them interests you.

What's included

Here's everything you need to know about the Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle, and what's included:

  • Forza Horizon 5 Expansion One. Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle includes Forza Horizon 5 Expansion One, which is one of two unannounced DLC expansions coming to Forza Horizon 5 in the future.
    • Forza Horizon 5 Expansion One has not been revealed yet, but will be included in Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle when it does eventually launch
    • Forza Horizon 5 Expansion One is available through Forza Horizon 5 Premium Edition, the Premium Add-Ons Bundle, and the Expansions Bundle, but is not available as a standalone purchase (right now)
  • Forza Horizon 5 Expansion Two. Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle includes Forza Horizon 5 Expansion Two, which is one of two unannounced DLC expansions coming to Forza Horizon 5 in the future.
    • Forza Horizon 5 Expansion Two has not been revealed yet, but will be included in Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle when it does eventually launch
    • Forza Horizon 5 Expansion Two is available through Forza Horizon 5 Premium Edition, the Premium Add-Ons Bundle, and the Expansions Bundle, but is not available as a standalone purchase (right now)
  • Not included: The Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle does not include any other DLCs or add-ons for FH5, like the VIP Membership, Welcome Pack, Car Pass, or Treasure Map. For the most complete collection of add-ons, you'll want the Forza Horizon 5 Premium Add-Ons Bundle.

In our Forza Horizon 5 review, we concluded that FH5 is absolutely one of the best Xbox racing games. Forza Horizon 5 is now available, and our ultimate guide covers everything you need to know.

Our pick

Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle

$35 at Xbox (Xbox & PC)

Waiting for info

The Forza Horizon 5 Expansions Bundle may eventually be a great way to add raw content to FH5 with new areas, cars, and more, but right now it's a DLC that's full of mystery. FH5 players who want the best of everything are better off with the Premium Edition or Premium Add-Ons Bundle DLC, or are simply waiting to see what the two Forza Horizon 5 expansions will be.

Vroom vroom

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (Xbox & PC)

From $1/month at Xbox $45 at Amazon (3-month subscription) $15 at Amazon (1-month subscription)

All your gaming needs, in one subscription

Is the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate the best value in all of gaming? It's possible. Ultimate bundles your Xbox Live Gold subscription, an Xbox Game Pass subscription for both Xbox consoles and Windows PCs, and Xbox Cloud Gaming for on-the-go. Forza Horizon 5 is available through Xbox Game Pass from day one, including on consoles, PC, and the cloud. You also get a discount on FH5 DLC.

Microsoft delineates 25 Windows policies you shouldn't set

Microsoft has spoken.

What you need to know

  • Not all Windows policies have a place in the current Windows 11 and 10 landscape.
  • Microsoft has now elaborated on 25 that you should avoid setting.
  • Microsoft's breakdown also includes details such as why you shouldn't set certain policies and what their effects are.

Windows is ever-changing, ever-evolving, and ever-obsoleting its old utilities. Such is the case for 25 Windows policies that used to be cool but are now on Microsoft's naughty list.

Over at the Windows IT Pro blog, aptly named for its content that won't make sense to most people but is certainly useful for IT pros and associated techies, Microsoft's Aria Carley has penned a writeup of 25 Windows policies you shouldn't bother setting.

"The Windows update policy set contains policies that no longer have any impact; that don't work as described on devices running Windows 10, version 20H2 or later; or that work but not as well as the policies that were added to accomplish a similar experience in a much better way," the post reads, before diving into the nitty-gritty of which policies you can pass on.

The post also notes that Windows 11 has a dedicated subfolder that clarifies what policies are legacy to help you figure out what's worth your time (and what isn't). You can see the full roundup of policies over at the hyperlinked Windows blog post above. Or, alternatively, take a look at Twitter, wherein Carley has shared a concise breakdown of a few policies worth paying attention to. However, the formal blog post goes into much greater detail and names additional policies (via BleepingComputer).

Homework assignment: Confirm that NONE of these legacy Windows Update policies are set on your #Windows10 or #Windows11 devices.

