Best cordless impact wrench for 2021 – Roadshow

Easier to maneuver than a corded electric or air impact wrench and able to exert high levels of torque on nuts, screws and bolts, a cordless impact wrench makes the process of working on your car a whole lot smoother.

There are many different kinds of cordless impact wrenches, though -- so how do you know which one is right for you and your home garage? Size and price will ultimately dictate your choice, but so will your personal needs, so it's important to have the right electric impact wrench guide before getting started.

Read more: Best mechanics' tool sets for 2021

Here are our picks for the best cordless impact wrenches across a variety of categories, chosen based on customer satisfaction, expert opinion and hands-on experience. Please note that unless otherwise stated, the prices given are for the wrenches themselves. Kits that include batteries and other accessories may cost more.

Now playing: Watch this: The best cordless impact wrenches you can buy

12:43

After the cordless impact driver selections, read on for more information about them and what they do.

Milwaukee

If you want a cordless impact wrench that offers reliability, a reasonable price and high torque, it's hard to beat the Milwaukee 2767-20 M18 Fuel High Torque 1/2-Inch model. Made by one of the most respected manufacturers in the power tool field, the 2767-20 may very well be the only impact wrench you ever need.

The 2767-20 weighs under six pounds, but it doesn't sacrifice power for size -- its brushless motor delivers 1,000 pound-feet of fastening torque and 1,400 pound-feet of breakaway torque for removing stubborn fasteners like a lug nut. The 1/2-inch socket size is one of the most common, meaning that it can handle many of the nuts and bolts you'll encounter.

The Milwaukee M18 Fuel 2767-20 is currently the second-best selling power impact wrench on Amazon, with an astonishing 4.9 stars out of five. That rating is based on over 4,400 reviews, meaning that the cordless wrench has a lot of satisfied customers. Not only is this Milwaukee impact wrench sold by itself, but it's also available in one- and two-battery kits.

DeWalt

The Milwaukee impact wrench may take the top spot, but competitor DeWalt's 20V Max XR Impact Wrench isn't far behind. It's comparable to the Milwaukee model in most ways with a brushless motor and variable speed trigger, and the truth is, you can't go wrong with either one -- we preferred Milwaukee's wrench, you may prefer DeWalt's.

The Milwaukee 20V Max XR impact wrench is a durable model, which helps when doing work that can potentially get gritty. It can survive a six- to eight-foot drop and the body of the tool is resistant to chemicals, grease, and cleaners. Basically, it's tough enough for your garage.

It's a little bit heavier than the Milwaukee model (at 6.4 pounds) and the maximum breakaway torque is a little lower, but Amazon's customers are just as satisfied with this model -- it's got 4.9 stars out of five with over 7,000 ratings and it's the best-selling battery powered impact wrench on the site. If you already have some DeWalt batteries in your arsenal this impact wrench is available by itself or with batteries.

DeWalt

While 1/2-inch is a common size for impact wrenches and will allow a user to fasten or loosen many of the bolts, nuts and screws with which they come into contact, sometimes a smaller size is needed to get the job done. For that reason, 3/8-inch wrenches are also very popular.

DeWalt's DCF883M2 model is comparable to the Max XR, just smaller. It offers less nut busting torque, but removing smaller fasteners requires less torque. Like the larger version, it has a hog ring to make changing sockets a breeze.

And like the Max XR, it boasts many satisfied customers -- the tool has 4.8 stars out of five on Amazon, with over 600 ratings. Please note that the price is for the complete kit, which includes a lithium ion battery pack, charger, and kit box.

Ingersoll Rand

Torque, or twisting power, is one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing an impact wrench. The more torque a wrench provides, the easier it will be to tighten and loosen rusted bolt fasteners with it. This is especially important when old (and sometimes rusted) nuts are standing between you and a job, like changing a tire.

Ingersoll Rand's 1/2-inch 20V Cordless Impact Wrench provides more torque for heavy duty jobs than any comparable model -- even the Milwaukee Fuel High Torque tool that ranked as our top overall pick. Its maximum breakaway torque (which is the torque needed to take care of those old nuts and bolts) is 1,500 pound-feet with a 20-volt battery. It's hard to beat that level of power in a 1/2-inch impact wrench.

Ingersoll Rand's high torque impact wrench has a similarly high rating, as well -- it's currently got 4.8 stars out of five on Amazon, with over 400 ratings. In addition to being offered by itself, this cordless impact wrench is also available with a charger and battery packs.

DeWalt

DeWalt makes the list again, but this time with a more modest model. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with it, though, as it manages to top our list in two categories -- not only as the best compact impact wrench (it weighs 4.5 pounds), but as the best wrench for the money ($135 for the complete kit).

The price, especially, makes the Xtreme 12V Max Impact Wrench accessible for those who are new to the world of cordless impact wrenches -- or those who just want to save some money. The 200 pound-feet of breakaway torque output may seem a little on the low side, but given that it's a 3/8-inch model, it's great for the size and cost to zip off a wheel nut or stubborn bolt.

Like the other DeWalt cordless tool models on this list, it comes with the endorsement of hundreds of Amazon users. The Xtreme 12V Max has 4.6 stars out of five, with over 500 ratings. It's also the ninth-best-selling power impact wrench model on the site.

Milwaukee

Stubby impact wrenches are smaller than normal pistol-grip impact wrenches, making them lighter and giving them greater maneuverability. Typically, this means there's a bit of a tradeoff in terms of power, but the price is usually lower, as well.

Our pick for the best stubby cordless impact wrench tool is Milwaukee's M12 Fuel 2555-22 model. At a weight of two pounds and a height of just over eight inches, it's easy to hold for long periods of time and maneuver into tight spaces.

Like the other models on this list, it comes highly recommended by Amazon customers. It has 4.8 stars out of five on the site, with over 500 ratings. If you're specifically looking for a stubby model, this kit is the way is the way to go that includes a battery, charger and carrying case. 

Avid Power

It turns out that you can break old bolts and nuts without breaking the bank. While it's true that many of the models on this list run well into the hundreds of dollars (and we've made sure that they're worth the price), you can also do jobs that require an impact wrench without spending quite as much.

Avid Power's 20V Max Cordless Impact Wrench with 1/2-inch chuck combines a reliable tool with a good price. It's not quite as powerful as some of the other comparably sized models listed here, but 369 pound-feet of torque is good for a 1/2-inch wrench to use when you're in bolt removal mode. It also comes with a lithium ion battery, saving you extra expenses.

Like the other impact wrenches on this list, it has a seal of approval from Amazon's customers. It currently has 4.6 stars out of five based on over 2,300 ratings, and it's the fourth best-selling power impact wrench on the site.

Bosch

While an impact wrench and an impact driver are two separate tools (see below for more information on how they differ), it doesn't mean that they can't be combined -- and the resulting tool ranks as our most versatile impact wrench.

The Bosch Freak 18V is that wrench, with a 1/2-inch drive for impact sockets and a 1/4-inch drive for bits. This means it can be used for many more types of jobs than a regular impact wrench and, while the maximum torque is a bit low at 150 pound-feet, the versatility makes it a worthwhile tradeoff for many buyers.

