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The last free Windows 10 upgrade path for consumers will shut down by December 31 The so-called ‘assistive loophole’ is rather broad. BY MARK HACHMAN


here’s still one way consumers can upgrade to Windows 10 for free—and Microsoft will shut it down on December 31, even though a majority of the world’s PC users still use older versions of Windows. Microsoft gave Windows 7 and Windows


8.1 users an entire year after the launch of Windows 10 (until July 31, 2016) to upgrade to Windows 10 for free. But there was one exception: those who used assistive technology (, such as screen readers, got an indefinite extension. According to a Microsoft support page (go. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 7


WINDOWS 10 UPGR ADE PATH, the deadline for those users to upgrade to Windows 10 for free expires by the end of the year, as noted by Slashgear (go.pcworld. com/slge). After that, consumers will have to pay the full price for a Windows license, which costs about $75 from Amazon for a “system Go to Microsoft’s assistive support page to download the Window’s 10 upgrade tool. builder” license for Windows 10 Home, and more for retail Home or Professional versions. technology. And with the improved assistive You might think that users who don’t use technologies that are built into the Windows assistive technologies would be excluded 10 OS, those who truly need assistance will from this loophole. But Microsoft is making its benefit from the free upgrade. upgrade path extremely generous: “We are not restricting the upgrade offer to specific Why this matters: Cynics will see Microsoft’s assistive technologies,” the company says. “If “wink, wink” approach to the assistive loophole you use assistive technology on Windows, as one that benefits the company: Windows 10 you are eligible for the upgrade offer.” All you users only represent about 30 percent of all PCs, need to do is visit the assistive support page according to NetMarketShare (go.pcworld. ( in question, assert com/netm), compared to a Windows 7 share of that you use assistive technologies, and then about 49 percent. Of course, Microsoft’s using download the upgrade tool to Windows 10. the stick, too: AMD’s latest Ryzen chips won’t Granted, the assistive loophole deliver official drivers for Windows 7 (go. represents a morally gray area, especially for, part of Microsoft’s plan to those who normally wouldn’t need to use restrict modern hardware to Windows 10 (go. assistive technology. But you might argue Unless Microsoft extends that if you’ve ever tried out the Windows the program in some other form, a great freebie Narrator tool, you’ve used an assistive is going away. 8 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Windows 10: Insider Build 17035 gives the first peeks at the next major Redstone 4 update The first big update to the Windows 10 Redstone 4 update cycle. BY MARK HACHMAN


icrosoft’s latest Windows 10 Insider build for the “Redstone 4” update cycle tries to do away with the “sneakernet” with a feature called Near Share, as well as a phone-like autosuggest feature for text typing. Microsoft recently launched Windows 10 Insider build 17035 for the Fast Ring, one of the IMAGE: MICROSOFT

first code releases for what’s been referred to as “Redstone 4,” or the update cycle following the Fall Creators Update. If Microsoft holds to its current schedule, Redstone 4 should be due in the spring. Until then, however, Windows Insiders are part of the testing team trying out new features: Near Share, better tab muting in DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 9



Edge, a new Audio settings menu, the ability to configure update bandwidth, and a few more. Why this matters: Microsoft’s free updates to Windows 10 continue. Now, however, we’re beginning a new, blank slate. Will there be a theme to Redstone 4? What will be the key apps? These are early days, and we’re still getting a few scattered, though useful, utilities.

HOW TO USE NEAR SHARE It’s pretty easy to just haul out a USB key and copy a file over—if you have one handy. Near Share replaces that with Bluetooth, however. Within Windows 10, you can share just about any file to email, Facebook, and more. Now your PC can seek out nearby PCs and offer to share a file, too. You’ll need to have the current Insider build 17035 (or, as new builds are launched,

something more recent). You’ll need to turn Bluetooth on, then make sure that the Near Share button in the Action Center is toggled on. After that, every time you see the Share icon, you’ll have the option to share the file or URL with a nearby device. The recipient will get a note in the Action Center to either accept it or decline. (Note: most people don’t “name” their PCs, and instead use the generic PC name Windows assigns. You’ll need to check with the recipient to confirm the name of their PC.)

EDGE IMPROVEMENTS: BETTER TAB MUTING, ePUB SAVING While the Fall Creators Update added nifty features such as ebook annotations and PDF improvements, this new update cycle allows you to save free ePUB books that you’re reading online to your local hard

With Edge, you can either toggle the tab into a mute state, or right-click it.

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While the Fall Creators Update added nifty features such as ebook annotations and PDF improvements, this new update cycle allows you to save free ePUB books that you’re reading online to your local hard drive. drive. Because, well, they’re free. Likewise, if you click a book in the Book pane, you can pin it to the Start menu or just remove it from the device. A more useful addition is the ability to mute tabs right from the tab itself. Typically, web browsers (including Edge) will show a small speaker icon next to a tab that’s playing audio. Muting that tab, though, often requires right-clicking it and selecting a mute option. While that option is still there, the speaker icon is now a toggle, so that a tab can be muted just by clicking the icon.

LIMIT UPDATE BANDWIDTH, AUTOSUGGEST While the Fall Creators Update allowed you to adjust the bandwidth used by Windows updates, the new build extends that same functionality to “foreground updates”— basically downloads you kick off, like apps you download from the Store. That’s handy, if only

because people rarely babysit a major app download (such as a game like Gears of War 4), instead focusing on other things, like web browsing. The new Windows 10 Insider Build 17035 also migrates the main Audio settings (with the ability to set Windows sounds, and so forth) into the Settings menu, and out of the Control Panel. Windows’ touch keyboard includes a couple of improvements, with an “Acrylic”themed look to the keyboard, as well as expanding the touch keyboard’s reach to more than 190 new foreign-language layouts.

The Acrylic UI has now been added to the touch keyboard.

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Windows 10’s autosuggest works with your standard hardware keyboard.

Microsoft has also begun to add generally useful technologies, such as eye tracking and dictation, as assistive technologies for differently abled people. To this list Microsoft has added an optional autosuggest feature— not autocorrect, but autosuggest. As you type, Microsoft will pop up suggestions for the next word. It’s a feature typically found on phones, that now is included in Windows. The kicker, though, is that you don’t need to use the soft or touch keyboard to enable autosuggest—it works with your standard hardware keyboard. To enable it, go to Settings > Devices > Typing and then toggle 12 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

on the Show Text Suggestions As I Type On Hardware Keyboard setting. If you do use pen to write using the soft keyboard, you’ll see an improved “space” gesture (a vertical line) for adding a space between words, and improved handwriting recognition. Finally, Japanese users will see something special: Text suggestions from the Japaneselanguage AI chatbot Rinna, who will now suggest phrases as you type. Unfortunately, given the Tay debacle in the United States (go.pcworld. com/tayd), don’t look for the same feature to come to American users anytime soon.

Intel and AMD team up: A future Core chip will have Radeon graphics inside Intel will ship a chip powered by AMD’s Radeon graphics next year to bring top-tier, triple-A games to the thin-and-light notebook market. BY MARK HACHMAN


t sounds crazy, but it’s true: Arch-rivals AMD and Intel have teamed up to co-design an Intel Core microprocessor with a custom AMD Radeon graphics core inside the processor package, aimed at bringing top-tier gaming to thin-and-light notebook PCs. Executives from both AMD and Intel told PCWorld that the combined AMD-Intel chip IMAGE: INTEL

will be an “evolution” of Intel’s 8th-generation, H-series Core chips, with the ability to powermanage the entire module to preserve battery life. It’s scheduled to ship as early as the first quarter of 2018. Though both companies helped engineer the new chip, this is Intel’s project—Intel first approached AMD, both companies confirmed. AMD, for its part, is treating the DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 13



Radeon core as a single, semi-custom design, in the same vein as the chips it supplies to consoles like the Microsoft Xbox One X and Sony PlayStation 4. Some specifics, though, remain undisclosed: Intel refers to it as a single product, though it seems possible that it could eventually be offered at a range of clock speeds. The linchpin of the Intel-AMD agreement is a tiny piece of silicon that Intel Intel showed a reference notebook of the sort that will be enhanced began talking up over the by the AMD-Intel partnership. The large, black blank space is past year: the Embedded designed to be used for drawing with the stylus and for other digital Multi-die Interconnect content creation. Bridge ( mbed), or EMIB. Numerous EMIBs can The story behind the story: You heard right: connect silicon dies, routing the electrical This is AMD and Intel, working together. traces through the substrate itself. The result is Shaking hands on this partnership represents what Intel calls a System-in-Package module. a rare moment of harmony in an often bitter In this case, EMIBs allowed Intel to construct rivalry that began when AMD reversethe three-die module, which will tie together engineered the Intel 8080 microchip in 1975. Intel’s Core chip, the Radeon core, and But in graphics, the two are more cordial: next-generation high-bandwidth memory, or Intel’s low-end, integrated cores own the HBM2 ( majority of the notebook PC market, while AMD is pinched between Intel and Nvidia’s Editor’s Note: Some people are beginning to high-end chips. Intel is no friend to Nvidia, refer to this chip as the Kaby Lake G, a name having paid out $1.5 billion in licensing fees that Intel representatives said they will not ( since 2011. The confirm. A spokeswoman referred to it as enemy of my enemy is my friend—that’s one “rumor and speculation.” explanation for how the deal came about. 14 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

A WIN-WIN FOR ALL CONCERNED According to Chris Walker, vice president of Intel’s Client Computing Group, Intel had a problem: AAA gaming PCs were selling, customers were interested in VR, but notebooks with the graphics horsepower to run them were thick and heavy. Customers, though, were seeing growth in two-in-one PCs and even thinner thin-and-light PCs. This was what Walker called Intel’s “portability obstacle:” How could it bring top-tier performance to notebooks that didn’t weigh a ton? The answer, as it turned out, was the EMIB, a small sliver of silicon to bridge discrete logic cores within a single chip

package. Intel had originally developed the EMIB as an alternative to what’s known as a silicon interposer, the “floor” or “foundation” of a multichip module. The problem with an interposer is that, like a floor, it needs to cover the entire space underneath the module, making it expensive to manufacture. EMIBs are more like small connectors that dip into the substrate. Intel found that they worked for its Altera programmable logic line as well as its more mainstream PC microprocessor designs. In fact, this is the first consumer use of EMIB, executives said. Intel’s EMIBs, though, allowed another important advantage: modularity. Originally, Intel positioned EMIBs as a tool to mix and match chips using different process

This slide, taken from an Intel presentation, shows how Intel believes its Embedded Multi-die Interconnect Bridge is more cost-effective for connecting chips than methods that use an interposer, and far higher in performance than Multi-Chip Package designs.

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An example of the space savings Intel achieved by moving the CPU, Radeon GPU, and HBM inside the processor package.

technologies. When designing a programmable chip, adding in third-party logic cores is somewhat common. Within integrated logic as complex as a microprocessor’s, though, it’s nearly unheard of. The EMIB allowed for a compromise, placing CPU, GPU, and memory in close proximity without being part of the same actual design. That paid off almost immediately. Intel’s still being cagey on all the benefits of the Core-Radeon module that EMIB enabled, but the company revealed two. According to Walker, the module stripped out a whopping 1900 square millimeters (2.9 sq in.) from a more traditional motherboard, where the processor, discrete GPU, and memory were laid out next to one another. (Put another way, the EMIB layout consumes just half of the typical board space, Intel says.) Second, the module uses about half the memory power of a traditional design. 16 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

SOFTWARE, DRIVERS ARE CRITICAL FOR MANAGING POWER That’s important, because heat naturally becomes more of an issue as notebooks become thinner. Intel added what it calls a new power-sharing framework to the module, consisting of a new connection between the processor, GPU, and memory. Just as a system can manage the processing workload between the three components, the new power framework can do the same for power management. Here, Intel’s software team plays a critical role, both in managing power as well as ensuring that the right drivers are in place for optimizing performance. “If I look at this as one system with one driver package, with one Intel-delivered driver set, we’re able to apply things like our Dynamic Platform Framework,” Walker said, referring to a set of Intel-designed thermal

management technologies that can manage the CPU, GPU, and memory simultaneously. The Dynamic Platform Framework will allow the system to tweak and balance the three platform components dynamically, based on workload, system state, the temperature of the PC chassis, and more. Naturally, tasks like movie playback will still be routed to the Core chip’s existing, integrated graphics core, Walker said. The integrated 8th-gen Core chips ( already contain dedicated, optimized logic to play back 4K video using the HEVC or VP9 codecs chosen by streaming content companies like Netflix and Amazon, while using minimal power. One interesting wrinkle: Intel will be responsible for supplying the drivers for the Radeon GPU, though company engineers won’t write the original code. An Intel representative said they’re working closely with AMD’s Radeon business to supply “day one” drivers for new games, when those drivers become available.

however, enjoyed a rare profit of $71 million on $1.64 billion revenue for the justcompleted third quarter, helped by sales of its Ryzen processors and Vega graphics chips. AMD’s semi-custom business, which usually sells chips to game consoles, could use a boost: It reported flat sales year-over-year. (AMD also said it closed an unspecified patent licensing transaction “which positively impacted revenue,” though officials confirmed that the Intel deal wasn’t it.) It’s possible that the Core-Radeon (Core-R, perhaps?) deal may yield a longer-term relationship. But right now, AMD seems to be positioning it as a single contract with a customer, like any other. “We’re constantly looking at different things inside AMD, but this is really Intel’s project,” said Scott Herkelman, the corporate

INTEL’S GRAPHICS BUSINESS IS ALIVE AND WELL Speculation that Intel might license or outright buy AMD’s Radeon business has circulated for years, especially as AMD has struggled to achieve profitability. AMD,

Intel has dominated the PC graphics market, thanks to the integrated graphics cores inside its Core processors.

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vice president and general manager within the Radeon Gaming business unit within AMD. “It’s completely semicustom...I wouldn’t say that we’re going to take this and learn something from it. This is Intel’s project, and we’re helping them execute on it.” Last January, speculation rose that Intel and AMD had signed a Radeon licensing deal (, prompting talk that Intel might be preparing to lay off or otherwise get rid of its own integrated graphics development teams. Walker denied it. “Not at all,” he said. “As we drive mainstream thin and light to 15mm and lower, the Intel UHD solution is still the market leader in terms of how graphics gets delivered on a PC platform,” Walker added. Nor has Intel licensed the EMIB technology to AMD, he said. AMD representatives went further, stating that there is no patent or IP licensing in place between the two firms at all.

WHAT’S NEXT? ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS Unfortunately, we still don’t know the answers to several basic questions: How fast will these new cores run? How many variants of these new Core-Radeon chips will there be? What Intel Core architecture—Kaby Lake, or Kaby Lake-R—are they based upon? Does HBM2 memory confirm that the Radeon core is based upon the AMD “Vega” architecture, 18 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

and how does it compare to existing chips? How much memory is inside the package? Will the new Core-Radeon modules incorporate AMD-specific features such as VSR, Eyefinity, and Async Compute? And, of course, how much will it all cost? The latter two questions can be answered in broad strokes. The idea, according to an AMD representative, is that these notebooks won’t be priced in the value segment at all, but in the neighborhood of $1,200 to $1,400 apiece. Meanwhile, Intel executives say that notebook PCs based on the new H-series, Core-Radeon modules will move gamingclass graphics down from systems 26mm thick, to thin-and-light PCs at 16mm and even 11mm thick—that’s slimmer than the original 13-inch Apple MacBook Air, and priced accordingly. An AMD representative also said that there’s nothing prohibiting any AMD graphics technology like VSR from being included in the Core-Radeon chip—but that in terms of specifics, it’s up to Intel to decide. According to Intel representatives, we’ll get more of those answers closer to launch. For now, however, there’s the simple surprise that the two sides came together to make this happen. For those who have watched the acrimonious AMD-Intel relationship play out in court, in the market, and behind closed doors for several decades, even a limited contract seemed out of the realm of possibility. But now, who knows what the future holds?

Intel hires Radeon boss Raja Koduri to challenge AMD, Nvidia in high-end discrete graphics Forget low-end integrated graphics cores: Intel just declared war on the graphics market by hiring AMD’s graphics chief. BY MARK HACHMAN


ntel dropped a bombshell recently, confirming that the company has hired AMD’s former graphics guru, Raja Koduri, heading up a new group to design high-end discrete graphics for “a broad range of computing segments.” Koduri, who will start in December, will head up the newly-formed Core and Visual Computing Group, Intel said. Koduri’s IMAGE: INTEL

leaving AMD led to speculation that he would head to Nvidia or Intel, the other two leaders in the PC graphics space. What wasn’t known, though, was whether he would be involved in PC graphics, or something tangential, such as AI. Intel, though, apparently hasn’t given up on the PC. Intel representatives declined to confirm whether Koduri’s new role as head of DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 19



the Core and Visual Computing Group will specifically include PC graphics, but his new title certainly implies it. “We have exciting plans to aggressively expand our computing and graphics capabilities and build on our very strong and broad differentiated IP foundation,” said Murthy Renduchintala, Intel’s chief engineering officer, in a statement. “With Raja at the helm of our Core and Visual Computing Group, we will add to our portfolio of unmatched capabilities, advance our strategy to lead in computing and graphics, and ultimately be the driving force of the data revolution.” Koduri has 25 years in the graphics business, most recently leading AMD’s effort to develop its own high-end graphics chip, known as “Vega” ( “I have admired Intel as a technology leader and have had fruitful collaborations with the company over the years,” Koduri said in a statement. “I am incredibly excited to join the Intel team and have the opportunity to drive a unified architecture vision across its world-leading IP portfolio that help’s accelerate the data revolution.” AMD, who will now have to find a replacement for Koduri, seemed to imply that the newfound spirit of detente that began with a joint Intel Core-AMD Radeon chip (see page 13) may be over. Now, the two companies could be back at it in court. “We 20 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

have a very strong graphics team and will continue our focus on building great products,” an AMD spokesman said in a statement to VentureBeat. “We also have industry-leading graphics [intellectual property] IP and, if necessary, will vigorously defend it.” In addition, an AMD spokesman told PCWorld: “It is standard practice for all AMD employees to sign an agreement that includes post-employment confidentiality and non-solicitation obligations. Other companies are familiar with this requirement and they understand their legal obligation to protect and maintain the confidentiality of AMD’s information and ensure compliance with non-solicitation obligations. AMD fully anticipates that any well-represented and well-advised company would not seek to taint their own intellectual property by attempting to use or access AMD’s confidential information or IP. The industry is well aware that AMD has industry-leading graphics IP and, if necessary, we will vigorously defend it.” What this means for you: Oh, wow. Oh, WOW. Nvidia and AMD just got some new competition in the graphics space. What isn’t known in whether this will include the PC, but it could. Color us really, really, excited—but let’s hope that the competition happens in the marketplace, and not the courtroom.

Google Chrome will start blocking noisy autoplay videos in January Sites you watch videos on often won’t be affected. BY BRAD CHACOS


oogle is taking aim at one of the biggest scourges of the modern web. Starting in January 2018, the Chrome browser will automatically block noisy autoplay video on webpages. “One of the most frequent user concerns is unexpected media playback, which can use

data, consume power, and make unwanted noise while browsing,” Google wrote in a blog post ( “To address this, Chrome will be making autoplay more consistent with user expectations and will give users more control over audio.” In Chrome 64, autoplaying videos will be blocked by default unless they’re muted, DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 21



or if “the user has indicated an interest in the media.” That means autoplay will be allowed for a site if you’ve frequently played a video on it or added the site to your mobile homepage. You won’t need to manually play every YouTube video or Twitch stream you select, in other words. Autoplay will also be enabled if you “clicked somewhere on the site during the browsing session”. If you want to start blocking unwanted audio from autoplay videos today, try Avram Piltch’s Silent Site Sound Blocker extension ( for Chrome. Apple’s Safari 11 browser has also allowed users to easily stop autoplay videos (go.pcworld. com/stau) since it launched with macOS High Sierra on September 25.

MUTE WEBSITES IN CHROME Google’s paving the path for the wonderfulsounding feature by adding the ability to completely mute all audio for a given website in Chrome 63, which is currently in the testing phase. The disabling will continue between browsing sessions. 22 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

To activate page-muting when Chrome 63 goes live, load the website you want to disable audio for, click on the Page Info bubble to the left of the URL, and look for the Sound option. The story behind the story: Noisy autoplay videos aren’t the only online bane in Google’s sights. Native ad-blocking capabilities ( are coming to Chrome soon. “We plan to have Chrome stop showing ads (including those owned or served by Google) on websites that are not compliant with the Better Ads Standards ( starting in early 2018,” Google’s Sridhar Ramaswamy announced earlier this year. Chrome’s ad-blocker won’t eliminate all ads—only the most distracting and burdensome ones.

KRACK Wi-Fi attack threatens all networks: How to stay safe and what you need to know Update all the things. BY BRAD CHACOS AND MICHAEL SIMON


devastating flaw in Wi-Fi’s WPA ( security protocol makes it possible for attackers to eavesdrop on your data when you connect to Wi-Fi. Dubbed KRACK, the issue affects the Wi-Fi protocol itself—not specific products or

implementations—and “works against all modern protected Wi-Fi networks,” according to Mathy Vanhoef (go.pcworld. com/vanh), the researcher that discovered it. That means that if your device uses Wi-Fi, KRACK likely impacts it. Fortunately, major tech companies are moving quickly to patch DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 23



the issue. Read on for what you need to know about the KRACK Wi-Fi vulnerability, from how it works to how to best protect yourself against it. That starts with updating to iOS 11.1 (go. and macOS 10.13.1 (go. for Apple users, and installing the Android November security patch for Pixel and Nexus devices.

