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Cold rain drizzles outside. Inside, everything is pink, round, and frilly. The first floor of this otaku (geek) retailer is plastered with release info for new PC games—adult PC games. The shop is located in Den-Den Town, Osaka's geek and gaming district, on a street known as "Ota Road", short for "otaku road". It's easy to stumble into shops like this and find an array of dating games, some of which are erotic.
The vast majority of these games are not exactly mainstream in Japan, but their presence is palpable in a geek neighborhood like this. But what Western gamers think of PC games—the games from developers like Valve and Blizzard—aren't. It's not that those Western PC games don't exist; they just don't smack you in the face.
Windows 8 received a decent amount of enhancements on the desktop side that I tend to appreciate versus running Windows 7. One such area of improvement is notification management and how it handles updates and system restarts. Running the final version of the OS for a few months now, it’s been a painless affair until this past weekend.
Unable to boot all of sudden, after some troubleshooting I settled on the idea that it wasn't a hardware problem. With a long history of dual booting different versions of Windows over the years, finding a corrupt MBR, boot sector, or Boot Configuration Data (BCD) is nothing new, but it took me longer than usual to come to a solution.
This week, U.S. President Barack Obama asked Congress to dedicate $10 million toward studying the effects of violent media—including games. In the wake of last month's tragic shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school—and the revelation that killer Adam Lanza had enjoyed shooter games like Call of Duty—violent video games have again become a significant topic in national conversation.
Have researchers found any links between video games and violence? Will violent video games really make kids more aggressive? Or are we wasting time and money?
In the decade we have been publishing TechSpot, we have watched Apple resurge from the joke that G3 and G4 machines represented, to the Apple 'Mac vs. PC' debate -- during a time the company had better luck selling MP3 players than computers -- to today's ubiquity of Apple products in all forms of computing devices.
During the past 10 years Apple has systematically attacked and conquered from several fronts. Here's a brief recount of those winning products, and where it applies, the industry incumbents that for one reason or another failed to innovate or at least failed to beat Apple at breaking products to the masses first.
This touchable, classy ultrabook is targeted right at the road-warrior, power-hungry, super-user. The S7 is an expensive machine. The starting price hovers near $1400, but our Core i7 configured spec clocks in at $1650. For the price customers do see a superlative spec sheet and a beautifully designed body.
I know what you're thinking. The S7 had better be amazing for that kind of money. Don't worry, with a few qualifiers, the Aspire S7 easily ranks among the top Windows 8 machines. Is that enough to justify the cost?
Cooler Master recently launched yet another enthusiast-friendly CM Storm chassis, the Scout 2. Despite its relatively low $90 price tag, the Scout 2 has plenty to offer, including ergonomic steel-reinforced carrying handles, USB 3.0 support and room for up to two SSDs, nine fans and any graphics card around.
Although we reviewed several Cooler Master enclosures in 2012, it's been a year since we laid hands on a new CM Storm-branded case, so it'll be interesting to see how the company's latest offering holds up in the increasingly competitive sub-$100 territory.
As the year comes to an end it's time to look back at the most interesting and relevant tech stories of 2012. Numerous trends consolidated during 2012: Apple’s dominance in the sector, mobile growth, fast-paced releases on the smartphone world, the Windows 8 launch, only to name a few.
This year we have divided stories in 12 heavily packed categories, with nearly 500 hand-picked headlines total. Feel free to jump around between your favored topics, but try not to miss the tech culture section where we revisit some of the most entertaining stories we covered this year. Here’s our take on 2012…
Since Microsoft introduced Windows Phone 7, they have tried in vain to introduce a legitimate competitor to the Apple iPhone. They have also failed to unseat an army of Android devices. Nokia's entry was an all-in gamble that was supposed to platform among the elite of smartphones, but being the most popular of the bunch didn't translate to commercial or critical success.
In the Nokia Lumia 920, Windows Phone 8 has a worthy competitor to iOS and Android. It continues the design philosophy that made the original Lumias the most popular Windows Phone handsets. It also features brand new software that is faster and more robust than its predecessor. Will a winning hardware foundation and vastly improved software secure the Lumia 920 a place among the elite?
It's been a heck of a year for games. We've had our highs and we've had our lows, but more importantly, we've all turned those highs and lows into animated GIFs for the rest of the internet to behold.
With that in mind, let's see what the best ones were.
We'll start with a few of our favorites.