Customers on Amazon are almost universally satisfied with the range of use afforded by the Bosch Freak. It has 4.8 stars out of five, with nearly 150 customer ratings.

Makita

If price is no object and you want to get the best, most deluxe cordless impact wrench experience on the market, you'll want a full kit. Not only do you get the wrench in question, but you get an all-important rechargeable lithium battery, as well as a charger and a carrying case.

Makita's Cordless 1/2-inch Drive Impact Wrench Kit gives you the best of both worlds -- a powerful wrench and all the accessories you need to keep it running for a long time. The deluxe kit comes with 5.0Ah batteries and the wrench has a brushless motor, both of which give you more power.

The heavy duty job kit may be expensive, but it's worth the price be it for the bare tool or in the kit that includes everything. It has 4.8 stars out of five on Amazon with nearly 800 customer ratings.

DeWalt's DCF902F2 is small but fairly mighty with 200 pound-feet of breakaway torque.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

Comparison of the best cordless impact wrenches for 2021


Make Model Drive size Voltage Max breakaway torque Price
Best cordless impact wrench overall Milwaukee 2767-20 1/2-inch 18-volt 1,400 pound-feet $260
Best cordless impact wrench overall runner-up DeWalt DCF899HB 1/2-inch 20-volt 1,200 pound-feet $217
Best cordless 3/8-inch impact wrench DeWalt DCF883M2 3/8-inch 20-volt 130 pound-feet $229
Best cordless impact wrench for torque Ingersoll Rand W7152 1/2-inch 20-volt 1,500 pound-feet $296
Best compact cordless impact wrench/Best cordless impact wrench for the money DeWalt DCF902F2 3/8-inch 12-volt 200 pound-feet $135
Best stubby cordless impact wrench Milwaukee 2555-22 1/2-inch 12-volt 250 pound-feet $248
Best cordless impact wrench if money is no object Makita XWT11Z 1/2-inch 18-volt 295 pound-feet $491
Best affordable cordless impact wrench Avid Power JSS1 1/2-inch 20-volt 369 pound-feet $100
Best versatile cordless impact wrench Bosch GDX18V-1800CB15 1/2-inch 18-volt 150 pound-feet $146

What is a cordless impact wrench and how does it work?

An impact wrench is a battery power tool designed to loosen and tighten nuts and bolts just like a manual socket wrench, but since it has a power source greater than just your arm, it can provide far more torque (it also needs special sockets given the amount of torque at play). The most common automotive applications for impact wrenches are loosening and tightening lug nuts for the purpose of changing tires.

While pneumatic air impact wrench models have been the standard in the past, they require connection to air compressors, meaning that they're not accessible for all DIYers. "Cordless tools are lighter weight than air tools, which makes them more portable for use overhead or in tight spaces," says John Linden, lead designer at MirrorCoop. Linden has years of both construction and design experience. "These are considered 'good' as they don't need any extra equipment (like a compressor) to run."

"Cordless impact wrenches have made great strides in the past decade in terms of increasing performance and decreasing size," explains Joshua Tarini. Tarini is group product manager -- impact wrenches and specialty fastening at Stanley Black & Decker. "Benefits of cordless/electric options are freedom from hoses, not being dependent on an air supply and, in general, less maintenance than when using an air tool. Many professional automotive mechanics have made the switch to cordless as their primary tool platform and away from pneumatic."

Today, cordless battery electric models are more popular, especially for home use. They just need to be charged and they're ready to go. While corded electric impact wrench options are available, as well, the cordless ones are favored for their portability. The tradeoff is that they typically provide less power than the other two types of impact wrenches (but still a sufficient amount for most home garage applications).

Like regular socket wrenches, battery impact wrenches provide the twisting force known as torque, just in greater amounts. The user holds the impact wrench steady, but the end of the tool, which grips the nut, bolt, or screw that needs to be loosened, spins in short, fast bursts. Like other cordless tools, they're powered by internal batteries that can be recharged, though all batteries eventually experience permanent drainage.

Finally, it's important to note that battery impact wrenches and impact drivers are two separate tools and the terms should not be used interchangeably. An impact driver is used for driving screws and bolts with similar bursts of power to those of an impact wrench, but it's more comparable to a power drill or screwdriver (just with more torque).

The stubby Milwaukee 2555-22 can get into tight places and powerful enough with 250 pound-feet of breakaway torque to tackle many chores.

Milwaukee

The Ingersoll Rand W7152 is a monster packing 1,500 pound-feet of breakaway torque.

Nick Miotke/Roadshow

How do cordless impact wrenches vary?

Cordless impact wrenches are powered by batteries, but apart from that, they vary in many ways. The two main shape categories into which they fall are inline (shaped more like a screwdriver) and pistol-grip (shaped like a handgun). Pistol-grip wrenches are typically bulkier, but the design also allows for larger socket sizes -- at ½-inch or above, you'll likely be using a piston-grip wrench.

Another variation comes in the power delivered by the batteries. Like all electric tools, their power is measured in voltage. Most impact wrench batteries are either 18 or 20 volts, with the 20-volt models usually considered preferable since they provide more power, though factors like motor type also influence power.

"Generally speaking, 20-volt is better than 18-volt," says Tim Koster, founder of Clever Creations. Clever Creations is a website dedicated to DIY projects, repair guides and tool reviews. "The higher the voltage, the more power the tool has. That said, a specific 18-volt model impact wrench can still be stronger than a different model that works on 20-volt. Voltage is not the only thing to consider."

Another important consideration when choosing a cordless impact wrench is torque. Torque, the twisting force that gives impact wrenches their abilities, is measured in pound-feet, which is determined by multiplying the force acting on an object (in pounds) by the distance of the lever being used to exert the force (in feet). While an impact wrench doesn't use an actual lever, pound-feet can still be used as a universal scale by which to measure torque. However, the abbreviation is often written in reverse, as "ft-lb."

Torque varies based on impact wrench size, with 1/2-inch impact wrenches providing an average of 300 pound-feet of torque and 3/4-inch impact wrenches providing an average of 1,200 pound-feet. An impact wrench's torque can't be adjusted by itself, but there are attachments that can vary the torque. Additionally, torque shouldn't be confused with inches per minute (IPM) or revolutions per minute (RPM). While there is a mathematical relationship between the measurements, IPM and RPM measure speed, not torque.

Of course, the amount of torque you need depends on your application, as well: "If you do a lot of automotive work, then you can benefit from up to 500 pound-feet of torque," says Koster. "If you only do light work, on the other hand, 200-250 pound-feet will be more than enough."

There are other features that differ between battery impact wrenches, as well. For instance, some have variable-speed triggers, which means that the speed at which the wrench turns is controlled by how hard the user presses the trigger. Impact wrenches also differ based on how their sockets are secured, with ball or pin detents providing more security and friction (or hog) rings providing easier release.

"A friction ring is typically preferred, especially when swapping out sockets a lot," says Koster. "Detent pins are notoriously difficult to work with." That said, if you won't be changing sockets, you may prefer the tight grip of a pin detent.