HOW DOES KRACK BREAK WI‑FI SECURITY? KRACK (short for, uh, Key Reinstallation AttaCK) targets the third step in a four-way authentication “handshake” performed when your Wi-Fi client device attempts to connect to a protected Wi-Fi network. The encryption

24 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

key can be resent multiple times during step three, and if attackers collect and replay those retransmissions in particular ways, Wi-Fi security encryption can be broken. That’s the CliffsNotes version. For a more technically detailed explanation, check out Mathy Vanhoef’s KRACK attacks website (

WHAT DEVICES ARE AFFECTED BY KRACK? If your device uses Wi-Fi, it’s likely vulnerable to the KRACK Wi-Fi security flaw to some degree, though some get it worse than others. We go into greater detail about how particular devices are affected by KRACK in a dedicated section further below.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WI-FI SECURITY IS BROKEN? For starters, the attacker can eavesdrop on all traffic you send over the network. “This can be abused to steal sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, chat messages, emails, photos, and so on,” Vanhoef explains. For a deeper look at the potential impact, check out PCWorld’s article on what an eavesdropper sees when you use an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot ( It’s a few years old, but still illuminating. The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team also issued this warning as part of its KRACK security advisory, per Ars Technica ( “The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection, and others.” HTTP content injection means the attacker could sneak code into the websites you’re looking at to infect your PC with ransomware or malware. So yeah, it’s bad. Keep your security shields active, just in case. PCWorld’s guide to the best antivirus software (go.pcworld. com/soft) can help you select a reliable solution if needed.

IS WI-FI SECURITY BEING BROKEN IN THE WILD? “We are not in a position to determine if this vulnerability has been (or is being) actively

exploited in the wild,” Vanhoef says. US-CERT’s advisory didn’t include any information about whether KRACK is being exploited in the wild, either.

“The impact of exploiting these vulnerabilities includes decryption, packet replay, TCP connection hijacking, HTTP content injection, and others.” Now for some somewhat settling news: Iron Group CTO Alex Hudson says ( an attacker needs to be in range of your Wi-Fi network to carry out any nefarious plans with KRACK. “You’re not suddenly vulnerable to everyone on the internet,” he says.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM KRACK’S WI-FI FLAW Keep your devices up to date! Vanhoef says, “implementations can be patched in a backwards-compatible manner.” That means your device can download an update that protects against KRACK and still communicate with unpatched hardware while being protected from the security flaw. Given the potential reach of KRACK, patches are coming quickly from many major hardware and operating system vendors. Up-to-date Windows PCs, for example, are DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 25



already protected. Until those updates appear for other devices, consumers can still take steps to safeguard against KRACK. The easiest thing would be to simply use a wired ethernet connection, or stick to your cellular connection on a phone. That’s not always possible though. If you need to use a public Wi-Fi hotspot— even one that’s password-protected—stick to websites that use HTTPS encryption. Secure websites are still secure even with Wi-Fi security broken. The URLs of encrypted websites will start with HTTPS, while unsecured websites are prefaced by HTTP. The Electronic Frontier Foundation’s superb HTTPS Everywhere browser plug-in ( can force all sites that offer HTTPS encryption to use that protection. Alternatively, you can hop on a virtual private network (VPN) to hide all of your network traffic. Don’t trust random free VPNs, though—they could be after your data as well. PCWorld’s guide to the best VPN services ( 26 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

can help you pick out a trustworthy provider. And again, keep your antivirus software ( up to date to protect against potential code injected malware. Going forward, the Wi-Fi Alliance ( will require testing for the KRACK WPA2 vulnerability in its global certification lab network, so new devices will be protected out of the box.

DEVICE AND ROUTER WI-FI SECURITY FAQ Is my phone at risk? KRACK is a different sort of attack than previous exploits, in that it doesn’t go after devices, it goes after the information you use them to send. So while the data stored on your phone is safe from hacking, whenever

you use it to send a credit card number, password, email, or message over Wi-Fi, that data could be stolen. So my router is vulnerable? That’s closer, but still not totally accurate. It’s not the device that’s at risk, it’s the information, so the sites you visit that aren’t HTTPS are most vulnerable. So I should change my Wi-Fi password? Well, you can, but it’s not going to stop the likelihood of attack. The exploit targets information that should have been encrypted by your router, so the attacker doesn’t need to crack your password to implement it. In fact, it has no bearing on the attack. So all devices are at risk? Now you’re getting it. However, while any device that sends and receives data over Wi-Fi is at risk, the researchers who uncovered the attack said Android devices were more at risk than other mobile phones. Great, I have an Android phone. But I’m running Nougat so I’m safe, right? Unfortunately, no. Newer phones running Android 6.0 or later are actually more at risk since there is an existing vulnerability in the code that compounds the issue and makes it easier to “intercept and manipulate traffic.” Google expected to have a security patch ready by mid-November, which would

promptly roll out to Pixel and Nexus devices. But it could take weeks or even months for Android hardware makers and cellular providers to validate and deploy the patch to other phones and tablets. Many devices, especially older ones, may never receive the update. So are my iPhone and Mac safe? Safer than Android, but still not entirely safe. Apple rolled out fixes for KRACK in iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS over the past month. What about Windows PCs? They’re safe if you stayed updated. Microsoft released a Windows patch ( patc) to protect against KRACK on October 10, before the vulnerability was made public. I run Linux. Am I impenetrable to attack? Not quite. Researchers actually found that Linux machines were the most vulnerable desktop devices, with a similar bug to the one found in the Android code. Now for the good news: An upstream Linux patch (go. is already available, as are

Researchers actually found that Linux machines were the most vulnerable desktop devices, with a similar bug to the one found in the Android code. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 27



KRACK-blocking updates for Ubuntu ( untu), Gentoo (go., Arch (go.pcworld. com/chli), and Debian ( bian) distributions. A patch is also available for OpenBSD (go. I have automatic updates turned on. How do I know if my mobile device has been updated? The quickest way is to check the system’s Software Update tab in your Settings app to see when the most recent version has been updated. More helpfully, Owen Williams is keeping a running list of companies that have distributed patches on his Recharged blog ( It’s a stellar resource. What about my router? First, you should check to see if your router has any pending firmware updates. Most people aren’t as vigilant in updating their routers as they are with their phones or PCs, so log in to your admin page and install any waiting updates. If there aren’t any, it’s a good habit to check back every day, since companies will be rolling out patches over 28 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

the coming weeks, with some already being implemented. Netgear (, Intel (, Eero (go.pcworld. com/eer0), and business-focused networking providers already have KRACK router patches available. Eero’s is rolling out automatically as an over-the-air update. The popular DD-WRT open router firmware has designed a patch (, but it isn’t available to download yet. Expect it soon. So should I turn off Wi-Fi? That’s probably not a viable option for most people, but if you’re completely panicstricken, then the only way to be completely safe is to avoid using Wi-Fi until you know your router has been patched.

RIP Windows phones: New Windows 10 Mobile hardware and features ‘aren’t the focus’ But its spirit still lives on in iOS and Android. BY BRAD CHACOS


indows phones are really, truly dead. This weekend, Microsoft’s VP of operating systems confirmed the writing on the wall. “Of course we’ll continue to support the platform [with] bug fixes, IMAGE: MICROSOFT

security updates, etc.,” Joe Belfiore wrote on Twitter (, in response to a conversation sparked by a user asking whether it’s time to move on from the Windows Mobile platform.“ But building new [features and hardware] aren’t the focus.” DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 29



It’s the first time a senior Microsoft employee has said that flat-out, but it’s not the first time one has been so blunt about Microsoft’s mobile hardware prospects. “If you wanted to reach a lot of phone customers, Windows Phone isn’t the way to do it,” Windows chief Terry Myerson told the Verge ( in 2016, while essentially putting Windows Phones on hold ( for the year. That hiatus now appears more permanent. The downfall of Windows 10 Mobile seems to stem from our biggest gripe with the platform: The near-absolute lack of apps. “We have tried VERY HARD to incent app devs,” Belfiore writes ( devs). “Paid money...wrote apps [for] them... but volume of users is too low for most companies to invest.” Belfiore’s Twitter posts come mere days after HP told The Verge ( hpto) that it no longer plans to develop an extended line of devices around its Elite X3 handset, the last great Windows Phone flagship ( Earlier this year, the Windows 10 Creators Update cut off 40 percent of Windows phone owners ( from upgrades, and

The downfall of Windows 10 Mobile seems to stem from our biggest gripe with the platform: The near-absolute lack of apps. 30 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

HP Elite X3

the company reported “negligible revenue from phones” ( after years ( of laying off former Nokia employees ( nkia). This announcement has been coming for a long time. So what’s a die-hard Windows Phone enthusiast to do? At an event in August (go., Joe Belfiore said that he uses the Samsung Galaxy S8 Microsoft Edition (, and even Bill Gates runs Android now (go.pcworld. com/bill). “As an individual end-user, I switched platforms for the [app and hardware] diversity,” Belfiore said in a

follow-up tweet ( “We will support those users too! Choose what’s best [for you].”

WHY MICROSOFT IS KILLING WINDOWS PHONES There’s a reason for those defections. Windows phone hardware may be on the way out, but Microsoft’s mobile ambitions aren’t obsolete. They’ve just shifted to software. During Satya Nadella’s reign as Microsoft CEO, the company has shifted gears from focusing on mobile Windows hardware to bringing Microsoft’s key software to every

Microsoft’s Edge browser on iOS and Android.

available platform. Office, OneNote, Outlook, and even Xbox can be found on both iOS and Android; we’ve even done a feature on using Microsoft apps on Android phones ( Android’s core interface doesn’t resemble the unique look and feel of Windows phones whatsoever, but if you load one up with Microsoft’s apps, you’ll get a damned fine experience nonetheless. Just last week, Microsoft released a beta version of Windows 10’s Edge browser for mobile devices (go.pcworld. com/mode), along with the Microsoft Launcher for Android. Both will intertwine deeply with the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update (go., allowing you to seamlessly pick up what you were working on regardless of whether you’re using your phone or your PC. The physical body may be dead, but the spirit of Windows phones lives on— though you have to wonder what this means for the future of universal Windows apps (go. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 31





Reviews & Ratings


Intel 8th-gen Core i7: What happens when thin laptops get quad-core speed Don’t buy a new ultraportable laptop or MacBook Air until you read this story (seriously). BY GORDON MAH UNG


ntel’s ntel’s 8th-generation Core CPUs solve a problem for the superlight (sub-three-pound) laptops that are becoming increasingly popular. Up to now, these laptops could handle only dual-core CPUs, because quad-core CPUs created more heat than their slimmer profiles could manage. That’s all changing with Intel’s


ground breaking 8th-gen mobile CPU. Quad-cores once confined only to much larger and heavier laptops can now be stuffed into a tiny laptop, or so the company claims. But can the 8th-gen CPUs actually give you the performance you expect and you’re paying for? Or this is this just a cynical attempt to sell you on some quasiDECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 33



”quad‑core” for you next laptop? To find out, read on.

LAPTOP CPU REVIEWS AREN’T EASY: HOW WE DID IT Unlike desktop CPUs, laptop CPU performance has always been a tricky task, as isolating the CPU is nigh impossible. Different laptop manufacturers will set the CPU to run at different speeds based on how much cooling they stuff into it, or how loud they want the fans to run at. Basically, trying to compare an 8th‑gen Dell XPS 13 to a 7th‑gen Acer or HP introduces so many variables out of your control that it can be difficult to render a final decision. There is one way to get you closer, though: Compare the same laptop models made by the same manufacturer. That’s exactly what we did this time, using Dell’s newest XPS 13 with a Core i7‑8550U inside ($1,300 and up on (go. To this, we compared a Dell XPS 13 with a 7th gen Core i7‑7500U. For context we also lumped in the original Broadwell‑based XPS 13 from 2015. Although outfitted with “only” a Core i5, we included it because it was also the model that first ushered in the zero‑bezel “Infinity bezel” design. And because we all want to know how the 8th gen hangs with “real” quad‑core CPUs, we also include two Dell XPS 15 models with 34 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

much more powerful quad‑core CPUs and GPUs inside. That’s right, we’re pitting smaller, lighter laptops with lower‑power 15‑watt TDP CPUs against large laptops with 45‑watt TDP CPUs, but they’re all quad‑core. One last important important point we’ll make: All of the laptops here were updated with the latest version of Windows 10 available to them, as well the latest drivers and BIOSes. This is actually a very critical step for trying to dive into direct CPU comparisons, because drivers and BIOS versions can have huge impacts on performance. A laptop can launch and six months later, the OEM could decide to increase or decrease the performance based on customer complaints about temperature, fan noise or performance. With that said, only the XPS 13 laptops

Intel’s 8th-gen Core i7 promises to bring quadcore performance to ultra-portable laptops.

Intel Core i7-8550U processor

Intel Core i7-7500U processor

Intel Core i5-5200U processor

Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor

Intel Core i7-7700HQ processor

Product collection

8th Gen Intel Core i7 processors

7th Gen Intel Core i7 processors

5th Gen Intel Core i5 processors

6th Gen Intel Core i7 processors

7th Gen Intel Core i7 processors

Vertical segment












Launch date

Q3 17

Q3 16

Q1 15

Q3 15

Q4 17







Recommended customer price






Number of cores






Number of threads






Processor base frequency






Max turbo frequency







8MB SmartCache

4MB SmartCache


6MB SmartCache


Bus speed



5GT/s DMI2

8GT/s DMI3








Configurable TDP-up frequency



Configurable TDP-up



Configurable TDP-down frequency




Configurable TDP-down








DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 35



had Windows 10 Fall Creators Update installed. Microsoft, it appears, did not deem the XPS 15s worthy.


in the newest XPS 15, but no, it’s the new Core i7-8550U in the XPS 13. Okay, what’s really going on here? Well, if you look at the detailed specs in the Intel ARK chart (or click to see them) you can see that the new Core i7-8550U has a higher turbo boost speed of 4GHz, compared to the 3.8GHz boost speed of the Core i7-7700HQ. Cinebench R15 clearly shows that boost speed can pay off.

Our first test is Cinebench R15. It’s a popular test built by Maxon and is based on the engine that runs its professional Cinema4D 3D rendering engine. The test concentrates on the CPU and is heavily multi-threaded. Cinebench R15.038 The results speak for Multi-core performance themselves. Anyone who Dell XPS 15 9560 714 Core i7-7700HQ thought Intel couldn’t pull off a Dell XPS 15 9550 675 quad-core in a 2.5-pound Core i7-6700HQ laptop has to eat their wordss Dell XPS 13 9360 611 Core i7-8550U as the Core i7-8550U simply Dell XPS 13 9360 333 Core i7-7500U destroys the 7th-gen Core i7 Dell XPS 13 9343 248 dual-core CPU, and for the Core i5-5200U most part hangs surprisingly LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E well with the much hotter 45-watt quad-core chips in the two XPS 15 laptops. What does Cinebench R15.038 this mean? It simply means that Single-core performance Intel’s new 8th gen is fast. Dell XPS 13 9360 157 Core i7-8550U Cinebench R15 also allows Dell XPS 15 9560 147 us to test performance of the Core i7-7700HQ application in single-threaded Dell XPS 15 9550 139 Core i7-6700HQ tasks, so we threw the switch Dell XPS 13 9360 136 Core i7-7500U and ran all five laptops through Dell XPS 13 9343 108 the same task. The real surprise Core i5-5200U is the winner. You’d think it LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E would be the Core i7-7700HQ 36 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Given that the vast majority of applications people use rely far more on single-threaded performance than multi-threaded performance, this result is more important than it might seem.

moved to x86, of course, and it’s still a valid performance benchmark. Like Cinebench, it focuses on the CPU. We again see the 8th-gen quad-core Core i7-8550U easily blowing away the older 7th-gen dual-core and hanging with the much hotter 45-watt POV-RAY PERFORMANCE quad-cores. Like Cinebench, the POV Next we ran POV-Ray, a ray-tracing application benchmark can use a single compute thread. that literally dates back to the days of the The result places the new 8th-gen Core Commodore Amiga. It’s been updated and i7-8550U in a good place, just behind the Core i7-7700HQ in the XPS 15. Note how the 6th-gen quadPOV Ray 3.7 core Core i7-6700K actually Multi-threaded performance falls in line just behind the Dell XPS 15 9560 1,578 Core i7-7700HQ dual-core Core i7-7500U. Dell XPS 15 9550 1,435 Because both CPUs have the Core i7-6700HQ same boost clock of 3.5GHz, Dell XPS 13 9360 1,238 Core i7-8550U we’re not surprised. This Dell XPS 13 9360 763 Core i7-7500U is, again, a very good Dell XPS 13 9343 545 showing for the 8th-gen Core Core i5-5200U i7-8550U chip. LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E


POV Ray 3.7

Single-threaded performance Dell XPS 15 9560 Core i7-7700HQ


Dell XPS 15 9550 Core i7-6700HQ


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-8550U


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-7500U Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i5-5200U

359 271 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

While both POV Ray and Cinebench hone in on CPU performance while rendering or ray tracing, Geekbench 4 tends to be a little more general and relies on a large list of algorithms that its maker, Primate Labs, considers relevant to processor performance. While DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 37



Geekbench has been controversial at times (, it’s mostly only when enthusiasts try to point to it as proof that a tablet chip is as fast or faster than a desktop chip. We won’t rehash all of that, but we will say the test is far more relevant when it’s kept on the same CPU microarchitecture. That is, of course, what we do here, as we stick solely to testing XPS 13 and XPS 15 laptops. The results in Geekbench’s multi-core test

Geekbench 4.10 Multi-core performance Dell XPS 15 9560 Core i7-7700HQ

speak well for the 8th gen Core i7-8550U. It runs dead even with the 6th-gen quad-core Skylake chip. And yes, it simply leaves the dual-core chips in the dust. Moving on to Geekbench’s single-core performance test, we again see the spunky XPS 13 hanging with the XPS 15. For the most part, the test puts all of the Core i7 CPUs in the same neighborhood. We’d tend to agree with that assessment, too because you’d be hard-pressed to tell the difference between a 7th-gen Core i7 and an 8th-gen Core i7 when using, say, Outlook. 14,584

Dell XPS 15 9550 Core i7-6700HQ


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-8550U


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-7500U Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i5-5200U

8,334 5,869 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Geekbench 4.10 Single-core performance Dell XPS 15 9560 Core i7-7700HQ


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-8550U


Dell XPS 15 9550 Core i7-6700HQ


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-7500U Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i5-5200U

4,208 3,273 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

38 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

7-ZIP PERFORMANCE As another sanity check on the performance results we saw from the previous tests, we also ran the internal benchmark for 7-Zip, a free file compression utility. (If you’re still using Window’s build in compression/decompression utility, go download 7-Zip now. It’s much, much faster.) The results from this real-world application pretty much mirrors what we’ve seen already: a complete dusting of the 7th-gen Core i7 by the 8th-gen Core i7. 7-Zip also allows for a single-threaded or single-core test. The results again mirror

single-threaded scores from other benchmarks.

7Zip 9.20

Multi-threaded compression performance Dell XPS 15 9560 Core i7-7700HQ


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-8550U


Dell XPS 15 9550 Core i7-6700HQ


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-7500U Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i5-5200U

10,811 7,872 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

7Zip 9.20

Single-threaded compression performance Dell XPS 15 9560 Core i7-7700HQ

We tried another internal benchmark, this one from the VeraCrypt free encryption program that’s a fork of the departed TrueCrypt. For the most part, both of the XPS 15s are dead even. No surprise, the 8th-gen Core i7 is just a step back from those quad-core laptops. And yes, dual-core, call us up when you cross the finish line.


Dell XPS 15 9550 Core i7-6700HQ


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-8550U


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-7500U


Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i5-5200U

3,292 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Vera Crypt

Encryption performance (50MB AES Mean) Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-8550U


Dell XPS 15 9560 Core i7-7700HQ


Dell XPS 15 9550 Core i7-6700HQ

5 2.7

Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-7500U Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i5-5200U


1.9 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

HANDBRAKE PERFORMANCE Although the performance of the 8th-gen Core i7-8550U looks downright spectacular, one thing we wanted to know is whether it could hold its performance on workloads that didn’t last 5 seconds or 50 seconds. Laptop CPUs are especially sensitive to thermal limitations, and long workloads generally means less performance. Our Handbrake test is thus perfectly suited to see what kind of performance you can expect on a very long task. On a dual-core, it can take an hour and a half to complete, for example. On DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 39



very challenged laptops, we often see pretty large hits to performance as it heats up. The results here are, frankly, impressive. We say that because the Core i7-8550U has a processor base frequency of 1.8GHz. That’s basically the minimum clock speed the CPU would run at under the worst-case scenario, and certainly something we thought it would hit with a long workload. Instead, the 8th-gen Core i7-8550U inside the XPS 13 again surprises us by destroying the 7th-gen dual-core Core i7-7500U. For the most part, it hangs with the

quad-core XPS 15 laptops, though having a larger, beefier laptop with a much larger cooling system remains an advantage. Still, for the size of the XPS 13, its performance in Handbrake is very, very respectable.