Folks who complete the assignment will get a better update experience and an A+ Gif! 😉😋🥳 pic.twitter.com/N1J1af53BF

— ariaupdated (@ariaupdated) December 10, 2021

And in non-policy news, keep an eye on recent Windows updates and changes from Microsoft; the company's cleaning up a ton of bugs including a notorious Outlook Search issue.

Limited edition Lunar New Year Xbox Series S up for grabs

Are you feeling lucky?

What you need to know

  • Limited edition Lunar New Year-themed Xbox Series S and controller were revealed by Microsoft Friday.
  • Only 15 consoles and controllers have been made, and fans can enter to win.
  • Sweepstakes are restricted to ages 18+, and you can enter via Twitter.

Microsoft has revealed a limited edition Xbox Series S and official controller, themed after the Lunar New Year. Partnering with Chinese illustrator "Bu2ma," the red-colored pairing is stylized with traditional characters showcasing the Year of the Tiger. Only 15 of these controller and console pairings have been made, so fans can enter a sweepstakes to get their hands on one.

U.S.-based participants 18 years old and over can enter for the chance to win by taking part in the Xbox Twitter sweepstakes. Follow the official Xbox account and retweet the relevant post between 10 a.m. PT on Friday, Jan. 21 and 10 p.m. PT on Thursday, Feb. 3. Anybody in an "Xbox Live supported region" can enter the sweepstakes, so visit the Xbox website to find out if you qualify.

Lunar New Year, new Lunar Xbox.

Follow and RT with #LunarNewYearXboxSweepstakes for a chance to win a Lunar New Year Xbox Series S bundle.

Age 18+. Ends 2/3/22. Rules: https://t.co/GfpkbWgKSo pic.twitter.com/eRNIjyhg16

— Xbox (@Xbox) January 21, 2022

Fans living in China will have the opportunity to enter by participating in sweepstakes on Chinese social media platforms Wechat and bilibili, starting on Jan. 25.

There have been a number of limited edition consoles and controllers since the Xbox Series X|S launched at the end of 2020, including the Halo Infinite Limited Edition bundle and a 20th Anniversary controller.

Seriously powerful

Xbox Series S

$299 at Microsoft Store $299 at Amazon $300 at Best Buy

Next-generation gaming for less.

The Xbox Series S has the latest technology for 4K gaming. Keeping the cost low by removing the disc drive, it's perfect for the next generation on a budget.

First batch of Steam Deck verified games revealed

A handful of titles confirmed to run on Valve's upcoming handheld device.

What you need to know

  • The first wave of games have been verified for Valve's Steam Deck.
  • This wave of games includes titles like Hades, Dark Souls 3 and more.
  • The first wave of Steam Deck shipments is scheduled to arrive starting in February 2022.

The first wave of Steam Deck shipments is rolling soon, meaning players will soon get to take their PC games through Steam on the go. While in theory the Steam Deck can handle any game by adjusting the settings, games need to be verified due to needing to run with Valve's Proton compatibility layer. Now, the first batch of games verified for the Steam Deck have been revealed.

Valve is slowly adding verification for these games to Steam's backend. While this data is ostensibly hidden, SteamDB has scraped the data, revealing a batch of games confirmed to run on the Steam Deck. There's a wide variety of games verified so far, including Cuphead, Hades, Dark Souls 3, Death Stranding, Total War: Warhammer 2 and more.

In theory, the Steam Deck allows players to take many of the best PC games on the go, though there will be some games that aren't compatible with Proton or cause issues.

After being delayed past the original holiday 2021 release window, the first wave of Steam Deck shipments are scheduled to arrive at some point in February 2022. Other shipments are further out and are slated to arrive several months further into the year.

An ultimate PC handheld

Steam Deck

From $400 at Steam

Play your Steam library anywhere

Wanted more places to play your Steam library? Now you'll be able to with the Steam Deck. This machine comes in three configurations, each allowing you to play your games locally and portably.

Microsoft has disabled Excel 4.0 macros to protect you, the user

Microsoft said this was coming, and now it has.

