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☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

Microsoft Surface Duo 2 vs. Surface Duo: Which is the better buy?

Par : Zac Bowden

Generation 2

Surface Duo 2

From $1,500 at Microsoft Store

Pros

  • Much better fit and finish
  • Beautiful design
  • Bigger 90Hz displays
  • Latest specs

Cons

  • Big camera bump
  • No wireless charging
  • Fingerprint magnet

Surface Duo 2 is a major upgrade over the first Surface Duo, featuring better specs, NFC, larger 90Hz displays, a new camera system, and so much more. The Duo 2 feels like a complete product now, designed to be a phone with two screens.

Generation 1

Surface Duo 1

From $700 at Microsoft Store

Pros

  • Can be had for much cheaper
  • Contemporary design
  • Super thin

Cons

  • Outdated specs
  • Bad camera
  • Fragile
  • No NFC

The first Surface Duo was a proof of concept, built to push the form factor of a dual-screen device that can fit in your pocket. It's a beautiful device that's exceptionally thin, but is missing core features that most would expect from a phone.

It's important to see how much has improved between Microsoft's first and second attempts at its dual-screen smartphone. From a device that was designed to be a proof of concept pushing the dual-screen form factor in a thin and light chassis, to a device that's designed to be a good phone from the ground up, here's our comparison between Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Surface Duo 1: Specs

Comparing specs side by side, it's clear that the Surface Duo 2 is a superior device in almost every way. That said, the Surface Duo 1 is thinner, though that not much of a benefit given that the Duo 1 is also a much more fragile device with a much smaller battery. The added millimeters on Surface Duo 2 go a long way to making the Duo 2 feel even more premium, and with a much bigger battery!

Category Surface Duo 2 Surface Duo
OS Android 11 Android 10
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 Qualcomm Snapdragon 855
Network Wi-Fi 6 802.11ax (2.4/5GHz)
Bluetooth 5.1
LTE: 4x4 MIMO, Cat 20 DL/Cat 13 UL
Wi-Fi 5 802.11ac (2.4/5GHz)
Bluetooth 5.0
LTE: 4x4 MIMO, Cat.18DL/Cat 5 UL
SIM Nano SIM + eSIM Nano SIM + eSIM
Network bands FDD-LTE: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,14,19,20,25, 26,28,29,30,38,39,40,41,42,46,48,66,71
WCDMA: 1,2,5,8
GSM/GPRS: GSM-850, E-GSM-900, DCS-1800, PCS-1900
FDD-LTE: 1,2,3,4,5,7,8,12,13,14,19 20,25,26,28,29,30,66
TD-LTE: 38,39,40,41,46
WCDMA: 1,2,5,8
GSM/GPRS: GSM-850, E-GSM-900, DCS-1800, PCS-1900
Display Single: 5.8 inches (1892x1344), 401 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
Dual: 8.3 inches (2688x1892), 401 PPI, 3:2 aspect ratio
AMOLED, HDR, 800 nits, 90Hz
Single: 5.6 inches (1800x1350), 401 PPI, 4:3 aspect ratio
Dual: 8.1 inches (2700x1800), 401 PPI, 3:2 aspect ratio
AMOLED
Memory 8GB 6GB
Storage 128GB, 256GB, 512GB 128GB, 256GB
Camera Front-facing: 12MP, ƒ/2.0, 24mm, 1.0um
Rear-facing wide: 12MP, ƒ/1.7, 27mm, 1.4um
Rear-facing telephoto: 12MP, ƒ/2.4, 51mm, 1.0um
Rear-facing ultra-wide: 16MP, ƒ/2.2, 13mm, 1.0um
11MP, ƒ/2.0, 1.0um, PDAF, 84.0° diagonal FOV
Audio Stereo speaker Mono speaker
Security Fingerprint reader Fingerprint reader
Ports USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2) USB-C 3.1
Battery 4,449mAh
Fast Charging
3,577mAh
Fast Charging
Dimensions Open: 145.2mm x 184.5mm x 5.5mm
Closed: 145.2mm x 92.1mm x 11mm (at hinge)
Open: 145.2mm x 186.9mm x 4.8mm
Closed: 145.2mm x 93.3mm x 9.9mm (at hinge)
Weight 284g 250g
Color Glacier
Obsidian
Glacier

The displays on Surface Duo 2 are also much better. They're now 5.8 inches each, up from 5.6 inches on the first Surface Duo. This means the bezels are slightly thinner on Surface Duo 2, though not by much. Still, it's a noticable improvement when looking at the Surface Duo 2's screens. In addition, the displays now also slightly curve down the middle, and have a refresh rate of 90Hz which makes using Surface Duo 2 feel even snappier and fluid.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Surface Duo 1: Design

The overall designs of Surface Duo 2 is similar to Surface Duo 1, but it's different in small but impactful ways that go a long way towards making the Surface Duo 2 feel like a much more substantial upgrade in design. For example, the outside glass on the Surface Duo 2 curve into the edges of the device, something the first Surface Duo doesn't do. The glass on the inside is also surrounded with a plastic gasket, another thing that Duo 1 doesn't have.

These small yet important changes make Surface Duo 2 feel much more premium and sturdy. The Duo 2 is also slightly taller, though it maintains the same thickness. Of course, you can also get the Surface Duo 2 in a new "Obsidian" black colorway, whereas Surface Duo 1 was only available in "Glacier White."

Microsoft has also tweaked the hinge on Surface Duo 2, making it tighter and much more satisfying to use. The hinge on Surface Duo 1 is still perfectly fine, and after a year of use, feels just as tight as it was at launch, but the minor tweaks made to the Surface Duo 2 hinge make it feel much better to use. It adds to the overall more sturdy nature of Surface Duo 2.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Surface Duo 1: Features

The Surface Duo 2 has several new features over the first Surface Duo, including a new glance bar down the spine, stereo speakers, better haptics, NFC, and the ability to wirelessly charge the Surface Slim Pen 2 with an optional charging cover.