"Each anvil style has its own benefits," says Tarini. "For users who need maximum socket retention and are generally not changing sockets frequently -- such as those working at height where a dropped socket might be hazardous -- the detent pin design would be preferred. For users who are switching socket sizes more often, the friction ring design allows for strong socket retention while allowing an easier socket change. In the case of the automotive user, the friction ring is the preferred design as it provides the socket retention needed while allowing the user to quickly change sockets without additional tools (which may be required on some detent pin designs)."

With a reasonable price tag and plenty of unfastening muscle, the Milwaukee 2767-20 is our pick for the best cordless impact wrench overall.

Milwaukee

Coming in a very close second for top honors is DeWalt's DCF899HB packing a little less removal torque.

DeWalt

5 things to know before using a cordless impact wrench

  • How will you be using your battery impact wrench? If you know the exact applications for which you'll be using your wrench, you'll have an easier time answering the following questions and picking the wrench that works best for you.
  • What socket size do you need? Those same applications will dictate the socket size you need. While 3/8-inch and 1/2-inch are common sizes -- and both are good for removing lug nuts -- you'll want to make sure you pick the size you need.
  • How much torque do you need? Torque varies based on wrench size, but you still want to make sure that your wrench has enough torque to do the jobs you need it to do. A standard 1/2-inch wrench has 300 pound-feet of torque.
  • Which kind of socket-securing method suits you better? How often are you going to be changing sockets? If you'll be changing them frequently, you might prefer a friction ring, but if you'll be keeping one on, a ball or pin detent could work better.
  • How do you use your impact wrench safely? As with any other tool, it's important to make sure that you follow all included instructions. That's the best way to avoid injury or property damage.

Written for Roadshow by Scott Fried.

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

Star Wars: Visions on Disney Plus goes anime, and it’s glorious – CNET

Twins in Star Wars: Visions

The Twins battle in one of Star Wars: Visions most memorable episodes.

Lucasfilm

It's astounding that Star Wars: Visions, an anime-inspired anthology series hitting Disney Plus Wednesday, took so long to happen. Star Wars creator George Lucas drew heavily from Akira Kurosawa films for the original 1977 movie and millions of people watched an unofficial TIE Fighter anime short a few years ago. So Disney and Lucasfilm knew it'd be a winning combo.

Visions take us on a fascinating journey, with Star Wars' iconic imagery slotting beautifully into Japanese animation styles. Different anime studios have infused each of the anthology's nine episodes with their own style and tell their own story -- much like 2003's Matrix-inspired Animatrix -- meaning you never know what's coming next. It's all available in Japanese and English, so dubs and subs fans will be satisfied.

Opening episode The Duel leans hard into a Kurosawa-inspired style as it tells the tale of a mysterious Ronin (voiced in English by Brian Tee and Masaki Terasoma in Japanese) who protects a village from a group of bandits in Stormtrooper armor. They're led by a threatening dark lord, played by Lucy Liu/Akeno Watanabe. This episode plays fast and loose with traditional Star Wars lore, but its monochrome visuals evoke moody classic cinema atmosphere and the final battle is so engrossing you won't worry about canon (though this episode is getting a tie-in novel).

Now playing: Watch this: What's new to stream for September 2021

3:04

The remaining episodes tell a wild variety of stories in their 13- to 22-minute runtimes. Each cleverly establishes its setting, getting you emotionally involved almost immediately.

One of the strongest focuses on dark side-empowered twins (Alison Brie and Neil Patrick Harris in English, Junya Enoki and Ryoko Shiraishi in Japanese) who battle over a kyber crystal's power, with imagery ripped straight out of The Last Jedi. Another tells an engaging story of a planetary ruler having lightsabers built as he tries to restore the Jedi Order (and includes Shang-Chi's Simu Liu in its English cast).

The standout episode -- The Elder -- tells a conventional Star Wars tale: a Jedi master and padawan investigate a mysterious dark side presence on a remote world. David Harbour and Jordan Fisher play off each other as eager student and wise teacher, while James Hong portrays their creepy adversary (Takaya Hashi, Yuichi Nakamura and Kenichi Ogata in Japanese). It's a visually and atmospherically stunning adventure.

The Elder in Star Wars: Visions

The Elder is utterly gripping.

Lucasfilm

It's only 16 minutes long, but makes you care about its Jedi heroes and builds a magnificent sense of tension in that time. Seeing a short episode accomplish so much is refreshing in an era packed with three-hour blockbusters. It reminds us how gripping a focused Star Wars story can be.

By contrast, a few episodes meander despite their short runtimes -- particularly one that follows an android who dreams of being a Jedi. Its light, cutesy tone makes the episode drag a bit, even if it does take some engaging turns toward the end. All nine episodes are coming to Disney Plus at once, so you won't have to wait to jump into the next one.

Star Wars: Visions is Star Wars at its most experimental and visually stunning, with striking imagery, an incredible cast and lightsaber clashes that'll sear themselves into your memory. Each episode is lovingly made, and you'll undoubtedly want some of the stories to continue. If fans respond positively to this anime-inspired spinoff, hopefully Lucasfilm will take the opportunity to bring the familiar galaxy far, far away into more bold new territory. 

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

China’s Evergrande debt crisis: What it is and why it matters – CNET

gettyimages-1235305925
Barcroft Media/Getty

Evergrande is a name you'd probably never seen before, but now it's plastered on news reports around the globe. No, it's not the ship that got stuck in the Suez Canal -- that was the Ever Given -- but rather a Chinese property giant. After years of perilous borrowing, the company last week said it may have to default on its debt. 

That's a big deal because, with over $300 billion in liabilities, Evergrande is the most indebted real estate company in the world. For comparison, Russia's state debt in 2020 was $257 billion.

But Evergrande isn't making headlines simply because of that alarming statistic. If the company goes bust, it could dramatically impact China's entire economy. Since China is a major trading partner for most countries around the world, economic problems within the country could reverberate widely.

Here's what you need to know.

What's Evergrande's issue? 

Evergrande, which last year generated $77 billion in revenue, has two repayments due in the coming weeks. First, an $83 million interest payment due Thursday, according to CNBC, and another repayment, for a different bond, is due Sept. 29. 

On Sept. 14, Evergrande told its investors that it may be unable to fulfill these obligations. 

"September is typically when real estate companies in China record higher contract sales of properties," a letter to investors reads, before adding that Evergrande "expects significant continuing decline in contract sales in September, thereby resulting in the continuous deterioration of cash collection by the Group which would in turn place tremendous pressure on the Group's cashflow and liquidity."

As a result, the company said it may not be able to meet its upcoming financial obligations.

Evergrande owns assets in many sectors, not just real estate. It has an electric vehicle company, a soccer team and a bottled water business, among others. The company has sold some assets related to these investments, but not enough to cover the debt repayments. 

Evergrande was contacted for comment but did not reply. In a statement to employees, company chairman Hui Ka Yuan reportedly said: "I firmly believe that with your concerted effort and hard work, Energrande will walk out of its darkest moment, resume full-scale constructions as soon as possible and achieve the pivotal target of delivering the property projects as pledged."

Is the government going to help?

No one is sure yet, but there are a few signs the state won't rescue Evergrande.

