Let’s cut to the chase: For many people, PC gaming is synonymous with Steam. Valve’s ubiquitous gaming client is both storefront and service, delivering a one-stop shop for buying games, managing those games, and even building out a friends list to chat with while you play.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Steam’s rife with hidden features that can help you get more out of your PC gaming experience—tricks that few people ever touch. Here are some of the most useful, starting with obscure (yet helpful) library management tools on this page before diving into more exotic tips.
The best laptops today are basking in the glow of Intel’s 8th-gen Core CPUs, which at last bring quad-core performance to mainstream machines. The only thing missing is Oprah shouting, “and you get an 8th-gen quad-core laptop!”
There’s plenty of good news with this new generation. Our favorite convertible laptop, HP’s Spectre x360 13, sports a quad-core 8th gen chip while maintaining its diminutive size. It’s really the total package.
But let’s be honest: Not everyone needs a quad-core powerhouse laptop, especially if the hottest application they run is Microsoft Excel. Check out our budget favorites, like the Acer Aspire E15 and Asus ZenBook Flip, whose dual-core CPUs do just fine with mainstream fare; and the Asus Chromebook Flip, a well-priced and versatile laptop for living on the web—or delving into the wide, wide world of Android apps.
Playerunknown's Battlegrounds has launched a new update today aimed squarely at Fortnite players with the Event Pass: Sanhok. Join Adam and Leif (plus squad) as they buy the pass and try out the new map and progression system.
Sure, the Intergalactic Steam Summer Sale has thousands of games going cheap right now, but over at the Humble Store you can get a damned fine game for the even more compelling price of free. Until 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m. Pacific on Saturday—or until supplies run out—you can claim Shadowrun Returns at no cost except having to create a Humble account. The game itself comes in the form of a Steam key.
Shadowrun Returns wasn’t perfect when it released in 2013, but the isometric RPG’s gorgeous artwork and fantasy-infused cyberpunk world sucked us in regardless. “I got invested in the world of Shadowrun Returns,” Hayden Dingman wrote in his review. “I enjoyed chatting with the colorful characters—including my best friend Mr. Kluwe, a troll bodyguard—roaming the streets with an assault rifle in hand or a katana on my back, and barreling through corporate computer systems in pursuit of illicit information.”
It’s almost July and the summer gaming fun is starting with gear and games hitting some awesome prices—or at least awesome for our current GPU-impoverished gaming world. Right now, at Amazon you can get an EVGA GeForce GTX 1060 for $250.
Dell already had a winning formula for its flagship desktop replacement.
The Alienware 17 R4 sat atop our guide to the best gaming laptops ever since we reviewed it just shy of a year ago. Sure, it was big and heavy like all the most powerful gaming laptops are, but the notebook delivered such blisteringly fast performance that the trade-off proved worthwhile for enthusiasts. The classic Alienware design delivered nice touches (like side RGB accent lights) you don’t often see elsewhere. It kicked ass, full stop.
It’s freezing here in San Francisco, so you know what that means: It’s time for the Steam Summer Sale again. Of course, maybe you already knew that: It’s the first day of summer after all, and oh yeah, the Steam Database Twitter account leaked the date.
Regardless, it’s here, and bringing with it the usual tide of discounts. Remember of course that this is a “New Era” Steam Sale, meaning no Daily Deals, Flash Sales, or any of the other fun stuff. Then again, you probably know that already, because the “New Era” is itself something like three years old at this point.
Still there are some decent deals hidden among the ever-increasing piles of chaff that fill Steam these days. Right on the front page you’ve got Tyranny for $15 and Thimbleweed Park for $12, both pretty great sale prices for games that are still relatively new.
Five years ago, Intel faced an unexpected transition: Intel chief executive Paul Otellini was stepping down, two years before his expected retirement. Former COO Brian Krzanich took Otellini's place. Now it’s Krzanich’s turn to leave unexpectedly, after violating an Intel policy against fraternizing with employees.
The good news, if any: Krzanich and Intel weathered the same forces that any new chief executive will have to face—a declining PC market, and Intel’s ongoing efforts to breach a mobile market that has stubbornly resisted its entry. The question for consumers, though, is how much effort Intel’s new chief will dedicate to the PC market that has sustained Intel for decades.
Unless you, the crime-fighting ethical hacker, stay on top of your training—your counterparts, the unethical criminal hackers— will continue to grow in sophistication, increasing their nefarious holds on networks and the critical, sensitive, and extremely valuable data they hold. The Certified Ethical Hacker Bootcamp Bundle provides access to 526 lessons and 77 hours of content available 24/7 for an entire year—all designed to make you a cybersecurity expert.
CloudBerry Backup Free is an app that's especially useful for users who wind up with data scattered across a several online services. Not too long ago, I was rowing that boat, with digital stuff strewn across Mozy, OneDrive, Google, etc. It got confusing. CloudBerry makes it easy to synchronize the files in multiple locations. It has some foibles, but it gets the job done. Check out our reviews and rankings of the best free backup solutions to see how competing products fare.