What you need to know

  • In 2021, Microsoft confirmed it would disable Excel 4.0 macros by default.
  • Preview builds saw the new default instituted first and now the change is live for everyone.
  • Admins can configure the new default.

Microsoft's not one to let its Office apps invite security threats, hence why it's cracking down on macros, otherwise known as a potential gateway for malware. No longer will Excel users have to fear for their lives when opening an Excel file only to end up infecting their system with all sorts of digital terrors.

Microsoft made it clear this change was on the way a long, long time ago, so the company's reaffirmation that it has followed through on its plans should come as no surprise.

Per Microsoft, "this setting now defaults to Excel 4.0 (XLM) macros being disabled in Excel (Build 16.0.14427.10000) Per the original blog post, Administrators can also use the existing Microsoft 365 applications policy control to configure this setting."

As noted in Microsoft's comments, admins can tinker with this new default to suit their organization's needs. But for the vast majority of users, what's done is done and the era of macro malware in Excel is officially in the rearview mirror. Which, it goes without saying, is an enhancement to the security of one of Office's core pillars. However, if you're still not satisfied with Microsoft's suite of productivity apps, it's worth checking out the best alternatives to Office 365.

Security's not the only thing on the Excel team's mind. The app also has an ever-evolving slate of new features on the way. For example, it was recently announced that Excel will enable you to add hyperlinks to modern comments. The feature addition has a tentative February 2022 release window, though that's subject to change at any time.

How to skip TPM checks when installing a Windows 11 VM

Run as many Windows 11 virtual machines as you like without worrying about one of the new requirements.

The TPM 2.0 requirement for Windows 11 was one of the most talked-about changes from Windows 10, especially since it effectively locked many perfectly good machines out of an upgrade path.

There are ways and means of getting around this requirement to upgrade your laptop or desktop PC, but what if you just want to fire up a quick virtual machine? There are products out there, such as those from VMware, that can inject a virtual TPM to allow Windows 11 to install.

But the easier method is to just skip it altogether. Here's how to quickly and easily install a Windows 11 virtual machine if you're being blocked.

What you need

All you need for this is a Windows 11 ISO and some software to make a virtual machine. For the purposes of this guide, I will be using VMWare ESXI 7, but the process shouldn't be any different if you're using something else such as Hyper-V or VirtualBox.

How to install a Windows 11 VM without TPM

This method would, of course, also work on bare metal, but we're not necessarily suggesting it as a good idea since the requirements exist for a reason. But in a virtual machine, everything is sandboxed, so the risk factor is lower.

Essentially what we're going to do is tell Windows 11 during the installation process to skip the TPM check. Once you do this, Windows 11 will install with no issue.

In your virtual machine manager of choice, set up a VM and begin the Windows 11 installation process. The first steps are normal, choosing a language and such. But you will soon find yourself looking at the screen above telling you that your PC can't run Windows 11.

When you reach this screen, follow these steps:

  1. Hit Shift + F10 on your keyboard to open Command Prompt.

  2. Enter the following command:

    REG ADD HKLM\SYSTEM\Setup\LabConfig /v BypassTPMCheck /t REG_DWORD /d 1

  3. When you see the operation completed message, close the Command Prompt.

  4. Go back one step in the installation process.

  5. Now proceed as normal.

Now, as you continue with the installation you'll no longer see a warning that your PC can't run Windows 11 and everything will continue as planned. If you'd prefer, you can type regedit into the Command Prompt to open the GUI Registry Editor to add the key detailed above, but simply typing that single line into the terminal is definitely the fastest way.

As an additional step, you may need to add one further registry key. If after doing the above you still get the error, open up the Command Prompt again and enter this command:

 REG ADD HKLM\SYSTEM\Setup\LabConfig /v BypassSecureBootCheck /t REG_DWORD /d 1

Some VM software, such as VMware used here, seem to handle secure boot requirements, but others, such as Virtualbox, do not. So you may need to also disable this.

That's all there is to it. Your Windows 11 VM will now install as normal with no warnings, and you can get onto some top-level virtualizing.

