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In use: A well-balanced machine

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The 360-degree hinge lets you use the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro in orientations from clamshell to tent mode (shown) to tablet mode. 

The Notebook 9 Pro has its quirks, but overall it’s a well thought-out product. Sure, you won’t get the charisma and drama of a flagship, but pretty much everything works. 

The matte-aluminum chassis with chromed Samsung logo is tasteful and sturdy. There’s barely any flex in either half of the body, and the 360-degree hinges feel rock-solid. We appreciate the lighter weight as well—bringing it along doesn’t feel like a hard choice. 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro has a comfortable keyboard, with slightly concave keys for easier typing. 

The keyboard texture is slippery, but the slightly concave keys help keep fingers where they’re supposed to be. The keys feel comfortably spaced, none are in an odd location, and their travel feels comfortable. The trackpad is very large and responsive, and its centered location is great—it’s always disconcerting when it shifts to one side. 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The S-Pen tucks into its own slot on the front of the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro.

In addition to its support for Windows 10 inking features, the S-Pen comes with its own note-taking, drawing, and other productivity apps. Collectively called Active Command, they’re easily summoned when you remove the pen from its slot or press its button when it’s near the display. I enjoyed all of them, especially how you can digitally mix colors in the drawing app, and how you can select video clips with the pen to make your own animated GIFs. 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

Press the S-Pen’s button to summon the Air Command menu of Samsung pen apps. The S-Pen also works with Windows 10’s inking features.  

There was only one glaring fault in our test unit, and that was the audio. The dual speakers in the Notebook 9 Pro, nestled into the bottom panel, have a surprisingly limited volume range, especially considering that this laptop is meant to play games as well as stream media. 

On the brighter side, the Notebook 9 Pro’s discrete GPU runs pretty cool. The slender intake grille on the bottom panel and the exhaust vent between the hinges murmur gently during operation. 

Performance: Happy medium

Our first test is PCMark Work 8 Conventional, which simulates everyday activities like web browsing, video chat, and document editing. It’s a good test for isolating the CPU’s role in everyday use. Any machine scoring 2,000 or above will sail along smoothly during these low-intensity tasks. 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro can hold its own in mainstream applications, even against quad-core competition.

It’s a light test, so it’s not surprising that the Notebook 9 Pro gets right into the mix with the quad-core competition. The HP Spectre x360 lagged behind somewhat because of its 4K display, which simply demands more processing power. 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

In the CPU-intensive Cinebench test, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro performs as we’d expect for a dual-core CPU, hanging far back compared to quad-core CPUs. 

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro surprised us in the Handbrake test, performing its video conversion faster than the similar HP Spectre x360. 

As you can see in the chart above, the quad-core Lenovo Yoga 720 and Dell XPS 15 handily beat the dual-core Notebook 9 Pro at this intensive task. However, the Notebook 9 Pro in turn makes the HP Spectre x360 look like a laggard, likely because of thermal throttling. 

Futuremark’s 3DMark Sky Diver is a synthetic test that measures the graphics performance of a PC. Although it doesn’t use an actual video game engine, it’s still well respected and clearly shows what you get if you opt for a discrete GPU.

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Samsung Notebook 9 Pro performs predictably in the GPU-intensive 3DMark Skydiver test given its moderately powerful RX 540 GPU.  

No surprise, the more powerful graphics engines in the Lenovo Yoga 720 and Dell XPS 15 prevail in this test. To its credit, the Samsung Notebook 9 Pro achieves a lot with what it has, especially compared to the HP Spectre x360.

Outstanding battery life

Melissa Riofrio/IDG

The Notebook 9 Pro has a 4-cell, 3,530 mAh/54Whr lithium ion battery, which lasts up to 11.5 hours, per Samsung. In our test it lasted 590 minutes, or nearly 10 hours, long enough for most people to get through their day. The other laptops in this chart have much larger batteries (79.2Whr for the HP Spectre x360, 97Whr for the Dell XPS 15, and 72Whr for the Lenovo Yoga 720), but they can’t keep up with the Notebook 9 Pro—their systems demand more power. 