First, recent comments by the editor-in-chief of the Global Times, a state-controlled publication often viewed as the Chinese Communist Party's mouthpiece. "Once the problem explodes, the enterprise cannot have the fluke of being 'too big to fail,'" he wrote on WeChat. "They must have the ability to save themselves."

"Blind expansion, reckless financial manipulation, and high leverage are all adventures that require smooth wind and luck," he added. "Evergrande stretched the rubber band too tightly."

Aware of how much debt that companies in the real-estate sector were amassing, China last year developed a system to curb perilous borrowing, dubbed the "three red lines," under which property developers since last August have had to ensure a liability-to-asset ratio of under 70%, a net gearing ratio of less than 100% and a cash-to-short-term debt ratio of at least one. Failing on the wrong side of these lines, companies like Evergrande would be restricted from borrowing more money.

The message to real estate developers was clear: It's up to you to get your act together. 

Still, there are signs that China's authorities will give Evergrande some breathing room. Rather than buy its debts, authorities have approved an Evergrande proposal to restructure its debts, reports Bloomberg, which would involve extending deadlines for payments.

Throng of people outside an Evergrande office

Aggrieved home buyers, suppliers and employees gathered at Evergrande offices around China last week.

Noel Celis/Getty

Is this like China's version of the global financial crisis?

Yes and no. (Mostly no.)

It is in the sense that the aftershocks of an Evergrande collapse, with its massive debt, would be felt in industries around the world. But analysts don't expect the impact to be as ruinous as the global financial crisis circa 2008, which developed when subprime mortgage debt was repackaged and sold to financial institutions in many countries. Most (but not all) of Evergrande's debt is held by creditors within China.

"We believe Beijing would only be compelled to step in if there is a far-reaching contagion causing multiple major developers to fail and posing systemic risks to the economy," a Sept. 20 S&P report reads. "Evergrande failing alone would unlikely result in such a scenario."  

However, destabilized property markets are usually accompanied by suppressed consumer spending. If Evergrande collapses, Chinese demand for international products, commodities and services would potentially fall. That would affect markets everywhere, since China is a major trading partner for over 100 countries around the world. US exports to China were worth $124 billion in 2020.

What's the fallout been so far?

The reaction within China has been fierce. Evergrande has committed to building between 1.3 million and 1.6 million homes, according to different estimates, and earlier this year asked for loans from employees, as reported by The New York Times, which it now looks unlikely to be able to pay back. Protests have broken out in front of Evergrande offices around China, and at its headquarters in Shenzen. Employees, suppliers and customers who have paid for homes that have yet to be built were among those who demonstrated.

Though the company has yet to officially default, world markets have braced themselves. The S&P Index, the Nasdaq, Japan's Nikkei 225 and Australia's ASX are among the many markets that fell in the past 24 hours ahead of potential Evergrande trouble.

Even cryptocurrency took a big hit

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

Microsoft Surface event 2021: All the rumors, predictions and announcements to expect on Sept. 22 – CNET

windows-laptop-how-to-tech-tip-cnet-2021-02-microsoft-surface-book-2-15-inch-laptop-windows

Streets of Rage 4 on the Microsoft Surface Duo: cloud gaming meets touch controls via Game Pass Ultimate. We're likely to see a new version this week, the Duo 2.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Microsoft is holding its annual Surface announcement event on Wednesday, Sept. 22, but thus far only a few devices have leaked. Most of the news is about the Surface Duo 2, the follow-up to last year's debut of the don't-call-it-a-phone foldable Surface Duo. This time, we get the sense that Microsoft may concede some marketing territory to the familiar in order to attract a bigger audience, since its biggest competitor is the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 3 (and even that's struggling for sales beyond curious folks with deep pockets). 

We also expect the Surface Pro 8 and Surface Go 3, follow-ups to 2019's Surface Pro 7 and last year's Surface Go 2 two-in-one tablets. There could also be a new model of the Surface Book. If the iMac-like Surface Studio desktop is revealed, it'll be a surprise, based on what we currently know. And it's unlikely that the Surface Laptop will see any updates, as it was recently refreshed.

Now playing: Watch this: What to expect at Microsoft's Surface event

8:01

Microsoft will need some flagship devices to highlight new features ahead of Windows 11 shipping on Oct. 5, and it's possible that it'll break with tradition and incorporate a brand-new Intel Alder Lake CPU, which includes Thread Director, a technology that improves PC battery life and speed, and that only Windows 11 can take advantage of. So anything's possible. 

Here's what we know thus far.

Will we see a Surface Duo 2? Will it be a big upgrade over the original?

Likely yes, and big is relative.

YouTube: Tech Rat

Genuine-looking photos of devices that are due for an upgrade are a pretty strong indicator that the announcement is imminent. That's where we stand on the Duo 2; ostensibly leaked photos appeared in July, giving Microsoft plenty of lead time to prep the device for the October event. Potential changes include a rear camera bump with a trio of cameras -- 16-megapixel ultrawide, 12-megapixel telephoto and 12-megapixel standard, plus a time-of-flight sensor for depth. Plus, we expect white or black color choices with a frosted glass exterior, and the absence of a dedicated fingerprint reader, which Windows Central believes has been embedded into the power button. It also says the USB-C port has been moved. The site also believes that the new Duo will incorporate a Snapdragon 888 processor and dual 5.8-inch "high refresh rate" screens. That may be enough to perk up Scott Stein, who was disappointed at the rather low-end specs of the original Duo.

But the most telling sign that we'll see a Surface Duo 2 is Microsoft's fire sale on the original model. In early August you could get it for as low as $400, and even now you can get it half off the original price directly from Microsoft. It also just passed certification with the US Federal Communications Commission, with a mention of wireless charging. Before you get excited, it's probably just inductive charging for the stylus (like an Apple Pencil 2), per Windows Central.

Now playing: Watch this: Microsoft Surface Duo 2: Images leaked online?

3:43

Will there be a Surface Pro 8? What about a Surface Go 3?

Probably

Sarah Tew/CNET

An upgrade to the Surface Pro line is long overdue -- the design is pretty old at this point, with ugly big bezels -- and Windows Central claims that a new model is slated to go on sale on Oct. 5, the same day as Windows 11 ships. Rumored changes include a larger display and thinner bezels, to mimic the design of the Surface Pro X, support for USB-C/Thunderbolt (essentially for connecting to modern storage devices and displays), and 11th-gen Intel chips, like the Surface Pro Plus announced in January. The display is said to be bigger compared to the Surface Pro 7, likely closer to the 13-inch display size found on the Surface Pro X.

Another possibility is support for a similar 120Hz dynamic screen refresh rate, similar to the recently announced iPhone 13 Pro (and which has been on the iPad Pro for a while).

A refreshed but not redesigned version of the budget-priced Surface Go 2 is also quite likely, since Geekbench results surfaced for it with newer 10th-gen Intel Pentium and Core i3 processors. But it's a budget detachable, which means it likely won't be redesigned until something trickles down from a more expensive sibling. Better performance is always welcome in that segment, though.

Will we see a Surface Book 4?

Possibly under a new name.