The new Surface Duo 2 glance bar provides heads-up information down the spine of the device when closed, solving one problem many had with the first Surface Duo in that you couldn't see what notifications just came in when the device was closed on a desk. Now, the spine will inform you of texts, calls, missed Teams messages, as well as provide battery charging status when plugged in, as well as volume level when tapping the volume buttons.

Also new on Surface Duo 2 is a new stereo speaker set up which provides a much richer audio listening experience. Surface Duo 1 had a terrible mono speaker above the left display that would begin to rattle as you crept closer to max volume. The new Stereo setup is above the left display and below the right display, so that you can have audio facing you no matter what screen you're looking at.

Another area of improvement on Surface Duo 2 is with haptics. I'm a big fan of haptics for things such as typing or receiving notifications, and the Surface Duo 2 finally delivers a better haptic engine compared to the Surface Duo 1, which felt loose and noisy. Duo 2's haptic motor is satisfyingly tight and impactful, similar to other high-end Android phones on the market.

NFC being present on Surface Duo 2 is going to be a major upgrade for many over Surface Duo 1, which didn't have NFC at all. With NFC, you can finally use the device for wireless payments with services like Google Pay, meaning if you forget your wallet, you're still able to use your cards to pay for things. This is a life saver for people who live in a country where NFC is everywhere, such as the United Kingdom.

You can now also store and wirelessly charge the Surface Slim Pen 2 with an optional charging cover, which is not available on the first Surface Duo. This makes bringing the pen with you much more appetizing, as you now likely won't lose it and it won't run out of charge.

Surface Duo 2 vs. Surface Duo 2: Cameras

The camera situation on Surface Duo 2 is much better than Surface Duo 1. The first Surface Duo has a single 11MP front facing camera above the right display on the inside of the device, that would then double up as a "world camera" when rotating the device into single-screen mode. This front-facing camera was not equipped to be sufficient at taking rear camera shots due to the sensor being so tiny and the camera app being very slow.

On Surface Duo 2, Microsoft has added three dedicated external cameras on the back of the device, consisting of a wide, ultrawide, and telephone lens housed in a camera bump. The wide and telephone lenses are 12MP, and the ultrawide sensor is 16MP. There's still a front facing camera on the inside too, but it's also been upgraded to a 12MP shooter.

The camera app has also been rebuilt with a much faster shutter speed and new features that allow you to capture and edit photos on the fly as you take them. The app can span across both displays, showing your live view on the right, and your last captured image on the left.

Generation 2

Surface Duo 2

A much better phone now

From $1,500 at Microsoft Store

Surface Duo 2 is a major upgrade over the first Surface Duo, featuring better specs, NFC, larger 90Hz displays, a new camera system, and so much more. The Duo 2 feels like a complete product now, designed to be a phone with two screens.

Generation 1

Surface Duo 1

Proof of concept for dual-screens

From $700 at Microsoft Store

The first Surface Duo was a proof of concept, built to push the form factor of a dual-screen device that can fit in your pocket. It's a beautiful device that's exceptionally thin, but is missing core features that most would expect from a phone.

☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

62% of Windows users don't know Windows 11 is coming in a week, says study

Par : Robert Carnevale

You may know all about Windows 11, but your friends may not.

What you need to know

  • Windows 11 and a wide range of Surface devices are all going public on October 5, 2021.
  • However, it's unclear if the general populace knows or cares about Windows 11.
  • According to a new study, 62% of Windows users don't even know the new operating system is landing soon.

While Windows 11's impending launch is a well-documented upcoming event in some corners of the internet, there are many who don't have even the foggiest idea that Windows 11 exists or is set to formally release on October 5, 2021.

According to a recent study by Savings.com, which surveyed 1,042 Windows users on September 17, 2021, "a minority of users were even aware the update was coming before taking part in our study."

"Only 38 percent of current Windows users said they were aware a major change was coming to the operating system," the report said, and two-thirds of respondents were unsure whether they had the hardware required to make the jump to Microsoft's latest OS.

Take the survey results as you'd like, given that they're based on a sampling size of roughly one thousand people. Though it's worth noting that if Microsoft has failed to inform the majority of Windows users with its Windows 11 news, it's not for lack of trying (at least, not entirely). Recently, Microsoft has been heavily advertising the new OS in at least a few places recently, with commercials for it frequently cropping up on ESPN and UFC. Those are just two examples.

It looks like Microsoft may have to keep the advertising efforts up for some time, though, if Savings.com's survey results are any indicator of how much remains unknown to the public's general awareness.

☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

Set up a Surface Pro workstation with one of these external monitors

Par : Cale Hunt

Adding one of the best computer monitors to the Surface Pro lineup — including the Pro 7, Pro 7 Plus, Pro 8, and Pro X — can turn it into a true workspace at home or the office. Sure, Pro devices have beautiful touch displays, but having all that extra screen real estate can really boost productivity. That's why we've put together a list of the best external monitors for your Surface Pro. Note that you may need an adapter to connect some of these monitors to your Pro, which uses Mini DisplayPort, USB-C, or Thunderbolt 4 for video out.

Great multipurpose option

Dell UltraSharp U2721DE monitor

Editor's pick

Dell's U2721DE 27-inch monitor has a 2560x1440 resolution and IPS panel with 99% sRGB and 85% DCI-P3 color coverage for an excellent picture. If you're looking to create a multi-monitor daisy chain from your Pro 7 or Pro X, this will do the trick, thanks to DP MST Out support. It also has a ton of other ports (including USB-C) and USB-A for charging accessories.

$735 at Amazon

Ultimate pick

Razer Raptor 27-inch gaming monitor

Staff pick

The Razer Raptor 27 might be the only display you need for your desk. It has a QHD resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, and excellent color reproduction. It works with G-Sync and FreeSync, helping it strike a balance between gaming, editing, and media consumption.

$600 at Amazon

$632 at Best Buy

$600 at Razer

Stunning 4K

HP U28 4K monitor

4K monitors are an excellent investment in the future, and HP's U28 is a beautiful option as replacement for the discontinued Z27. It has a minimal bezel around the 28-inch display, color reproduction is nearly perfect, and the adjustable stand lets you get the proper angle. Connect with HDMI, DisplayPort, or USB-C, and use three USB-A 3.1 ports for accessories.