A bonus feature we didn’t test: You can squeeze a little more life out of your laptop by charging it with any USB-C-connected smartphone battery pack. You won’t be able to recharge the laptop fully, but it’s a nice backup if you’re running on fumes. Anecdotally we also tried a third-party USB charger on the Notebook 9 Pro, and it was willing to take a charge.


Samsung’s Notebook 9 Pro does a very good job of balancing performance and features with battery life. It’s the kind of laptop a mainstream user can get without feeling they’ve compromised much. The discrete GPU, while modest, gives it a notable boost over laptops with integrated graphics. Best of all, the pen support and the long-lasting battery offer lots of productivity for the money. The tough choice is between this model and the Lenovo Yoga 720. It comes down to how much graphics power you want, and for what sort of tradeoff. The casual gamers will likely come down on the side of the Notebook 9 Pro. 

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Razer Blade 15 Review: Almost Gaming Latop Pefection

Our Verdict

The Razer Blade 15 is pretty expensive, especially if you want a 144Hz model, but not more than rival gaming laptops and you’re getting a serious combination of design and specs here. This gaming laptop has been refined, upgraded and improved to provide a 15.6in experience in a size barely bigger than before (in fact, it’s thinner). Add in 8th-gen Core i7, Nvidia Max-Q GTX graphics and lots of other goodies and we’re looking at one of the best portable gaming laptops money can buy. It can get a bit hot and noisy at times but there’s very little to dislike about this stunning device.

Razer is back with a new Blade and a bold claim, describing the 2023 model as the ‘world’s smallest 15.6in gaming laptop’. It comes with an improved design, 8th-gen Intel and Nvidia Max-Q and a 114Hz refresh rate. We’ve taken a close look in our Razer Blade 15 review.

In brief, what Razer has done here is taken the classic Blade design and squeezed in a larger screen without making the laptop any bigger – well not by much anyway. There’s more to it though, with a number of upgrades and refinements throughout.

Razer Blade 15: Price and availability

The price of a high-end premium gaming laptop isn’t for the faint-hearted as the Razer Blade 15 starts at £1,699/$1,899 – that’s almost double the Blade Stealth from not too long ago, but cheaper than the premium Razer Blade Pro 17. Although the laptop starts at under £2k, you can spend a chunk more if you opt for the most expensive model since it will set you back £2,549.

This puts it in direct competition with the new Gigabyte Aero 15X and Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501 Although there are cheaper 15in gaming laptops, like the Alienware 15 R3 and Acer Aspire VX 15, they are much less sleek and portable.

Razer sent us the model bang in the middle of the line-up which offers a good balance of price and specs. You can buy direct from Razer or with retailers including Amazon, Scan and PC World Currys.

Here’s a breakdown of the Razer Blade 15 prices:

FHD(60Hz), GTX 1060, 256GB – £1,699 – $1,899 – €1,949

FHD(144Hz), GTX 1060, 512GB – £1,979 – $2,199 – €2,249

FHD(144Hz), GTX 1070, 256GB – £2,149 – $2,399 – €2,449

FHD(144Hz), GTX 1070, 512GB – £2,329 – $2,599 – €2,649

4K(Touch), GTX 1070, 512GB – £2,549 – $2,899 – €2,899

New Base Model

If you’ve been hovering on the buy button but not pulled the trigger due to price, then Razer has more affordable options for the Razer Blade 15 laptop, at $300 cheaper than previously.

Razer said: “base model configurations will be available for purchase on October 10, 2023 in the US, Canada and China from

What Razer is calling the ‘Base Model’ still comes with the same 8th-gen Core i7 and 16GB of RAM inside the same laptop. However, you get a smaller SSD alongside a large traditional hard drive instead of the previous minimum 256GB SSD.

Either way you get the Full HD 60Hz screen and a GTX 1060 graphics cards.