5 reasons why Microsoft canceling 'Project Andromeda' was the right choice

While fans wanted it, everything was against Microsoft in 2018 to give Andromeda any hope for success.

Despite some ingenious concepts and ideas, Microsoft's mobile ambitions have always been controversial, uphill battles. In our latest report, we detailed one such attempt under the name 'Project Andromeda.' The idea was killed over sometime in late 2018, but parts of it live on in the current Android-driven Surface Duo line of devices, and even in Windows 11.

Putting my personal feelings aside (I'd always prefer to use a native Microsoft OS instead of Android or iOS), canceling the project was the correct decision.

Here are five reasons why.

1. Behind schedule, and failed to deliver

File this under poor project management, but from what we have reported in the past, Andromeda was canned because it was way behind schedule and not hitting project milestones.

If you ever worked for a major company and oversaw a project that was not delivering the results you were tasked with producing, well, that's a dilemma. Companies have to think about and plan budgets, timeframes, coordination with hardware manufacturing, and even marketing. If everyone is waiting for the OS to be done and you can't deliver it, at some point, senior leadership needs to step in and make some tough decisions.

Yes, it's a lame reason, but ultimately, Andromeda failed to deliver the results. This issue seems to be an ongoing problem with Microsoft, whether it's Core OS, Andromeda, Windows 10 Mobile, Windows File System (WinFS), Windows 10X, or even "micro" OSes like on Microsoft Band.

Microsoft has an endemic problem creating and maintaining operating systems that are not proper x86 Windows. And that's technically another hidden reason: Would Microsoft have maintained and stuck with Andromeda OS?

Let's also not forget that the entire UI would be supplanted by 'Sun Valley' and Windows 11 just a few short years later. That means Microsoft would have had to redesign it all at some point.

Tl;dr: The OS didn't work.

2. Not the right time: Windows 10 Mobile was dead

In late 2017, we were already reporting on the sad state of crowd-funded Windows phones for 2018. The timing for Andromeda was just off. Had the project started in 2013, maybe things could have been different, but in 2018 this was, without question, the nadir of Microsoft's mobile OS ambitions.

The heyday of Windows Phone was years in the past at this point.

Indeed, the best-selling Windows Phone was in 2014 with the $99 Lumia 520. Windows Phone never did well in the premium markets despite some headline-worthy (and fan-favorite) devices like the Lumia 1020, Lumia 1520, and Lumia 920.

When you combine those two points with the idea of a $1,400 Windows Phone, well, there's not a lot of evidence to suggest it would have sold well, even with the Surface branding.

3. The app gap was more real than ever

In 2018, developers mostly abandoned making apps for Windows 10 Mobile. Windows phone always had an app-gap problem, which is a whole other topic, but releasing a device in 2018 with only UWP apps from the Microsoft Store would have been even more problematic, especially if the device costs well over $1,000.

Sure, if somehow Project Andromeda was going to be a pocketable x86 Windows device, that'd be slightly better. But it was strictly ARM32/64. Interestingly, a pocketable real Windows PC was the original vision behind what is Surface Duo today, but the silicon just wasn't ready (and probably still isn't).

We can all lament Microsoft's current struggles with Surface Duo, but there's one thing you absolutely can't criticize it for, which is apps, and that's just a fact.

4. A digital mobile journal device is super niche

Andromeda OS was very focused on inking.

People criticize Surface Duo for being too specific to be successful. They say that there's not enough market for it to sell well. I have defended niches in technology before, noting how they are the catalyst for new high-tech paradigms.

But there are limitations.

Project Andromeda and the resulting dual-screen device would have very few apps, cost $1,400, and been primarily focused on notetaking and journaling. This emphasis on the pen is a hallmark of Surface, but also hearkens back to the "Microsoft Courier" concept.

It's a fascinating idea, for sure, but have you noticed how there are very few Android phones that support inking? If I asked you to name one, 99% of you would yell out Samsung's Galaxy Note series. And that's it. And even there, that's just a regular Galaxy phone with an S Pen and a few clever apps.