From the perspective of folks who cover tech-related happenings, this is always a polarizing time of year. The final weeks of December are generally void of product announcements, yet only two weeks later, we're bombarded with new gadgets at CES.
Before we move on to the latest and greatest devices of 2013, we figure it's worth revisiting some of 2012's most popular devices as suggested by our Product Finder, which includes reviews by hundreds of seasoned specialists across the Web. We've included 59 products across 14 categories along with their aggregate review score and a brief commentary that explains why they're special.
The IdeaPad Yoga 13 was one of the first hybrid Windows 8 systems that consumers got a look at. Lenovo unveiled a near-finished prototype at CES nearly a year ago – well before Windows 8 was finished and ready for prime time.
With Windows 8 now here Lenovo is looking to capitalize early and often with the do-it-all Yoga 13. Priced from $999, this system was one of the first portable systems to launch alongside Windows 8. I’ve spent the past several weeks learning the ins and outs of this hybrid Ultrabook and without jumping right to the conclusion from the get-go, I will let you know that it’s a very capable all-around system that doesn’t compromise on that it is first and foremost: a notebook.
There was a moment on Sunday when I thought the PC gamers had been hiding something from me. They'd been telling me that PC gaming wasn't the complicated hobby that it used to be, that it was more streamlined and less of a pain. They'd told me that I didn't need to be an auto mechanic if I didn't want to be, that I could just drive without ever flipping up the hood.
And yet there I was trying to be a PC gamer on Sunday and having a tough time of it. I was feeling stymied yet again. I was having what I now hope are my last doubts, because today I've just about run out of excuses to fear PC gaming.
It's been a long year of HDD supply shortages and wacky premiums, but things are finally stabilizing and new designs are trickling out of drive makers. Recently WD expanded its flagship Black series with a 4TB model, meant to deliver a balance between speed, capacity and price.
At ~$350, a Black 4TB drive is slightly cheaper than a pair of WD Black 2TB drives and much more affordable than the previously released enterprise WD RE 4TB drive. Given that we've been spoiled by SSDs over the last few years, we don't expect to be blown away by the new drive's blistering speed, but it should be fun comparing its performance with other terabyte-plus hard drives if ample capacity is what you're after...
A $200 laptop is a difficult thing to assess. The Acer C7 Chromebook has that shockingly low price tag, but there's also weak build quality and a netbook-grade CPU. The trade-offs the buyer must be willing to make are not trivial. And that’s before we acknowledge the Acer C7 runs Chrome OS rather than Windows.
The most interesting question then, is who exactly is the C7 for? Before we can get to who it’s for (hint: there is more than one correct answer,) we have to get to the bottom of what the C7 is and then more importantly, what it can do.
They are, beyond control schemes and visuals, the single best reason to play games on a PC. Mods can, at their laziest, tweak a game so its settings or features behave more to your liking. At their most ambitious, they can transform your entire experience, leaving you with something that feels like an all-new game.
This year was a big one for PC mods, with two - DayZ and Black Mesa - rivalling commercial products for public awareness and, perhaps more importantly, quality. But they weren't the only great mods released this year, here's a shortlist of the best mods released during 2012.
Gamers tend to take a lot of pride in building their own rigs, but it's generally not enough to have top-notch performance without the looks to match. Motherboards, for instance, have transformed from generic green slabs to works of art. Interestingly, it seems increasingly common to find aggressive military styling among high-end motherboards. Despite the prevalence of military-themed motherboards, enthusiasts haven't had a whole lot of stock options for matching cases.
Hoping to fill that void, Corsair updated its Vengeance gaming lineup earlier this year with the C70 series which comes in Military Green. Thermaltake also launched the Level 10 GT Battle Edition with the same olive drab paint job and a few nifty details that are well worth a look if Army-themed gear is your thing.
Being one of the most prolific sources of security vulnerabilities in Windows and other platforms, Adobe Flash Player needs no introduction. In spite of that reputation, and the fact that the rest of the industry is moving away from Flash, Microsoft surprised many of us by bundling the software with its operating system for the first time with Windows 8. This is after previously announcing that they wouldn't allow Flash in the Metro version of Internet Explorer 10 -- a decision the company later reversed.
I was glad when the Adobe Flash Player Updater was released in March. Finally the day had come when our machines would be silently updated with the latest Flash version... or so I thought. It'd just seem Adobe is making all possible efforts to make its software more bloated and less attractive to all consumers, here's why.