128GB SSD + 1TB HDD – $1,599

256GB SSD + 2TB HDD – $1,799

New Mercury White Limited Edition

As well as the new base model, Razer has also introduced a dazzling Mercury White colour which is a limited edition. “Limited quantities will be available for purchase in Q4 2023 as an exclusive direct from Razer in the US and Canada, and at selected retailers in China,” said the firm.

In contrast to the regular style is has a matte white finish with black USB ports and a non-illuminated, ‘tone-on-tone’ Razer logo on the lid. There are two skus to choose from here, both include a Core i7 and, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and the Full HD 144Hz screen.

So you just need to choose whether you want a GTX 1060 or 1070:

GTX 1060 – $2,199

GTX 1070 – $2,599

Razer Blade 15: Design and build

As you can see, there’s no big departure here from Razer’s design that, over the years, has become iconic in the gaming market. The Blade 15 offers that black and green sleek style that many adore.

We’ve always liked Razer’s style and it’s great to see the firm making all the enhancements it can.

The headline design element here is that the Blade 15 manages to offer a full-size 15.6in display inside a chassis that appears to be no bigger than well-known 14in Razer Blade.

In fact, in some ways, the new model is smaller!

So, the Blade 15 is 13.98in in width, which is a small increase from the 13.6in you might be used to. Fitting that larger screen in is largely down to it being ‘edge-to-edge’ with tiny 4.9mm bezels.

And when it comes to thickness, the Blade 15 is actually thinner than its predecessor. Depending on what graphics card you get, it’s 17.3- or 16.8mm – down from 17.99mm – so it’s the thinnest GTX laptop around.

Update: The Asus ROG Zephyrus S is now the thinnest in the world.

This doesn’t compromise on connectivity though, as you still get full-size USB and HDMI. We’ll go through the rest later.

Overall, the design is more squared off and mirrors the lines of the Razer Phone. This includes front-facing speakers on either side of the keyboard, just like on the smartphone. The eagle-eyed reader may have spotted the power button is now on the right rather than central; it looks like it might have a fingerprint scanner built-in but it sadly does not.

The idea is portability and the laptop is very much that at 2.07-2.15kg depending on which model you buy. Even at its heaviest, the Blade 15 is a more than luggable.

The last thing to mention is that the Blade 15 has a new cooling system that includes dual fans and a large vapour chamber. It looks nice on the underside but we’ll talk about how hot the laptop gets in the performance section below.

Razer Blade 15: Keyboard and trackpad

You get the same Chroma-enabled Keyboard so you can mess around with lighting to your heart’s content using the Synapse software. There’s more to say here though.

There’s also a game mode to avoid pressing common Windows shortcuts and interrupting your game. We didn’t have any issues but some will find it more akin to an Ultrabook than a gaming keyboard, though.

The glass trackpad is new and it’s huge. You will want to connect a mouse for any serious gaming but for general use the trackpad is brilliant.

Razer Blade 15: Screen

As mentioned already, the new Razer Blade 15 for 2023 offers a 15.6in and we’re loving the new small bezels that run around the edge, making the laptop look great and keep the size of the chassis down.

The screen comes in a range of options though so you’ll need to choose wisely.

At the bottom end the Blade 15 has a Full HD display with a 60Hz refresh rate. This model only has the GTX 1060 and 256GB of storage so bear this in mind. At the top end is a 4K screen, also at 60Hz and is the only model with a touchscreen. This comes with a 1070 and 512GB and will be overkill for many.

We tested the Full HD model with a 144Hz refresh rate which comes with a choice of graphics card and hard drive.

This will be the best option for most if your budget stretches. It will be worth it for the extra smoothness that the increased refresh rate provides. We like the matte finish on the Full HD options but the display isn’t the brightest around at 275cm/m2 so we almost always had it at full brightness.

The display is colourful offering 99 percent of sRBG in our test but 76 percent of Adobe RGB, the gamut favoured by designers, isn’t so great. This is a gaming laptop though so this is only an issue if you’re looking for one that can be used for both work and play – in which case the Gigabyte Aero 15X will suit you better.