CloudBerry Backup is designed to interface with online storage services and will be a breeze for IT types. The average user? Once you’re up to speed, it all makes sense, but that may take a bit longer than with most programs. There's a boatload of options and a similar-sized vessel of supported services: Amazon S3 and Glacier, Microsoft One Drive and Azure, Google Drive, and BackBlaze, just to name a few. The complete list is impressive, as you can see below.
Google this week released a feature that Android users have wanted since the days of the Nexus phones: Messages on the web. Finally, Android users can log into a browser to see and send messages, just like their Apple pals.
While the feature is still rolling out to phones, it's already live on the web and it's a snap to get started:
Antivirus software is nearly as crucial as a PC’s operating system. Even if you’re well aware of potential threats and practice extreme caution, some threats just can’t be prevented without the extra help of an AV program—or a full antivirus suite.
You could, for example, visit a website that unintentionally displays malicious ads. Or accidentally click on a phishing email (it happens!). Or get stung by a zero-day threat, where an undisclosed bug in Windows, your browser, or an installed program gives hackers entry to your system.
We’re not suggesting that PC security software is 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, like ransomware, on your machine. Anyone who actively uses email, clicks on links, and downloads programs will benefit from an antivirus suite.
You've seen us display the contents of our pockets, discuss our favorite adult beverages, and even use an installed CPU as a coaster during our live builds, but maybe that's still not personal enough for you. If that's the case, you'll want to tune into our new vlog series.
For our first project—a PC that can simultaneously play games and stream to Twitch—we're charting the entire process from start to finish. That includes everything from picking parts to configuring our choice of streaming software. Unlike our live builds, you'll get to follow us along this whole journey toward Internet stardom.
(Or, more likely, a resounding lack thereof. But it'll still be fun.)
If you rip and library your own media, there's no better tool for storing and streaming it than a NAS box. These versatile storage devices also serve as the perfect personal, secure cloud for backing up your PCs and other devices.
Peripherals are how you communicate with your PC—the hardware you actually touch and hear and feel every day. The in-box ones that come with PCs usually aren’t the best, but Amazon’s huge one-day Logitech sale has all kinds of deals for upgrading your setup on the cheap.
A duck, a pig, and a zombie(?) walk into the burned out ruins of a bar, and all hell breaks loose. At least, I think it was a bar. To be honest, it was more ruins than anything else, and that was before one of the 15-odd enemies threw a Molotov through the window and lit everything on fire.
I went hands-on with Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden at E3 last week, and it was a real treat—like playing XCOM’s quirky cousin. So engaging, I didn’t even mind I got my ass kicked.
Super mutant scum
Four times I got my ass kicked and started over, I should mention. And I wasn’t alone. I just barely squeezed Mutant Year Zero into E3—it was actually the last appointment on the last day—and still we were told that only three people had managed to beat the demo the entire week. Some difficulty tuning is in order, maybe.
Keeping your PC secure isn’t always cheap. To get a top antivirus suite, for example, you’ll easily pay $50 to $100 per year. On top of that, your password manager is another $25 to $35 per year, and if you want to pay for a VPN connection it’s at least another $50 to $60 annually.
You don’t have to break the bank with today’s deal, however. Through July 3, Humble is offering a Cybersecurity Software Bundle that cuts through all the high prices to get you one heck of a deal.
The best antivirus solution is one that’s as simple as possible. After all, if a user can’t navigate the app to take advantage of its features, then much of the program’s usefulness is lost. Trend Micro’s Maximum Security nails this principle with some of the easiest navigation we’ve seen yet.
Note: This review is part of our best antivirus roundup. Go there for details about competing products and how we tested them.
Bullguard Premium Protection is feature-packed with what the company calls “next gen anti-malware,” a new game optimization tool, and a “firewall on steroids.” As a premium security suite it certainly has all the necessary features and then some. Bullguard’s protection is also highly rated by independent AV testing organizations, but this combination of heavy security does come with its problems, especially for older machines.
Bullguard tries to be a very simple desktop application to navigate and understand. For the most part it succeeds, though you do have to get used to its logic. When you first fire it up, Bullguard Premium Protection presents a tiled interface for all of its major sections including: Antivirus, Firewall, Vulnerabilities, Backup, Game Booster, PC Tune Up, Parental Control, and Home Network Scanner. When each featured section of the security suite is running smoothly you’ll see a green checkmark on its respective tile.
It’s been nearly five years since Google shut down its Reader service, and we still haven’t gotten over it. We’ve tried our share of replacements—Feedly, Inoreader, NewBlur, etc.—but between subscription fees, cross-platform compatibility, and interface oddities, we’ve yet to find anything that completely fills the void Reader left in our feeds.
But Google hasn’t given up on organized, personalized news feeds. Quite the contrary: After taking several swings with services such as Google+, Google Now, and News and Weather, Google unveiled at its I/O developer conference in May a brand-new Google News app, with a uniform experience across Android, iOS, and the web, a new philosophy, and a completely redesigned interface.