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Windows 10 S review: Microsoft's OS for students is hard to love

Microsoft?s Windows 10 S is what happens when a once-easygoing operating system has kids and turns into a helicopter parent. Windows 10 S, a locked-down version of Windows 10 found on the Surface Laptop and a small group of low-cost, third-party notebooks, keeps students safe and secure by restricting them to the Windows Store. But as our review shows, the lack of freedom chafes.

Locking your PC away from the big, bad, outside world makes sense when your children are going off to high school or college, Microsoft thinks.But even the most dutiful parent will wonder why their child can?t use Chrome to beam YouTube videos to a Chromecast, print on some local printers, or protect their PC with anything other than Windows Defender. There?s always an escape hatch: a simple upgrade to Windows 10 Pro. But otherwise, Windows 10 S can be an exercise in frustration.

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Amazon is selling a two-bay Netgear NAS box for less than $200 today

If you?re ready to beef up your home network, Amazon has a good deal on a two-bay network attached storage device. For $191.20, you can get Netgear?s ReadyNAS 212 2-Bay NAS. The sale lasts until just before midnight on Tuesday, Pacific time.

A NAS is basically really smart external storage that can be used to backup your family?s PCs, run a media server, or act as a regular file server. This particular device features a 1.4GHz quad-core Cortex A15 processor, 2GB of RAM, and supports up to 16TB of storage as 2.5- or 3.5-inch SATA drives. It also has dual gigabit ethernet and a ready-made user interface for accessing files, and it comes with a three-year warranty on the chassis.

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Gigabyte unleashes the smallest GTX 1080 ever to battle Radeon Vega Nano

Bigger is usually better in the world of graphics cards, but these days, plenty of people want plus-sized power in fun-sized packages. Enter Gigabyte?s GeForce GTX 1080 Mini ITX 8G, the smallest GTX 1080 yet?and an early strike against AMD?s incoming Radeon RX Vega Nano.

At 169mm in length, Gigabyte?s graphics card is the perfect fit for mini-ITX motherboards, which measure 170mm. The GeForce GTX 1080 Mini ITX 8G offers the same 1607MHz base clock and 1733MHz boost speeds as a GTX 1080 Founders Edition and manages to do so in a package that?s nearly 100mm shorter. That makes you wonder how hot and loud the card will run under load, but Gigabyte augmented the single semi-passive 90mm fan with a densely stacked heat sink and three copper heat pipes in direct contact with the GPU, as Tech Report first noted. The GTX 1080 Mini ITX 8G also packs a 5+2 power phase design, a step up over the 5+1 design in the Founders Edition.

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Galaxy Note 8 vs. LG G6: Can Samsung beat LG for the camera phone crown?

Hot off the presses is the Galaxy Note 8, Samsung?s latest flagship phone, and it sports a dual camera system?a first for Samsung. The Galaxy S8, released in May, wasn?t able to topple the LG G6, our current pick for smartphone camera dominance, and so we?re interested to see the changes Samsung has made to its camera tech in the past six months.

Can the new Note 8 beat the LG G6 where the S8 fell short? Keep reading to find out.

Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

LG's G6 versus Samsung's Galaxy Note 8. Camera fight!

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Tested: Galaxy Note 8 Live Focus vs iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode

The Galaxy Note 8 is the first Samsung phone to feature a dual lens camera system. Similar to Apple?s iPhone 7 Plus, it includes a telephoto lens paired with a standard lens. This allows both phones to deliver fun depth of field effects?but does one company do bokeh better? Let?s check out the differences between their approaches, and see if one phone can emerge victorious.

Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

Apple's iPhone 7 Plus came out late last year while Samsung's Galaxy Note 8 launches in September.

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Galaxy Note 8 review: Don't call it a comeback, call it the phone of the year

No one would have blamed Samsung if the Note 8 were never released. After a global recall halted sales of the Note 7 in their tracks, some execs at Samsung probably floated the idea of retiring the Note brand altogether.

It?s good they didn?t. The Note 8 isn?t just a return to form, it?s the best phone Samsung has ever made, bar none. And until the iPhone 8 and Pixel 2 make their appearances?and maybe even after?it?s simply the best phone money can buy.