The 8th-gen Core i7-8550U’s gaming performance is nothing to write home about. And it shouldn’t be, as it’s very much the same graphics core as the previous chip. We ran 3DMark’s Skydiver 1.0 test and then focused on the graphics performance results. This ignores Handbrake 0.9.9 the extra x86 cores it has, so Encode (sec) consider it a pure test of the Dell XPS 15 9560 2,743 Core i7-7700HQ graphics subsystem. The 8th-gen Dell XPS 15 9550 3,033 chip’s UHD 620 graphics core Core i7-6700HQ come out slightly ahead of the Dell XPS 13 9360 3,567 Core i7-8550U 7th-gen’s HD 620 graphics core, Dell XPS 13 9360 5,876 Core i7-7500U but for the most part they’re pretty Dell XPS 13 9343 7,934 close. Intel basic IGP is adequate Core i5-5200U for entry-level or low-ambition S H O R T E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E gaming. Don’t expect much more without stepping up to an Iris Plus-based CPU or discrete 3DMark Skydiver graphics chip. 1.0 graphics Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-8550U


Dell XPS 13 9360 Core i7-7500U


Dell XPS 13 9343 Core i5-6200U

3,321 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

40 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

BATTERY PERFORMANCE The battery life results are a lot more difficult to interpret. Keep in mind that our battery rundown

from the results. For kicks, we also found a 7th-generation (minutes) Core i7-7200U with a similarDell XPS 15 9560 resolution screen to the current 828 Core i7-7700HQ 8th-gen model we’re testing. Dell XPS 15 9550 751 Core i7-6700HQ The results are pretty promising: Dell XPS 13 9360 681 While the 7th-generation XPS 13 Core i7-8550U Dell XPS 13 9360 with the same resolution screen 595 Core i7-7500U gives us about 11 hours of Dell XPS 13 9343 431 Core i5-5200U battery life, the 8th-gen laptop Dell XPS 13 9343 361 Core i5-5200U finishes at about 12 hours, second only to the much older LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E Broadwell XPS 13. If you’re wondering why the test is not a CPU test. It’s a video rundown Broadwell-based XPS 13 does so we well test. We charge the laptop’s battery to full, despite having a smaller battery our guess then unplug it and run a 4K movie (Tears of is the amount of RAM and the SSD, as well Steel) repeatedly until the laptop dies. The as any differences from the CPU and laptop’s brightness is set to 250-260 nits, motherboard. That particular XPS 13 has audio is on, earbuds are used, and airplane only 4GB of RAM instead of the 8GB the mode is engaged. The video, for the most 8th-gen and 7th-gen XPS 13 models have. part, runs entirely within the media engine of System RAM does eat power, so having the CPU, so whether it has four cores or two double the amount of RAM could be a drag cores shouldn’t matter that much. on battery. We also suspect the SATA-based Although the last few generations of XPS M.2 SSD and its rated active power 13s look the same on the outside, internal consumption of 190 milliwatts, vs. the differences in screen resolution, touch 4-watt power consumption of the Toshiba support, and other components can play a XG5 NVMe SSD in the 8th-gen XPS 13, huge part in the results. For example, the make a difference. 8th-gen XPS 13 has a 1920x1080 non-touch And if you’re wondering how much of a screen, while the 7th-gen XPS has a 4K hit you take from a higher-resolution, touch 3840x2160 panel with touch. Higherscreen, just look at the bottom of the chart resolution screens tend to suck a lot of power. below to see how well the touch-based, Still, there is something to be gleaned higher-resolution laptops did.

4K Video Run Down

DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 41



has a turbo boost rating of 4GHz vs. the 3.8GHz of the Core i7-7700HQ and the 3.5GHz of the Core i7-6700HQ. To see how the clock speeds react under loads, we again looked what the various laptops hit 10 seconds into a Cinebench R15 run. You can see just how Running Cinebench, the 8th-gen Core CPU excels at light loads. much of a clock speed advantage the 8th-gen THE 8TH-GEN CAN BE Core i7-8550U holds over all others on those FASTER ON LIGHTER LOADS light loads just a few seconds into a test. We’ve been playing with Cinebench’s Note: In the chart opposite, we’ve focused on ability to vary the thread load to try to clock speeds from 2GHz to 4GHz to make it simulate just what kind of performance you easier to read. get as you slide the load on the CPU from one But the thing is, once you warm that tiny to eight threads. XPS 13, it’s not going to sit at those ultra-high Running Cinebench on the laptops, we clock speeds for long. So we decided to can see the latest 8th-gen Core i7 surprisingly record the clock speed the various XPS has a performance advantage on very light models would hold for the entire benchmark workloads. At the far right side of the chart run. On a single-threaded workload, the though, the 15-watt chip can’t keep up with 8th-gen Core i7-8550U has no problems the 45-watt chips, falling into third place. running at 4GHz. Once we move it to two The good news is fourth place is not even threads and then three threads, the chip in this race. This is a good show for the burns through its very high burst mode faster 8th-gen quad-core Core i7. than a nerd eats Doritos. The 8th-gen Core i7-8550U’s biggest In fact, the quad-core 8th-gen Core advantage lies in clock speeds. Remember, it i7-8550U pretty much matches the dual-core 42 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

7th-gen Core i7-7500U on two and three threads and then falls below it on four threads. It also falls below Kaby Lake and Skylake quad-core CPUs. So yes, a 45-watt TDP with better cooling is going to be faster than a 15-watt one in a smaller, thinner laptop.

though, so until the company can prove it, and prove it in laptops people might want to buy, we’ll have to wait and see.


There’s only one way to describe our experience with the Core i7-8550U inside the Dell XPS 13: Impressed. No wait, damned WHAT ABOUT RYZEN 7 impressed would be a better way to couch it. MOBILE VS 8TH GEN For years Intel’s CPUs in Ultrabooks have CORE i7? improved mostly incrementally, from 4th-gen There is one question left outstanding, and Haswell to 5th-gen Broadwell, to 6th-gen that’s AMD’s recent announcement of its Skylake. Sure, 7th-gen Kaby Lake represented a Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 mobile CPUs (go. healthy bump over Broadwell, but not like this. AMD says Vega The 8th-gen Kaby Lake refresh, as it’s goodness plus Zen goodness will equal a called, is a quantum leap forward for ultranew mobile CPU to give 8th-gen laptops a portable laptops. You’ve simply never been serious run for the money while using similar able to get this kind of performance from or less power. We haven’t seen these new something so small before. Yes, it’s that good. Ryzen 5 and Ryzen 7 laptops up close yet, Remember that this is just one example. Unlike desktops, where the variance from CPU to CPU is minuscule, laptop cooling designs and decisions on fan noise and thermals will likely have a huge impact on the new 8th-gen CPU’s performance. But in this Dell XPS 13, the 8th gen Core i7 simply rocks. A full review of the laptop is forthcoming, but as you’ve already seen, this As the test progresses and we add more threads, the 8th-gen CPU’s clock speed drops precipitously. thing is fast. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 43


The best free Microsoft Office alternatives of 2017 Battle of the free office suites. BY MICHAEL ANSALDO


icrosoft Office is the king of office productivity suites, but it doesn’t inspire warm, fuzzy feelings in all users. Parsing the ever-expanding list of features can feel like stepping into a cockpit without a pilot’s 44 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

license. The ribbon interface, introduced a decade ago, has many fans, but others pine for the static menus of the early aughts. And then there’s Office’s hefty price tag. Fortunately, alternatives abound, ranging from web apps to freemium and open source

desktop installations, many of which are compatible with Microsoft Office docs. We compared six of the most popular free office suites to see how well they replicate the most commonly used features of Microsoft Office.

WHAT TO LOOK When evaluating Office alternatives, don’t look to replicate every feature, just the ones you need and use most. Depending on your situation, that could be robust spreadsheet calculations and dynamic presentation design or the ability to access files from anywhere and share them with remote team members. Keep these considerations in mind: The big three: Though Microsoft Office has expanded over the years to include programs like Outlook, Access, and Publisher, its bread and butter is still its original trio of programs: Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. That’s because nearly everyone uses these three apps regardless of the nature of their work. For many of us, they are the only three we need in a suite. Office compatibility: Most of the working world will continue to use Microsoft Office long after you’ve jumped ship. That means you’ll still have to work with official Office files. Look for a suite that can cleanly read and write Microsoft Office formats, from the current DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX file types to legacy formats.

Interface: The way you access an office suite’s features matters as much as the features themselves. Polarized opinions about Office’s ribbon toolbar underscore this. Make sure you’re comfortable with the way a suite lays out its tools and that you don’t have to dig too deeply for those you’ll use a lot. Collaboration capability: The irony that we still rely on “office” suites when many of us no longer work in physical offices means the ability to collaborate remotely with others is now a required feature. If you don’t want to have to email documents back and forth for editing—which can play havoc with version control —you’ll need an alternative that includes cloud support for sharing files and ideally the ability to co-author (i.e. make edits and comments on a document) in real time.

APACHE OPEN OFFICE Price: Free Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux Open Office ( was the first legitimate free contender to Microsoft Office, though it has ceded that spotlight in recent years to alternatives like Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, and its own spinoff product LibreOffice. The open source suite includes word processing (Write), spreadsheets (Calc), presentation (Impress), and database management (Base) programs, along with drawing and math apps that don’t have a direct Microsoft corollary. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 45



Open Office has excellent compatibility with Office formats and can export to PDF from all three apps.

Open Office works with most Microsoft formats including DOCX, XLS, PPT, and XML. Hands on If you still remember how Microsoft Office looked circa 2003, Open Office’s interface will seem eerily familiar. The component programs make no concessions to the trendy ribbon interface, using only old-school menus and toolbars. That’s good news if you’re still sore over Microsoft’s decade-old UI makeover, but it can take some readjusting if you’re now accustomed to tabbing around your document and spreadsheet programs. By default, Open Office uses the Open Document standard for native files, but you can change it to save to Microsoft formats, 46 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

and it can read and write existing Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files. It does so flawlessly most of the time, even with complexly formatted documents like resumes and multi-column newsletters. Occasionally, it will hiccup as when it removed all the embedded images from a Word doc I had open. But those instances usually only require minor tweaks to correct. You can also export files to PDF from all three programs. Where Open Office diverges from Microsoft’s productivity suite is in collaboration. MS Office’s tight integration with OneDrive and Outlook allows you to easily share and work on files with others without leaving the respective program. Open Office supports document review

features like commenting and track-changes, but it has no native cloud storage or email program. It does, however, offer an extension that lets you connect to dozens of third-party cloud storage providers including Box and Google Docs collaborative editing features tower above all other suites. Google Drive, and the Open Office programs can be configured GOOGLE DOCS, to work with select open source email clients SHEETS, AND SLIDES like Mozilla Thunderbird. Price: Free, or $5-$25 per user per year as part of GSuite for businesses. Standout features Platform: Online • Excellent Microsoft Office compatibility • Familiar, Microsoft-like interface Once considered merely a lightweight web-based alternative to Microsoft Office, Missing features Google’s trio of office apps (go.pcworld. • Native cloud storage and email support com/gdss) has grown into a worthwhile • Mobile apps productivity suite in its own right. Though its capabilities still aren’t quite as robust as most Apache Open Office is best for: desktop office suites, its tight ties to other If you just need to work with Microsoft Office Google products and extendability through formats, and you don’t mind a dated a growing market of Chrome extensions interface, Open Office has all the make it a powerful, cost-effective option for comprehensive formatting and functionality students and workers. you need. If you need to collaborate with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides are free others on those files, though, there are other to use by anyone with a web browser, a office alternatives that make it much easier. Google account, and an internet connection. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 47



The subscription-based G Suite, which adds more business-oriented features, is available in three pricing tiers for organizations. Hands on Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides maintains a consistent look across its three component apps. Elegant and unadorned, the interface has clearly labeled menus with intuitive toolbar icons. All three apps also have a healthy set of hotkeys—accessible by typing Ctrl-/ on a PC or Command-/ on a Mac—for those who prefer to keep their fingers on the keyboard. Any files you work on in the suite have to be stored in Google Drive, the search giant’s popular cloud storage. New Docs, Sheets, and Slides files are automatically created in your Drive account, and you can also upload Microsoft Office files for editing. All your changes are saved to Drive as long as you’re online; you can install a Chrome browser extension ( to edit files offline, but it requires some configuring and it only works with native Docs, Sheets, and Slides files. The respective apps do an admirable job of importing Word and PowerPoint files, though you sometimes have to tweak elements in the latter. Importing Excel files to Sheets is more of a mixed bag, with spreadsheets containing basic functions translating more faithfully than larger, more complex ones. 48 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

The suite still shines brightest as a collaborative tool for written documents, thanks to features like real-time commenting, revision tracking, and deep integration with Google Drive cloud storage. It’s also intimately connected to Google search, allowing you to search for information relative to what you’re working on from within the individual apps. Standout features • Excellent collaboration tools • Tight integration with other Google products • Simple, fast interface Missing features • Extensive formatting options • Offline editing capabilities Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides is best for: Road warriors, collaborative teams, and anyone else who needs the flexibility to work from multiple locations will get the most out of Google’s office suite. If your needs run to creating large, intricate documents; mail merges; or serious number crunching, you’ll likely find the suite’s capabilities limited and should look elsewhere.

KINGSOFT WPS OFFICE 2016 Price: Free with ads, or $30 per year without Platform: Windows, Linux

Kingsoft touts WPS Office ( wpso) as “your dream solution for a lowbudget, no-commitment, free productivity office suite,” and it’s not just hyperbole. The suite—comprised of the self-explanatory Writer, Spreadsheets, and Presentation apps—replicates most of the essential Microsoft Office features and adds a few unique extras. It also comes with 1GB of online storage, called WPS Cloud, for sharing documents. If getting all this for free sounds to good to be true, there is a small caveat. The free version requires you to view ads to gain time-limited access to certain features like printing and exporting to PDF. The ads are short, around 10-seconds, but if you want to

banish them for good, you can purchase the Premium version for a modest $30 per year. WPS Office is available for Windows and Linux and offers companion apps for iOS and Android. Hands on As Office alternatives go, none adhere as faithfully to the Microsoft suite as WPS Office. Its ribbon interface is nearly identical to Microsoft Office’s, with tabs and tools in roughly the same spots in all three of its apps. Never really dug that look? Don’t worry—the interface is customizable so you can turn back the clock to an Office 2003-style static menu interface with the click of a button. You customize each app’s interface

You can customize WPS Office’s interface to use a ribbon toolbar or static menus a la Office 2003.

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independently, so you can mix it up if different UIs work for you in different programs. A few features you won’t find in Microsoft Office make working with documents even easier. All three apps support tabbed documents, eliminating the hassle of toggling between multiple document windows. WPS Writer includes a feature called Paragraph Layout that lets you adjust line and paragraph spacing and indents with a drag-and-drop tool. And Section Navigation lets you quickly jump around large documents. Compatibility with Office files is excellent across all three apps, with Presentation standing out for accurately translating PowerPoint files better than any other nonMicrosoft product we tested. There’s also scads of templates—over 100 in Writer alone—for all kinds of personal and business documents. WPS Office has limited collaboration capabilities. Document-reviewing features like commenting and track changes are included, and you can share files with others via link through WPS Cloud, but real-time

co-authoring is not supported.

Document-reviewing features like commenting and track changes are included, and you can share files with others via link through WPS Cloud, but real-time co-authoring is not supported.

LibreOffice ( came to be when the community developing Open Office jumped ship several years back and created their own suite on the same code. Without going in to the details of the divorce (, suffice it to say LibreOffice has fared better than its ancestor,

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Standout features • Customizable interface • Excellent Office compatibility • 1GB cloud storage for sharing files Missing features • Real-time co-authoring WPS Office is best for: If you love everything about Microsoft Office except the price, you’ll likely love WPS Office. While it doesn’t support real-time collaboration, neither do most desktop Office alternatives; if that’s a priority you’ll have to look to Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides or Microsoft Office Online. Otherwise, this suite has everything else you could ask for in an Office alternative, and if the ads ever become an annoyance, you can always upgrade to the premium version for a very modest fee.

LIBREOFFICE 5 Price: Free Platform: Windows, Mac, Linux

both in terms of development and popularity. Like Open Office, LibreOffice includes six programs: Write (word processing), Calc (spreadsheets), Impress (presentation), Base (database management), Draw (vector graphics) and Math (mathematical formulae).

LibreOffice seamlessly translates Office formats, including complex documents.

Hands on Because LibreOffice was forked off Open Office, there are, unsurprisingly, many similarities between the two. LibreOffice has the same Office 2003-style static menu look with easily navigated icons and toolbars. The only real difference is that it adds a splash of color akin to the current version of Microsoft Office and generally feels more polished. LibreOffice uses open document format as its native format, but it can also read and write a range of Microsoft Office formats including the newer DOCX, PPT, and PPTX files. In our tests, it better handled the more complex documents that Open Office struggled with. The installed template selection pales compared to what you get

with Microsoft Office, but you can beef it up with downloads from LibreOffice’s Extensions and Templates library. There’s no native cloud integration, but LibreOffice does have a Remote Files feature that allows you to access files outside servers like Google Drive and OneDrive. That can facilitate sharing files for group review—track changes and commenting are supported— but no real-time authoring. Standout features • Fantastic compatibility with Microsoft Office formats • Familiar Office-like interface Missing features • Integrated cloud storage • Real-time co-authoring DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 51



LibreOffice is best for: LibreOffice should be the choice of open source enthusiasts. Having relative feature parity with Open Office, it comes down to the release frequency of new features and fixes, and LibreOffice wins that race hands down. As of this writing, Open Office’s last update was a year ago; LibreOffice’s latest release came last month. That makes LibreOffice the obvious choice for businesses, schools, and anywhere else security is important. And if you’re a Linux user, you may already be using LibreOffice as it’s now included with many Linux distributions.

MICROSOFT OFFICE ONLINE Price: Free Platform: Online Not to be outdone by Google’s free online office suite, Microsoft offers its own gratis web-based apps in Microsoft Office Online ( The suite includes Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote and is accessible to anyone with a desktop browser. There are mobile versions of each app for iOS and Android, and a dedicated extension for Google’s Chrome browser. Hands on The app interfaces for Office Online look and navigate pretty much like their desktop counterparts, and therein lies the appeal. If you’re on the road or otherwise away from your 52 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

trusty PC version of Word, you can open a doc in the web version of the app—no conversion required—and dive right in. As these apps are made for down-and-dirty editing, you’ll notice some omissions on the tool ribbon—the Designs, References, and Mailings tabs are gone from Word, for example—but all the basic functionality is accounted for. As with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, Office Online works right inside your browser. Also like the Google suite, it requires your documents be uploaded to the cloud—in this case to Microsoft OneDrive—before you can edit them. If you lose internet access, there’s no way to work on those files offline without one of Microsoft’s paid Office products. These slimmed down-versions of the big three productivity apps are aimed primarily at home users, so you won’t find pivot tables, fancy formatting options, or more advanced business-oriented capabilities. Many file formats that are supported in the desktop versions of the apps—.csv files, as one example—are not supported here. You can, however, collaborate in real-time in any of the apps with other Office users, including taking

As with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, Office Online works right inside your browser. Also like the Google suite, it requires your documents be uploaded to the cloud...

Office Online offers slimmed-down versions of Microsoft’s desktop programs, so not all features are supported.

advantage of Skype integration. Standout features • Familiar Office interface • Works with native Office formats, no conversion required • Allows real-time collaboration with other Office users

Microsoft document formats if you have modest needs or you’re on the road and just need to quickly view a file and make some simple edits. But as it was really made to complement rather than replace desktop Office installations, it doesn’t have the advanced functionality business users require to make it your main tool.

Missing features • Offline editing • Many of Office’s advanced capabilities • Doesn’t support some popular file types


Microsoft Office Online is best for: Office Online is an excellent way to work with

If you believe less is more, SoftMaker’s FreeOffice ( may the

Price: Free Platform: Windows, Linux

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Office alternative for you. FreeOffice is the no-charge version of SoftMaker Office 2016 and offers its versions of Microsoft’s big three productivity apps in TextMaker (Word), PlanMaker (Excel), and Presentations (PowerPoint). It contains most of the features of FreeOffice can read—but not save—files in DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX formats. the commercial product, but omits some key ones you can However, newer Office formats including only get by upgrading to either SoftMaker DOCX, XLSX, and PPTX can only be opened— Office Standard 2016 for $69.95 or not saved—in the free version of the suite. SoftMaker Office Professional 2016 for All three apps include advanced features $99.95. It’s available for Windows and Linux similar to those of their Microsoft and has an Android companion app. counterparts, including PDF creation, pivot tables, and interactive presentation Hands on capabilities, to name a few. Some other FreeOffice employs a static-menu interface desirable features—tabbed documents, a that should feel comfy to users who preferred thesaurus function, the ability to save modern the pre-ribbon Office look. Tools are Office formats—are reserved for the pay intuitively organized and all three apps have a product, though. clean-and-light feeling about them. It’s more As with most free desktop suites, than cosmetic, too, as FreeOffice is collaboration is where FreeOffice falls short exceptionally fast, even when working with of Office. It includes track-changes and data-dense spreadsheets. commenting features, but with no cloud FreeOffice provides excellent support you can’t co-edit documents compatibility with Open Document format, as with others in real time. used by LibreOffice and OpenOffice, as well as the full spectrum of Microsoft Office Standout features formats, including password-protected files. • Clean, fast interface 54 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

• Excellent compatibility with lots of Office formats • Pivot tables and conditional formatting (PlanMaker) • Animations and slide transitions (Presentations) Missing features • Cloud support • The ability to save modern Office formats

WPS Office offers the best Office-like experience.

FreeOffice is best for: In terms of both format compatibility and features, FreeOffice is a fantastic Office alternative for anyone concerned with just the three core programs. But the inability to save files in DOCX, XLSX, or PPTX formats keeps it from being a truly viable Office replacement. If that’s a deal breaker, you can still purchase one of the paid versions for a full Office-like experience.

WINNER: KINGSOFT WPS OFFICE 2016 Kingsoft’s WPS Office 2016 delivers the most Office-like experience of all the suites we tried. Built around its own versions of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, it offers excellent compatibility with all Microsoft Office formats and features a customizable interface

that can be tailored to your preference for either the ribbon toolbar or the static menus of Office 2003. It’s also the only desktop suite in our roundup that included integrated cloud storage for easily sharing and collaborating on files.

RUNNER UP: GOOGLE DOCS, SHEETS, AND SLIDES Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides simply can’t be beat for collaboration. Its document review features and integration with Google Drive make it our go-to solution for anyone who routinely needs to co-author documents with others in real time. It also has tight ties with other Google products, including, of course, search, giving it capabilities you won’t find in any other office suite. Its relatively spartan interface is a welcome respite from Office’s busy toolbars, too. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 55


Best antivirus: Keep your Windows PC safe from spyware, Trojans, malware, and more You need more than just prayer and luck to stay safe. BY IAN PAUL


ntivirus software ranks nearly as crucial as a PC’s operating system. No matter how careful you are, some threats can’t be prevented without the additional help of an antivirus program—or a full antivirus suite. 56 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

You could visit your favorite website when it’s unintentionally displaying malicious ads. You may accidentally click on a phishing email (it happens!). You could also get caught by a zero-day threat, where an undisclosed bug in Windows, your browser, or an installed IMAGE: ROB SCHULTZ

program allows hackers to install other malware on your machine. Sure, PC security software isn’t fool-proof. Antivirus software often can’t do much to stop zero-day exploits, for example. But it can detect when the undisclosed vulnerability is used to install other nasty bits on your machine like ransomware. In general, the average user actively using email, clicking on links, and downloading programs will benefit from an antivirus suite. So what should you pick? Our recommended suggestions strike a balance between excellent protection, a worthwhile selection of features, and minimal impact on your PC’s performance.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR There are three basic requirements that an antivirus suite needs: • High detection rate for malware and other threats • Low impact on system resources • An easy-to-use interface That’s not all to consider, however. These days, many security suites come with extras such as a backup service for your most essential files, Android apps for mobile security, a more advanced firewall, family protection (read: child restriction) features, and the right to use the program on multiple PCs. Whether you need those extras depends on your personal situation.