The pen features on Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 are slowly coming together, but I'm not convinced a pen-first modality for a pocketable device would have been successful. Even Apple hasn't gone down this route yet.

To be clear, I'm not entirely against the idea, but when you stack up all the other reasons against Andromeda, it's a tough sell.

5. Andromeda's end game was not clear

The 2016 HP Elite x3 was awesome (and failed miserably).

File this under "we just don't know," but what was the long-term point of Andromeda OS? Hear me out.

When Microsoft built Windows Mobile/Phone/10 Mobile, the idea was to have an OS that could be licensed to OEMs to make Windows phones. The smartphone market was established, and it had landed on the generic "black slab" design with a few attempts at minor hardware divergence.

Of course, it all failed, but the OS model was straightforward.

But with Andromeda, did Microsoft plan to build it only for its dual-screen device? If not, did it really expect companies like HP, Samsung, or LG to jump on board and develop their own hardware with it? If it's the latter, why would they? Microsoft's previous aspirations in mobile were in absolute tatters, and all those companies lost money in those endeavors.

If, on the other hand, Microsoft only wanted Andromeda for itself, the justification for building it, the hardware, and trying to get developers on board seems absurdly challenging. Conversely, had Windows 10 Mobile been successful, everything would have been different, as Andromeda could be an extension of that ecosystem. But that was not the case.

On its own, Andromeda was a big dream surrounded by many past failures, bad mojo, and a lack of faith from consumers.

Wrap up: Fans want it; the market does not

While I wish the entire history of Microsoft's strategy in mobile were different, the facts are what they are. 2018 was just too late for something like Andromeda. Few apps, a disappearing developer base, a radical new UX with a focus on inking, very costly hardware, and coming off years of losses in smartphones and mobile, the entire environment for Andromeda was just not right.

Let's also not forget that the whole project was behind schedule, missing milestones, and quite buggy. If Microsoft never figured out Windows 10 Mobile, what makes you think Andromeda would have been any better?

And while Surface Duo 2 is still struggling for acceptance, it has a much better chance with Android in the long run. And, at the very least, Microsoft tried something to save the ambitious hardware design of Surface Duo. I'm actually happy about that as someone who loves the device.

Will Microsoft ever return to such a concept as Andromeda? I doubt it. But I do think the Surface team yearns for a foldable Surface Pro-like device, someday, that runs full Windows, but that's still a few years out.

Xbox Chaturdays 53: Xbox acquiring Activision and Call of Duty exclusivity

Join the conversation live!

For episode 53 of Xbox Chaturdays, we'll be joined by the ever-enthusiastic SnowBikeMike of the Kinda Funny xCast. We'll be discussing the bombshell announcement that Xbox intends to acquire Activision Blizzard King, what this means for Call of Duty exclusivity, the future of Xbox Game Pass, rad games like Nobody Saves the World, and so much more! If you're excited to catch up on all the biggest gaming news of the week, tune into Xbox Chaturdays live every Saturday at 12 p.m. ET!

What is Xbox Chaturdays?

Xbox Chaturdays is our weekly Windows Central Gaming podcast. Every Saturday, we sit down with various Xbox developers, enthusiasts, and industry figures to chat about all things Xbox. We designed our show to provide exciting and engaging content for Xbox and PC players, highlighting what we love about gaming. From the best games on Xbox Game Pass to the titles we can't wait to play, there's always something fun to chat about.

With Xbox Chaturdays, we've built up a pretty incredible audience of live viewers who consistently keeps the show fresh and exciting with questions. Our show promotes community interaction, and we strive to immerse our viewers in the experience. If you haven't caught an episode before, head on over to the Windows Central Gaming YouTube channel to watch past episodes or on all your favorite podcast services including Spotify, iTunes, and Google Podcasts.

The more the merrier

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

From $1/month at Microsoft $45 at Amazon (3-month subscription) $15 at Amazon (1-month subscription)

The best deal in gaming!

Xbox Game Pass just keeps getting better and better. With hundreds of amazing titles, this is certainly the best deal in gaming.