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The powerful PC hardware of PAX West 2017
Everywhere you look, another PC

Image by IDG / Hayden Dingman

Like usual, I spent most of my time at PAX West 2017 admiring the PC?s presence. After the console focus of E3, PAX is always the perfect RGB-lit mouthwash to close out the year.

Unfortunately 2017 was a bit less spectacular than last year?a show that featured a PC that fired paper airplanes, another with its very own blood bag, and a wall made entirely from keyboards. PAX West 2017 couldn?t possibly live up, and indeed it was a bit slimmer on the custom case front.

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Astell&Kern AK XB10 Bluetooth DAC and amp review: Wireless, hi-res audio for any ...
You don't need new headphones to benefit from Qualcomm's aptX HD codec.
Echogear Outlet Shelf review: A brilliant, if not always practical, shelving ...
You?re plugging stuff in that outlet, so why not make use of the space around it?
Nonda USB-C HDMI review: Foldable adapter offers a well-made travel option
If you need to carry a USB-C adapter for HDMI output, Nonda?s foldable one is the best.
Best mouse pads for gaming or business

A great mouse pad is a must for gamers, reducing wear on wrists during hours of intensive play. They've evolved from the humble mouse pads of the 1990s to larger sizes, sometimes called mouse mats, that can accommodate more dramatic movements. Many modern ones use chemical coatings or specially engineered surfaces to improve sensor accuracy or reduce drag?a boon if you?re doing repetitive motion that requires high accuracy.

Plenty of mouse mat manufacturers exist, but few provide clarity or consistency in describing their products. For example, most don?t report how much friction you?ll encounter when using their mats with the most popular mice. To help you find the best mouse mat for your needs, we?ve tested several from a few different companies that represent a range of surface types (metal, plastic, or cloth) and usage cases (business or gaming).

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Yamaha YAS-107 soundbar review: This speaker delivers plenty of bang for the ...
Highly intelligible dialog and great overall performance make Yamaha's sound bar a top performer in its price class.
Agents of Mayhem review: Not-so-super heroes

Saint?s Row?s Achilles heel was always combat. It hid this fact by peppering each game with a handful of absurd weapons, from a recliner that fired missiles to the Dubstep gun to the iconic purple dildo bat?still the weapon I most associate with the series.

But even armaments that creative couldn?t hide the fact that combat was often a by-the-book affair. Enemies were brainless, and each encounter involved simply trying to get through it as fast as possible without dying. It?s telling that most of the memorable moments in Saint?s Row had nothing to do with combat, be it the Tron-esque ?Deckers Die? mission, singing Biz Markie in a car with your friends, or an Aerosmith-backed rocket ride into space.

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Best gaming keyboards of 2017: Our picks for the top budget, mid-tier, and RG...

Choosing a gaming keyboard is a matter of personal taste. One person could be into Cherry Browns and white backlighting. Another might favor Razer Greens and a rippling RGB glow. Gigantic wrist pads, compact shapes, numeric keypads, macro keys, volume controls?a plethora of keyboards exists because everyone wants a different mix of features.

To help you sort through the many options, we?ve sifted through the latest and greatest planks to come up with our top recommendations. All of these are mechanical keyboards, and for good reason?they?re simply more comfortable to use over the long haul. But we?re open-minded, so if we encounter an alternative that works well, you may see it appear on this list. We?ll keep updating it periodically as we test new keyboards.

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Amazon Alexa branches out, appearing in the Lenovo Tab 4 with Home Assistant

Amazon Alexa is breaking free of the Echo. First she made friends with Cortana, and now she's popping up in the Lenovo Tab 4, thanks to the Home Assistant accessory introduced Thursday at IFA in Berlin.

When the Home Assistant ships in October (for $70), you'll be able to dock the Tab 4 or Tab 4 Plus to it and run all Alexa functions off the tablet. The Home Assistant handles the audio portion, picking up your voice commands and responding for Alexa.

The dock adjusts to fit the 8-inch and 10-inch tablet sizes in the Tab 4 line. It also charges the tablet and can be used to play music or other audio output from your tablet. Lenovo mentions how it can turn the tablet into a clock or weather station, but it could also lend better audio to movies streaming on the tablet.

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