HOW WE TEST First, we take a look at the interface to determine how easy or complicated it is. Does the interface make it easy to get at essential tools like PC scans and password managers, for example, or is everything buried under multiple clicks? Are there elements that look like they should be clickable but aren’t? Are alerts interactive or purely informational, and does that make sense in context? We also examine the features on offer. Every good antivirus suite should have the basics like scanning and real-time protection, but many vendors offer elements that go beyond basic security like password managers or firewalls. We try to discern whether any of these extra features are particularly useful, or just frills that look nice but don’t serve a practical purpose. To test the suite’s demand on system resources, we run two benchmarks. The first is PCMark 8’s Work Conventional test, which simulates a variety of workloads including editing spreadsheets, browsing the web, and running video chat. We run the benchmark before the security suite is installed. Then we install the software, have it run a full scan on our Windows 10 test machine, and start a second run of the benchmark at the same time. Then we compare the overall scores to see if the decline between the two benchmarks is significant. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 57



As a harsher stress test, we also use Handbrake to transcode a video before and after installing the A/V. On most home PCs, this encoding task utilizes 100 percent of the CPU. We then compare transcoding times to see if there’s any significant decline. Our test machine is an Acer Aspire E15 with an Intel Core i3-7100U, 4GB RAM, and a 1TB hard drive. Each security suite is tested on a clean install of Windows 10 Home. As for the antivirus suite’s detection capabilities, we’ll rely on the opinions of security researchers dedicated to this task. We’ll take into consideration reports from outlets such as A-V Comparatives, A-V Test and SE Labs. We’ll also take pricing into account and what you get for it. Whenever possible we’ll review security suites using a free trial to get a sense of what consumers see when they first try out a new product.

Premier for $80 (, which comes filled with features. Though it only offers two additional extras compared to Avast’s $60 Internet Security product (go., those particular features are potentially useful for those who want them. The first is Data Shredder, which deletes files by immediately overwriting them so they are not recoverable. The second is Software Updater, which automatically updates thirdparty programs, plug-ins, and utilities on your PC. Both are nice features, however, you can use free programs to perform the same functions—like FileHippo App Manager (go., which monitors and automatically updates your programs. Despite being packed with features, Avast manages to not overwhelm the user with a messy interface. The program uses a fairly standard design that includes a left rail

AVAST PREMIER Price: $80 Avast is one of the more popular free, third-party antivirus programs. For anyone willing to pay for more advanced features, however, Avast’s premium products also have a lot to offer. At the top of the company’s line-up is Avast 58 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Avast Internet Security’s “Status” section.

with a pop-out menu, and a main screen that displays the settings and primary interface for each feature. The program also uses color effectively to help convey important information. The program’s primary background is a bluish gray, with the active section in the left rail highlighted in purple. Avast Premier features Avast’s “Protection” options. four main categories: Status, Protection, Privacy, and Performance. monitors specific folders for ransomware The Status section is pretty simple with a basic threats), the aforementioned software green check mark when all is well. The main updater, and a sandbox to wall off suspect interface has one button to run a quick scan files from the rest of your PC. for viruses. This is also the section where you The Privacy section includes Avast’s can get direct links to Avast’s catalog of built-in password manager, Data Shredder, Android and iOS apps. and Sensitive Data Shield. The latter probes Protection is where you can run antivirus scans, as well as get access to a roster of other security features. There’s Rescue Disk, which puts a version of Avast Antivirus on a CD or USB stick to more effectively scan and remove stubborn malware. You’ll also find Avast’s firewall settings, a Wi-Fi inspector, Real Site phishing protection, Ransomware Shield (which Avast Internet Security’s “Performance” section. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 59



your machine for important documents, and then it adds extra monitoring and protection to those files to guard against malware. It also acts as a quick access list of your important files. There’s also a link to SecureLine VPN, but VPN service is not part of the Avast subscription. Instead, your prompted to pay extra for the VPN. Avast Internet Security wants to install Google Chrome for those who Finally, there’s the don’t have it. Performance section with only two features. The first is Cleanup, which against. In the case of our test PC, it was is similar to programs like CCleaner that scan Google Chrome. On a system with Chrome your system for extra files, temporary folders, already installed, Avast offered to install its and caches that can be cleared. Although it own secure browser, SafeZone. Later on, I looks like it’s included, Cleanup only scans noticed that Avast installed two Chrome your PC for free. To actually cleanup your PC, extensions: Avast Online Security and Avast you need to shell out cash for Cleanup SafePrice. I don’t recall explicitly agreeing to Premium. install either of them. Performance also houses the settings for Avast makes it easy to opt-out of this Avast’s gaming mode. This feature download, but it’s also easy for users to get a automatically detects when you’re playing a surprise Chrome install if they’re not paying game and forces Avast and Windows to close attention. reduce its resource footprint—allowing you to play your game unencumbered. Performance Installing Avast Premier is very easy and As one of the top security firms, Avast using the free trial does not require you to performs very well. In A-V Test’s June test of register with the company. Ironically, Avast zero days, web, and email threats, Avast tries to install extra software at installation— scored a perfect 100 percent. Regular something a security suite should guard malware scans also did well, scoring 100 60 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Avast Internet Security’s Data Shredder feature.

percent against more than 10,000 samples. Avast performed similarly high during A-V Comparatives’ evaluation. It scored 100 percent in the organization’s malicious URL test and 99.8 percent against nearly 38,000 malware samples. In A-V Comparatives’ offline test, that detection number dropped slightly to 98.8 percent. SE Labs gave Avast a AAA rating, noting that it and AVG were the most effective free products. Avast and AVG did fail to stop five targeted attacks in SE Labs’ tests. During our benchmarks, Avast had no drop in performance. When we ran PCMark 8’s Work Conventional test—a simulation of web browsing, video chat, word processing, and spreadsheet editing—without Avast running, our test PC netted a score of 2517. With Avast running, it got 2515, which is well within the standard margin of error.

In our more-punishing Handbrake test, our test PC typically takes one hour, fifteen minutes, and 30 seconds to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file using the Android Tablet preset. With Avast installed the file took one hour, fifteen minutes, and five seconds. We also looked at how Avast’s Sensitive Data Shield performed, since that feature is likely to be intriguing to most users. It did a good job, though there were a high number of false positives. For example, it included many Word documents in the “Employee documents” section likely because they were my old articles with company names in the title. Avast also inspected folders that weren’t even on my PC via the desktop program for Windows ( keyb). That is admittedly an edge case as Keybase is a niche program. Nevertheless, if you are a Keybase user, turn off the program before scanning for sensitive documents. Conclusion Avast Premier is a very well-designed program with all kinds of extra features that will appeal to security conscious users looking for more than just antivirus protection. But if you don’t mind the inconvenience, you can get an DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 61



alternative that is almost equally as good for $20 less—Avast’s $60 Internet Security product is easily supplemented with free software to replace Avast Premier’s Data Shredder and Software Updater features.

AVG INTERNET SECURITY Price: $70 AVG has a big advantage in the free antivirus space since it owns both Avast (acquired in 2016 ( and its homegrown product, AVG Free. The hope is you’ll love the free stuff so much that you’ll upgrade to one of its paid products. In the case of AVG, most people go with

AVG Internet Security’s primary dashboard and menu.

62 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

its Internet Security program (go.pcworld. com/insp). Priced at $70, it’s one step down from the company’s flagship product, AVG Ultimate, and lacks a number of Ultimate’s less crucial features. For example, you don’t get AVG’s PC tune up package or third-party desktop software updater. That’s hardly a loss, though, as you can find free programs to dump cached folders taking up too much space or monitor software updates. The important security features are all included in the $70 security suite, however, including antivirus, firewall, and phishing protection. Unlike Avast, AVG opted not to include a password manager as part of its various security packages. Instead, you have to fork

AVG Internet Security’s Components settings.

over an extra $20 per year to make that a part of your security set-up. That’s not a bad price, though for a few bucks more you can get an annual subscription to LastPass. When you first open up AVG, it offers a similar aesthetic to its corporate counterpart Avast. The app largely has a gray background with bright green to highlight important information. You’ll first see a status dashboard that lets you know which AVG security features are active. This dashboard is not intuitive, though. Almost nothing is clickable in the main part of the screen. To tweak most options, you have to click on the Menu hamburger icon at the top right of the window. There you can get into the nitty gritty of the application’s settings, including general options, controls for ransomware protection, a data safe

(encrypted folders), and a file shredder feature that overwrites deleted data to make it harder to recover. Overall, the settings could be better organized and made clearer. Most of the key settings you’ll want to access, for example, are under Menu > Settings > Components. From there you can tweak your firewall and play with the spam scanning settings. Reinforcing my point about organization is how the options are laid out. Each part of the component settings is hidden under a downward facing arrow. Click that arrow and you reveal each section’s panel, but all you’ll see is an explanation of the feature and an option to uninstall individual parts of the security suite. To actually get deeper into those firewall settings, you have to click the Customize link in each tile, which is never hidden. To access other options, like subscription information, you’ll have to go back to the main dashboard. In the upper left hand corner is an arrow—when you click on it, it opens another window where you can add another device to your subscription, as well as download and subscribe to other AVG products such as PC TuneUp, Secure VPN, and Password Protection. This window is very reminiscent of Norton Security. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 63



AVG Internet Security’s secondary dashboard.

AVG’s overall interface is not a deal breaker, and once you get used to the logic of the application, it’s not hard to navigate. However, during testing I often kept thinking about its Avast counterpart, which I found to be far more intuitive with items more readily accessible and not buried under a mountain of clicks. One thing that AVG Internet Security does make very easy is the ability to scan your PC, as the Scan Computer button is the most prominent item on the primary dashboard. Performance Like many of the mainstream security programs, AVG got very high marks for antivirus and malware protection. A-V Test’s August tests gave AVG 100 percent detection in its 0-day and malware tests. In A-V Comparatives’ real-world protection test, 64 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

meanwhile, AVG scored 100 percent as well with three false positives out of 329 samples. When pitted against A-V Comparatives’ malware protection test, AVG scored 99.8 percent in an online scan against nearly 38,000 samples and 98.8 percent offline. SE Labs gave AVG an AAA rating, saying that both it and Avast were the most effective free software in its tests, but AVG did fail to detect five targeted attacks. All three organizations used the free versions of AVG’s antivirus, which doesn’t have the ransomware, firewall, or phishing protection. AVG also did well in our performance benchmarks. When we ran PCMark 8’s Work Conventional test (a simulation of everyday tasks like word processing, web browsing, and video chat), our initial score was 2521. With AVG running in the background, that score was 2524—a tiny enough difference that the improvement could be chalked up to margin of error. Our Handbrake test, which puts much more stress on a system, showed no significant performance dip. Our Windows 10 PC takes an average of one hour, 15 minutes, and 30 seconds to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file using the Android Tablet preset. With AVG

installed, Handbrake transcoded the same file in one hour, 15 minutes, and 25 seconds. Conclusion AVG leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to app design, especially compared to Avast. Given that the same company owns both development teams, we hope to see some improvement. Nevertheless, AVG gets high marks for security, has enough features to satisfy most users, and doesn’t drag on your performance.

COMODO INTERNET SECURITY PRO 10 Price: $40 When we previously looked at Comodo’s Internet Security Pro, the company had a habit of bundling software with its security suite—and that trend hasn’t changed with Internet Security Pro 10. Underneath the hassle of warding off extra installs, however, is a security suite that does a good job of detecting threats. When you install Internet Security Pro 10, you have to read every screen very carefully. If you don’t, the program will attempt to set your browser’s homepage and search engine to Yahoo, change your DNS provider to Comodo (, set Comodo Dragon ( as your default browser, and import all the data from your current default browser.

Comodo wants to change your default homepage and search engine.

Certainly, some users might like all that. Comodo Secure DNS is a popular choice among security enthusiasts who don’t want to use their ISP’s default service. Other security suites also route your DNS through their services. As for the browser, Comodo Dragon is a Chromium-based browser that some users might enjoy, and I guess there’s nothing wrong with Yahoo if you ignore that whole appalling security issue (go. But here’s the thing: Most people will click through the install screens without reading them, and software companies count on that. It’s just...unseemly. Plus, the attempt to switch your search engine and homepage makes all the other extra software look hostile. This approach is just not a good idea, even when acknowledging that companies are trying to make a buck. There has to be a better way. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 65



As for the app software is currently running; and a listing of itself, Comodo suspect files. That last feature isn’t particularly Internet Security Pro great, given that Comodo treated the EXE has some nice files for two common and popular services— features. Comodo’s CrashPlan and Slack—as suspect. interface comes in The widget also has quick access to three parts: the Comodo’s four basic operations: scan, main application unblock applications, update, and secure window, a widget shopping. Finally, you’ll see the symbols for that sits in the upper all of your installed browsers if you’re using right corner of your any of the big four: Internet Explorer, desktop, and the Chrome, Firefox, and Opera, plus Comodo Comodo Internet system tray icon. Dragon. There isn’t an icon for Edge on Security Pro’s desktop widget in Windows. That’s a lot, but Windows 10 PCs. you can close the If you open any of these browsers from the main window and get rid of the widget quite widget, they launch in a security container— easily, leaving only the system tray icon. The one of those virtualized environments that are widget, though, might be appreciated by sandboxed from the rest of the PC. When you some users as it has easy access to Comodo’s run a browser in one of these containers, the primary features. entire window will be outlined in green. At the very top there’s a status icon telling Oddly, Edge has a tab inside the Internet you the state of your PC. (Before running your first scan, it’s yellow.) Below that is a counter informing you of your current bandwidth usage for both up and down streams. Then there’s a minidashboard shows the status of Comodo’s containment tasks (a feature that lets you run untrusted apps as well as browsers in a virtualized space); the number of tasks the security Comodo Internet Security Pro 10’s basic view after first launch. 66 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Explorer container that is supposed to launch the newer browser. It doesn’t work, however. As for other, lesser known browsers like Vivaldi, Comodo ignores them. This containers feature is supposed to keep you more secure, and it does seem to be a fine feature. However, during one test, my PC became unusable after Comodo Internet Security Pro 10’s advanced view. enabling Internet Explorer in a secure container. Comodo’s secure launch in incognito mode. The idea is to shopping feature also inexplicably ate up 25 create a secure space where you can do percent of my CPU resources even though I online shopping. hadn’t activated it, and I had to restart my PC. Overall, the basic look of Comodo Comodo’s main application is really just a Internet Security Pro is clean and easy to bigger version of the widget. It has the same understand. If it’s too basic, however, there’s four main options: scan, unblock applications, also an advanced view that provides a lot update, and secure shopping. more at-a-glance data. It includes firewall Scan opens a second window where you details, a list of enabled services, blocked can choose carry out a full scan, quick scan, a applications or network intrusions, and other “rating scan” for commonly infected areas, or information. Personally, I prefer the advanced a customized scan. Unblock Applications is view since it behaves like a security where you can re-enable any desktop dashboard for your system. It also has a nice programs that Comodo may have prevented drag-and-drop area to scan files for viruses. from running. Update lets you manually check for new virus definitions. Secure Performance Shopping, meanwhile, is a virtualized, Comodo has a reputation for being sandboxed desktop environment where you something of a resource hog. That perception can only access Windows File Explorer and a is less deserved these days, but we still found select number of installed browsers that some truth to it. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 67



Comodo Internet Security Pro 10’s Wi-Fi connection assistant.

During our first performance test, which checks how an antivirus program affects system resources during lighter tasks, Comodo held its own against the competition. When we fired up PCMark 8’s Work Conventional benchmark, the synthetic simulation of word processing, spreadsheet editing, web browsing, and video chat churned out a score of 2507. After starting an antivirus scan, the second score for PCM8 was 2535—ever so slightly within Comodo’s favor, though not significant because the number falls within normal margin of error. However, when we moved on to our more strenuous Handbrake benchmark, Comodo caused a notable drop in performance. On our test PC, Handbrake v0.9.9 typically takes an hour, fifteen minutes, and thirty seconds to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file to MP4 using the Android Tablet preset. With Comodo 68 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

running, that same file conversion took one hour, forty-one minutes, and 31 seconds. That 34.4 percent increase in time is the worst Handbrake result of the antivirus suites we’ve tested thus far. As for virus detection, A-V Test rated Comodo’s Internet Security Premium quite high, with 100 percent detection against real-world threats like malware attacks and web and email threats. Virus detection, meanwhile, was equally high at 99.9 percent. A-V Comparatives did not test Comodo’s performance—the organization only tests security suites that are submitted to it by the vendor—nor did SE Labs. Conclusion Comodo’s antivirus and malware detection is fine, but it has some of the lowest-scoring benchmark performance results we’ve seen so far. However, this program does have a very nice price of $40 per year for three devices. If you don’t mind the slip in performance for resource-intensive operations, then Comodo is a fine choice. For those with mid-range PCs, however, you’d do well to look elsewhere.

NORTON SECURITY PREMIUM Price: $55 Norton is one of the oldest names in PC security—and despite some ups and downs,

it’s still one of the best. Currently, Symantec offers several versions of its long-lived antivirus software: The current flagship product is Norton Security Premium (go., which costs $110 per year. Following that are Norton Deluxe (go. ($90/year), Norton Security Standard ( ($70/year), and Norton Antivirus Basic (go. ($50/year). This review covers the top dog among the set, Norton Security Premium. Downloading and installing it is simple enough, and the program doesn’t try to add a lot to your system outside of the program itself. It does, however, encourage you to enable its own

browser-based password manager once you’re up and running. One of Norton’s standout aspects is its unobtrusiveness. Outside of a small cluster of notifications when you first install it, the program doesn’t inundate you with constant pop-ups. The interface is also very clean and easy to use, though the settings for each category aren’t immediately obvious. (You’ll have to click on a downward-facing arrow on the far right side of the screen.) Norton Premium’s dashboard is divided into four main categories: Security, Identity, Backup, and Performance. There’s also a fifth section that houses account management, access to extra features, and ads for more

Norton Security’s interface is clean and organized.

DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 69



Norton services and apps. Like many antivirus programs, Norton Security uses a colorcoded scheme where green means you’re protected, yellow means caution, and red means you’re not protected. The Security section is the most important section for PC users, as it houses the settings for regular PC scans. By Norton’s security scans settings. default Norton will do a quick scan, but there are also options for full encrypted incremental backups. When you and customized scans. There’s also a feature activate the feature, Norton monitors your called Power Eraser that is supposed to documents, pictures, contacts, and other eliminate “difficult-to-detect threats.” items by default. It will not, however, backup The Identity section, meanwhile is about your videos by default or any email databases protecting you. You’ll find the anti-phishing you may have. settings here, as well as Norton’s “Identity Performance, meanwhile, is the least Safe,” which is the desktop version of the useful of the categories, since its features are built-in password manager. Like other mostly redundant. You’ll find options like a services, the safe can house your username, file cleanup utility, disk defragmenter, and a passwords, addresses, credit card tool for restricting startup programs—all tools information, and secure notes. Norton does that come built into Windows. If you want to have a nice tags feature to help you better stop programs from starting up at boot, for organize your data, which you won’t always example, the Task Manager in Windows 8.1 find in all password managers. will work just fine. The Backup section does Backup is where Norton lets you setup have a graph that details the current and manage the 25GB of free cloud storage processor usage of Norton and Windows, that comes with the suite. You can use it to as well as recent security events and alerts upload files or folders to Norton’s servers via from Norton. 70 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Performance Norton Premium 22.9 received high marks from both A-V Test and A-V Comparatives for malware detection. In June, A-V Test threw 10,252 samples of malware at Norton and the software came back with a 99.9 percent detection rate. A-V Test also put Norton up against 202 samples of zero-day, web, and email threats for which Norton came back with a 100 percent rating. A-V Comparatives got a similar result of 99.8 percent in March using nearly 38,000 samples. However, that was with an active Internet connection: Offline, that detection rate fell to 86.8 percent. SE Labs, meanwhile, gave Norton a AAA rating.

Those are all great results. The only concerning aspect would perhaps be the offline detection rate, though you could ameliorate it with other tools such as Windows Defender periodic scanning or Malwarebytes. (Or just never go offline—kidding!) Norton did not have an appreciable drain on resources. When we ran PCMark 8’s Work Conventional benchmark, which simulates basic tasks like spreadsheet editing, web browsing, and video chat, our test PC scored 2538 without Norton installed. When we installed Norton Security Premium, started a full scan, and then ran PCMark 8 again, the second score was 2526. That’s a drop of less

Norton’s built-in report card feature.

DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 71



than one percent and within the PCMark 8 benchmark’s typical margin of error. We also didn’t see any real difference in performance during our Handbrake test, which puts far more stress on a system. It took our test PC one hour, fifteen minutes, and 30 seconds to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file. With Norton installed, the time was twenty-two seconds faster at 1:15:08. Conclusion Norton is extremely user friendly and well organized, and it doesn’t interfere too much with users’ day-to-day activities. That last part is key since security programs work best when they stay out of your way. The software also has some handy extras, like the online backup and password manager that make it an all-in-one security suite. You certainly have to pay for the privilege, however. Symantec will give you a really nice discount for your first year—45 percent off—but don’t be fooled, as you’ll ultimately be paying $110 for the privilege of running Norton Security Premium.

appeared under various names, but currently it’s known as Windows Defender Security Center ( (WDSC). What started out as a basic antivirus detection feature has slowly grown into something that resembles a security suite. It doesn’t have anything close to the features you’d see in a third-party suite, but it does a fair job at antivirus and malware scanning. Briefly, however, WDSC has five sections: Virus & threat protection, Device performance & health, Firewall & network protection, App & browser control, and Family options. The crucial section is Virus & threat protection. This is where you can manually start a full scan, enable real-time protection, or carry out an offline scan for removing particularly nasty bits of malware. Device performance & health, meanwhile, just gives your PC a general health report card

WINDOWS DEFENDER Price: Free In 2006, Microsoft added built-in security software to Windows for the first time. Since then, it’s 72 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Windows Defender’s primary dashboard.

including Windows Update status, driver status, and so on. It does not report on any potential security weaknesses, short of lagging updates. Firewall & network protection is fairly self-explanatory, while App & browser control houses all of your PC’s SmartScreen settings for Edge, downloads, and the Windows Store. Windows Defender’s device performance and health report. You can dive a little deeper into WDSC beyond this, but not by samples. SE Labs, for its part, gave Defender a much. If I had to guess, Microsoft plans to AA overall rating in the period of April expand its functionality over time, and right through June. (The highest that an antivirus now we’re just seeing the basic scaffolding can score with SE Labs is a AAA rating.) being built. That’s just speculation, however. During its testing, Defender failed to protect against six targeted attacks and four webPerformance based attacks. Windows Defender stacks up alright in antiAs for the drain on your PC’s resources, virus detection. A-V Test gave Defender a 99 that’s a little harder to measure than with percent detection rate for real-world testing third-party software. WDSC is built right into against 0-day, web, and email threats. For the operating system and starts up run-of-the-mill malware, meanwhile, Defender automatically. To counteract that, we turned scored very highly against more than 10,000 off the entirety of Windows Defender (both samples at 99.7 percent detection. the scanning tool and the overall program) A-V Comparatives found a similarly high using the registry. Then we fired up our first performance level for real-world protection, benchmark: PCMark 8’s Work Conventional with about 9 false positives out of 329 test benchmark, which simulates everyday tasks DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 73



like video chatting, web browsing, and word processing, and recorded the score. Afterward, we switched WDSC back on and started a full system scan before running PCMark 8 again. The results fell in line with the best thirdparty options: Windows Defender had no real effect on performance. Running Windows 10 with Defender off garnered a PCMark score of 2498. Once it was back on, the score went up to 2516—right within the margin of error for PCMark 8 results. That story also held true in our Handbrake performance benchmark, which puts far more strain on system resources. With Windows Defender turned off, we were able to transcode a 3.8GB MKV file on the Android Tablet preset in one hour, 14 minutes, and 21 seconds. With Windows Defender turned on, it took one hour, 15 minutes, and 30 seconds. That difference is so small it’s insignificant. Conclusion Windows Defender is a fine basic security solution. For advanced users who are hyper-aware about all the various threats out there, this free option might be enough if they also periodically scan their systems with something like the free version of Malwarebytes ( The 74 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

average user, however, should look for a more feature-rich third-party solution.

BEST OVERALL ANTIVIRUS SUITE: NORTON SECURITY PREMIUM Norton Security Premium is an old name in security, but it has an easy-to-use interface, highly-rated protection, and a number of helpful extra features. It’s on the higher end of the price spectrum at $110 per year (your first year is discounted to $55), but you can install it on up to 10 devices.

BEST BUDGET ANTIVIRUS SUITE: AVG INTERNET SECURITY AVG Internet Security does an excellent job of protecting your PC, but it’s interface could be a lot better. Nevertheless, with unlimited installs for $70 per year, it’s hard to beat this popular security solution.

Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti: The best 1440p graphics card in weird graphics card times We review the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition and Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition vs. Radeon Vega. BY BRAD CHACOS


his GeForce GTX 1070 Ti review probably exists only because AMD’s Radeon Vega 56 exists. Nvidia’s GTX-10 series debuted nearly a year and a half ago with the


launch of the GeForce GTX 1070 (go. and GTX 1080 (go. in May, 2016. The more powerful card received price cuts since then—to $500, theoretically (go.pcworld. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 75



com/theo)—but we never heard a whisper about a GeForce GTX 1070 Ti designed to slot between the two. Until AMD’s Radeon RX Vega graphics cards ( launched. The disappointing Vega 64 ran hot and loud while failing to best the GTX 1080. But the (theoretically ( $400 Radeon Vega 56 proved much more appealing—and its performance outpunches the GTX 1070 in many games. Surprise! Two months later the $450 GeForce GTX 1070 Ti appears, at a price just below what the $470 Vega 56 is actually selling for on the street. But the quest to beat AMD puts the new hardware uncomfortably close to the GTX 1080—and Nvidia surprisingly restricted the card’s clock speeds to keep the GTX 1070 Ti from cannibalizing its bigger sibling. Well, kind of. Find out all in our Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition ($450 on Nvidia ( and EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition ($470 on Amazon ( review.

SPECS AND FEATURES The only truly surprising technical feature of the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti is how little Nvidia pared down its year-and-a-half-old “GP104” GPU compared to the GTX 1080. The full version of GP104 inside the GTX 1080 consists of 20 streaming multiprocessors (SMs) with 2,560 CUDA cores, while the GTX 1070 Ti’s chip has 19 SMs and a whopping 76 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

2,432 CUDA cores active. By comparison, the base GTX 1070 packs 15 SMs and just 1,920 CUDA cores. The GTX 1070 Ti’s clock speeds swipe aspects from both sides. Nvidia’s new graphics card ships with a 1,607MHz base clock and 1,683MHz boost clock. By comparison, the GTX 1070 clocks at 1,506/1,683MHz, and the GTX 1080 hums along at 1,607/1,733MHz—at least on paper. In reality, Nvidia’s GPU Boost 3 technology runs these cards as fast as they’ll go while

The only truly surprising technical feature of the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti is how little Nvidia pared down its year-and-a-halfold “GP104” GPU compared to the GTX 1080. staying within optimal heat and power limits, especially in custom cards with powerful cooling solutions. But there’s an interesting twist to custom GTX 1070 Ti cards, which we’ll get into when we look at EVGA’s GTX 1070 Ti Black Edition in just a bit. Nvidia built the GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition to overclock well, despite some (slightly) misguided early rumors that suggested clock speeds would be locked down. It’s equipped with the same vapor chamber cooler and five-phase dual-FET power design as the GTX 1080 has, both of

Graphics processing clusters


Streaming multiprocessors


CUDA cores (single precision)


Texture units


ROP units


Base clock


Boost clock


Memory clock


Memory data rate


L2 cache size


Total video memory

8192MB GDDR5

Memory interface


Total memory bandwidth


Texture rate (bilinear)


Fabrication process


Transistor count

7.2 billion


3x DisplayPort, 1x HDMI, 1x Dual-Link DVI

Form factor

Dual slot

Power connectors

One 8-pin

Recommended power supply

500 Watts

Thermal design power

180 Watts

Thermal threshold

94˚ C

which aren’t found in the GTX 1070 vanilla. But the GTX 1070 Ti’s memory subsystem mirrors the baseline GTX 1070’s, ditching the GTX 1080’s speedy GDDR5X memory for standard GDDR5 VRAM over a 256-bit bus. Like the vanilla version, the GTX 1070 Ti offers 256GBps of overall memory bandwidth, versus the GTX 1080’s 320GBps. The Founders Edition card draws its 180W TDP through a single 8-pin power connector, and sports three DisplayPorts, an HDMI 2.0b port, and a dual-link DVI connection. The GTX 1070 Ti also supports Nvidia’s GeForce Experience software, including GFE’s stellar Ansel and ShadowPlay Highlights tools (go.—features that actively makes your gaming experience more fun. Nvidia’s aiming to eradicate the Radeon Vega 56’s lead in yet another way. While customized RX Vega graphics cards have yet to appear, months after AMD’s GPU released, a full range of custom GTX 1070 Ti cards will be available at launch. We’re also reviewing the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition, which costs $20 more than Nvidia’s Founders Edition. The GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition carries over the design from EVGA’s other Black Edition cards. In addition to a fancy LED logo and a 5+1 power phase configuration that noses out the Founders Edition’s setup, it sports the same ACX 3.0 cooler that impressed us so much on the EVGA GTX 1080 FTW ( DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 77



EVGA’s custom ACX 3.0 cooling solution.

Here’s how we described ACX 3.0 in that review: “The new generation of EVGA’s vaunted custom-cooling solution features a pair of massive 100mm fans that shut off in low power scenarios and contain double ballbearings that help them last up to four times longer than competing cards, EVGA claims. Those sit over a full-sized set of heat sink fans, with the GPU itself covered by a large copper plate with six heat pipes of various sizes snaking out of it.”

Ti lineup—including the beefy, high-end $500 FTW2 model (—lists the exact same clock speeds. And if you look at the clock speeds on custom GTX 1070 Ti graphics cards from other manufacturers, they all do too. What gives? Simple: Nvidia isn’t allowing customized GTX 1070 Ti cards to be overclocked out of the box—presumably to keep overclocked versions of this step-down card from challenging the top-end GTX 1080. Here’s what Nvidia’s Bryan Del Rizzo said when I asked about it.

You’ll see how effective ACX 3.0 performs later in our review. But perhaps the most interesting part of the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition’s spec sheet is its clock speed rating: 1,607MHz base/1,683MHz boost “plus.” In fact, every card in EVGA’s GTX 1070

“GeForce GTX 1070 Ti lives in the small price band between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. Given the number of products in this category we are aiming to simplify the stack-up, and let gamers get the extra performance through manual overclocking.”

78 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Massive, massive bummer. But as he says, manual overclocking is still allowed, and because of that the restriction isn’t stopping Nvidia’s hardware partners from developing workarounds to drive their graphics cards to faster speeds.

The packaging for the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition (and its other GTX 1070 Ti models) includes a slip of paper with a QR code emblazoned on it, directing you to the company’s Precision XOC software. You’ll have to register with your name and email address to use the software, and the autoHOW TO USE EVGA’S GTX overclocking process requires you to input 1070 TI AUTOyour card’s serial number, in case Q.A. help OVERCLOCKING TOOL winds up being required. You can find the EVGA’s Precision XOC software is typically serial number on a sticker on the back of the used by enthusiasts to overclock their EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition as well GeForce graphics cards manually. But EVGA as on the card’s box. developed a new version of its Precision XOC Precision XOC will automatically detect ( overclocking and your GTX 1070 Ti the first time it launches and monitoring software with “an exclusive feature offer to “Run EVGA Precision XOC scanner” on for the GTX 1070 Ti”: an auto-overclocking it—that’s the auto-overclocking tool. Agree and tool that scans your card and automatically you’ll be presented with three options. The applies an “optimal overclock” with no quick scan cycles through preset overclocking technical know-how needed on your end. ranges appropriate to your card, and takes 15 to 20 minutes. A full scan thoroughly tests your hardware to create a custom overclock more precisely tuned to your particular graphics card, but it can take up to an hour. Finally, as always, you can manually overclock the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition. I ran the quick scan on my model, as I’m guessing that’s what most people will The Precision XOC tool lets EVGA work around the GTX 1070 Ti’s clock speed lockdown, and the packaging materials make sure you know it. do—and it was dead simple. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 79



Using Precision XOC’s auto-overclocking tool for the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition is easy.

The EVGA Precision XOC Scanner ran for 17 minutes, and then applied a solid +101MHz overclock to the card. In practice, that resulted in clock speeds of 1,924MHz to 1,949MHz running The Division at 4K resolution, and up to 1,974MHz at 1440p. You could no doubt push performance higher by manually tinkering with the card’s power target, overclock, and memory speeds, but a 101MHz boost is respectable indeed, and we used EVGA’s configured overclock to test the GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition in our performance benchmarks. A card like the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti FTW2 ($500 on Amazon ( could presumably hit even higher marks, as it includes EVGA’s revolutionary iCX cooling technology ( and a 235-watt maximum power draw, compared 80 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

to the SC Black Edition’s 217W. Cooling and available power can play a major difference in overclocking. If you accidentally close the Precision XOC Scanner or want to run the auto-overclocking tool again, you can do so by clicking the yellow arrow icons in the software’s interface until you’re on the Basic OC Scanner page, then clicking Run. It’ll restart the process. Whew, that was a long diversion—but a necessary one if you buy a custom GTX 1070 Ti. Let’s dig into how this hardware handles!

OUR TEST SYSTEM We tested the GTX 1070 Ti and EVGA’s GTX 1070 Ti Black Edition on PCWorld’s dedicated graphics card benchmark system (go. Our testbed’s loaded with high-end components to avoid

bottlenecks in other parts of the system and show unfettered graphics performance. • Intel’s Core i7-5960X with a Corsair Hydro Series H100i closed-loop water cooler ($110 on Amazon ( • An Asus X99 Deluxe motherboard. • 16GB Corsair’s Vengeance LPX DDR4 memory ($195 on Amazon (go.pcworld. com/cove)). • EVGA Supernova 1000 G3 power supply ($190 on Amazon (go.pcworld. com/10g3)). • A 500GB Samsung 850 EVO SSD, PCWorld’s pick for the best SSD (go. ($150 on Amazon) (go. • Corsair Crystal Series 570X case, deemed Full Nerd’s favorite case of 2016 ( ($180 on Amazon ( • Windows 10 Pro ( ($190 on Amazon ( We’re comparing the GTX 1070 cards against AMD’s Vega duo ( rxvg), the $399 Radeon RX Vega 56 and $499 air-cooled RX Vega 64. Both were benchmarked using the Balanced power profile on the stock BIOS. Of course, because the GTX 1070 Ti was designed to slot between the (theoretically ( theo)) $350 Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 (go. and $500 GTX 1080 (go., we’re testing those as well. All of the cards are reference models except the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition (obviously), which we tested in both its out-of-the-box configuration as well as with Precision XOC’s new one-button overclock feature. We discussed the details of our overclock in the previous section. Each game is tested using its in-game benchmark at the mentioned graphics presets, with VSync, frame rate caps, and all GPU vendor-specific technologies—like AMD TressFX, Nvidia GameWorks options, and FreeSync/G-Sync—disabled. Given the capabilities of these particular cards, we’re testing at 1440p and 4K resolutions alone. They’d all scream at 1080p. Every card was tested using the most current drivers available from AMD and Nvidia.

GEFORCE GTX 1070 TI BENCHMARKS The Division The Division ($50 on Amazon (go.pcworld. com/divi)), a gorgeous third-person shooter/ RPG that mixes elements of Destiny and Gears of War, kicks things off with Ubisoft’s Snowdrop engine. We test the game in DirectX 11 mode. The GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition essentially draws even with the Radeon Vega 56 here, and splits the performance difference between the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080. Out of the box, the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 81



SC Black Edition does the same, but with Precision XOC’s autooverclock applied, it squeezes out a 4.5-percent frame rate increase at 1440p resolution.

The Division

Ultra: blue = 4K, green = 1440p (average fps) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 56

Ghost Recon: Wildlands Next up: Ghost Recon: Wildlands ($60 on Amazon (go.pcworld. com/ghre)), a stunningly beautiful and notoriously punishing game based on Ubisoft’s Anvil engine. Not even the GTX 1080 Ti can put in a decent showing at Ultra graphics settings at 4K, so we test at Very High, which “is targeted to high-end hardware.” It’s a game that includes some Nvidia GameWorks features, but again, we test with those disabled. This strenuous game challenges all of these cards at 4K resolution. While the Radeon Vega 56 barely surpassed the original GTX 1070 in performance, the GTX 1070 Ti pushes straight past it, though once again the difference is less noticeable at 4K resolution. Once again, Nvidia’s GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition falls in between its cousins. EVGA’s custom card doesn’t provide much uplift in this game even with the auto-applied overclock, but this game’s a beast. 82 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

60.3 34.4 68.4 39.6 70

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC


70.9 73.2 75.1

Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference)

44.9 79.1

Radeon RX Vega 64

45.6 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Ghost Recon: Wildlands

Very High: blue = 4K, green = 1440p (average fps) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 56

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)

57.35 33.47 58.47 34.89 63.41 36.86 64.03

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC


Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 64

65.14 68.23 40.75 65.88 40.6 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided High: blue = 4K, green = 1440p (average fps) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 56

55.5 28.4 66.5 34 62.7

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC


Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 64

63.4 64.3 67.7 35.1 75.5 39.6 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Rise of the Tomb Raider

1440p: blue = very high, green = high (average fps) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference)

89.46 82.96

Radeon RX Vega 56

89.94 81.83

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)

103.44 94.94

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition

103.83 96.63

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC

106.42 98.38

Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 64

112.89 104.63 102.9 93.03 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided Now it’s time for another graphically punishing game, but this one favors AMD hardware. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided ($15 on Amazon ( replaces Hitman in our test suite because its Dawn engine is based upon the Glacier Engine at Hitman’s heart. We dropped all the way down to the High graphics preset for this one and still struggled at 4K. We tested in DirectX 12 as that mode lifts all performance boats regardless of which brand’s GPU sits at the heart of your graphics card. Like I said: Deus Ex heavily favors AMD hardware, to the extent that the GTX 1080 barely stays ahead of even the Radeon Vega 56 at 1440p. That said, the GTX 1070 Ti puts up admirable numbers versus its AMD rival, which flat-out pummels the vanilla GTX 1070. Rise of the Tomb Raider Rise of the Tomb Raider (go. ($60 on Amazon ( tends to perform better on GeForce cards, on the other hand. It’s utterly gorgeous and one of the DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 83



first games to receive specific optimizations for AMD’s new Ryzen processors (go.pcworld. com/rzen) (not that it matters in this comparison, as we’re using an Intel processor). Like I said: Rise of the Tomb Raider heavily favors Nvidia hardware. While the Radeon Vega 56 managed to beat the baseline GTX 1070 by the barest of margins, the GTX 1070 Ti comes close to Vega 64 levels of performance at 4K—especially EVGA’s overclocked-boosted Black Edition. And it outright bests the flagship Vega 64 at 1440p. Far Cry Primal Far Cry Primal ( facr) ($55 on Amazon (go. is yet another Ubisoft game, but it’s powered by the latest version of the longrunning and well-respected Dunia engine. We benchmark the game with the optional Ultra HD texture pack enabled for high-end cards like these. The GTX 1070 Ti manages to match or slightly beat the Radeon Vega 56 depending on the resolution and settings you’re using, and the OC’d EVGA GTX 84 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Rise of the Tomb Raider

4K: blue = very high, green = high (average fps) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference)

48.47 44.1

Radeon RX Vega 56

50.11 45.87 54.81 50.76

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference) EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition

55.64 51.32

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC

56.6 52.33 61.05 56.05

Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference)

57.95 52.86

Radeon RX Vega 64


Far Cry Primal

1440p: blue = ultra, green = high (average fps) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 56

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)

76 63 82 68 84 70 84

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC


Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference)


Radeon RX Vega 64

85 86 90 77 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

1070 Ti Black Edition manages to nudge that. We’re talking imperceptible zero to 4-fps differences from worst to best, though.

Far Cry Primal

4K: blue = ultra, green = high (average fps) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference)

40 34 44

Radeon RX Vega 56

38 44

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)

38 44

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC


45 47

Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference)

41 51

Radeon RX Vega 64

44 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Ashes of the Singularity

1440p/high: blue = DX11, green = DX12 (average fps) 75.8

Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 56

63.9 78.8 50.8 89.3

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)

73.4 88.8

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC


Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference)


Radeon RX Vega 64

89.6 93.5 89.5 51.9 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Ashes of the Singularity Ashes of the Singularity ($40 on Steam (, running on Oxide’s custom Nitrous engine, was an early standardbearer for DirectX 12. Many months later it’s still the premier game for seeing what next-gen graphics technologies have to offer. Nvidia drivers have greatly improved GeForce performance in Ashes over the past several months. We test the game using the High graphics setting, as the wildly strenuous Crazy and Extreme presets aren’t reflective of real-world usage scenarios. This game traditionally favored Radeon hardware, but after a slew of DirectX 12 driver improvements by Nvidia, the GTX 1070 Ti trounces the Vega 56 and matches Vega 64 in performance. The difference is even more pronounced if you don’t have Windows 10 and thus can’t utilize DX12. In DirectX 11, the GTX 1070 Ti beats Vega 56 by nearly 20 fps. Hot damn. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 85



POWER, HEAT, NOISE, CLOCK SPEEDS Power We test power under load by plugging the entire system into a Watts Up meter, running the intensive Division benchmark at 4K resolution, and noting the peak power draw. Idle power is measured after sitting on the Windows desktop for three minutes with no extra programs or processes running. The Vega 64 still stands out as a ridiculous power hog, but the differences—or lack thereof— between the GTX 1070 Ti and Radeon Vega 56 are more interesting. Because the GTX 1070 Ti largely matches the GTX 1080’s GPU layout and uses GDDR5 memory instead of power-efficient GDDR5X, it draws a lot more power than the vanilla GTX 1070 does. In fact, it ties the Vega 56 on that front. Heat and noise We test heat during the same intensive Division benchmark at a strenuous 4K resolution, by running SpeedFan in the background and noting the maximum GPU temperature once the run is over. 86 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Ashes of the Singularity

4K/high: Blue = DX11 Green = DX12 (average fps) 63.8 56.9

Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference)


Radeon RX Vega 56

47.8 71.9

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)

64.1 73.1 66.1

EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC

63.5 75.9

Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference)

64.6 71.9

Radeon RX Vega 64

50.8 LO N G E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Whole system power draw Blue = idle, Green = load (Watts) Nvidia GTX 1070 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 56

203 65.9 264 61.9 265

Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti (Reference)


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition


EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC Black Edition OC


Nvidia GTX 1080 (Reference) Radeon RX Vega 64

263 268 241 66.4 347 60.3 S H O R T E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E

Again, the GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition and Vega 56 are in a dead heat. Both cards use blower-style coolers, but despite the equality in temperature, Nvidia’s implementation is vastly superior to AMD’s. The ghastly Vega coolers are the loudest I’ve heard since the old Radeon 290X days. Seriously, it’s loud enough to distract you unless you’re wearing noise-proof headphones, and that’s rare in modern GPUs. But the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition’s superb ACX 3.0 cooling solution stands heads-and-shoulders above the reference cards. It not only runs far, far chillier, it manages to run much quieter than the others while doing so. Two fans are better than one, it seems.


