PC World from Reuters

Amazon Basics Computer Speakers (USB-powered) review: This cheap set fits the budget stereotype

Amazon Basics Computer Speakers are indeed basic. That hasn’t changed from when we initially reviewed them two years ago. From the packaging to the design, this USB-powered budget set has a spartan vibe. You won’t find glossy paper finishes or a thick manual full of details here. Instead, a plain brown box will land on your doorstep, with two plain, compact black speakers and a very thin user guide tucked inside. That’s it.

What has changed is the price. Back in 2019, these budget speakers could be found for as little as $10 for the set. These days they hover at $18, which starts to butt up against the cost of the superior Amazon Basics with Dyanmic Sound speakers—thus making them ripe for reevaluation.

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The Full Nerd: ep. 181: AMD Advantage Laptops and E3!
Why is there a Windows 11 if Windows 10 is the last Windows?

If Windows 10 was supposed to be the last version of Windows, why is there a Windows 11? Great question.

Like the answer to many questions, the answer is, “it depends.”

The authenticity of the concept of “Windows as a service” began in 2015, when Microsoft launched Windows 10. Over time, Microsoft said then, the company would simply deliver ongoing updates, adding features and patching bugs on the “Windows 10” platform. But, as we know now, whatever Microsoft adds to Windows, it’s still Windows. 

But Microsoft representatives never said that Windows 10 would be the last version of Windows—not really. That comment was actually made by Jerry Nixon, a Microsoft developer evangelist who spoke at the company’s ”Tiles, Notifications, and Action Center” presentation about Windows 10 at Microsoft’s Microsoft Ignite conference in 2015. According to the transcript of the session, Nixon’s comment was more of a throwaway line, one that he literally referred to as a segue. Microsoft developers could never talk about what they were currently working on, he said, only what they had worked on and released. That changed with Windows 10, because it was all one platform.

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Best external drives for backup, storage, and portability

Anyone who uses a PC should have an external drive. It can back up your precious data or store your overflow, and it can transport or transfer files between computing devices. Xbox One X users, especially, would be wise to invest in an external drive to augment the console’s measly 1TB hard drive (the external drive needs to be USB 3.0-compatible and will be formatted when you insert the drive). 

Two things are for sure: No one ever said they wanted less storage space, and no one ever said they wanted a slower drive. Our latest picks for best external performance drive (SanDisk’s Extreme Pro Portable and Samsung’s T7) are blazing-fast—great news if you’re transferring large amounts of data. We’ll also walk you through our other top picks, and everything you need to know to select the best external drive for your needs.

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Why you should shop Amazon Prime Day using Microsoft Edge

While you can shop online during Amazon Prime Day or the holidays using any browser you’d like, there are two good reasons for using the Microsoft Edge browser already on your PC: built-in coupons, and an automated check of an item’s price history.

Both of these Edge features offer a fantastic way to make sure you get the best deals for Prime Day—or any day, for that matter. 

Microsoft Edge is on your Windows PC

The Microsoft Edge browser is built right into every Windows PC. While the most popular browser remains Google Chrome, you can open up Edge (if you haven’t already) and quickly import bookmarks (Favorites), passwords, and more from another browser. (We have a detailed tutorial on how to import bookmarks into Edge.)

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Faster gaming frame rates for free: Resizable BAR explained

If you’re lucky enough to have snagged the latest graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD, you just got another bonus performance boost in your toolkit. It’s called Resizable BAR, and depending on your setup, the technology can give a noticeable lift in gaming framerates. Here’s how it works.

What are Resizable BAR and Smart Access Memory (SAM)?

Resizable Base Address Register (or Resizable BAR, as it’s known colloquially) is a new feature that improves communication between your processor and graphics card. It’s actually been part of the PCI Express specification for some time, but only now have manufacturers actually enabled it for use on the latest graphics cards, motherboards, and processors.

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House of Marley Positive Vibration XL ANC headphone review: Vastly improved sound, no noise
House of Marley's Positive Vibration XL ANC's offer very good sound and excellent noise cancellation. They're a major improvement over the previous generation.
The best laptops: Premium laptops, budget laptops, 2-in-1s, and more

The best laptops are getting better. Computex 2021 (virtual) brought a heavy rain of news from AMD, Intel, and Nvidia, everything from new CPUs to technologies that enhance gaming performance. The laptop market is still tight, but if you yearn for the latest and greatest, this is your time. Keep reading for the latest news and reviews. 