The Surface Book line was Microsoft's stab at a powerful two-in-one, which allowed it to incorporate discrete graphics into the base for better "docked" performance. But I always found it a really awkward design. The most intriguing rumor I've seen is that it will be redesigned with an articulating hinge that lets you pull the display down, a la the iPad Pro Magic Keyboard or the Asus Concept D Ezel models. It's also been floated that it will incorporate the latest Nvidia RTX 30-series GPU and Intel 11th- or 12th-gen processors; either would be great, but that's not how Microsoft rolls. It's more likely it could get last-gen CPUs. It's also been rumored that instead of the Surface Book 4, the line might be rebranded as the "Surface Laptop Pro," which actually makes a lot of sense.

Should we expect a new Surface Pro X?

Maybe.

The last time Microsoft's Qualcomm-powered Surface detachable got a refresh was a year ago. That makes it time for a bit of a design update. Windows on Arm-based devices still hasn't made the dent that Microsoft had hoped, and in order to put in a good show with Windows 11, it needs to incorporate the latest processor -- possibly the same Snapdragon 888 that's rumored for the Duo 2. Windows Central also heard that there may be a Wi-Fi-only model of it.

Will we get a new Surface Laptop? A Surface Laptop Go 2?

Probably not.

The Surface Laptop line was refreshed in April 2021 with Surface Laptop 4, predictably with last-gen Ryzen or 11th-gen Intel processor offerings. The equivalent Intel mobile CPUs are usually updated towards the end of the year, so they'll likely be last-gen soon enough.

The Surface Laptop Go has gotten little to no update buzz, but it was launched in October of last year. At most it will probably get a processor bump, but Microsoft generally leaves it for a couple of years unless it's something cutting-edge, like the Duo. Since it's the budget model in the line and we're in the middle of a component shortage, it's even less likely to get an update for a while.

Why does Microsoft still charge $3,500 for the out-of-date Studio 2?

It's the display.

I have to ask this because there hasn't been a whisper about an update to this once cutting-edge all-in-one in years, and it's still selling with old Nvidia GTX graphics and a seventh-gen Intel processor -- neither of which were impressive or new when the upgrade was announced almost three years ago. Frankly, the computer part of the Studio was never anything to write home about; it's always been about the display, a 28-inch pull-down wide-gamut screen with support for pressure-sensitive drawing. The screen and hinge have always been unique to Microsoft, which is what makes the system so expensive to this day. 

But there have been whispers over the years about Microsoft spinning the display off into a standalone (although it's possible those are just the voices in my head), and unless it plans to overhaul the system, the company really needs to figure out a different strategy. If a new Surface Studio desktop is announced at the event, I'll be thrilled. But very surprised, too.

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

HP Spectre x360 16 finally gives us a webcam and display worthy of a premium 2-in-1 – CNET

hp-spectre-x360-16-lifestyle-1
HP

HP on Tuesday announced its latest premium two-in-one, the HP Spectre x360 16 -- and it's starting to look like the days of the 15.6-inch laptop display are numbered. The 16-inch two-in-one can be configured with up to a 3,072x1,920-pixel resolution OLED display with a 16:10 ratio. The display also covers a 100% sRGB color gamut and will ship calibrated, which should help it appeal to creators and creatives.

Much of the laptop market is moving toward taller 3:2- or 16:10-ratio displays and away from 16:9 widescreens. Combined with thinner bezels framing the display, it gives you more vertical space to work with little impact on the laptop's overall footprint. With a trimmed-down chassis, too, this means you can have a 16-inch laptop that's roughly the same size of an older 15.6-inch widescreen laptop.

hp-spectre-x360-16-nocturneblue-t-ircam-nonodd-fpr-win11-coreset-frontleft

Like other Spectre x360 models, this one will have a Thunderbolt port on the rear corner to help keep cords out of your way. 

HP

The increase in people video-chatting on their laptops during the pandemic really shone a spotlight on how poor most built-in webcams are. For the Spectre x360 16, HP put in a 5-megapixel camera and some software to help you look your best and more. HP GlamCam touches up your skin, teeth and eyes while Lighting Correction adjusts your video for poor lighting conditions. There's also Auto Frame, which seemingly uses the extra resolution to track your face if you move off-center on camera. 

Also, along with a privacy shutter to block the webcam, you can also have your computer lock automatically if you walk away from the laptop. It will dim the display, too, when you stop looking directly at it. HP added a setting to have the display blur if it sees someone shoulder surfing behind you as you work. 

The component options inside back up its work-play-and-create design, including an 11th-gen Intel Core i7-11390H processor and up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 discrete GPU. It'll also have the option for Wi-Fi 6E to help future-proof your wireless some.

The HP Spectre x360 will be available in October starting at $1,639 direct from HP. Best Buy will also stock it as well later this fall. (That converts to approximately £1,200 or AU$2,260; UK and Australian prices are TBA.) 

hp-11-inch-tablet-pc-6.png

HP's 11-inch Tablet PC has a unique camera. 

HP

Joining the Spectre are two more affordable options made for lugging around. The HP 11-inch Tablet PC is designed to take advantage of Windows 11's Snap Layouts, which lets you better organize apps and windows by grouping them together. It has a built-in kickstand that works in portrait or landscape positions and works with an optional detachable keyboard that also works with the display in both positions. 

However, the most interesting feature is its 13-megapixel camera that flips out from the back of the tablet to be used as a front-facing camera for video chat. Don't expect this to be a high-performance tablet, though. It's expected to be available in December starting at $599 with an Intel Pentium Silver N6000 processor and 4GB of memory. 

hp-14-inch-laptop-3.png

The Laptop 14 is one of HP's thinnest laptops.

HP

Then there's the HP Laptop 14 (yep, that's the name). It's a 14-inch 1080p laptop that runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 7c Gen 2 Compute Platform and can be configured with up to 8GB of memory and 128GB of eMMC flash storage. It sounds like a cousin to the Chromebook x2 11 that HP announced back in August. 

No pricing was announced for the HP Laptop 14 but it's expected to be available in October at Walmart.

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

iOS 15 review: New features like focus mode and live text are game-changers – CNET

This story is part of Apple Event, our full coverage of the latest news from Apple.

Whether you're getting Apple's new iPhone 13 or holding onto a 6-year-old iPhone 6S, iOS 15 is now available to download to your phone. The new version of iOS was in public beta for months undergoing a variety of tweaks leading to the final release. I've been testing iOS 15's new features, and everything from bigger additions like FaceTime call web links for friends on Android and Windows to smaller changes like pinning conversations to the top of the Messages app has improved my iPhone without disrupting my daily status quo.