$450 at Amazon

$450 at HP

$450 at Walmart

Ultrawide picture

LG 38WN95C-W monitor

An ultrawide display lets you truly get down to work without needing multiple separate panels. The LG 38WN95C-W brings a massive 38-inch screen with 3840x1600 resolution, 144Hz refresh rate, HDR 600, and Thunderbolt 3 connectivity. It's curved for easier viewing, and it has awesome color with 100% sRGB, 88% AdobeRGB, and 95% DCI-P3.

$1,600 at Amazon

$1,600 at Best Buy

$1,597 at B&H

16:10 aspect ratio

Dell UltraSharp U2421E monitor

If you love Dell's monitors but don't need a huge screen, there is the 24-inch UltraSharp U2421E. It has a taller 16:10 aspect ratio, a thin design suited for minimalists, and many ports (including multiple USB-C) for easy connectivity. The 1920x1200 resolution could be higher, but color and contrast are both excellent for a satisfying picture.

See at Amazon

$440 at Dell

$490 at B&H

Portable display

Lenovo ThinkVision M14 monitor

The Surface Pro is portable by design, so you might be looking for a new display that can tag along. Lenovo's ThinkVision M14 is ultra light, yet it has a 14-inch 1080p display with 99% sRGB color and 300 nits brightness. Connect with one of two USB-C ports, prop it up with the swivel stand, and enjoy an extra display for bonus productivity.

$240 at Amazon

$241 at B&H

If we're making some suggestions

Any of the monitors in this roundup can make an ideal addition to your Surface Pro. These 2-in-1 PCs are some of the best Windows laptops out there; the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Pro X are some of the latest models. If you're still not sure which monitor to pair with your Surface, we have some extra advice.

Dell's 24-inch UltraSharp U2721DE brings a colorful picture, high-end build quality, and a ton of ports to the table, making it the best all-around pick for most people. If you're interested in connecting multiple monitors from your Pro 8 or Pro X with a single USB-C port, this monitor will do the trick to start a multi-monitor daisy chain.

If you'd like native USB-C connectivity to work easily with the Surface Pro 8 or Pro X, HP's U28 is also an outstanding 28-inch choice. It has almost no bezel, a stunning picture with near-perfect color reproduction, and an adjustable stand so you can get a couple set up next to each other for a true workstation. And if you want to go with the ultimate pick for gaming and work, it's tough to compete with Razer's Raptor 27.

Despite being good on their own, Surface Pros get better when you attach the best Surface Pro accessories like these external monitors to it. You can also get docks, cases, and more. And if you're in search of a different screen, be sure to have a look at our collection of the overall best computer monitors.

☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

New World launch time: When you can play, download size, and more

Par : Brendan Lowry

Here's when you can access the next big MMO.

If you're in need of a new MMO to play, Amazon's New World might be right up your alley. Its action-packed gameplay and expansive design won a lot of players over during the game's beta, and if the full experience is just as excellent, New World might end up quickly becoming one of the best multiplayer PC games available.

To give players a chance to prepare for New World's imminent Sept. 28 launch, Amazon Games has revealed when access to the game will unlock in each region, and the studio has also shared some useful information about the game's download size and preloading times as well.

New World release date

New World is slated to launch Sept. 28 on PC platforms through Steam. Currently, there are no known plans for the game to launch on other platforms, though this could change in the future.

New World launch time

Access to New World's servers unlock at different times depending on what region you live in, as timezones vary around the world. Here's when the game will be available to play in each timezone:

  • Los Angeles: 8 a.m. PT
  • New York: 8 a.m. ET
  • London: 7 a.m. BST
  • Paris: 8 a.m. CEST
  • São Paulo: 8 a.m. BRT
  • Sydney: 9 p.m. AEST

New World preload and download size

New World preloads are officially live in all regions and timezones, meaning that if you've preordered the game, you can now download and install it ahead of its launch. This will allow you to access the servers the second they go live.

In terms of download size, you'll need at least 39.79 GB of storage space available to download and install New World. Note that the size of the game may (and likely will) change over time as Amazon Games adds new content to the experience.

Welcome to Aeternum

New World

$40 at Amazon $40 at Steam

A new MMO awaits

New World might end up being one of the biggest and most popular MMOs in a long time, and you'll be able to dive into the experience very soon.

☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

On this week's podcast ... we talk through all the new Surface hardware

Par : Zac Bowden

On this episode of the Windows Central Podcast: Microsoft held a hardware event!

We're back with another exciting episode of the Windows Central Podcast, and this week, Microsoft appears to have delivered the goods in a big way at their recent Surface event. Zac and Daniel check out everything that was announced, including Surface Duo 2, Surface Pro 8, Surface Laptop Studio, and more!

This episode of the Windows Central Podcast was recorded on September 22nd 2021.

Links:

Subscribe to the podcast

Hosts

Make this show great by participating!

Send in your comments, questions, and feedback to:

☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

Upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 with this powerful Asus router on sale for $160 today

Par : John Levite

The Asus RT-AX68U Wi-Fi 6 router is on sale for $159.99 at Amazon. That's a crazy low price and a match for the lowest we've ever seen. The router has only been around for about six months and has spent most of that time selling for $200. Even when it does go on sale, it usually only drops to about $180. Today's deal is a huge drop that we are sure will not last long. You can also find this price at Office Depot if you need another shopping option.

Asus RT-AX68U Wi-Fi 6 router | $40 off

The router includes commercial-grade network security for the life of th edevice and can instantly secure your internet access from anywhere in the world. It also has parental controls and the ability to work with AiMesh routers to help cover more ground.

$159.99 at Amazon

This is a great opportunity to upgrade to Wi-Fi 6 if you haven't yet. It's just so fast I don't know why you wouldn't want it. The new Asus router on sale here has the 802.11ax wireless protocol that can get you fast wireless speeds up to 2663 Mb/s thanks to speeds up to 1802 Mb/s over the 5GHz band and 861 Mb/s on the 2.4GHz frequency. Use it with all of your mobile devices.