The 4K model could be a lot better for this but we can’t say.

Razer Blade 15: Core specs and performance

Regardless of which model you choose, you’re going to an 8th-generation Intel processor. As you’d expect from a high-end gaming laptop, it’s a Core i7-8750H – a 6-core, 12-thread, 9MB cache chip with a 2.2GHz base speed and up to 4.1GHz with Max Turbo. That’s the same as the Asus ROG Zephyrus GX501.

Every Blade 15 comes with 16GB of DDR4 2667MHz RAM, but you can upgrade it to 32GB. Windows 10 comes pre-installed, of course. Storage goes up to 512GB in the form of an M.2 SSD but it depends what combination of things you want.

In terms of graphics, there’s an Nvidia GTX 1060 or 1070 in the Max Q form, essentially versions of the desktop cards made for thin laptops. If that isn’t enough graphics power, then Razer has also launched a new Core X eGPU to house a desktop card. It’s now just £269.

Here’s a reminder of the SKUs on offer:

Full HD (60Hz), GTX 1060, 256GB 

Full HD (144Hz), GTX 1060, 512GB

Full HD (144Hz), GTX 1070, 256GB 

Full HD (144Hz), GTX 1070, 512GB

4K (Touch), GTX 1070, 512GB

And the new Base Model options:

Full HD (60Hz), GTX 1060, 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD 

Full HD (60Hz), GTX 1060, 256GB SSD + 2TB HDD

We tested the model in the middle with a GTX 1070 with 265GB of storage and the results are very decent indeed.

In Geekbench 4 multi-core the Blade 15 scored 17,956 and in PCMark 10 it managed 4962. That’s better than the Areo 15X but a little behind the ROG Zephyrus which has a GTX 1080.

In our gaming benchmarks the Blade 15 managed impressive results. Tested at Full HD resolution, the laptop managed 101.5fps on medium settings in Total Warhammer and 64.3fps when set to ultra. In Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon it got 79.8fps on medium and 44.6fps.

These aren’t far off the Asus ROG with its 1080, so the Blade 15 can offer Full HD gaming at ultra settings and more than playable framerates.

The chassis does get quite hot though. The fans get quite loud and the sections either side of the trackpad where you’ll rest your palms gets warm. The hottest section is between the keyboard and screen which we’d often describe as too hot to touch.

Razer says this is normal with a metal casing and heat is drawn away from where you make contact with the laptop. It’s worth noting that since the air intake is on the bottom, you shouldn’t use the Blade 15 on a cushion, bed or similar.

Razer Blade 15: Connectivity and audio

There’s a switch to Intel for Wi-Fi and the Blade 15 has a Wireless AC-9260, which offers 11ac and the laptop also has Bluetooth 5.0.

Connectivity is decent despite the laptop being thinner than before. You get three USB-A 3.1 ports (in green, of course), HDMI 2.0, USB-C Thunderbolt 3, a 3.5mm combo jack and, for the first time, a mini DisplayPort 1.4. This means you can support up to three external displays.

There’s also a 720p webcam, which is above the screen not below it like many new laptops. You’ll also notice a proprietary power connector. This comes with an angled cable to feed the cable to behind the laptop.

As noted earlier, there are speakers either side of the keyboard. So while many laptops have speakers on the side or even underneath, these ones actually point vaguely towards your ears. 

Razer Blade 15: Battery life

It’s no secret that gaming laptops aren’t made for battery life. The Razer Blade 15 has a 80Wh battery built-in which is a chunk bigger than the Asus ROG Zephyrus we reviewed and it shows.

Razer’s device lasted almost twice as long with a result of two hours and 45 minutes – that’s playing a video on loop at 120cd/m2 (40 percent brightness in this case). It’s still not great but it does mean you can play for a little while without needing a power socket.

However, there’s a simple way to get a lot more battery life and that’s switching the screen to 60Hz – you can do this in the Synapse software. With the display at a lower refresh rate you can get an impressive eight hours of battery life in the same test.