How does the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti compare to the Radeon Vega 56? The answer’s complicated, and made more so by cryptocurrency miners driving up prices in this market segment. Nvidia met its goal. The GeForce GTX 1070 Ti Founders Edition ($450 on Nvidia ( matches or beats the Radeon Vega 56 in every game we tested except Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, which skews heavily towards AMD hardware. And it bests the AMD card heavily in Rise of the Tomb Raider and Ashes of the Singularity. But power and heat are a wash and the performance victories are minimal in most situations we’ve tested. Given that AMD’s glorious, tear- and stutterMax GPU temp under load killing FreeSync variable refresh (degrees Celsius) rate monitors ( Nvidia GTX 1070 rate) are much more affordable 74 (Reference) than Nvidia’s comparable G-Sync Radeon RX Vega 56 76 displays, and the GTX 1070 Ti starts at $50 more than the Radeon RX Nvidia GTX 1070 Ti 78 (Reference) Vega 56’s $400 suggested EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC pricing, you can make an argument 66 Black Edition for these cards being of roughly EVGA GTX 1070 TI SC 66 Black Edition OC equal value. At least in theory. Nvidia GTX 1080 82 (Reference) In reality, the Radeon Vega 56 Radeon RX Vega 64 has barely come close to 82 approaching its suggested pricing S H O R T E R B A R S I N D I C AT E B E T T E R P E R F O R M A N C E since five minutes after the card DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 87



launched in August. Sure, there’s a Sapphire Vega 56 for $400 at Microcenter (go. right now, but that’s in-store pickup only and on “sale” from $530. As I’m writing this on November 1, there’s a single XFX Vega 56 available for $400 on Amazon ( and $420 on Newegg (, but all others cost more than $500... (go.pcworld. com/alt5) and it just turned up at those prices today. I’ve been tracking Vega 56 prices on Newegg since the GTX 1070 Ti’s announcement last week, and most sold for $470—$20 more than Nvidia’s Founders Edition card, and the same price as the superior EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition. The GTX 1070 Ti probably wouldn’t exist if Vega 56 didn’t exist, but it’s cards like the EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition that make Vega 56 moot in today’s bizarre market. The world is still waiting for custom cards month after Vega’s launch. In the meantime, the 88 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Radeon Vega reference cooler sounds like a damned hurricane. That alone makes it impossible to recommend over EVGA’s (in reality) identically priced GTX 1070 Ti, which delivers more performance while staying cool and running awfully quiet. If Radeon Vega 56 ever hits its suggested price and custom Vega cards become available for $450 or less, the FreeSync variable may tip the scales back in AMD’s favor. But that’s not the way of the world today.

SHOULD I BUY THE GEFORCE GTX 1070 TI? So should you buy the GeForce GTX 1070 Ti? Even though we recommend it over the Radeon RX Vega 56, it’s still a complicated question influenced by the cryptocurrency problem, as miners drive up prices. Why do men decide? If you look at PCWorld’s guide to the best

graphics cards (—or suggested pricing, and custom Vega cards the benchmarks in this very article—you’ll see were on store shelves—the GTX 1070 Ti that the vanilla $380 GTX 1070 already excels would be a weird and largely irrelevant for 60-fps gaming at 2560x1440 resolution. release, hampered by the crap Nvidia’s The GTX 1080, on the other hand, is best for pulling with the clock speeds of custom high refresh-rate 1440p gaming. It can handle cards. But here in the real world of today’s entry-level 4K gaming if you turn down some graphics card market, it’s the best 1440p graphics settings, but true single-card 4K/60 graphics card option around. Unless gaming requires the beastly $700 GTX 1080 cryptocurrency miners drive up its prices Ti ( too,of course. But most full-sized versions of the GTX The slick-looking EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC 1070 are selling for $430 or more on Newegg Black Edition ($470 on Amazon (go.pcworld. ( right now. (Damned com/70be)) easily justifies its modest $20 miners!) The significant performance increase upcharge thanks to its excellent ACX 3.0 offered by the GTX 1070 Ti is well worth the cooler and the one-touch ease with which $20 to $30 extra. But saving up even more Precision XOC negates Nvidia’s ugly, artificial pennies for the $500-plus GTX 1080 makes clock speed lockdown in customized less sense. The GTX 1070 Ti is plenty fast for graphics cards. But be sure to download that 1440p gaming, and the biggest performance overclocking software to get the most out of differences between the GTX 1070 Ti and your hardware. GTX 1080 in our 4K tests are only about 5 fps. If you’re already turning down graphics settings to play games at 4K with the GTX 1080, you could save $50 and just turn anti-aliasing options down another notch on the GTX 1070 Ti instead. In an ideal world— where the GTX 1070, GTX 1080, and Radeon RX Vega 56 all sold for The EVGA GTX 1070 Ti SC Black Edition uses a custom ACX 3.0 cooler. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 89


Adobe Premiere Elements 18 (Windows): The best video editor does it all for you A no-brainer for novices, and handy for more experienced users, too. BY SAMUEL AXON


dobe Premiere Elements 2018 offers most of the same basic video-editing features you’d find in other consumer packages, but it separates itself from the pack with tutorials and automatic curation and content-creation features that very nearly (but not quite) do all the work for you, as long as you don’t mind if your videos look generic. 90 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

It’s this easy access that makes Adobe Premiere Elements our top-rated consumer paid video editor. Read all of our videoediting software reviews ( vesr) to find out how we tested, what to look for, and more. The main video-editing interface is broken into three views: Quick, Guided, and Expert. Quick and Expert are basic versions of the same video-editing experience you get in most IMAGE: ADOBE

other software. The latter exposes more options to you than the former. Guided prompts you with a series of questions and holds your hand through common video-editing tasks like adding and arranging clips, trimming and splitting them, adding transitions, and adding titles. Those are just the basics. Other guided walk-through categories include Video Adjustments, Audio Adjustments, and Fun Edits. The last of those includes common techniques like slow motion, freeze frames, and picture-in-picture. It can even generate those animated social videos that combine words and videos in your Facebook feed. Guided mode doesn’t necessarily create a usable video for you—think of it like a tutorial. However, there are multiple modes that do most of the heavy lifting in cranking out videos for you. They include Favorite Moments, Instant Movie, and Video Story. Video Story, for example, can create a graduation video by letting you drag and drop clips right into the usual components of a video like that: dressing up, the speech, and so on. This can produce some very genericlooking videos, but it does make things a lot easier. Other features allow you to create video collages automatically, or edit music files down to match the length of your video with only a couple of clicks. But what really differentiates Adobe Premiere Elements from competing consumer video editors is its machine learning and AI

Adobe Premiere Elements 18 PROS

• Guided modes help you learn to create nicelooking videos with absolutely no experience • Video Story and Instant Video modes almost automatically create family movies from raw footage • Can smartly curate moments and videos automatically from the raw files you upload CONS

• Workspace is not as customizable as in some other programs • More expensive than most consumer video-editing software $99

features. A feature called Smart Trim intelligently grabs a bunch of short, Instagram-length mini videos from that 45 minutes of raw footage you imported. Another feature called Instant Movie lets you set some initial parameters and completely edits the video for you from provided media. We found this one to be very hit-and-miss: For example, it couldn’t tell if there was already music playing in a clip and just layered additional music on top of it for a cacophony. But if you learn its limitations, it could save you some time. Adobe Premiere Elements 2018 is perfect for people who want to make home movies to share with friends, but who don’t have much video-editing experience. It also offers decent functionality for more experienced editors who don’t want to follow the walk-throughs. But more robust software might be better for a power user pursuing YouTube stardom. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 91


Call of Duty: WWII: Not a remaster, but it might as well be Time is a flat circle. BY HAYDEN DINGMAN


all of Duty: WWII isn’t a remaster, but it feels like one. As the gate crashed open on my landing craft and I sprinted desperately onto Omaha Beach, I half-expected to hear people yelling for Lieutenant Powell, star of 2002’s Medal of Honor: Allied Assault—the first game I remember doing the iconic D-Day opener. This one stars a “Davis” instead, but that’s no big deal. 15 years on, Call of Duty: WWII 92 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

is less “World War II as it actually existed” and more “World War II as it existed in video games between 1999 and 2008-ish,” a Greatest Hits Collection spanning from the original Medal of Honor through to Allied Assault, and eventually Call of Duty 1, 2, and 3. It was the decade where everyone got sick of World War II games, but absence does indeed make the heart grow at least a little fonder. IMAGE: IDG


has a wife back home in Texas. He wants to “Everything in moderation” is not the games head home to her but—spoilers!—decides industry’s strong suit, which I guess is why we duty comes first! Sergeant Pierson has a dark tend to get ideas in waves. We do sci-fi to past involving Tough Command Decisions. death in the ‘90s so everyone moves on to He’s also an alcoholic. Your friend Zussman World War II. Then we do World War II to ends up being the most fleshed-out character, death so we move on to modern war. That and that depth literally goes as deep as “He’s gets stale, we return to science fiction. And part-Jewish and fighting Nazis.” voila, 15 or 20 years later we’re reloading our Call of Duty: WWII has nothing to add to M1 Garands. our understanding of World War II, nothing to And if Call of Duty: WWII is the start of a say that hasn’t been said by dozens of its World War II renaissance, it’s about the safest predecessors. It doesn’t even feel like it’s bet you could make. Dredging up the ol’ trying to say something more interesting. As I D-Day ( to VE-Day said, it’s content to be a sort-of “World War II ( storyline once again, Video Game Greatest Hits Collection.” from June of 1944 through to April of 1945, The difference of course is that we’ve had it’s the same Band of Brothers/Saving Private a dozen or so Call of Duty games and a Ryan story video games love to focus on. generation (or two) of hardware since last we We’ve seen it in Allied Assault, in multiple Call saw these locales. Call of Duty: WWII is of Duty games, in Gearbox’s underrated stunning. It’s a case, as with remasters, of a Brothers in Arms series, and so on. new game looking like I remember the old, So if you played games between 1999 not how it actually looked. Sprinting between and 2008ish, this’ll feel very familiar. Omaha Beach? Check. Normandy’s hedgerows? Check. Hill 400? Check. Battle of the Bulge? Check. All the usual highlights. It’s safe. It’s also kind of bland. Davis and his pals breeze through Normandy on the backs of the most generic platitudes. Davis Pierson is the worst when it comes to hoary old “soldiering life” cliches. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 93



hedgehogs on D-Day, the water bursting real. Hearing the ping of an emptied M1 around me, the plink-plink-plink of a German Garand, seeing that familiar gray-green color machine gun tapping on barricades, then up grading, hearing the rumble of Panzers and over the earthworks, storming the coming over a hill—I missed it. bunkers full of Nazis—it looks like I remember Hell, Sledgehammer’s even taken this Allied Assault looking, brings back that throwback one step further, eschewing same adrenaline rush. rechargeable health in favor of medkits—the Then I look at how Allied Assault actually first time since Call of Duty 2. In terms easier looked and…oh. to grasp, that means it’s the first time Call of The same is true of Hurtgen Forest and the Duty has used medkits for health since rest. Ideas that were only hinted at in the past before the release of the Xbox 360. can now be fully realized—for instance, the way artillery shreds a 50-foot pine tree, turns it FIGHT ON THE BEACHES into six-inch chunks of shrapnel. Trees (and Multiplayer feels just as retro, at least by 2017 limbs and houses and so on) explode in WWII standards. I don’t typically spend much time in a way they didn’t and couldn’t in 2005. talking about Call of Duty’s multiplayer, in part Maybe that’s enough. Technological because the last few iterations just haven’t advances perhaps highlight how little Call of appealed to me much at all. But I found myself Duty’s progressed in other respects, but only playing and actually enjoying WWII over the to those who were here for the World War II weekend in a way I haven’t since maybe... game glut the first time around. There’s an entire new generation of people playing games now who’ve never played something like Call of Duty: WWII. And for those of us who were there, the Side note: WWII also features Call of Duty’s best behind-enemy-lines stealth nostalgia is still mission since Chernobyl. 94 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Black Ops? It’s pretty simple, really. Call of Duty: WWII ditches all the wall-running/jump-boosting/ future-parkour stuff from the last few entries. Sledgehammer’s been fond of yelling “Boots on the ground!” in its marketing pitches and while I hate to regurgitate marketing points, I can’t deny I’m having more fun with my two feet planted pretty firmly on Europe’s warpocked soil. And I just prefer WWII era weaponry. It’s what drew me to Battlefield 1 last year (where the weapons were even more primitive), and it’s what’s kept me playing WWII so far. That aforementioned M1 ping is a classic, but the clunky mechanical feel of the period is overall a big draw. There are aspects I definitely don’t like. One of the most surreal moments I’ve had in 2017 was popping open loot boxes while some random dude commented over my shoulder on the items contained therein. “Three commons? Oh you got screwed,

Call of Duty: WWII PROS

• Feels like a greatest hits collection of World War II video games past • The ping of that M1 Garand is like a concentrated rush of nostalgia CONS

• Content to retread well-trod ground, even by World War II video game standards • “Allows” you to watch other people open loot boxes. Ugh BOTTOM LINE

Nostalgia is enough to mitigate Call of Duty: WWII’s weak story and bland characters, but only barely. Multiplayer’s better than it has been, though. $59

man.” See, WWII has a Destiny-like hub called “Headquarters,” styled after a Normandy Beach base of operations. It’s like a pseudoMMO with fellow players running around emoting at each other, marking challenges to complete in their next match, and—yes— popping open loot boxes in full view of everyone else. It’s not great. But aside from Headquarters, the logistics of which made WWII’s servers a bit of a nightmare over the weekend, this is pretty much stock Call of Duty multiplayer. You can even unlock reflex sights and other modern warfare gizmos for your circa1944 weaponry. It’s dumb but DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 95



it’s my kind of dumb, I guess—at least until Battlefield makes a World War II game again. As for the now almost decade-old Zombies mode, it’s probably the weakest part of 2017’s offering, which is surprising since it was the part of Infinite Warfare I enjoyed most. WWII ditches the zany tone of last year’s “Zombies in Spaceland” for a more classic Nazi Zombies feel, darker and more ominous. And that’s fine in theory, but the zaniness helped mask some of the repetition. I’ve played WWII’s zombie campaign three times and while it’s a similar labyrinth of unlockable doors, collectible weapons, and bizarre traps, it just lacks a certain spark. Part of the problem I think is that the zombies feel spongy, which clashes with WWII’s weapons. Shooting a Nazi Zombie with a chunky World War II-era combat shotgun only for it to shrug off the blow and keep coming at you? A bit of a cognitive disconnect.

96 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Regardless, it’s a drag and I don’t see myself going back much, especially given that the proper multiplayer mode’s been somewhat redeemed.

BOTTOM LINE Nostalgia is fine. Nostalgia is good. I enjoyed my time with Call of Duty: WWII and I’m continuing to enjoy its multiplayer off-and-on. But nostalgia is also weird—a strange and uncontrollable force where you know what you’re playing is somewhat mediocre, somewhat disappointing, and you just don’t care because you grew up shooting virtual M1 Garands and it feels good to shoot one again, to hear that ping and see some dumb Nazi’s helmet pop off. Call of Duty: WWII is mediocre. I enjoyed it anyway. The question now, of course, is whether 2018 brings Call of Duty: WWII Pt. Two. I’m fine if it does, but the series can’t just coast along on another Greatest Hits Collection next year—it needs to take some actual risks, dig a bit deeper. We can’t just do Band of Brothers forever, especially if our characters can’t be one iota as interesting as even the least interesting character in Band of Brothers.

Xbox One X: A surprising amount of power in a very small box It’s as powerful as many gaming PCs, and it’s only $500. Pretty impressive, for a console. BY BRAD CHACOS


he 4K gaming-capable Xbox One X just might be the thing that lifts Microsoft out of its gaming console rut. Before the Xbox One even released there was that

disastrous E3 2013, with news of an alwaysonline console, Sony’s price coup, and Don Mattrick out there talking about people using Xbox 360s on nuclear submarines. Microsoft never really recovered, branded by fanboys as DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 97



being underpowered compared to the PlayStation 4, and with each controversy over the Kinect or resolution upscaling or what have you, the Xbox’s hole only got deeper. The Xbox One X could fill in that hole a little. For the first time since 2005, Microsoft has the most powerful gaming console on the market—powerful enough that it surprised even me, a devout PC gamer (go.pcworld. com/pcga). This little box packs some power.


(or save) the more vibrant white-and-black color scheme from last year’s Xbox One S. It’s compact, though. Measuring 11.8 x 9.4 x 2.4 inches, the Xbox One X is drastically smaller than the launch Xbox One (13.1 x 10.8 x 3.1 inches) and only a hair larger than the slimmer S model (11.5 x 9 x 2.5 inches). Pretty incredible, considering the X’s more powerful hardware. Even better: Like the S, the Xbox One X packs the power supply inside the case. Say goodbye to that launch Xbox One and its enormous power brick. The X has an unadorned 5-foot power cord. Despite being shrunk down, it’s also quieter. It’s hard for me to do a 100-percent fair comparison with the original Xbox One at this point because mine is going on four years old, but I guarantee it was never this quiet. Even after hours of playing, the Xbox One X is almost whisper-silent when placed on the other side of the room—none of that

And the Xbox One X is little. That’s as good a place as any to start this review, because it’s a compliment I would never pay to the original Xbox One and its vintage VCR aesthetic. A quick aside: We’ll be comparing the Xbox One X to both the original Xbox One and 2016’s Xbox One S in this review. Some of the Xbox One X’s “new” features debuted on the S last year, such as HDR support, but because that was more of a placeholder model and provided less incentive to upgrade it only makes sense to cover them again here. The Xbox One X isn’t necessarily more eyecatching—it still has that “generic cable box” look to it in my opinion. I wish Microsoft had opted to reuse Comparing 2013’s Xbox One to the Xbox One X. 98 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

jet-engine fan noise I associate with the original Xbox One. There’s plenty of ventilation on both ends and the rear of the console, and while the X gets warm to the touch it never gets hot. Note that unlike the 2TB Xbox One S, the standard Xbox One X does not come with a stand. Microsoft does plan to sell one, but unless you shell out you’re limited to running the console horizontally. Microsoft has also made no mention of providing free Kinect adapters. The Kinect port is gone, and most of you probably won’t notice or care. But those who do will need to purchase an adapter from Microsoft for $40 this time around—a final insult to those who bought (and maybe even use!) the now officially discontinued accessory. Anyway the best improvement—the absolute best—is the Xbox One X’s physical power button. This might sound like a minor improvement, and it is! Anyone who owns the original Xbox One has no doubt grown

Xbox One X PROS

• The most powerful console by a long shot • Small, quiet, and unassuming CONS

• If you’ve got money to spend, a decent PC will still take you further (and is upgradeable) • 1 TB hard drive is not prepared for the realities of modern gaming BOTTOM LINE

The Xbox One X exceeds not only its predecessor, but also matches up to the majority (55 percent or more) of gaming PCs today—and for only $500. Pretty impressive, for a console.The question is whether developers take advantage of it. $499

annoyed with its capacitive power button though, which not only boots the console at the briefest hint that something might want to touch it but also shuts it off. If you even look at it wrong you’ll hear the boo-doo-doop of the Xbox turning on or off, and heaven forbid you have a cat/dog/child/poltergeist. Though perhaps less futuristic, the S returned to the pressable power button of old and the X follows suit.

THE 4K FACTOR Okay, but gaming. How does the Xbox One X function while gaming? After all, that’s the reason to upgrade. The Xbox One S already had size covered, as well as the physical power DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 99



button, a larger hard drive, quietness, and so on. So, how does it perform? Surprisingly well. Listen, I’m a PC guy and I’ve been a PC guy for a while now. The Xbox One X doesn’t match up to a high-end PC and the people who say it does...well, their idea of a “high-end” PC is maybe skewed a bit low. But it does come way closer than I expected, if not on paper than at least in-game—and it blows the old Xbox One (not to The Xbox One’s internals. mention the PlayStation 4) completely out of the water. To put it in more accessible real-world First, for those who like specs: The original terms, the original Xbox One was estimated Xbox One featured a custom 8-core AMD to have power on a par with (being generous) APU clocked at 1.75GHz and 8GB of DDR3 AMD’s Radeon 7790—or, on Nvidia’s side, RAM, plus 32MB of higher throughput approximately a GTX 650 Ti. The Xbox One X ESRAM. To simplify this down to a single is about equal to an AMD Radeon RX 580 (go. number so as to not kill you: Peak graphics or an Nvidia GeForce GTX throughput was marked at 1.31 TFLOPS. The 1060 ( Xbox One S bumped that number to about It’s a huge increase in power. Of course, 1.4—not really a notable increase. the Xbox One X’s real-world performance will The Xbox One X by comparison features be a bit better than even those model an 8-core APU clocked at 2.3GHz, with 12GB numbers indicate, due to the differences of GDDR5 RAM, all of it higher-throughput between optimizing for consoles versus (326GB/s) than even the 32MB of ESRAM in PC—especially since, as a mid-generation the original Xbox One. By raising both the upgrade, developers are already mostly number of compute cores and the clock comfortable with the Xbox One architecture. speed, peak throughput for the Xbox One X Expect fewer launch-day woes than you’d see is estimated at 6 TFLOPS. at the start of an entirely new generation. 100 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

GEARS OF WAR: LEADING THE CHARGE Which brings us to Gears of War 4, our main point of reference at the moment when it comes to the Xbox One X. To be fair, it does pull out all the stops on the Xbox One X—4K, HDR, the works. It also features two different rendering modes, one labeled “Visuals” and the other “Performance.” Visuals mode ups the graphics of Gears 4 significantly, outputting the game at native 4K with settings reminiscent (as far as we can tell) of High/Ultra on the PC. That’s in-line with the GPU comparison above—my colleague Brad Chacos benchmarked Gears of War 4 (go. on a variety of systems last year, and managed 32 frames per second

on an AMD Radeon Fury X at 4K Ultra, a slightly better card than the 580. Dip a few settings to High and you’d see a steady 30 on the 580 too, most likely. Performance mode is more interesting to me, though. Despite the focus on 4K in the Xbox One X marketing, I’ll take lower resolution and higher frame rate almost any day—that’s my bias as a PC gamer with a 144Hz monitor. Performance mode does just that, eschewing native 4K for upscaled 1080p Ultra, but running at a smooth 60 frames per second. It plays like a whole different game. Everything, from sprinting to shooting to even the explosions is so much smoother. To be honest, Performance mode and its 60

Look at the draw distance on the PC!