The router is about more than just speed, though. It's also about safety. You get a lifetime of Asus AiProtection Pro for free. It's powered by Trend Micro and has WPA3 encryption to protect your home. That's commercial-grade network security added on just to keep you and your loved ones safe while you surf the web. Plus, Asus Instant Guard lets you secure your internet access with just one click. And you can do that from anywhere in the world.

Got some kids using your network? Use the parental controls to customize settings for different age groups. You can give your kids the internet access they need while also making sure they're protected.

Plus, if you find the RT-AX68U isn't quite enough router for you, it is compatible with other AiMesh compatible routers. That means you can consider this router the start of a whole-home mesh networking system. Extend your wireless signal to every nook and cranny.

☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

Skype says a faster and more reliable version of the app is on the way

Par : Sean Endicott

Skype gave us a peek behind the curtain by outlining its upcoming features and changes.

What you need to know

  • Microsoft detailed its plans for "an improved, faster, reliable, and super modern-looking Skype."
  • New themes, color options, and a refined look will roll out to Skype in the future.
  • Skype's performance will improve by 30% on desktop and over 2,000% on Android in key scenarios.

Microsoft outlined plans to improve Skype, including a more modern design and improved performance in a new blog post. Skype says that it's "here to stay" in its post that breaks down several upcoming changes and new features.

Skype plans to upgrade the call stage, which it says is the most important part of the platform. The app will soon have new themes and layouts, including improvements to how Skype shows a grid of video feeds.

In the future, if someone joins a call with just audio, they'll be able to have a custom background behind their icon. These are the same backgrounds that people can choose from for video feeds, so they should look familiar and help fill the call stage.

Skype will also improve chat headers, add fluent icons, and support customizable themes with more color options. Notification sounds will also be customizable.

The performance of Skype in key scenarios will be improved by 30% on desktop and over 2,000% on Android. Skype will also support all browsers in the future.

Microsoft has a new feature for Skype on the way called TwinCam that allows people to add a smartphone to a call for an additional camera angle. The company doesn't provide an exact timeline for its new features or the changes on the way to the app, though the aforementioned blog post states that the changes are on the way this year.

Time will tell if these changes greatly impact Skype users. Microsoft recently brought on a new CVP (Corporate Vice President), Manik Gupta, to oversee the company's Skype initiatives. For context, the video-calling platform has been derided as irrelevant or noncompetitive by some people in recent years, meaning changes could be an attempt to reassert Skype's place in a world with Microsoft Teams, Zoom, and other competitors.

☐ ☆ ✇ Windows Central - News, Forums, Reviews, Help for Windows 10 and all things Microsoft.

Xbox Game Pass 2021 review: Still the best deal in gaming

Par : Jez Corden

Xbox Game Pass is an immense service that just keeps getting better.

Xbox Game Pass marches on. Over the course of the past year, Xbox Game Pass has added a range of EA titles to the service. It has also added mountains of third-party games, ranging from the smallest experimental indie titles to AAA blockbusters. Microsoft added the ability to stream Xbox Game Pass titles from the cloud to your Android devices.

As we look ahead to 2022, I thought I'd take an updated look at the past few years and how the service has grown and expanded. Here are some thoughts about Xbox Game Pass in 2021, and whether or not it's worth your time and money (spoilers: it is.)

Hundreds of games

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

All-you-can-eat gaming

For a relatively low monthly fee, Xbox Game Pass gives you access to hundreds of high-quality games across Android, Xbox consoles, and PC.

From $1 at Microsoft Store

Xbox Game Pass 2021 review: So, what is it exactly?

For the uninitiated, Xbox Game Pass is a Netflix-like, all-you-can-eat video game subscription service from Microsoft. The service is available on Xbox One consoles, Xbox Series X and S consoles, PC, and Android devices as of writing, and has since expanded to the web, granting access to iOS devices, Chromebooks, and many more.

Xbox Game Pass comes in three flavors. "Xbox Game Pass" gives you access to a large library of games on your Xbox console. "Xbox Game Pass for PC" gives you access to a large library of games on your Windows 10 PC. And finally, "Xbox Game Pass Ultimate" gives you access to all the games on Xbox consoles, Windows 10 PCs, and a selection of games to stream from the cloud to PC, Android, and modern web-friendly devices. Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes Xbox Live Gold, which is needed for multiplayer gaming on Xbox consoles.

Each tier guarantees day-one access to almost all of Microsoft's own first-party games, which has expanded by an absurd amount in recent years, thanks to Microsoft's acquisition of ZeniMax and all of its subsidiary studios. Not only will Microsoft's internal studio titles be accessible instantly on Xbox Game Pass, such as Halo, Forza, and so on, but it now includes Bethesda games like Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, id Software games like DOOM, and Machine Games' Wolfenstein. Microsoft has also landed a deal with EA for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, adding in dozens of classics from EA's back library, including Dead Space, Mass Effect, and more.

Game Pass Ultimate is quite obviously the best value if you plan to use every service.

Xbox Game Pass for console and Game Pass for PC are $9.99 respectively, with Xbox Game Pass Ultimate being $14.99. Game Pass Ultimate is quite obviously the best value if you plan to use every service across multiple devices, rather than buying up Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass, and Game Pass for PC separately. Microsoft also has an introductory offer to convert Xbox Live Gold long-term subscriptions directly into Xbox Game Pass Ultimate for those who haven't converted yet.

Once you're subscribed, the attached account gets immediate access to all of the games in the full Xbox Game Pass games list and the Xbox Game Pass for PC games list, as if they were licenses that account owned. On Xbox, you can simply find the games in your library under the Xbox Game Pass section. On PC, Xbox Game Pass exists through the new Xbox app for Windows 10. To access Xbox Game Pass in the cloud, you can either grab the app on Android, or use the Xbox app on PC. For iOS and Chromebooks, you can use the website xbox.com/play, since Apple's anti-competitive store policies effectively ban Xbox Game Pass cloud.