Want to use Adobe Creative Cloud? These are the best PCs for it.

If you're a creator of any kind, you're probably using Adobe Creative Cloud. Love Adobe or not, programs like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Premiere Pro have become industry standards for photography, digital art, and video production. There's also no one single type of PC that best suits Creative Cloud since the nature of the work creators using it will vary. Nevertheless, these are some of the best PCs for Adobe Creative Cloud to get your work done.

Best All-in-One: HP ENVY 34

Sometimes with an All-in-One PC, you have to compromise, but with the HP ENVY 34, you genuinely do not. Its size helps a little, but you can have pretty much everything you could ever want from a PC all in this single unit. It even comes with a camera and a built-in wireless charging pad for your smartphone.

That includes 11th Gen Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, but not the slimmed-down versions you often find inside an All-in-One or a laptop, and it's paired with either NVIDIA GTX or RTX dedicated graphics. You might not be buying one of these as a gaming rig, but you bet it can tear up the latest titles.

The ENVY 34 also boasts a massive 34-inch display, with both 5K resolution and 21:9 aspect ratio and a neat anti-reflective finish, making it so much nicer to sit in front of for long periods. For video editing in Premiere Pro, in particular, the resolution and ultrawide ratio are a blessing. And with 98% DCI-P3, it's great for colorwork, too.

Pros:

  • 34-inch 5K anti-reflective display
  • GTX or RTX graphics
  • Built-in wireless charger
  • Included camera
  • Upgradeable RAM and SSD

Cons:

  • Display limited to 60Hz
  • Expensive

Best All-in-One

HP ENVY 34 All-in-One

From $2,000 at HP

Ultrawide power

HP's ENVY 34 AIO sets the bar for AIO PCs in 2022. It blows away the Apple iMac, and it can act as your computer for work and a gaming rig.

Best laptop: Dell XPS 15

Photographers and videographers need to see what they're working with. In that case, the gorgeous 4K display on the Dell XPS 15 just makes sense. However, the 1080p version is still pretty good. But the XPS 15 is an easy recommendation for a laptop buyer who wants style and performance.

The latest model now comes with Intel's 11th Gen H-Series processors, combined with an NVIDIA RTX 3050 or 3050 Ti GPU with 4GB of VRAM. This produces a laptop that can handle some serious design and editing work. The battery is also pretty massive, given the size of the laptop, for all-day life.

The XPS 15 also now has a redesigned 16:10 display with almost no bezels while still being wrapped up inside a beautifully designed and expertly constructed chassis. There's even an element of upgradeability, and while there's no official pen support, this still makes for one incredible, highly portable editing machine.

Pros:

  • Optional 4K display
  • Dedicated NVIDIA graphics
  • 11th Gen H-Series Intel processors
  • Thunderbolt 3

Cons:

  • No official pen support
  • Can get expensive

Best laptop

Dell XPS 15

Latest and greatest 15-inch laptop

From $1,127 at Dell

Dell's iconic XPS 15 received a spec bump for 2021 with NVIDIA RTX Ti graphics and a new 11th Gen Intel H-Series processor.

Best desktop: Dell XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition

Dell's XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition is easy to recommend thanks to a ton of configuration options that suit various budgets. And also a lot of ports. On the front are USB-C, USB-A, and 3.5mm audio ports that are easy to reach for common accessories alongside an SD card slot. You even get an optical drive and a heap of ports on the rear to connect pretty much everything you could want.

The entry model is worth avoiding if you're going to be getting into intensive work such as Premiere Pro editing. While it has dedicated graphics, you're not saving much, and the performance will be lacking. The sweet spot is the mid-tier Intel Core i7 model paired with the AMD Radeon RX 5700 or NVIDIA RTX 3060.

But you can really beef up the hardware inside, too, and you can also opt for a 10th Gen Intel Core i9-11900K CPU, 64GB of DDR4 RAM, up to 4TB of storage, and a beefy NVIDIA RTX 3070 with 8GB of VRAM if you so wish. This box looks like it belongs in an office, but it's capable of scorching performance, and even if you do opt to get one of the lower-tier configurations, it's a simple task to upgrade the internals down the road.