Just remember to switch it over when you’re doing things like watching a film and not gaming.

Are Curved Monitors Good For Gaming?

Are curved monitors good for gaming?

The Definitive Guide to Curved Monitors

Curved gaming monitors have been floating around the industry for a good while now, providing a more immersive experience to those that have the cash to splash out on such luxuries. Whilst yesteryear’s curved monitors weren’t exactly groundbreaking when it came to gaming, the same most certainly can’t be said for today’s offerings. The latest arrivals to today’s marketplace offer up a whole plethora of high-performance specifications and benefits that actually make them the perfect choice for a lot of modern-day gamers.

In today’s article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the main benefits that come equipped with buying a curved monitor for gaming. We’ll see how they compare to flat monitors in price, performance, and overall value for money, alongside individuals tests and whether or not a curved monitor is right for your specific needs.

Monitors Specifications And What They Mean

If you’re new to the PC game, or monitors in general, the following section is going to help you understand the specifications a monitor comes equipped with. Whilst explaining (in brief) what each does, we’ll also be explaining which is most important when looking to purchase a monitor for gaming.

So, that being said, let’s get into it.

Refresh Rate

The monitor’s refresh rate is one of, if not the most important specification it comes equipped with when referencing gaming. The refresh rate is measured in hertz (Hz) and tells us how many times the monitor refreshes the picture it’s displaying, in seconds. So, a monitor that has a 144Hz refresh rate, refreshes it’s image 144 times per second.

The quicker the monitor can refresh the image it’s displaying, the smoother the picture will be, naturally. Gamers should concern themselves with this specification as it has a direct impact on the overall gameplay – with lower refresh rates falling victim to screen artifacts such as screen tear and jitter. Two things no gamer should encounter.

Response Time

Response time is the 2nd “R” in the triad that makes up a great gaming monitor. The response time is in reference to how quickly the pixels can change color, usually using the GTG (Gray-to-gray) color transition. Gamers should definitely make themselves aware of what this specification does, as slow pixel response time can lead to ghosting – a visual artifact that washes out colors and leaves a ghostly trail behind fast-moving images.

As a general rule, gamers should be looking for a response time of under 2ms for the absolute best results. As we’ll see later, however, that isn’t always possible with curved gaming monitors.


Resolution refers to the physical number of pixels your monitor can display at any one time. Resolution is the final piece of the gaming puzzle when it comes to a monitor’s specifications. Finding the right resolution for your specific needs is a careful balance between computational demand and required image clarity.

A monitor that displays a max resolution of 1920×1080 will display 1920 pixels horizontally by 1080 pixels vertically. Use the same ideology with a 4K monitor (3840×2160) and it’s easy to understand why 4K offers far better picture clarity.

That being said, higher resolutions put a lot more stress and demand on your system and graphics card. The bottom line is: ensure your computer can handle the performance demands of the resolution you plan to play on before splashing out on a fancy high-end monitor.

Panel Technology

There are three main panel technologies used in today’s monitors (IPS, TN, VA), all of which come equipped with their own unique set of pros and cons – tailoring them for specific usage scenarios. Choosing which panel technology is right for you comes down to your specific needs. See the table below for a better understanding of the main panel technologies:


The color of your monitor isn’t going to affect gaming performance massively, but it will affect the immersive experience it gives you as a user.

Most of today’s monitors display their color accuracy via a percentage of a color gamut. A color gamut is a spectrum of color, with some offering a wider range of colors than others. sRGB, for example, doesn’t cover nearly as much color variation as Adobe RGB does.

When comparing the color accuracy of individual monitors, look for high percentage coverage of a wide gamut, such as Adobe RGB or DCI-P3. This will give you great levels of immersion and a more realistic image.

Variable Refresh Technology

Variable refresh technology is fairly new in the larger scale of things, bringing impressive levels of smoothness to gamers who desire it.

Better known as G-Sync and FreeSync, variable refresh technology is used within today’s monitors to help synchronize the PC’s frame rate output with the monitors refresh rate. This, in turn, removes visual artifacts like screen tear from occurring and provides an extremely smooth picture image.