Our top picks from currently available laptops are below: 

Latest laptop news and reviews

Here are the latest stories:

Best gaming laptops: Know what to look for and which models rate highest

There are great laptops available now (as pandemic-fueled sales remain strong), and you can see our tested favorites below. But if you yearn for the latest and greatest, check out our news and reviews of laptops with AMD’s Ryzen 5000 and Intel’s Tiger Lake CPUs, and Nvidia RTX 30-series mobile GPUs. (Psst: We also have a list of the first laptops available with RTX 30-series.)

Here are the latest news and reviews, along with our top picks below. 

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Windows 11: Video first look

We’ve already downloaded and gone hands-on with a leaked early build of Windows 11, or what appears to be Microsoft’s next-generation operating system. Now it’s time for you to see what the leaked Windows 11 build looks like in our video tour of Windows 11.

In the video, you’ll see how the new, centered Windows 11 Taskbar works, including the new icons that Microsoft has included as part of Windows 11, too. There’s also a new Start menu that looks quite heavily influenced by Microsoft’s experiment with Windows 10X. (We don’t show it in our video, but there is a way to return to the Windows 10 Start menu within Windows 11, complete with Live Tiles.) 

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Celebrate 5 years of The Full Nerd with merch!

Since 2016 PCWorld's premier PC building podcast, The Full Nerd, has been bringing you news and analysis of the hottest PC topics every week. From reviews of hardware like CPUs and GPUs, to software tips and buying advice, The Full Nerd crew has worked hard to bring you a show that's educational and entertaining. Now in its fifth year, we are proud to have merch available to show off your PC-building chops, available at our Crowdmade store!

The Full Nerd merch Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

To celebrate the launch we have a limited-edition polo shirt available, as well as t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and even a mug. More gear and designs will be added often, so check back to see all the new merch we have available. It's a great way to show your support for our show. We look forward to seeing everyone decked out in the gear.

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Wireless keyboard buying guide: Know these details before you buy

You’re sick and tired of tripping over your USB keyboard’s cable and have decided it’s time to go wireless. Besides losing that annoying cable, a wireless keyboard also gives you the freedom to work farther away from your computer, or get some relief from your laptop’s cramped layout. 

We review wireless keyboards and are ready to help. Before you shop, here are some critical features you never had to think about with a wired keyboard, but you need to know now. 

Form factor: Full-sized or portable?

For wireless keyboards that stay on a desk or your lap all day, a standard-size model that looks just like a wired keyboard, but without the wire, will do in most cases.

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A cord-cutters guide to watching sports without cable TV
How to catch your favorite teams, games, and other sporting events without paying through the nose for a cable or satellite TV subscription.
Why don’t more laptops have upgradable RAM? | Ask an expert

Q: Why is soldered RAM so common in laptops? It seems very unfriendly to buyers. To get the amount of memory I want, my options are limited to extremely expensive gaming laptops—but I only need the specs of a mid-range laptop.

A: Replaceable SODIMM modules make uncommon memory configurations in the budget and mid-range feasible, for sure. But your description suggests you’re looking at ultraportable laptops, which is the likely reason you’re striking out in your quest for replaceable RAM.

Thin-and-light laptops tend to use low-power DDR4 (aka LPDDR4) RAM, which is a type that requires soldering. Why choose it over the SODIMM variety? Beyond the direct benefit to battery life, LPDDR4 also has the advantage of taking up less space—and not just in height. The room gained by using soldered memory helps keep the laptop slim and can be put toward other purposes, like cooling or a bigger battery.

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The Windows 11 leak is criticized as an early, incomplete build

Windows 11 may be better than we thought.

PCWorld has been told by a knowledgeable source close to Microsoft that the leaked Windows 11 build is being characterized as a portion of an incomplete, early build. The source characterized the Windows 11 build as not a final product, saying that Microsoft will likely offer a fuller look at what it plans to offer at its “what’s next for Windows” event on June 24.

The source did not refer to the leaked build as either “Windows 10” or “Windows 11.” Of course, running the winver command on the leaked build labels it as Windows 11. It’s also referred to as Windows Dev build 21996.1.