On the whole, iOS 15 feels like a continuation of iOS 14, which felt like a continuation of iOS 13. These three updates are like a movie trilogy, but unlike The Lord of the Rings there isn't an ominous Eye of Sauron looming over your every move, just Siri. Following in the smart footsteps of iOS 13 and 14, iOS 15 lets you decide how much you want to change your iPhone experience. For instance, in Safari the tab bar can be moved to the bottom of your phone's screen to make it easier to reach one-handed. If you want that tab bar back at the top where it's been since 2007, you can tap the AA button and select Show Top Address Bar.

ios-15-safari-tab-bar

The tab bar in Safari can live at the bottom of your screen in iOS 15.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Visually, iOS 15 doesn't alter the way your phone looks, or at least not in a big way. This isn't like the drastic overhaul seen going to iOS 7 from iOS 6. Also, iOS 15 isn't defined by a couple of giant flashy features. Instead, it's made up of hundreds of small and medium additions that add up to something more significant. From more ways to personalize your Memoji to the larger visual improvements in Maps, iOS 15 is a vast overhaul of your phone. But instead of trumpeting its changes like a parade of elephants, Apple has quietly tip-toed in improvements to help make your phone better without inconveniencing your existing preferences and workflows.

Read more: iOS 15's hidden tricks are its best features. Here's what we've found so far

When it comes to device support, Apple's iOS is simply unmatched. If you have an iPhone 6S or the original iPhone SE, iOS 15 will work on your phone. You just might not get all of the new additions. Compare that with Android phones. I can't think of a 2015 phone from Google, Samsung or Huawei that will be able to run Android 12.

With all of that out of the way, let's get into a few of my favorite features.

iOS 15

When you first start up your iPhone in iOS 15, you're greeted by a brand-new welcome screen.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Focus mode in iOS 15 is transformative

Out of everything in iOS 15, Focus mode had the biggest impact on me. Several colleagues describe it as "Do Not Disturb mode on steroids." Focus lets you filter notifications based on what you're currently doing, and organize app and widget pages on your iPhone's home screen to match your activity and state of mind.

With a Focus mode enabled, your status is automatically displayed in Messages for friends to see. It's kind of like setting an Away status on Slack, but to remind others not to interrupt you. The difference is that a Focus status works system wide across your iPhone, Mac and other devices. You also have the ability to turn off your Focus status so it's not shared.

iOS 15 Focus Mode

Without a doubt, Focus mode on iOS 15 has been had the most impact on how I use my phone.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Third-party app developers can incorporate Focus status in their messaging apps if they choose. This leads to the possibility that your Focus status could work with WhatsApp, Signal or others in the future. Slack will support Focus status when iOS 15 is released.

Setting up or editing a Focus is easily done in Settings. I set up a handful of Focuses including default ones for work and fitness. I made a couple of custom Focuses for cooking and cycling. You can name the Focus anything you like so please don't judge my rather bland naming scheme for cooking and cycling. You can schedule a Focus to start and end at a certain time or be triggered when you arrive at a location, or you can use Control Center to toggle them on and off at will.

iOS 15 Focus Mode

There are so many different ways to customize Focus mode, including who you'll receive alerts from while in a specific Focus.

Patrick Holland/CNET

When you set up a Focus you can select who can notify you. For my work focus, I limit contact to my boss and co-workers. Like in Do Not Disturb mode, you'll still receive all your messages and calls, but you'll only be alerted to the ones from the contacts you specified. Contacts I didn't specify who try to reach me when I'm using Focus are alerted above the text field in Messages that my notifications are silenced. There is an option for them to "Notify anyway" that will alert me.

You can customize which app pages from your home screen are displayed during a specific Focus. I made an app page that was just for apps I use during work. On it are apps like Slack, Filmic Pro, Voice Memos and a teleprompter app. I left off apps that I knew would distract me like Instagram and Twitter.

iOS 15 Focus Mode

You select specific pages of apps to be displayed for a certain Focus. 

Patrick Holland/CNET

When I turn on my work focus, my normal four pages of home screen apps goes down to the one I selected. Since iOS lets you duplicate an app multiple times across different pages on your home screen, you have an infinite amount of possibilities for customization. If I want Slack to be on an app page with work apps, and another app page for commuting, I can do that. It's also worth remembering that Focus doesn't delete or disable the apps you're not using. If I'm in my work Focus and need to hop onto Twitter, I can still access it along with every app on my iPhone via the App Library.

It took a while to get Focus set up and tweaked just right. And if you have a Mac running MacOS Monterey, you might have more finessing to do to make Focus work for you. Focus mode has improved how I use my phone. I feel more purposeful. 

Now playing: Watch this: We found these amazing features in the iOS 15 beta

17:38

Portrait mode for FaceTime calls looks great

Portrait mode is not just for your photos anymore. iOS 15 lets you turn on Portrait mode for your FaceTime calls, bringing with it the ability to place an artistic blurry background behind you. Zoom, Skype and other video chat apps allow you to place a blur around you, but Apple's implementation looks so much better and more natural. Instead of being a wall of blur, Portrait mode mimics the natural out-of-focus falloff you get using a mirrorless camera and fast lens. FaceTime Portrait mode lacks the jagged cutout or a weird halo effect I often see on Zoom. When I tested the feature out, one friend asked if I'd gotten a new phone because the effect looked so good.

iOS 15 FaceTime

FaceTime gets a bunch of significant upgrades in iOS 15. My favorite is Portrait Mode, which makes my background have a beautiful artistic blur.

Patrick Holland/CNET

When you couple Portrait mode along with the spatial audio feature in FaceTime, video calls become even more immersive. Spatial audio grounds the location of the audio source relative to you. Obviously all of the callers are on your phone, but spatial audio spreads them out so they sound like they're talking to you from your left and right as well as middle. It's a really neat effect. I noticed it worked best on calls with four people or more.

Notification Summary removes the noise from your iPhone

Notification Summary is like your own personalized dossier filled with curated notifications that aren't timely or urgent. App notifications can be overwhelming. Up to now managing your notifications has been in large part an all or nothing affair. But iOS 15 allows you to gather useful notifications in one place where you can view them at your own choosing.

For me, instead of constantly being interrupted or distracted even for a moment, Notification Summary collects notifications from apps that I'm interested in but that are not urgent. Then it delivers that collection of notifications to me when I want.

ios-15-notification-summary-2

Notification Summary lets you bundle unimportant notifications together and deliver them at a time you chose.

Patrick Holland/CNET

Notification Summary is great for handling those notifications you want but necessarily don't need to see right away. A good example would be a notification from a game letting you know of an upgrade or, in my case, the New York Times Crossword app alerting me to a new puzzle (OK, that one could be considered urgent).

Notification Summary really changed my relationship with my iPhone. I found myself now allowing notifications from apps I previously opted out of because now I can better manage them.

Live Text is a fantastic way to input text, numbers and websites

When Live Text first came out, I was like, "Oh, it's Apple's version of Google Lens." Yes, they live on the same spectrum but are different. Google Lens is more like Live Text and iOS Spotlight combined. You can use Live Text in real time with your camera or with photos to identify text. It automatically detects if text is present and contextualizes it. And it works with both printed text and handwriting.

If there's a phone number, you can tap it to dial the number. If there is a Spanish word you can translate it to English. If you have a photo, just tap the Live Text icon on the bottom right to interact with any text in the frame. The interface looks clean and is easy to use. One of my favorite examples was when Live Text identified text on a wrinkled T-shirt I was wearing in a photo.

ios15-cnet-still

Live Text even picked out the name Tom Waits on my t-shirt despite it being bunched up.