Pros:

  • Plenty of spec options
  • Good port selection
  • Amazing performance potential
  • Easy upgradeability

Cons:

  • Entry model is a little weak
  • Some finishing issues on the case

Best desktop

Dell XPS Tower 8940 Special Edition

From $980 at Dell

Great for most people

With a wide variety of hardware options and easy upgrades, the XPS Tower 8930 Special Edition should be a good fit.

Best 2-in-1: Surface Pro 8

Sporting a glorious 13-inch 2880x1920 3:2 display, which also has a 120Hz option, 11th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7 processors, up to 32GB RAM, and a 1TB SSD, you can't go wrong with the Surface Pro 8 for photo editing and more Creative Cloud-based work. It's also a great 2-in-1 for web browsing on the sofa as a tablet, video editing, and productivity work if you buy the optional keyboard and pen as well.

The Surface Pro 8 uses the same flagship 2-in-1 form factor that was first popularized by Microsoft back in 2012. It features a kickstand around the back and a separate keyboard accessory that also adds trackpad, turning the Surface Pro into a convertible PC. For creators using the Adobe Suite, the Slim Pen and optional Surface Dial are essential accessories to use with the Surface Pro 8.

It also has a USB-C Thunderbolt 4 port, USB-A port, Surface Connect port, and a microSD card expansion slot for additional storage if required. The design has also been updated for the latest generation with slimmer bezels and a larger display. The Surface Pro 8 epitomizes the idea of a powerful laptop inside a tablet's body.

Pros:

  • Great design
  • Stunning touch display
  • Pen support
  • Thunderbolt
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Higher spec models are pricey
  • No keyboard included

Best 2-in-1

Surface Pro 8

The best Windows tablet ever made

From $1,000 at Microsoft From $1,100 at Amazon

The Surface Pro 8 is the best Windows tablet there has ever been, and that's just fact.

Ultimate laptop: Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

If there's a god-tier laptop out there right now for creators, this is it. The regular Razer Blade 15 is exceptional, but this Studio Edition, developed to meet strict guidelines set by NVIDIA, is absolutely mind-blowing.

It keeps the 10th Gen Intel Core i7 8-core processor from the previous generation gaming version of the Blade 15 but pairs it with a monstrous Quadro RTX 5000 16GB GPU. This is one of the most powerful laptop GPUs on the planet for creators and remains quiet during most operations.

The Blade 15 Studio also boasts 32GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe SSD, and out front an absolutely stunning 4K OLED touch display. It's the kind of display that makes anything you look at afterward feel really underwhelming; it's that good and perfect for those interested in color accuracy with its DCI-P3 calibration. The Studio Edition is also optimized to work with Creative Cloud for the absolute best performance.

Pros:

  • 4K OLED display
  • RTX Quadro graphics
  • 32GB of RAM
  • Thunderbolt 3

Cons:

  • High price
  • Average battery life

Ultimate laptop

Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition

$4,300 at Best Buy

All the power you need

Between the killer hardware specs and the stunning 4K display, the Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition is an out-of-this-world choice.

The bottom line

Adobe Creative Cloud runs well on a wide range of Windows 10 PCs, but if you're specifically looking for something with it in mind, then you're obviously going to want something that will really get the most from it. Generally, that means looking towards the higher end of the market where the more powerful hardware lies.

If you're shopping for a desktop machine, though, the superb HP ENVY 32 is a beast of a machine for all purposes, with high-end hardware inside and a high-end design on the outside, it's truly a pleasure to spend the day in front of. Likewise, if you're looking for a capable laptop to take with you, the Dell XPS 15 is a fine choice to make.

Creative Cloud casts a wide net, and all of these machines will be a fine companion. Generally, you're looking to get as much horsepower as your budget allows, especially if you're diving into apps like Premiere Pro, because in those cases, the more grunt you have, the better your time will be.

Credits — The team that worked on this guide

Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently, you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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