Now that you're up to speed, let's dive into what makes Xbox Game Pass really great (and in some ways, not so great).

Xbox Game Pass 2021 review: What's great

This first reason will come as no surprise: games. Games, games, games, and more games. Xbox Game Pass, unsurprisingly, is full of video games, of all shapes and sizes, all types and genres, budgets big and small for all sorts of people.

Microsoft adds all of its games day and date to Xbox Game Pass, including their biggest upcoming titles like Halo Infinite and Forza Horizon 5. This shows a great deal of commitment and consistency towards the platform, in a similar way to how Netflix and Disney+ build up their service with exclusive "original" content.

There's literally something for everyone on offer here.

A lot of the games Microsoft builds for Xbox Game Pass also enjoy ongoing updates. Titles like Sea of Thieves, State of Decay, Minecraft Dungeons, and others are getting a very large amount of post-launch support. You have to wonder to what extent Xbox Game Pass is funding the budgets for these efforts, given that keeping people engaged in your titles will also keep people engaged with your subscription service.

Outside of Microsoft's own sizeable library of games, the best Xbox Game Pass games include titles from large third-party publishers too. On PC, we have titles like Football Manager from Sega and Crusader Kings III from Paradox. On console, we have a vast library of classic games from EA, including Mass Effect and Dead Space. On mobile devices, you can play games like Streets of Rage 4 and Hades without the need for a controller. There's literally something for everyone on offer here, regardless of modality, preference, and attention level. The sheer volume and variety in Xbox Game Pass cannot be understated.

I'm someone in a privileged position where games are concerned. If I don't get them for review purposes, I can often invoice them through Windows Central, and so on. But I haven't been at this gig for that long, and I have very fresh memories of working short hours in a minimum wage job, and struggling to justify dropping £50 here or £40 there on games. The very practice of buying games throughout my life has up until now, been quite a discerning process. How many hours of enjoyment will I get? What's the replay value? What's the resale value? and so on.

I distinctly remember as a child, being told I'd need to use up both my Christmas and birthday presents to get a copy of Majora's Mask for the N64 since it was inexplicably £70 at the time. If I'd have had Xbox Game Pass as a kid, it would've been a godsend. The ability to graze and simply try games without fear of wasting money is a liberating experience. Microsoft even provides you with Microsoft Rewards Points for playing Xbox Game Pass titles, which you can then, in turn, spend on getting free Xbox Game Pass months. In terms of sheer entertainment hours-per-cost value, Xbox Game Pass is unbeatable.

In terms of sheer entertainment hours-per-cost value, Xbox Game Pass is unbeatable.

Some developers have expressed concerns over the value for them when it comes to Game Pass inclusion, but the data seems to indicate that Game Pass inclusion actually helps retail sales in some cases, rather than harms them. Sea of Thieves for example remained a best-seller on Steam, despite being part of Xbox Game Pass for PC. The virality of access alone may be a big difference-maker here, particularly in the case of multiplayer titles.

There have been times where I simply decided to try a game on a whim and found something new to love. Star Renegades is one such example for me, alongside Hades and Monster Train, and various other indie titles. Accessibility is key for Xbox Game Pass, ultimately. And to that end, Microsoft baked in the ability to stream Game Pass titles directly to any device, no matter where you are (providing you have a semi-decent internet connection). Many of these games even come with touch controls. And if your internet connection is of decent quality, you can discover new games anywhere, at any time.

Xbox Game Pass not only has me falling in love with new games but entire new studios, given that I now want to follow their work and future games. Game Pass isn't just a vehicle for gaming, but also fandom, which is one area of the platform I think Microsoft could improve for developers in some ways.

Indeed, there are a few ways I'd love to see Xbox Game Pass improved, as good as it already is.

Xbox Game Pass 2021 review: What's not so great

Xbox Game Pass has a range of idiosyncrasies that hinder the platform in some ways. They range from mild irritations to bigger problems, but I would preface by saying none of it feels really like a deal-breaker. Moreover, this is just a range of things I think Microsoft could add to improve the platform.

The first pain point I often see across social media from those with kids is the lack of family access. If you're using a single shared Xbox, every profile on that home Xbox gains access to Xbox Game Pass. However, if you have multiple Xbox consoles and have a bigger family, you'll need multiple Xbox Game Pass subscriptions to keep everybody online simultaneously. This is a drawback of Xbox Game Pass that seems to have been overlooked at the time of the service's creation.

Netflix and Disney+ both support multiple logins across multiple devices with simultaneous streams at different price tiers. I think it would be within Microsoft's interest to at least consider offering a higher-paid tier for multi-user licensing for families.

Another source of irritation for me at least comes from Project xCloud, or Xbox Game Pass for cloud, across Android (and iOS and PC via the web). Microsoft is among the first and most prolific companies to offer a cloud gaming option in their service at this scale. Sony has PlayStation Now but doesn't consistently offer its own games into the service. Amazon Luna is just starting up, and Google Stadia is arguably winding down.

Microsoft should make some kind of Android-based handheld designed for xCloud.

Naturally, for those who use iOS devices such as iPads or iPhones, you're presently unable to access Xbox Game Pass game streaming natively, due to Apple's restrictive anti-competitive store policies. Still, that's not exactly Microsoft's fault, and the web app is generally solid, but it's less than ideal. However, even on Android, Xbox Game Pass has its annoyances.

Playing console games on a smartphone just kind of sucks for the most part. The UI, camera distance, font sizes, and controls are designed for the big screen and rarely translate properly to even the largest smartphones. Even though there are many decent options in our best mobile clips for Xbox Game Pass cloud streaming and there is a range of pretty great tablets that compliment Xbox games, the usability isn't entirely what I'd describe as ergonomic. The plastic clips and controller solutions are unbalanced, fiddly, and often cheaply made. Bluetooth adds additional, unwanted latency. Many third-party controllers also fall well below the official best Xbox controller options out there too.