Like the original game, Far Cry 3 is set on a tropical island, this time found somewhere at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. In typical TechSpot fashion, we'll be testing Far Cry 3's open world environment using 29 DirectX 11 graphics cards from AMD and Nvidia across all price ranges.
This new game is built using an advanced version of the Dunia engine called Dunia 2, which is said to feature new water rendering technology, a realistic weather system, advanced AI technology, a new animation system, realistic facial expressions, motion capture technology and global illumination -- many of which are made possible by the game's adoption of DirectX 11 and can only be experienced on the PC version.
Far Cry 3 is an open-world shooter through and through. The setup is simple: You're set loose on a massive island and tasked with gradually conquering it, one dead pirate/tiger/shark at a time. Here's a gun. Have fun.
There's a story you can play through, but it's in the balance between the "story parts" and the "non-story parts" that Far Cry 3 finds success. The story parts are a long series of mostly linear, welcomely varied adventures Jason undertakes in service of this rescue/revenge plot. The non-story parts are the emergent action that happens all over the island between missions. As with many of the best open-world games, the story parts are fun, but the non-story parts are what make Far Cry 3 special.
Modern tablets were designed primarily as media consumption devices. But more recently, units like the Asus Transformer and the Microsoft Surface are challenging this idea with optional keyboards built for each slate. Microsoft in particular is keen on showing consumers that Surface can serve as a legitimate productivity machine.
Unsurprisingly, accessory makers have been selling keyboard units designed specifically for the iPad for quite a while. Today we are checking out three of them from the likes of Belkin, Logitech, and Zagg.
Six years later and it seems the developer is ready to revive the infamous Agent 47 in Hitman's fifth game, which crept onto shelves last Tuesday, November 20 -- or the 47th week of the year. Among its other advancements, Hitman: Absolution is the first game to be developed using the new Glacier 2 engine.
The updated engine was specifically built for Hitman, with a strong emphasis on enabling very dense crowds and allowing players to not only interact with characters but also to influence their behavior. The engine is said to be able to handle up to crowds of 1200 characters, which makes Absolution unlike any other game.
Hitman: Absolution is a wickedly smart, darkly enjoyable video game, one that's as generous to players as its protagonist is merciless to his victims. You'll stab, strangle and shoot your way through level after level, sometimes grimacing, sometimes scowling, sometimes laughing.
Absolution picks up the Hitman story where the last game in the series, 2006's Blood Money, left off. That's a long time between sequels, even in the relatively slow-moving video game world. But that extended time in development likely accounts for a lot of what makes Hitman such a sprawling, interesting game.
Earlier this year we reviewed OCZ's flagship Vertex 4 SSD which at the time we were lead to believe was based on a second-generation Everest controller developed in-house. Eventually it was revealed and later confirmed by OCZ that the Octane and Vertex 4 drives actually used Marvell controllers with firmware developed in-house by the Indillinx team. While we acknowledged that it was very sneaky on OCZ’s behalf, it also didn’t change things much for us. Regardless of who did or didn't make the controller, the Vertex 4 was still one of the best performers and best values in the high-end SSD segment.
So with the controversy of the Vertex 4 almost behind them, OCZ is finally ready to unveil its first truly in-house SSD controller. It's been three years since Indilinx released a brand new controller and they are doing so today with the Barefoot 3, which is to be featured in OCZ’s latest SSD series known as Vector.
After a busy year with numerous GPU releases by mid-September things had settled down for good. And then, AMD threw us a curve ball. Their Catalyst 12.11 beta drivers delivered major performance gains in many popular games such as Battlefield 3, Borderlands 2, Civilization V, Skyrim, Sleeping Dogs and StarCraft II. Around the same time, Nvidia released a new beta driver of its own which claimed gains in several titles, and this driver has since been replaced by the GeForce 310.61 update, which made further performance enhancements.
With updated pricing and performance across the board, we figured it would be worth revisiting both company's offerings to see where you should spend your hard-earned cash this holiday season and into early next year.
Each iteration of Sony's flagship device has improved and been better than the previous version, but no single attempt has been just right. The Xperia TL, available now on AT&T, is as close as the company has come to finding the smartphone sweet spot, but is that good enough to rival other Android manufacturers?
James Bond seems to think so. The Xperia TL gets quite a bit of product placement in the latest flick, Skyfall, popping up as Britain's greatest fictional spy goes on missions to save the world and get the girl. If it's good enough for the world's most debonair spy, surely it's good enough for the average gentleman or lady.
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