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frames-per-second output is more reminiscent face is magically crisper, the reflections better, to me of playing on the PC than the 4K Visuals the eyes more alive. mode. That goes doubly because of how far A/B testing the actual game is easy too. people (usually) sit from the TV. I’m not Feel free to expand the screenshots above, convinced 4K is really necessary. It’s a great and you should be able to see the difference. selling point for Microsoft, but even sitting We’ve also captured some video (embedded five feet from a 55-inch Samsung 4K TV, the in the next section, since it also contains PC difference 60 frames per second made was way more noteworthy than the graphics enhancements of Visuals mode. Your mileage may vary though—I know some people aren’t as sensitive to frame rate. Either way, the Gears of War 4 on the original Xbox One. Note the aliasing on the shotgun game looks better shells, how static the smoke looks, and how indistinct the background looks… than the original Xbox One. I had both consoles plugged into different HDMI ports so I could swap back and forth. Even the main menu of the original Xbox One version is uglier, with protagonist JD Fenix’s face blurry and jagged. Swap over to the Xbox One X, his …and a similar screenshot on the Xbox One X, in 4K-native “Visuals” mode. 102 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

footage). The original Xbox One looks a full generation behind by comparison, especially when it comes to aliasing. Enemies look jagged and indistinct, even compared to the 1080p upscaled version on the X. In frantic moments the Xbox One has a tendency to stutter, where the X is smooth.

HOW DOES IT FARE AGAINST A PC? Pitting the Xbox One X against its predecessor is Easy Mode though. Far more interesting (especially to us at PCWorld) is how the X stands up against a PC. As I said earlier, Brad benched Gears 4 on a variety of setups last year. It’s easy to draw some conclusions if you jump over there (go.—just keep in mind the Xbox One X focuses on 4K native at 30 frames per second on High/Ultra or 1080p upscaled at 60 frames per second on Ultra (though in both cases there’s probably some overhead to ensure a smooth locked frame rate). Does the Xbox One X measure up against a high-end PC? Of course not. We tested the HP Omen X we have in the office, to see what would happen—that’s a machine with dual GTX 1080 Tis. And...well, the results are predictable. In Gears 4 the Omen averaged 70-80

frames per second in the same test sections at 4K Ultra. It was overkill obviously, the point being that a PC can outdo the Xbox One X. On the other hand, the Xbox One X measures up to machines the majority of enthusiast PC gamers are running. Just take a look at the Steam Hardware Survey (go. About 55 percent of PC gamers use GTX 1060-caliber cards and below, while the other 45 percent is a smattering of cards both higher and lower. The fact the Xbox One X matches what 55+ percent of the PC gaming audience uses day-to-day? Pretty impressive.

POST-RELEASE Now that the Xbox One X has officially launched I’ve had time to check out a few more titles. Assassin’s Creed: Origins was the one I felt would show the most obvious differences between PC and the Xbox One X, and that is indeed the case. Below, you’ll see a screenshot of the Xbox One X version.

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One X would benefit more from 1080p upscaled to 4K with better frame rate/detail. 4K is a great buzzword, but in practice it’s not as easily noticed as other adjustments. Something for developers to consider moving forward. Above is a screenshot of the PC game. Unlike Gears 4, Origins only has a single mode: 4K native. It looks surprisingly good in still images, and I’d wager the game is running on the Xbox One X at 4K with High settings—some missing reflections, simpler shadows, and the distant mountains lose some finer details and appear blurrier overall. Still, it’s pretty impressive. The biggest issue is it’s at 30 frames per second, and a pretty jittery 30 frames per second at that. As with Gears, I think Origins would benefit more immediately from a 1080p60 Ultra upscaled to 4K than it does from 4K native at High. Actually, I think all games on the Xbox

As with Gears, I think Origins would benefit more immediately from a 1080p60 Ultra upscaled to 4K than it does from 4K native at High. 104 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

PRICE Alaina’s build above came in around $650700. That’s another area where the Xbox One X has a major advantage—price. We’ve put together a few PC builds comparable to the Xbox One X (, and the cheapest (sans-optical drive because Steam exists) is around $640. That’ll get you basic 4K, 30 frames-per-second gaming. Adding a 4K Blu-Ray drive tacks at least another $100 on the price, and your options are very limited. At $500 then, the Xbox One X is a bargain. A bit ironic, given the outcry about the original Xbox One’s $500 price tag—at the time it seemed like a ripoff. $500 for the Xbox One X seems more than reasonable though, considering it’s cheaper than even the least expensive comparable PC. As for our supercharged HP Omen X comparison, keep in mind that just a single 1080 Ti would cost you more than this entire

console. So yeah, you could absolutely build a high-end PC that blows the Xbox One X out of the water, but the Xbox One X is probably the best price/performance ratio on the market at the moment.

XBOX ONE X HAS AN EDGE IN HDR Another area where the Xbox holds an advantage over PCs at the moment: HDR. High Dynamic Range, or HDR, actually debuted with last year’s S model so it’s not brand-new, but it’ll be new to most Xbox One X buyers, I assume. So far there are only a few tentpole Xbox titles, though luckily Gears 4 is one of them. It’s more subtle than 4K, but again is likely to be more important moving forward. I won’t go into tons of detail, but HDR or High Dynamic Range essentially increases the amount of colors your TV shows, and increases the contrasts between light and dark areas. In Gears 4 this means betterlooking explosions especially—brighter and more vibrant, with a better range of oranges and reds. Gears 4 even includes a nifty mode where you can split the screen, the left showing an HDR-enhanced image and the right showing the standard version. The HDR

side looks like a layer of soap scum was scrubbed away. The difference is that noticeable. The problem: It’s hard to demo HDR. If you watch HDR-ready content on a screen that’s not HDR-equipped, it will just display in the color range you’re accustomed to. Games also need to be mastered specifically for HDR, which means there aren’t a ton of games utilizing it even if you own an HDRready TV. It looks great though, and is a major benefit to both the Xbox One X and S provided you have capable hardware. “Capable hardware” is also why I say it’s an advantage over PCs at the moment: While both Nvidia and AMD technically support HDR output, HDR adoption by monitors has been slow, to say the least. That’ll probably change in 2018, but then again I also thought it would change in 2017, so… DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 105



THE “EXCLUSIVE” PROBLEM Microsoft’s biggest problem, and this is important: Games. Or rather, the lack thereof. Microsoft has suffered all generation from a lack of exclusive titles, and dwindling interest in the few they do have. Halo, Gears of War, and Forza are the main three, with Cuphead, Sunset Overdrive, Quantum Break, and Rare Replay to fill out the gaps. It’s not very impressive, especially when stacked up to Sony’s onslaught of exclusives. Hell, Crackdown 3 was supposed to launch alongside the Xbox One X and then was delayed into next year, leaving Super Lucky’s Tale as the sole “launch title.” That’s not great. Now, the Xbox One X’s situation is a bit

better going forward, insofar as multiplatform titles will henceforth presumably look and play the best on it. That’s more than could be said about the original Xbox One. Microsoft claims 70 titles will be “Enhanced” for the Xbox One X launch. Still, a console is nothing without games, and right now that’s Microsoft’s weakest point—especially this far into a console generation, when most people have already built up friend networks and trophies and a history on the PS4. The Xbox One X is an excellent value and definitely more powerful, but can that overcome four years of a Sony advantage? Especially with no Halo or other system-seller to kickstart the X out the gate? Hard to say.

Here’s your...much-anticipated, system-selling launch game?

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streaming from many streaming services, the I’m not going to dwell much on the Xbox same can be said of most 4K smart TVs One X’s TV features because frankly, even released in the last couple of years. Microsoft doesn’t seem to care anymore. It’s also worth noting the HDMI-In port The Xbox One X does feature a few still exists, so if you’re one of the people improvements over the original Xbox One, using your Xbox as a media box, keep doing though most of these improvements came your thing. Microsoft’s certainly with last year’s S redesign. downplaying those aspects these days and Basically the Xbox One X will double as a has even removed features—chief among 4K media player, for those who still buy them the “Snap” feature that allowed you to physical media. That’s a pretty big win for game and watch something at the same Microsoft seeing as, for whatever reason, time, which was removed with April’s Sony’s PlayStation 4 Pro does not playback Creator’s Update. 4K media—you’d think Sony would know better, considering how pivotal Blu-Ray THE LITTLE THINGS THAT support was for the PS3. ARE GOOD 4K Blu-Rays pumped through the Xbox This review’s getting lengthy, and the Xbox One look phenomenal, as expected. One X’s performance is our chief concern. Microsoft provided us a copy of Planet Earth That said, I do want to call out some last Pros 2, which is probably the best 4K/HDR and Cons before we wrap up. showcase you could ask for. The footage is In the good column, Microsoft’s support crisp, colors are vibrant, it’s beautiful. for backward compatibility. Obviously this The million-dollar question though: How many people are buying physical media? Certainly not as many people as in previous console generations, as Netflix, HBO Go, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc. grow in popularity. And while the Xbox One X features those apps and allows for 4K Ninja Gaiden Black on an Xbox One X? Fantastic. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 107



feature exists on the original Xbox One also, but it’s worth noting because it didn’t exist when we reviewed that console back in 2013. Not only that, but Microsoft recently added backward compatibility with a handful of original Halo 5, Gears of War 4, Metal Gear Solid V, and more, all for a $10 Xbox (meaning the subscription? Not bad. 2001 Xbox) games too. I had a fun time digging out my copy of peripherals that work with the Xbox One X Ninja Gaiden Black earlier this week, right out of the box. Turtle Beach’s new popping the disc in, and seeing the old Stealth 700 headset connects wirelessly to Xbox boot screen. Good on Microsoft there. the Xbox One without a dongle, the first to I’ve also come to love Microsoft’s “Xbox do so and hopefully a sign of things to come. Game Pass,” its newish Netflix-for-games And as much as I dislike UWP on type offering. $10 a month gets you access Windows 10, I’ll admit it’s been great for the to about 100 games, spanning from the Xbox ecosystem. Many of my favorite 2001 Xbox to the Xbox 360 to even a programs have built Windows 10 UWP handful of Xbox One games—Metal Gear versions which are then easily ported over— Solid V, for instance. The games are cycled Spotify, Netflix, and so on. Pretty seamless, in and out monthly, and there are a surprising and a huge advantage over the PlayStation 4 number of quality titles to choose from. in that regard. Definitely worth looking into. (I grabbed Nights: Into Dreams, Ninja Gaiden Black, THE LITTLE THINGS and Metro: Last Light Redux for testing.) THAT ARE BAD There are also signs Microsoft is Now, for the not-so-good. First up, the Xbox loosening its hold on the platform—a pretty One X’s hard drive is comically small. big move. First it was Bluetooth added to Microsoft saw fit to offer a 2TB version of the last year’s new controller design, now it’s Xbox One S, and for good reason: With 108 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Already a quarter full after installing Gears 4, Forza Horizon 2, Super Lucky’s Tale, Metro: Last Light Redux, and half of Rare Replay.

game installs topping 100GB, the Xbox One X’s measly 1TB system drive (with only 650GB of free space out of the box) means you can install approximately 6-10 games nowadays. Less perhaps, once you factor in DLC. That’s absurd. 1TB is better than the shameful 500GB of the original Xbox One, but it’s still woefully underprepared for the realities of modern gaming. You’ll absolutely need an external USB drive or two to supplement, and I can’t fathom why Microsoft didn’t opt for a 2TB standard considering it would’ve cost them, what, an extra $10 per unit? Microsoft’s user interface also continues to disappoint. Despite multiple refreshes in 2017 alone, the system is still cluttered and clumsy to navigate. Menus and submenus are hidden all over the place, the Store is clearly built for a mouse-and-keyboard setup

and translates terribly to gamepad; the push for Mixer over Twitch is bound to confuse and alienate, and so on. It’s just a mess. Rather than reworking a UI that hasn’t worked since 2013, Microsoft desperately needs to jettison a large amount of its design language and start from scratch, like it did multiple times on the Xbox 360. The whole “Flat Arrangement of Squares Cluttered By Ads” setup is not working.

BOTTOM LINE Forgive me for repeating myself, but this is a long review and I want to make sure you didn’t miss the most important point: The Xbox One X is the best price/performance ratio on the market at the moment. Sure, you can build a PC that outperforms it at every turn—some of you reading this probably have. But native 4K gaming for $500? And in a form factor this small and this quiet? That’s pretty incredible, especially when you consider the jump from the original Xbox One—probably Microsoft’s low point for console engineering. There are missteps that bring it down a notch or two, especially that undersized hard drive and the lack of quality exclusive titles, but judged purely on a technical level? The Xbox One X is a huge step up from the original Xbox One and an impressive machine in its own right, matching what the majority of PC gamers have at home. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 109

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GAMERS BUT NOT A GAMING PHONE? High-end features without a high-end price. BY ADAM PATRICK MURRAY DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 111



The Razer Phone, the company’s first foray into smartphones. But don’t call it a gaming phone!


he Razer Phone (go.pcworld. com/rp) is a bit of a puzzle. It’s not surprising that it exists, given that Razer, best known for PC hardware and peripherals, acquired smartphone maker Nextbit in January of 2017 in order to produce this device. Nor is it surprising that, based on our hands-on time with the device at a recent briefing, the Phone seems to be equal parts Nextbit’s Robin ( and Razer’s laptop line, touting impressive specs at a reasonable price of $699. What’s confusing is what it isn’t. Razer says this isn’t meant to be a gaming phone. Rather, it’s a phone for gamers, Razer fans, and Android enthusiasts, meaning it’s intended to 112 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

deliver a great experience for all kinds of “content consumption,” not just gaming. But it’s a weird message when Razer’s core audience is gamers—and Razer is still pushing gaming partnerships that take advantage of the Razer Phone’s unique screen.

THE RAZER PHONE’S FIRST: A 120HZ SCREEN The Razer Phone is packed with a 120Hz, 1440x2560, 5.72-inch LCD panel. If you’ve ever used a high framerate PC display, you know the difference a faster refresh rate can have on simple tasks—not just games. Thumbing through feeds, switching apps, and “consuming content” all felt

There is nothing quite like sliding your app tray up and down over and over again just to see the smooth transition that only a 120Hz screen can give you.

super-smooth. I even got to track the refresh cycles with Razer’s own built-in version of FRAPS (yes, I asked, and yes, you can turn it on in the final version). The panel uses some of the same adaptive refresh technology as Nvidia’s Gsync and AMD’s Freesync, so when you’re idle you also aren’t wasting precious battery. Speaking of battery, the Razer Phone packs a 4,000mAh one inside its 197-gram body. That, paired with the newer Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, help it last for long “content consumption” sessions. The phone also features 8GB of dual channel LPDDR4 RAM clocked at 1,600MHz. Razer really knows its audience when it lists detailed specs like that for a device. How about another PC-centric spec to catch

your attention? Members from the same team that came up with the custom-cooling solutions in the Razer Blade line ( also had a hand in custom cooling for the Snapdragon 835. Razer says its cooling solution allows the 835 to run longer before throttling down, and when it does, it doesn’t throttle as low.

SHARED DESIGN LANGUAGE Razer also wants the Razer Phone to feel right at home with the company’s other hardware offerings—and it does. The engineers worked with some of the same teams that helped make Razer’s refined Razer Blade laptop series. At first glance it looks much like the Robin that DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 113



came before it, but in my hands, the Razer Phone made the Robin feel like a toy. I would describe the overall design to be monolithic— taking cues from Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey. The chassis is all aluminum—like the Razer Blade—and has a nice, tactile feel in my hand. I’ve never been a fan of all-glass phones, so I’m glad to see Razer lean into what it knows. It also feels like a tank that could easily withstand some drops—much like LG’s V20. It was dense without feeling too weighty. The back of the phone is one solid piece of aluminum, disrupted only by Razer’s three-headed snake logo in the middle and a camera bump at the top. The edges show a

The aluminum sure does gather dust and smudges. Still, I prefer it to all-glass phones.

glimpse of antenna lines, but they blend in well. On the front of the Razer Phone is a dual speaker grille—again, like the Razer Blade— with notches taken out for the front-facing camera and sensors.

Razer sees its Phone much like it sees its Blade line, mostly for the hardcore.

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The Razor Phone feels right at home.

PHONE AUDIO WITH A PUNCH The Razer Phone’s dual speaker grille and stereo speaker configuration are not a first by any means, but I’d be hard-pressed to find a louder setup on any phone! Each speaker has its own amp, allowing the Phone to be pushed to higher decibels without distortion. I’m currently using a Google Pixel 2 XL (which also has dual front-facing speakers), and side by side it’s no contest: The Razer Phone blew the Pixel out of the water at the highest levels. Sadly, the Razer Phone does not include a 3.5-inch headphone jack, and I’m not a fan of this decision. It especially makes no sense when Razer makes a number of high-quality headphones that still support this format.

Razer does offer a couple of headphone options that support Apple’s Lightning connector, so I’m hoping the company releases USB-C support in the future. Until then we are stuck with dongles.

STOCK FOR THE ANDROID ENTHUSIAST Razer is also trying to court Android enthusiasts. The Phone runs a near-stock version of Android 7.1.1 out of the gate, and Razer promises 8.0 Oreo support in Q1 of 2018. Unlike Nextbit with the Robin, Razer focuses on the basics while adding only a few custom tweaks, like its own Gamebooster technology and a theme store. We’ve heard this “focus-on-the-basic” approach before (re: Essential,, so DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 115



Razer says that 90Hz might be the sweet spot for performance versus battery.

FINAL THOUGHTS I would have loved to have seen a headphone jack and more attention paid to the camera setup (it’s very basic), but there’s still plenty to like about the Razer Phone. Gaming phone or not, Razer is still partnering with big phone gaming publishers like Square Enix (Final Fantasy) and Tencent (Arena of Valor) to offer 120Hz optimized experiences. During my meeting, I got the feeling that the team from Nextbit got to follow their passions on the software side while having access to the hardware resources of the teams at Razer. It feels like a grown-up Robin, which is what Razer needed.

I’m hoping Razer can deliver. One choice I liked was Razer’s decision to default to Nova Prime Launcher rather than make its own. I’ve been using Nova Launcher for years, and it’s one of the most popular out there. The Robin had a heavily skinned UI that matched the aesthetic they were going for at Nextbit, and Razer could easily have gone down that same path. Instead Razer is allowing the freedom of stock Android and providing a theme store if you want custom Razer looks. To round out the enthusiast angle, the Razer phone is sold unlocked (GSM only), with the bootloader unlocked out of the The Nextbit Robin spent box as well. This phone might some time in a cocoon this be a great option for the tinkeryear and emerged a hardcore butterfly. ers out there! 116 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017



Julius Gaines, SINCE 1933. He’s got a curious intellect that can’t be satiated. Now, he and 1 in 6 seniors face the threat of hunger and millions more live in isolation. So pop by, drop off a hot meal and say a warm hello. Volunteer for Meals on Wheels at






aspersky Lab’s 400 million users worldwide can’t be happy about recent news linking the company’s antivirus products to spying. The Russian government reportedly used the Moscow-based company’s software to steal sensitive information from American intelligence agents. The incidents remind us that the security products we trust to protect our PCs have more or less full access. “Every cloud-based anti-virus has the potential and the ability to delete files, to modify files,” said Jake Williams, Founder and President of Rendition Infosec. “They have the ability to launch new processes as well as terminate existing processes.” It’s bad if someone hacks your computer. If someone hacks your computer and uses your own antivirus software to take over, that’s a disaster. “Looking at all of this together,” Williams concluded, “It becomes clear that if whoever’s running your anti-virus doesn’t have your best interests at heart they can


definitely do some damage.” Now that we know Kaspersky antivirus software can turn against you, the next question is whether we can do anything about it. We talked to security experts to find out more.

KASPERSKY’S PURPORTED DATA EXFILTRATION: A TIMELINE The Kaspersky story heated up earlier this fall. On October 5, The Wall Street Journal reported ( that hackers working for the Russian government in 2015 stole documents detailing how the U.S. attacks foreign computer networks and defends domestic ones. The Russian hackers used Kaspersky Anti-Virus to identify the data and target it on the home computer of a National Security Agency contractor, the Journal said. A few days later The New York Times reported ( that the Americans only found out about the purported Kaspersky data leak from Israeli spies. The Israelis, the Times said, hacked into


120 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

Kaspersky themselves, where they watched Russian hackers use Kaspersky software in real time as a “sort of Google search for sensitive information.” The Journal followed up a day later with another report ( This one said Russian agents used Kaspersky to search for terms like “top secret” across computers where Kaspersky software was installed. Kaspersky Lab has denied allegations that it’s in cahoots with Russian intelligence. Nevertheless, retailers including Best Buy (go., Office Depot (go.pcworld. com/ode), and Staples ( have pulled Kaspersky software from store shelves during, and leading up to, the controversy. Company co-founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky announced he would open up the company’s code to third-party review to quell concerns about Russian interference (go. Soon after, Kaspersky Lab also announced

the preliminary results of an internal investigation (go. into the purported spying on the U.S. The company said its antivirus software simply did its job. A contractor put covert malware onto his home machine with Kaspersky installed. After a scan, the antivirus detected the new malware, uploaded it to Kaspersky’s cloud servers for analysis, and at that point the covert data was exposed. Kaspersky said once it discovered the government-developed malware the code was deleted from company servers and never delivered to any government agencies.

THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING. THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING? For most North Americans, the default is to assume the worst about Kaspersky Lab, especially because Eugene Kaspersky himself was trained at a KGB-run school. Security experts see some room for explanation. It’s not unusual, for one thing, for information security (infosec) professionals to start in the military or government intelligence before entering the private sector. Kaspersky Lab is actually an important player in the infosec community for the useful threat information it makes freely available. “I think they have probably some of the best DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 121



researchers and talents in the world,” said Amit Serper, principal security researcher for Boston-based infosec company Cybereason. Good works aren’t enough to absolve Kaspersky, however. That’s why the company wants third parties to audit its code. But even that won’t satisfy most critics. “I think it’s entirely for show, and I think they know that,” Williams said. “It’s not a question of ‘is the code itself secure?’ I would argue that Kaspersky is probably some of the most secure A/V code out there right now. It’s a matter of how they use the code that’s going to be controlled by the Kaspersky command center.” Serper offered similar sentiments, but added that the data is what most concerns him. “What data is collected [from user PCs]? How is it collected? How is it saved? How is it catalogued? I think it’s a data science question, and not a software engineering question.”

WHAT HOME USERS CAN DO We may never know whether Kaspersky Lab is a willing accomplice for Russian intelligence. What you can do, however, is stick to the basics of PC security and understand your “threat model”—the realistic threats that you confront as an everyday computer user. If you’re an engineer working on infrastructure projects, a research scientist, or even a journalist, then Russian spying on your machine might be part of your threat model, says Williams. Those people may want to avoid Kaspersky products. 122 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

The reality, however, is that Russian intelligence is not interested in the average American’s family photos or personal diaries. As Williams pointed out on Twitter (go.pcworld. com/oot), technicians working on your PC at a local computer shop pose a higher risk of data theft than Russian intelligence via Kaspersky or other software. “Personally, I don’t think that Kaspersky is a threat to the home user,” Serper said. Williams also wouldn’t advise that most home users dump Kaspersky—he hasn’t even advised any of his family and friends to delete the software. “But if I have a brand-new machine,” Williams added. “And I’m trying to decide should I install Kaspersky or not? I’m not sure that I would.” That’s not only because of the worries about espionage, Williams says, but the question of Kaspersky’s long-term fate in the U.S. market given current tensions. Whatever your decision, the worst option would be to give up on antivirus altogether. “Are you worried about the .01 percent of the Advanced Persistent Threat groups [elite and state-level hackers] that are probably not interested in you,” Williams said. “or are you worried about the 99.9 percent of stuff that’s going to hurt you? The reality is A/V keeps most of that stuff away.” Besides, this problem is not likely to disappear—if anything, more consumer-grade software may soon end up in the cross-fire. Before reports of Kaspersky surfaced, hackers


linked to China infiltrated and delivered malware via the popular PC utility CCleaner ( Williams believes we’ll see more state-level hackers accelerate their computer hacking programs thanks to recent high-level leaks of infiltration methods such as Vault 7 ( and the Shadow Brokers hack (

STAYING SAFE WITH ANTIVIRUS SOFTWARE To counter these potential problems, Williams advises home users to stick to big-name products as a way to benefit from a digital version of herd immunity. “For a product that’s widely used,” he said, “a back door in that product will be caught much more quickly

than a product that is sparsely used.” Serper reminds us to keep our machines and software up to date. Vulnerabilities and hacking methods that get leaked are much easier to pull off because many people don’t patch their machines to fix critical vulnerabilities. As usual, basic common sense and security practices are your best defense. Rely on good, popular software, pick an antivirus that you trust, regularly patch your operating system and software, and don’t forget to use a reliable ad blocker in your browser to guard against some common web-based attacks. That may not defend you against all possible intrusions, but it’s the most reasonable approach short of wearing a tinfoil hat and running Linux. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 123

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Here’s How


Android Instant Apps: What they are and how to use them on your phone Get apps—no downloading required. BY MICHAEL SIMON


ow that Google’s Instant Apps ( have made it to the Play Store, you can expect to see a lot more of them. While the initial rollout is limited to just IMAGE: MICHAEL SIMON

a handful of apps, dozens of apps and games will soon be available in instant form. But what exactly are Instant Apps? And how do you get them on your phone? We’re here to help you get started: DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 125



WHAT ARE INSTANT APPS? Instant Apps are the next step in app evolution, a universal Android solution that brings the speed and power of a native app with the ease and immediacy of a web app. They look and operate just like one of the apps that are installed on your phone, but you don’t need to download anything.


purchasing, and videos, just like they would in a regular app. However, Instant Apps can be specifically targeted, so a developer could choose to deliver a certain portion of their app to a user at a specific time. That would effectively “lock” the rest of the app until the user decided to download the full version.


Correct. Using an Instant App is similar to browsing a webpage. Once you close the window, it disappears.

Like Progressive Web Apps, Instant Apps can be designed to work online, but some features would be accessible only when connected to a network.



Yes and no. Instant Apps don’t have any technical limitations, and developers can deliver things like account signup,

Pretty much. Google says phones going all the way back to Jelly Bean can run Instant Apps, though some phones may not be capable of displaying them.


Setting up Instant Apps is as easy as flipping a switch.

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You need to enable Instant Apps for your account on your phone. Open the Settings app and find your Google Account settings. Go to Instant Apps, flip the toggle on, and tap Yes, I’m In on the next screen.

You can play the daily New York Times mini crossword as an Instant App.

HOW DO I KNOW I’M USING AN INSTANT APP? Well, the point is that you’re not supposed to know when you’re running an Instant App. They launch just like a regular app would, and offer the same experience. But there are a couple of telltale signs. For one, most Instant Apps will include a link to download the full app at the top of the screen. Also, if you’re in a browser when you open an Instant App, the address bar will disappear when you click an Instant link.

CAN I SHARE INSTANT APPS? Yes, and in fact that’s their main advantage. If you see an article you like in the Buzzfeed app, for example, you can share it with a

friend and they’ll be able to launch directly into that section of the app even if they haven’t previously installed it.

HOW DO I FIND AN INSTANT APP? Unless you’re specifically searching for one in the Play Store, it’s actually kind of random. Someone may send you a link that opens up in an instant app, or you could do a Google search that sends you to one. To test it out, type NYT Crossword into the Chrome browser on your Android phone and tap on the result with the word Instant next to it. Open that link, and you’ll be taken to the New York Times Crossword app with the ability to work on the current day’s mini-puzzle. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 127



Hollar is one of the Instant Apps available to try in the Play Store.

HOW DO I FIND AN INSTANT APP IN THE PLAY STORE? When you visit an app page that has an Instant App companion, there will be a Try Now button. Tap it and you’ll be taken directly to the instant app.


• NYTimes Crossword ( • BuzzFeed News ( • Onefootball Live Soccer Scores ( • Red Bull TV ( • Dotloop ( • Share The Meal (

At launch, there are only a handful of apps to try, but more will be added:


• Hollar ( • Skyscanner (

If you head back to the Instant Apps tab in your Google Account settings, you can see a history of the Instant Apps you’ve used.

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How to choose a TV antenna Attention cord cutters: This in-depth guide to TV antenna tech will help you find just the right model for tuning in free over-the-air broadcasts. BY MARTYN WILLIAMS


utting up a TV antenna is one of the best steps you can take to breaking your reliance on pay TV. Most areas of the U.S. have access to several dozen TV channels broadcast over the air for free. A TV antenna will bring them to your TV, so you won’t be stuck with the “local broadcast TV fee” charged by your cable or IMAGE: PETER ROBERTS

satellite company. And if you decide to subscribe to an online TV provider, you won’t need to worry about which ones carry your local channels (not all of them do). As a bonus, they’ll make your big-screen TV shine with a better picture than cable or satellite can deliver. This is possible because those transmissions are typically compressed in order to preserve bandwidth, so the service DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 129



providers can cram more channels into their pipes. You’ll notice the difference in quality on the major broadcast networks mostly, because all of them broadcast in high definition. Most stations broadcast a 1080i (interlaced scanning) signal, which is the highest A screenshot of the TV Fool website showing TV reception in San Francisco. resolution currently used for OTA TV in the US, but a handful where you live and of those, which ones you transmit at 720p (progressive scanning). Both want to watch. specs are considered to be high definition. To figure out what’s on air where you live, Here’s our five-step guide to choosing the head over to TV Fool ( right TV antenna: It pairs the FCC’s broadcast TV database with topographical maps to give you a pretty • Determine which channels are available detailed estimation of which signals will reach where you live your house and how strong they’ll be. • Choose which channels you want to watch Enter your house address in the search • Check the rules on antenna installation box, hit enter, and you’ll get something like where you live the above screenshot in return. • Figure out which type of antenna you need That chart above looks pretty • Select the antenna complicated, but it’s really not.

WHICH CHANNELS ARE AVAILABLE ON AN ANTENNA? The first step to choosing a TV antenna is figuring out which channels are available 130 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

WHICH CHANNELS DO I WANT TO WATCH? At this point, it might be a good idea to check the TV guide in a newspaper or website (go. to determine what’s on

air and what you want to watch. Make sure you choose “antenna” or “over the air” as your TV provider in the online program guide, so you don’t get cable channels mixed in. Many TV stations broadcast several channels as a digital package, so make sure to look at those as well. Once you’ve made your list, examine the TV Fool results to find the channels you want to watch. Write down the number in the second column, the Real Channel, the second-to-last column, the True Azimuth, and the color (green yellow, or red). The colors will inform you if an indoor antenna will be sufficient, or if you’ll need an attic or roofmounted model to pull them in.

CAN I PUT UP AN ANTENNA? In almost all cases, the answer is yes. The FCC’s over-the-air reception devices (OTARD) rule ( gives you the

The FCC’s OTARD rule.

right to erect an antenna for the reception of over-the-air TV or satellite programming. It applies to both homeowners and renters, and it overrides the power of home-owners associations (HOAs) to block antenna deployments. The rule ( le11) covers antennas required for an “acceptable quality signal” on your property, or if you rent, an area where you have exclusive use. The FCC website has full details.

WHICH ANTENNA DO I NEED? TV Fool ranks station in order of predicted signal power, with the easiest to receive at the top. The green channels can probably be received with a simple indoor antenna, yellow ones will probably require a larger antenna in an attic space or on the roof, and the red ones will require a good roof-mounted antenna. Indoor antennas are typically flat, so they’re easy to set up, usually by hanging them in a window on the side of the house facing the transmitter. Some look different, a bit like the old ‘rabbit ears’ antennas or even like a soundbar (, but the principle is the same: install them in a favorable location. Indoor antennas are typically fine for all the strong local channels, but if you want channels that are weaker or further away, you DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 131



might need to go larger and put an antenna in antennas are designed to cover one, two or your attic space or on your roof. three bands. Not every antenna covers them all. Compared to the roof, an antenna in the The real channel number helps you figure attic will probably receive slightly less signal this out. After TV stations went digital, some because it’s enclosed, but it might be no longer transmit on the channel number enough to get stable TV reception. If you they announce on air. For example, channel 5 hate the look of an outdoor antenna, then in San Francisco is actually broadcasting on experiment. An attic-mounted antenna will channel 29. That’s why the real channel is also be easier to maintain. important in antenna selection. The direction of the TV transmitter tower is Be prepared to put up with a lot of also important. If you’re using an indoor marketing speak when checking out antenna, you’ll want to put it in a window facing antennas. For the record, there is no such that direction. If you’re using an outdoor thing as an “HD” antenna or “digital” antenna, it will show you which way to point. As antenna—the format of the signals being signals get weaker, going from green to yellow received doesn’t matter—and take those to red, the direction is more important. If you “miles” range claims in the product want to tune in weaker stations from towers in specifications with a grain of salt. No different directions, you’ll probably need a manufacturer can guarantee their antenna will rotator. This motorized device will turn the pull in a signal from a given number of miles antenna so that it’s oriented to pull in those weaker signals. Knowing the real channel number will help you select an antenna. TV broadcasting in North America is spread across three frequency bands: low VHF (channels 2 through 6), high VHF (channels 7 through 13), and UHF (channels 14 through 50). Because of the different The RCA Skybar is designed to resemble a soundbar and can be mounted frequencies in use, beneath a wall-hung flat-screen. 132 PCWorld DECEMBER 2017

A TV antenna with rotator installed.

because too much depends on local topology, signal strength, interference, and other factors unique to your location. Having said that, those range claims are useful in evaluating antennas from the same manufacturer. It’s a good bet that an antenna labeled that claims 65 miles of range is generally better for long-distance reception than one from the same company that claims to deliver 30 miles of range.

ANALYZING YOUR LIST In the example above, an indoor antenna will probably pull in all the green channels coming from the transmitter at 240 degrees, and the same antenna will also likely work for the third channel in the list, which comes from a different transmitter at 199 degrees, but has a strong signal.

The last station on the list will require a bit more work. A larger antenna is probably required, and because it’s more than 100 degrees from the others, it will probably require a second antenna or a rotator. Now is the time to ask yourself if that sixth channel is worth the extra equipment and installation. Finally, look at those channel numbers. In the list, two channels are high VHF (12 and 7) and the rest are UHF, so you’ll need an antenna that covers both those bands.

DO I NEED A SIGNAL AMPLIFIER OR A ROTATOR? If you’re unable to receive distant TV stations due to low signal levels, you should consider a signal amplifier. It’s always best to collect as much signal as possible at the antenna, so don’t skimp on a small one and try to make up

If you’re unable to receive distant TV stations due to low signal levels, you should consider a signal amplifier. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 133



for it with an amplifier. But if a large antenna still won’t pull in the station without picture breakup, a signal amplifier might help. You also might need one if you have an excessively long run of cable, say from a distant spot on a piece of land to a house. A rotator will turn the TV antenna in any direction with the click of a remote. These are useful if you want to receive stations from several different locations.

cable from interference, and an outer sheath to protect the cable from the elements. Don’t be tempted to save a few dollars reusing old coax. Buy new coax in the length you need. Try to avoid coupling two cables together, as each union will result in a little signal loss. The most common type of cable for TV is called RG-6.


Predicting which antenna will work with certainty is almost impossible. The information garnered from sites like TV Fool The connection from your antenna to your TV is will provide a strong indication of what should every bit as important as the antenna itself. You work, but there are other variables at work. need a high-quality coaxial cable (“coax” for In some areas, such as cities or hilly places, short) for the job. Coax has a center wire that signals can bounce off obstacles like buildings carries the signal and is surrounded by a plastic and cause interference, trees can grow leaves insulator. An outer braid shields the center in the spring and block stations you got fine in the winter, and atmospheric conditions can alter the way signals reach your house. Moving an antenna just a little to one side or up and down a window can have a big effect on reception. If you’re putting up an external antenna, one side of your roof might bring in nothing while the other side provides perfect reception. Be prepared to A piece of coaxial cable cut and ready for a connector to be attached. experiment.


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How to delete or disable your Facebook account The process is easy, and you have options—the hard part is deciding whether you want to forever part ways. BY NICK MEDIATI AND MELISSA RIOFRIO


eleting your Facebook account may be a fantasy you entertain briefly every time you see one too many intrusive ads or political posts ( on your feed. We understand. IMAGE: FACEBOOK

The good news is, you have two options for fulfilling this fantasy: deactivation, which can be undone, or full-on deletion—and even then, you have a chance to change your mind. Here’s how they both work. DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 135



DEACTIVATE YOUR FACEBOOK ACCOUNT Deactivating your Facebook account puts it on hiatus. Your profile will be removed from the site, as will most of what you posted to Facebook, though messages and other things will stick around). Deactivation can be undone. Facebook will retain your data in case you decide to come back. You can always reactivate your account later by logging in to Facebook. If you’re not sure you want to leave permanently, this is a great way to try the Facebook-free life before you make a final decision. To deactivate your account, log in to Facebook. At the top of your Facebook page, click the down-arrow icon at far right. Choose Settings from the menu that appears, and

Go to your Facebook Settings and select General to find the deactivate option.

then on the next screen select General from the list along the left side of the window. Once there, go to the Manage Account section at the bottom to find the option to

Facebook tries to talk you out of deactivating your account, natch, by reminding you of all your friends who will miss you if you leave.

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deactivate your account. Click Deactivate Your Account to start the process. Facebook will try to guilt you into staying by showing you photos of your Facebook friends, and then asking you why you want to deactivate your account. Once you tell Facebook why you don’t want to be friends anymore, click the Deactivate button, enter your password one last time, and Facebook will proceed to deactivate your account. Remember, you can always go back by logging into Facebook.


The instructions for deleting your Facebook account are easy to find: Just hit the question-mark icon at the top of your account page and type delete account into the text bar that appears.

Deleting your Facebook account, on the other hand, kills it completely. You won’t be able to log back in to retrieve or view anything delete your account. Open the Settings menu you’ve posted to Facebook, and if you want on Facebook as described above, and go to to use Facebook again, you’ll have to start the General page. You’ll find a link at the from scratch. You can find all the details if you hit the help icon at the top right of your Facebook account page (it looks like a question mark) and type deactivate account into the search bar that appears. Hit the Let Us Know link in this description to start the deletion process. (Note: Facebook recommends that you download a copy of the data you’ve When you decide to delete your Facebook account, you have to published to the site before you log back in first and prove you’re not a bot

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password and pass a textrecognition test to proceed. Once you’ve proven you’re not a bot, a Permanently Delete Account dialog box will appear. Take a moment to read the explanation of what’s going to happen. Note the 14-day window to change your mind When you delete your Facebook account, you get 14 days to change your mind. before your Facebook account is really, truly dead to you. bottom to download a copy of your Facebook This is it: If you hit the OK button, Facebook data. Click the link. The service will then guide will begin the account deletion process. you through the process of downloading an If you choose to delete and then change archive of all your Facebook data.) your mind, no problem! All you have to do is Facebook wants to make sure you are log back into Facebook within those 14 days. who you say you are before it deletes an You’ll see a dialog box that will let you cancel account, so you’ll have to enter your the deletion.

You have 14 days after deleting your account to log back in and save it from obliteration.

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How to type emoji on your PC using Windows 10 Fall Creators Update Why should smartphones have all the fun? BY MARK HACHMAN


ow can I type emoji on my PC keyboard? It’s a question that you’ve probably asked, given up on, shrugged, and then pulled out your smartphone. Now, with Windows 10 and the Fall Creators Update IMAGE: iSTOCK

(, a new emoji keyboard will make adding emoji to Twitter, Facebook, and other apps a snap. While there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned smiley-face :) or GIF, an emoji is a simple way to add a bit of fun to your DECEMBER 2017 PCWorld 139



communications. That’s the whole point of emoji, after all! And while they’ve been part of smartphone culture for years, Microsoft has now added its easy emoji keyboard to Windows 10. For now, we’ll show you how to bring up emoji under the current version of Windows 10 (the Creators Update, which many of you still have), and how it will become easier once the Fall Creators Update drops. (We used Insider Build 16215 [go.] for testing, then checked it against the Fall Creators Update, itself.)

HOW TO TYPE EMOJI UNDER WINDOWS 10 What was so annoying about the state of emoji in the Windows 10 Creators Update is that Microsoft almost, but not quite, had it right. A tool called the On-Screen Keyboard is actually an accessibility app that you can launch using the Start menu, or, via the Control Panel, trigger to launch whenever

you boot Windows. The On-Screen keyboard is not an emoji app, however, and trying to type a smiley face simply types in text: a colon and a closed parentheses symbol. Given that the on-screen keyboard is rather detailed, you would think that emoji could be built right in. Nope. If you’re lucky enough to have a tablet, emoji are accessible only if you undock the tablet and put it into tablet mode. In tablet mode, you’ll see an on-screen keyboard icon appear in the lower right-hand corner of your taskbar. It’s this keyboard that allows you to type in emoji within the Creators Update—if you enjoy typing on glass while trying to tweet or send email. Discovering that Microsoft allows emoji in one on-screen keyboard but not in the other was the sort of design decision that, as a user, made you want to tear your hair out. Fortunately, Microsoft has resolved that issue with the Fall Creators Update.

Microsoft’s emoji keyboard in Windows 10 tablet mode, within the older Creators Update.

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keyboard (and only that tab, for now) there’s a small “swatch” of what looks like fabric to the upper right, near the X icon to close the emoji window. The swatch represents a global adjustment for the skin tone for each emoji, which you may vary as you choose. If there’s any downside to Microsoft’s emoji window, it’s that developers have already coded in solutions to fix the issue. If you post something to Facebook, or use the Web app that Twitter provides, each service will present you with a small emoji icon to add whatever emoji you’d like, regardless of whether you have the Fall Creators Update. That’s not the case for all apps, though. And Microsoft’s own—Word, PowerPoint, Mail, and others—lack the capabilities that the new emoji keyboard adds. Now that the emoji keyboard has dropped within the Fall Creators Update, it’s cause for !

Once you receive the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update, here’s how to launch the emoji keyboard within Windows 10: either use the WIN + . (the period punctuation mark) key, or else the WIN + ; (semi-colon) key. Either will open the new emoji keyboard. There, you’ll find the standard range of emoji, from people to food to sports, plus Microsoft-specific emoji like the ninjacat. You can navigate among the various “tabs” or categories of emoji via the Tab key, and touch or mouse to the one you’d like, or use the arrow keys. The Enter key selects the proper emoji. There’s one catch: Somewhat inexplicably, you can enter only one emoji at a time. After you enter your emoji, the keyboard disappears. That means, of course, that if you want to really emphasize a point— , for example—you’ll have to re-invoke the keyboard three separate times, or just copy and paste. Unfortunately, the emoji keyboard isn’t a true, draggable window, either—it remains in place. There’s one other option you should know about: On the very first tab of the emoji Some developers have already taken action to add emoji.

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Tech Spotlight

A video showcase of the latest trends

Watch the video at go.pcworld. com/lsw

Lenovo’s Star Wars: Jedi Challenges

≥ Lenovo’s Star Wars: Jedi Challenges is augmented reality done right. It’s affordable at $199, it’s easy to set up and use, and the games are fun. The kit includes an authentic-looking Jedi lightsaber, a tracking beacon for orientation, and an augmented reality headset that you pair with a compatible smartphone.

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