With the Nintendo Switch exploding in popularity, we have repeatedly made the case that Microsoft should make some kind of Android-based handheld designed for xCloud. It has yet to materialize. But until then, xCloud on phones remains a less-than-pleasant experience, even when you disregard the added latency. There are only two games on Xbox Game Pass cloud that have custom UI overlay touch controls, namely Hades and Minecraft. Many of the others use the standard icons with custom controls, like Streets of Rage 4. Others use the standard gamepad controls, which is often simply unusable. Pillars of Eternity's interface is already complex on Xbox as it is. When you hide half of the UI behind touch controls, it becomes needlessly painful to play.

Other parts of Xbox Game Pass that are a bit messy pertain to the Xbox platform as a whole, rather than Xbox Game Pass itself. There are some obvious ways Xbox Game Pass for PC could be improved, bringing the features more closely in line with Steam, for example. Microsoft hasn't added features or improvements to the Xbox achievement system in years. There are dozens of games flooding the platform with intentionally easy achievements to try to convince people to play, undermining the system. There is no meaningful way to track rare and exceptionally difficult achievements in games you've earned via Xbox Game Pass.

There's also no easy way to follow a specific developer, or engage with them via Xbox Game Pass on PC. On Steam, developers are able to post updates and engage with the community via their game listings pages. You can click on a developer to see all of their games, but that's about it.

There are a few other minor complaints. Microsoft doesn't have a modding platform that even vaguely resembles the Steam Workshop on PC, although they have added the option to unlock Xbox Game Pass PC games for modding via the Xbox app. It would be nice to see Microsoft support the modding community directly in the Xbox Game Pass PC app too, alongside enhancements to some of the social features which, frankly, suck when compared to the likes of Discord in terms of speed and features.

Either way, Xbox Game Pass is ultimately all about the games rather than the features attached to it. And in that, Xbox Game Pass, right now, is utterly unbeatable.

Xbox Game Pass 2021 review: Is it worth it?

I feel like even the biggest Xbox and Microsoft haters on the planet are hard-pressed to find a reason to dislike this service. For a maximum of $15 a month, you get blanket access to all Xbox Game Studios games, and soon, all ZeniMax Media games, a ton of classic EA games, and various other third-party games, no questions asked.

What it's great for:

  • Discovering new games
  • Saving money on Microsoft and ZeniMax games
  • Discovering new games frequently
  • Streaming games to mobile devices via Android, laptops, or the web

What it's not great for:

  • It's not great for those who still enjoy collecting physical games
  • The lack of a family plan can inflate costs in big families
  • The community aspects are weak compared to other services and platforms
  • Xbox Game Pass cloud needs a lot of work on usability and ergonomics

For anyone who wants to game while saving money, for others who simply want all-you-can-eat exploration and discovery, and for those who want to take their games on the go, Xbox Game Pass is simply divine.

There are features and improvements that need to come before I would describe the service as hitting maturity. The Xbox app on Windows 10 leaves a lot to be desired, for example, and the ergonomics of gaming on a phone have a long way to go. But at its core, Xbox Game Pass is all about games. Games, games, and more games. When it comes to that, Xbox Game Pass is a champion. Also, games.

Infinite games

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Netflix for gaming

Xbox Game Pass is an absurdly good Netflix-like subscription service from Xbox. Whether you're on PC, Xbox, or a mobile device, gain access to hundreds of games for a relatively low monthly fee.

From $1 at Microsoft Store

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Award-winning RPG Disco Elysium finally has a release date for Xbox

Par : Zachary Boddy

Disco Elysium is a legendary RPG, and it is finally arriving on Xbox.

What you need to know

  • Disco Elysium is a well-known RPG that immediately became a massive hit on PC when it released back in 2019.
  • Since then, the studio has worked to bring its award-winning title to more platforms, including consoles.
  • Disco Elysium — The Final Cut is rebuilt from the ground up for consoles, and includes a ton of enhancements and improvements.
  • Now, we know that this upgraded version of Disco Elysium officially arrives on Xbox consoles on Oct. 12, 2021.

One of the most well-known RPGs released in recent history is Disco Elysium, a sprawling open-world detective RPG that is filled with countless choices and paths to take. The award-winning title is already available on PlayStation consoles, but the upgraded and enhanced Final Cut edition is finally coming to Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch on Oct. 12, 2021. There's an all-new trailer to enjoy, as well as an overview of what to expect from this definitive edition.

Studio ZA / UM wants to be clear that Disco Elysium — The Final Cut isn't a simple port of the original PC version, and is built from the ground up to be optimized for consoles with a wide variety of improvements, and well as all of the quality-of-life enhancements the original has enjoyed over the years. When Disco Elysium finally arrives on Xbox and inevitably joins the growing list of best Xbox RPGs, some of its highlighted features will include:

  • New content. Political vision quests will add an all-new area, new citizens to meet, new landmarks to explore, and much more as you attempt to realize your political dreams.
  • Xbox Series X|S Optimizations. Disco Elysium will look and run great on Xbox Series X & S, with up to 4K resolution and 60 FPS on Microsoft's current-gen powerhouses. It'll also support Xbox niceties like Smart Delivery for seamless upgrades, Xbox cloud saves so you never lose your progress, and Xbox Achievements.
  • Console improvements. This version of Disco Elysium is designed to shine on consoles, with an upgraded user interface, scalable fonts and other accessibility improvements, full controller support, plenty of settings and customization, and expanded language support.
  • Expanded voice acting. In Disco Elysium — The Final Cut, voice acting has been greatly expanded to encompass practically the entire game, with every character being fully voiced and unique.

Disco Elysium — The Final Cut is available now for PC and PlayStation players, but arrives on Xbox and Switch on Oct. 12, 2021. If you'd prefer to wait for a physical copy of the game, ZA / UM is planning to release exactly that on Nov. 9, complete with a sizeable poster and a code for a digital artbook.

Disco Elysium is a true RPG of daunting size and scale, and it's almost certain to make waves when it lands on Xbox in a handful of weeks. If you want to see more of the game, you can check out more images down below.