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The best SSDs of 2021: New cryptocurrency could send prices skyrocketing

Switching to a solid-state drive is the best upgrade you can make for your PC. These wondrous devices speed up boot times, improve the responsiveness of your programs and games, and generally makes your computer feel fast. But not all solid-state drives are the same. You can find top-notch SSDs that offer solid performance at an affordable price, or you can spend big to achieve read and write speeds that reach a whole other level. 

Many SSDs come in a 2.5-inch form factor and connect to your PC via the same SATA port used by a traditional hard drive. But out on the bleeding-edge of NVMe (Non-Volatile Memory Express) drives, you’ll find tiny “gumstick” SSDs that fit in an M.2 connection on a modern motherboard, SSDs that sit on a PCIe adapter and slot into your motherboard like a graphics card or sound card, futuristic 3D Xpoint drives, and more. Picking the perfect SSD isn’t as simple as it used to be.

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Best USB microphones for streaming: Upgrade your stream with high-quality audio

Whether you’re streaming games to Twitch, YouTube, or another platform, your audience needs to hear you clearly over the gameplay. (The same holds true if you’re holding live chat sessions or talking with your viewers as you work on a project.) And unfortunately, microphones built into laptops, webcams, and even headsets just don’t sound as good compared to a full-size microphone sitting close to your mouth.

The good news is you don’t have to spend a lot of money to upgrade—while professional streamers use pro-level audio equipment for the best possible sound, USB microphones are much cheaper. They’re much easier to use without sacrificing quality, too—plug a USB microphone into your computer, and you can be off and running immediately.

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Windows 11 Start menu: How to make it look like Windows 10

Windows 11—or a leaked build of Windows 11, anyway—does away with the old Windows 10 Start menu as part of a UI overhaul that simplifies the Start menu. But don’t despair! Here’s how to get Windows 10’s old Start menu back, complete with Live Tiles.

Windows 11 was leaked barely a day ago, but there’s already some controversy over the Start menu and the centralized location of the apps on the new taskbar. Everything is to the center of your PC’s screen, unlike the old days of Windows 10, when everything was oriented in the left-hand corner of your screen. The Windows 11 taskbar and Start menu heavily favor simple icons, too, while the Windows 10 Start menu exclusively used dynamic Live Tiles.

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When will Windows 11 ship? Here's what we know

On June 24, Microsoft is hosting an event for what Microsoft calls the “next generation of Windows,” possibly to be called Windows 11. Assuming that Microsoft does announce Windows 11 on that day, when will Windows 11 actually start shipping to users?

Based on how prior Windows releases have worked, we expect Windows 11 to ship probably by fall, and even earlier as part of Microsoft’s Windows Insider program. In part, that's because we've already tried out Windows 11, going hands-on with a decently polished leaked build.

We still can't be absolutely 100-percent sure that the June 24 Windows event will usher in Windows 11. We do know that the event is being billed as the “what’s next for Windows” event, and Microsoft chief executive Satya Nadella has been trying out the software for the past several months. And yes, there's the leaked Windows 11 build. 

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How to create deal alerts for Prime Day: 5 useful tools

Here at PCWorld, we do our best to keep you informed on great deals in tech, but sometimes that’s just not enough. We can’t possibly anticipate everything you might want to buy online, especially when the products are too niche or when they fall outside the realm of tech entirely.

That’s why rolling your own deal alerts is an invaluable skill for saving money online. By setting up alerts and reminders for just the products you actually care about, you’ll stand less chance of missing out when prices fall, and you’ll avoid getting duped by “sales” on products with inflated list prices.

With Amazon Prime Day set for June 21 and June 22, now’s the perfect time to get situated. Here are a handful of my favorite tools for tracking prices online, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.

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7 big ways Windows 11 changes Windows 10

How is Windows 11 different than Windows 10? Our hands-on look at a leaked early build of Windows 11 begins to answer that question.

Simply put, and based only on what we’ve seen in the leak, Windows 11 appears to update the user interface of Windows 10 without changing the underlying infrastructure of Windows 10 by all that much. These cosmetic changes are nonetheless significant.

Our leaked build shows changes in the Windows taskbar and Start menu, leveraging the UI tweaks that Microsoft made to Windows 10X before it put that operating system on ice earlier this year. There’s also a massive Widgets drawer that’s entirely new, though we’d expect it to evolve between now and when Microsoft will likely launch Windows 11 in the fall.

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