Patrick Holland/CNET

iOS 15 features not available at launch

There are several iOS 15 features that won't be available at launch, but I want to highlight two. The first is the ability to add identification cards like your driver's license to your iPhone's wallet. When I first heard about this feature I was skeptical. But after losing my wallet, I wish I had my driver's license in my iPhone's Wallet app as a backup.

The other thing I'm excited about is SharePlay. When you're on a FaceTime call, SharePlay lets you listen to music or watch a movie or TV show together and in sync with your friends. You can even share your screen. I tried the feature out in an early beta version of iOS 15 and was impressed with the potential. It's a little bit like a number of group video-watching features added to apps like Hulu, Prime Video and Disney Plus over the course of the pandemic, mixed with screen sharing over a Zoom call. The difference is that SharePlay is better integrated across your phone and not limited to just a couple of app. You can use it for TikTok, sharing music and any other app that opts in to use SharePlay. It has a clean interface that even allows you to broadcast SharePlay media from your phone to a TV equipped with an AppleTV device.

Walk don't run to iOS 15

Overall, these numerous additions and changes led to a positive experience with iOS 15. As with any software update, I'd recommend backing up your phone beforehand as a precaution. Those with older iPhones also might want to wait a few days to see if other people report problems they encounter.

Now playing: Watch this: How to FaceTime friends who use Android and Windows devices

5:08

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

Marvel drops first trailer for Hit-Monkey series with Jason Sudeikis – CNET

hit-monkey.png

Meet Hit-Monkey.

Marvel/Hulu

A first trailer dropped for new Marvel TV show Hit-Monkey, arriving on Hulu in November. If you've not heard of that superhero, that's probably because he's not exactly a superhero.

Hit-Monkey follows an unhinged Japanese snow monkey who dismantles Tokyo's crime underworld. He's mentored by an American assassin's ghost, voiced by Jason Sudeikis. Yeah, you'd better take a look at the teaser trailer below.

Prolific voice actor Fred Tatasciore, who recently worked on Marvel's What If...?, voices Hit-Monkey. The cast is pretty impressive -- George Takei voices a kind, world-weary politician and Olivia Munn voices his smart and ambitious niece.

This isn't Hulu's first Marvel adult animated series. M.O.D.O.K., about a supervillain in the form of a floating robotic engineered head, debuted in May. Hulu had originally planned to make a Howard the Duck and a Tigra & Dazzler series as well, eventually aiming for a The Offenders crossover with all four shows, but when Marvel TV folded into Marvel Studios, the plans for the latter two were canned.

Hit-Monkey arrives on Hulu on Nov. 17.

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

NASA Perseverance rover snaps selfies at historic Mars sample site – CNET

NASA's Perseverance rover captured a couple selfies at the "Rochette" rock sample site on Mars.

NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS
This story is part of Welcome to Mars, our series exploring the red planet.

NASA's Perseverance Mars rover did something extremely cool: It collected two rock samples on Mars and stashed them into tubes that could one day be brought back to Earth. That achievement was worth a double-selfie celebration.

On Monday, NASA released a pair of rover selfies, one showing the rover "looking" at the rock it drilled for the samples, and the other showing it "looking at the camera." The difference is in the position of the head-like suite of instruments mounted at the top of its mast. 

The rock Perseverance sampled is nicknamed "Rochette." The selfie comes from Sept. 10, and the twin drill holes are clearly visible as two dark circles in the rock. The samples are now safely tucked away, and NASA hopes to send a future mission to retrieve them. The rover will be collecting more rocks as it continues its explorations.

Each version of the portrait is made from 57 images stitched together into a full view of the rover and its surroundings. The rover used a camera on the end of its robotic arm to gather all the shots together.

One key goal of the Perseverance mission is to seek out signs of ancient microbial life in the Jezero Crater, a region that was once home to a lake. The rover is busy studying its surroundings, and it's also looking fabulous while it's doing science. It was a perfect time to take a selfie to commemorate a historic event on Mars.

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

The best PS5 games: All the PlayStation 5 games you need to play – CNET

deathloop

Deathloop is one of the best games on the PS5 so far.

Bethesda

The PlayStation 5 has had an impressive first year. Following a solid launch with games like Demon's Souls, Spider-Man: Miles Morales, and Astro's Playroom, 2021 saw an assortment of PS5 games that made owning the console early worth it. And though some exclusives we had hoped to see this year have been pushed further into 2022 -- like Horizon Forbidden West -- we still saw many PS5 games in 2021 that showed off what Sony's new console can do.

As we're approaching the console's first anniversary, we put together a selection of the PS5's best games -- so far. This roundup includes first-party games such as Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart and Returnal and console exclusive third-party games such as the recently released Deathloop. Be sure to check back with this post, as we'll update it with more noteworthy games in the PS5's library.

Deathloop

Bethesda

Arkane Studios' Deathloop injects the thrilling open-ended, action-stealth gameplay from the Dishonored series into the framework of a time loop, offering up the year's most inventive and deviously clever first-person action game. Getting to explore Blackreef Isle as the cunning and equally hilarious Colt showcases Deathloop's deft handling of comedy and oddball, ultra-violence.

Many of the encounters you'll have will leave you impressed by how far you can push the intricate design of its clockwork world to assassinate key targets and break the infinite loop. But when you add in another player who can invade your game as Colt's former-lover turned rival Julianna, Blackreef Isle becomes an impromptu multiplayer arena that sees one player hunting the other. Deathloop quickly earned itself a spot on the list of must-own PS5 games, and it's also one of the best games of 2021.

Check out CNET's full review.

Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart

Insomniac

The Ratchet & Clank series is synonymous with the PlayStation brand and, even after nearly 20 years of games, Rift Apart stands as one of the best entries in the entire series. Rift Apart leans heavily into the series' tested formula of action platforming with a hefty dose of over-the-top weaponry, but the latest game features one of the strongest stories the franchise has seen yet, giving longtime fans and newcomers alike a compelling and fun plot to follow. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart is an excellent showpiece for what the PS5 can do, and it's also made us more excited about the future of the series.

Final Fantasy VII Remake: Intergrade

Square Enix

2020's Final Fantasy VII Remake almost seemed too good to be true. Getting to revisit the world of Final Fantasy VII and see the classic party of heroes in a new and visually stunning light was a surreal and equally thrilling experience. It managed to surpass its moniker of being just another remake, and it was indeed one of the year's best role-playing games. However, the catch was that it is only one part of a larger story, and we've got to wait some time till we even get a glimpse of the next installment. Still, Intergrade on PS5 served as a great way to hold players over till then.

 
Along with an impressive visual and gameplay upgrade for FFVII Remake, Intergrade also added a new PS5 exclusive story expansion focusing on FFVII's quirky ninja, Yuffie, and her journey into Midgar. If you own a PS5 and still haven't gotten a chance to experience Final Fantasy VII Remake, then do check out Intergrade.

Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut

Sucker Punch

Another revisit to a PS4 game is the director's cut for Ghost of Tsushima, an open-world samurai action game coming from the creators of the Infamous series. What makes the PS5 edition a clear upgrade over the original is that on top of having the Iki Island expansion, which adds more than 5 hours of new story content, it also gave the base game a substantial performance upgrade. With improved technical buffs adding increased framerate, faster loading, and running at a native 4K resolution, this enhanced edition makes the Ghost of Tsushima: Director's Cut on PS5 the definitive way to experience developer Sucker Punch Productions' visually stunning and carefully crafted open-world game.

Returnal

Housemarque

2021 has seen an unusual amount of games set within the framework of a time loop, and the PS5 exclusive Returnal still stands as one of the strangest ones of the year. Blending fast-paced third-person action gameplay with the unpredictability of a randomized role-playing game, Returnal has its protagonist Selene trek through an alien planet filled with hostile creatures and enigmatic artifacts detailing a cataclysmic event -- and it somehow all connects to her. Its plot feels like a carefully calculated mix of films like Prometheus and Edge of Tomorrow, yet Returnal's story and presentation give it a flavor all its own. Running and gunning through Returnal's many ruins with bizarre alien weapons offers some of the most satisfying and thrilling shooters of the year, enticing you to get in just one more loop through the planet.

Demon's Souls

From Software

One of the more conspicuous trends of the past 10 years has been the rise of the super hard game. A lot of that is chalked up to the success of Dark Souls, by FromSoftware, which hit the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 in 2011. But Dark Souls itself was a spiritual successor to Demon's Souls, a highly regarded game by FromSoftware that launched in 2009.

And now Demon's Souls has a second life on the PlayStation 5, as it's arguably the best game on the platform. It has a 92 rating on Metacritic, and got a 9 out of 10 from GameSpot. It's been credited for faithfully remaking the 2009 classic but improving it with better movement, and modernizing it with graphics that show off what the PS5 can do. 

Spider-Man: Miles Morales

In Spider-Man: Miles Morales, an expansion to 2017's Spider-Man, you can wear a backpack in which a small cat donning a Spider-Man mask pops out and attacks your enemies. 

I don't think I need to expand any further. 

Astro's Playroom

Sony Computer Entertainment

Uncharitably speaking, Astro's Playroom is a glorified tech demo. Charitably speaking, it's a glorious tech demo. 

Designed to show off what the PlayStation 5's Dual Sense controller can do, Astro's Playroom comes free with the PlayStation 5. "Free tech demo" doesn't scream "must-play," but Astro's Playroom has received strong acclaim for being filled with clever homages to previous PlayStation games and, more importantly, for being fun to play. 

Astro's Playroom makes no attempt to hide the fact that it's an excuse to show you what a gamepad can do. But it conjures a world that you'll want to see and explore, according to GameSpot's Mike Epstein

The Pathless

Annapurna Interactive

A third-person action game concerned almost primarily with flow and movement, The Pathless is a pleasure to play every single second you have the controller in your hand. 

It's available on other platforms, including the iPad, but I'd argue it's best played on a current gen console like the PS5, where the visuals and frame rate reflect the slickness of the game's design.

You can read our full review here.

Hitman 3

IO Interactive

Hitman 3 is the first big game of 2021 and it's a good'n too. Wrapping up the rebooted Hitman trilogy, which began with the eponymous 2016 title, Hitman 3 received a 9/10 from CNET sister-site GameSpot thanks to its excellent level design, improved story and its replayability. That last attribute is the key. Hitman may be about assassinations, but it's more of a puzzle game than an action game, and you'll have to play each level over and over to see all of the creative ways Agent 47 can dispense with bad guys. 

The game is available on both the PS4 and PS5, among other consoles, but the PS5 version has 4K, 60-frames-per-second gameplay and improved haptic feedback thanks to the DualSense controller. 

Assassin's Creed Valhalla

Ubisoft

It's far from exclusive to the PlayStation 5, but Assassin's Creed Valhalla is still arguably the biggest game on the console. I mean that literally: This is a huge game. The main quest will take you over 50 hours to beat and there's plenty of other good Viking stuff to see on the side. The PS5 version makes raiding England smoother, with 4K, 60-frames-per-second gameplay. 

Adblock test (Why?)

Read More

Meet the Voice Actress Behind Kena: Bridge of Spirits

“Sometimes they’ll go into a trance, and that’s when Sesuhunan comes down, and they dance,” she says. “That’s a really cool moment because people can actually interact with a more physical form of a spirit.”

Learning the Ropes

Voice acting runs in Larassanti’s family. Her mother is also a voice actress. Emiko used her expertise to coach Larassanti when recording lines for Kena—particularly with finding a balance between Kena’s emotions. “Sometimes she’s really strong and sometimes she’s very soft, so finding that middle balance was kind of a challenge,” says Larassanti.

If Larassanti received her dialog before recording, she would practice it with her mother—with Emiko having her try out different emotions for each line. “That was really helpful in terms of finding the balance for Kena’s voice and getting feedback from somebody like my mom, because our parents are always very honest with us,” Larassanti says. 

She would also watch random Grand Theft Auto videos and study how voice actors would interact. And, since Kena: Bridge of Spirits is an action-adventure game with combat, she would need to record sounds for actions like walking, breathing, and hitting. Watching shows like Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra helped quite a bit in this department, she says.

“I also watched clips of characters in video games falling, and it was just so cool to hear different actors’ approaches to falling and how wild they can be,” Larassanti says. She was surprised that even simple actions like falling required so much voice exaggeration.

Larassanti did most of her voice recording in the summer of 2020 when she wasn’t in school. At UCLA, she majors in world arts and cultures. She’s also pursuing a minor in ethnomusicology, because of her desire to learn about other cultures. Her grandfather also finished his undergraduate degree at UCLA, where he also taught gamelan.

“Studying world arts and cultures and being immersed in different cultures and religions and studying them really helped with opening my mind up for this role,” she says. This forged her approach to portraying Kena, because a big part of her studies involves giving voices to marginalized communities through the arts. She looks at artistic work through a different critical lens now in terms of who is being represented and whether it is authentic, accurate, and enough. With Kena: Bridge of Spirits, she feels her Southeast Asian representation within the atmosphere and environment itself. The characters are all people of color, and there are beautiful relationships explored among them.

What Kena Represents

Larassanti views her role in Kena as an important one because Asian Americans often don’t have as many opportunities in media compared to their white counterparts, whether it’s in movies, TV shows, or even video games. By casting authentically for Kena, Ember Labs has given Larassanti a chance to share her identity and experiences through the character.

“They were so kind and supportive … and so they really helped me find the balance of Kena’s voice and what they wanted to do,” Larassanti says of Ember Lab’s cofounders, Mike and Josh Grier. Without her knowledge of the Sesuhunan or how to address elders in Bali, Kena: Bridge of Spirits would have had a completely different feeling.

“It’s the actors’ backgrounds and heritage that can really add to a character in a story if given the opportunity,” she says. While Larassanti doesn’t know what she’ll do next, she would love to star in another video game and maybe even branch out to animated films. “I think there are so many different possibilities,” she says. “It’s fun, but I think this really taught me a lot as a voice actor.”


More Great WIRED Stories

Read More
Page 1 of 2,20112345»102030...Last »