Become a detective

Disco Elysium — The Final Cut

See at Microsoft (Xbox) $40 at Steam (PC) $40 at Nintendo (Switch)

A legendary RPG.

Disco Elysium is an RPG like no other, and it's finally coming to Xbox consoles. The Final Cut is complete with new content, expanded voice acting, and a myriad of console-specific improvements and enhancements, and it arrives on Oct. 12, 2021.

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Age of Empires 4 devs discuss Hands on History and what to expect at launch

Par : Cale Hunt

Naval warfare, new ways to play, and making history fun again.

Age of Empires 4 is dropping into our eager hands this month, launching exclusively on PC Oct. 28. We most recently received new information at Gamescom 2021, where the game's massive "Hands on History" feature was revealed alongside the rest of the civilizations and campaigns included at launch.

I was lucky enough to speak with World's Edge Creative Director Adam Isgreen and Relic Entertainment Game Director Quinn Duffy to discuss this unconventional storytelling method, as well as early-game strategies, naval warfare, launch content, and what's coming after release.

Doing to history what Top Gear did to car culture

Hands on History is something unlike the Age of Empires series has ever seen, though it was certainly inspired by previous games and their heavy focus on our exciting past. In my previous Age of Empires 4 developer interview, I mentioned that Age of Empires 2 and its in-depth campaigns really got me caring about history all those years ago. And while we knew that Age 4 was going deep on history, this new live-action method was a surprise to many.

Hands on History includes 28 unlockable videos — assumedly unlocking as you play through the campaign — all meant to help players understand the historical significance of the game they're playing. We were shown one of these unlockables at Gamescom: a three-minute video explaining how trebuchets work and why they were used in battle. I was curious to know at what point in the game's production this idea of live-action footage came around. Isgreen had this to say:

This is going to sound crazy. In the very first deck I created when the team came and said, 'Adam, what would you do with a new version of Age of Empires?' This was six years ago at this point. One of my first slides showed a picture of Top Gear and it showed a picture of Neil deGrasse Tyson in Cosmos. It said, 'Can we Top Gear-ify history?'... I don't know about you, but every time I've had teachers that have been passionate and excited about the subject, it's infectious. I love what Top Gear did to car culture. Car culture was something that sat off to the side. There are tons of people who love cars, but it wasn't in the popular gestalt. It's that whole approach.

Hands on History isn't amateur fare. The whole idea really came together once Relic Entertainment and Lion TV, one of the U.K.'s premier television production companies, began working together to deliver these segments in context with the rest of the game. I was curious to know if, before that cohesion, there was any trepidation or hesitation from the rest of the team. Duffy explained:

I think there was some skepticism. People weren't sure how it would work internally. We treated the first Hands on History, the first campaign narrative as a bit of a pilot. We needed to test how it would look in context and what the motion graphics on top would look like. How we would take what we'd done and multiply it over the hours of campaign and how much that would cost. There are a lot of things to learn about doing it, but seeing those first couple of efforts... allayed a lot of concerns among people. It was very, very unique.

Isgreen gave kudos to the Relic Entertainment and Lion TV teams for putting the Hands on History segments together in such a way that fits the game as a whole. He explained that, despite seeing the scripts, it wasn't until the content started rolling in that everyone was truly floored.

That's the thing that scared us and why I was so nervous. We're doing something nobody has done before... How do we make a modern documentary merged with a game merged with storytelling techniques merged with all these cool historical facts?... I've been making games for almost 30 years now and there's nothing that could have done this.

Duffy and Isgreen agreed that they weren't shy about their love of history and that there's a ton of live content headed our way. Even despite some of it not making it past the rating board. Isgreen concluded:

The great thing is the range of subjects is so diverse. There's one we had to pull from the game. It got us a crude humor tag on our rating. I love this video but I don't want to sacrifice the rating by adding it.

Don't worry; Isgreen assured me that those pulled segments will see the light of day in some manner after launch.

Age of Empires 4 gives players myriad strategic options

With the official reveal of the final two launch civilizations — The Rus and Holy Roman Empire — some questions came to mind surrounding how the game will play out in the opening minutes. The Rus appear to be quite aggressive, expanding borders and receiving gold from unique buildings and units. I asked if there was any sort of trend toward aggression time, like how most Age 2 games see a clash around the 5-6-minute mark and how Starcraft games are much quicker. Duffy clarified:

The first several minutes were less about that time to fight and more about trying to figure out as many unique openings and options as possible in the early game. Whether it's access to different units, buildings, scouting opportunities, figuring out whether you want to forward hunt or get your berries or get your sheep, we wanted to provide more choice and options in those first 1-10 minutes. And also maybe to rebalance the ages just a little bit so you're not just inclined to burst through the first age or two.

You can spend some time, develop some strategies early, and kind of think about the game as a whole that way. I think by and large a lot of that work has been successful. We'll watch how the balance works but... the focus was less about how soon do we want to fight and more about what kind of options do we have.

Isgreen continued:

Quinn is right; there are so many openings. I saw a quad-scout opening in one of the play sessions. It was super effective because of the other civ and the choices they made in the early game. That was like a 5-minute GG. Not something you see every day. In Age 4 we wanted to make sure there was more to do in that [Dark] age. Like Quinn said, there are some really meaningful decisions that can really change the way you focus your economy. The Mongols are all mobile. They can literally roll over to you if they want to.

It certainly seems like Age of Empires 4 will be more about providing players with plenty of different strategies, right from the beginning of the game, than it will be about having a set meta for the first 10 minutes of play. Fewer players rushing through Dark and Feudal ages to reach more powerful units should certainly shake things up and will make for some great Age gameplay. Isgreen stresses that this also depends heavily on map size and the random map generation you get for your game. With around 20 maps coming at launch, some new and some familiar, players will have plenty of opportunity to test out different strategic combinations.

One other major feature that should shake up the game is naval warfare. I asked how much of an impact it would have on the average game, and whether it would weigh heavier than in past Age games. Isgreen answered:

Shoreline fishing is really good in Age 4. One of the things we've done is that deepwater fishing regenerates over time to encourage more naval play... We really do want to encourage more naval. We tried to make changes to the way naval combat works. We had this whole idea of oars vs. sailing ships and can we make them feel different in ways that they're used. We're still exploring that; it's going to be an ongoing thing as we develop more of the game. It's powerful.

Isgreen was careful to clarify that there would still be maps like a dry Arabia equivalent for those who don't like building ships, but also mentioned that there will be new maps focused heavily on naval warfare. He concluded by saying he hopes that the percentage of players who enjoy naval gameplay will go up with what they've done in Age of Empires 4.

Age of Empires 4 is approaching the finish line

Age of Empires 4 launches soon and the team is busy finalizing a lot of practical details. Certifications, bug backlogs, stability tests, and parsing continued feedback are all crucial right now, explained Duffy. It's also a time where the team has to balance adding new features and squashing any bugs that might arise from the addition. For example, the zoom level that was a hot topic during the beta playtest is still being worked on. "That's the big thing we're working on right now," said Isgreen. "I'm hoping we'll make a change for launch that will make a lot of people happy." Isgreen also mentioned that the global queue feature is being worked on, but likely won't be included at launch. The same goes for mod tools.

Ranked matchmaking will be disabled at first in order to give the game a bit of time to reveal any bugs and balance issues. "We want that to be a moment," said Isgreen. "We're going to be balancing this game forever." I asked about the inclusion of Deathmatch, King of the Hill, and Regicide modes at launch, and it seems that the team will monitor numbers from previous Age games to see what to add first. "We will communicate that pre-launch," said Isgreen. "We'll be sharing a lot more information on our launch plans and what we're going to do after and in what order so that people know certain things are coming."

Age of Empires 4 is set to release on Oct. 28, 2021 on PC through Windows, Xbox Game Pass for PC, and Steam. Be sure to check out our collection of best laptops for playing Age of Empires 4 if your current system doesn't hit the recommended system specs.

Epic historical battles

Age of Empires 4

History, naval warfare, and more.

Age of Empires 4 is a continuation of the legendary RTS series with a focus on historical accuracy, asymmetrical warfare, and deep strategy.

From $60 at Microsoft

From $60 at Steam

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Disney+ France : les nouveaux films et séries en octobre 2021

Par : Maxime Claudel

Voilà la liste des nouveaux films et séries qui rejoindront Disney+ en octobre. Une programmation d'automne sans contenus très marquants. [Lire la suite]

Voitures, vélos, scooters... : la mobilité de demain se lit sur Vroom ! https://www.numerama.com/vroom/vroom//

L'article Disney+ France : les nouveaux films et séries en octobre 2021 est apparu en premier sur Numerama.

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Qu'est-ce qu'une exoplanète ?

Par : Nelly Lesage

Depuis les toutes premières détections d'exoplanètes, la recherche et la connaissance de ces mondes ont beaucoup progressé. La Nasa recense désormais plus de 4 500 exoplanètes confirmées. Mais qu'est-ce qu'une exoplanète exactement ? [Lire la suite]

Voitures, vélos, scooters... : la mobilité de demain se lit sur Vroom ! https://www.numerama.com/vroom/vroom//

L'article Qu’est-ce qu’une exoplanète ? est apparu en premier sur Numerama.

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Watercooling AIO MAG CORELIQUID R et K, MSI offre le kit de fixation LGA 1700

Par : Jérôme Gianoli

MSI annonce que le kit de mise à jour vers le socket LGA 1700 est gratuit pour les utilisateurs de ses solutions de Watercooling. L’opération concerne ses solutions MEG CORELIQUID. Détails Les processeurs Intel Core de 12ième génération Core vont se présenter au travers d’un nouveau format. Alder Lake-S va exploiter le socket LGA 1700 ...

The post Watercooling AIO MAG CORELIQUID R et K, MSI offre le kit de fixation LGA 1700 appeared first on GinjFo.

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QNAP QTS 5.0 RC est là : comment l'installer, quid des nouveautés ?

Après le DMS 7.0 de Synology, QNAP dégaine son interface QTS 5.0. Comme chez la concurrence il est surtout question d'une refonte structurelle, avec peu de changements graphiques et ergonomiques. On vous explique comment sauter le...

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Les tarifs de Netflix ont augmenté en France : voici les nouveaux prix

Par : Marcus Dupont-Besnard

En cette rentrée 2021, le service SVOD Netflix augmente le tarif de tous les abonnements, y compris l'offre Essentiel qui est la plus basique. [Lire la suite]

Abonnez-vous à notre chaîne YouTube pour ne manquer aucune vidéo !

L'article Les tarifs de Netflix ont augmenté en France : voici les nouveaux prix est apparu en premier sur Numerama.

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New malware steals Steam, Epic Games Store, and EA Origin accounts

Par : Sergiu Gatlan
A new malware sold on dark web forums is being used by threat actors to steal accounts for multiple gaming platforms, including Steam, Epic Games Store, and EA Origin. [...]
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Work with Azure management groups and subscriptions using PowerShell

Par : Baki Onur Okutucu

In this post, we will be looking at managing and maintaining management groups and controlling them along with their subscriptions on Azure using PowerShell.

The post Work with Azure management groups and subscriptions using PowerShell first appeared on 4sysops.
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Windows 11, des nouveaux ISO débarquent à quelques jours du lancement

Par : Jérôme Gianoli

A quelques jours du coup d’envoi officiel Microsoft publie de nouvelles images ISO de Windows 11. Cette publication concerne le programme Insider.

The post Windows 11, des nouveaux ISO débarquent à quelques jours du lancement appeared first on GinjFo.

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The Witcher saison 3 sur Netflix : tout ce que l’on sait sur la suite de la série

Par : Julien Lausson

Netflix confirme une saison 3 pour sa série The Witcher. Elle devrait être proposée fin 2022, avec toujours au casting Henry Cavill dans le rôle de Geralt de Riv. [Lire la suite]

Voitures, vélos, scooters... : la mobilité de demain se lit sur Vroom ! https://www.numerama.com/vroom/vroom//

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