If you’re looking at a gaming monitor, be sure to choose a monitor that has the specific refresh technology to match your GPU. Remember, G-sync is Nvidia, and FreeSync is AMD.

Curved Monitor Vs. Flat Monitor

So, now you’ve had a closer look at some of the specifications that go into making a monitor, it’s probably a good time to compare the two screen types to see which comes out of on top.

First, let’s start with the pros and cons of curved monitors:


Immersion – Curved monitors have a lot going for them, but maybe the best of the bunch, is the levels of immersion they create when used for gaming. Thanks to a number of different factors (many of which will be in the pros), the curved monitor is not only more exciting, but it captivates you for longer – allowing you to concentrate and enjoy your virtual environment.

Less distortion – Thanks to the curvature of the curved monitor, the picture you’re seeing isn’t being distorted in any way. Where a curved monitor points the picture at you directly, a flat monitor is projecting the image in a straight line – some of which is past your field of view. Even though it might not be apparent, distortion occurs in this type of scenario. Another plus to the curved monitor.

More comfortable on your eyes – A curved monitor almost copies the curvature of your eye, allowing for a more natural viewing experience. Unlike a flat monitor, the curved monitor is less stressful on our eye, meaning you can game harder, for longer.

 Aesthetics – Aesthetically speaking, nine times out of ten, the curved monitor outshines its flat counterpart. It isn’t going to please everyone’s needs, but there’s something oddly beautiful about a widescreen curve.


Expensive – Whilst the above is all true, so are the cost issues that come with getting curved. Now, that’s not to say you can’t purchase a curved gaming monitor on the cheap, because you can. However, if you compare two monitors (curved and flat) with similar specs, more often than not, the curved will be more expensive.

Price to performance – If you’re already well versed in curved monitors, you’ll understand the difficulty in finding one that offers good gaming specifications at a decent price. Refresh rate and response time, as we said earlier, are very important when it comes to gaming. Realistically, you want to be aiming for 144Hz refresh and 1ms response for the best gaming experience. Finding a curved monitor with those specifications cheaper than a flat alternative is hard to come by.

Now let’s take a look at the flat monitor in comparison:


Better aspect ratio for competitive gaming – Most modern games work perfectly well on widescreen/ultrawide curved monitors. However, there are still plenty of titles that work better under 4:3 aspect ratios – mainly highly-competitive FPS titles. Keep this in mind if you do plan to play at a competitive level.

Better value for money – It’s safe to say that, almost always, the flat monitor showcases better value for money. You can pick up a relatively good gaming monitor for around $250-$300.  I’m not so sure the same can be said for a curved alternative.

More functional stand – It’s safe to say that, more often than not, the stand that comes with a flat monitor is more versatile than its curved counterpart. Swivel, tilt, height, and rotational adjustment are fairly common in flat offerings. Versatility is not always as easy to find in curved options.


Can be basic in design – Unlike curved monitors which scream luxury and style, the same can’t always be said for the flat monitors out there. Some offer very basic designs that look, well, pretty cheap and tacky.

So, as you can see, both flat and curved monitors have plenty of pros and cons to their names. Many of you may be surprised by the number of pros the curved monitor comes equipped with – but you shouldn’t be. We’ve seen a large increase in curved monitor sales over the past five to ten years, with the above pros being the main reason.

We still haven’t really answered the big question though, are curved monitors good for gaming? Well, let’s take a look.

Are Curved Monitors Good For Gaming?

The fast answer is yes. Modern-day curved monitors come with all the bells and whistles that we see on the best flat monitors – instantly making them great for gaming. Gone are the days when you’d struggle to find a curved monitor that has a good refresh rate, low response time, and offers a playable resolution. Today, monitor manufacturers are well ahead of the curve (mind the pun), providing high-performance options in most price ranges.

That being said, below is a quick comparison between one of my favorite curved monitors vs. one of my favorite flat monitors:

As you can see from the image above, there are clear differences between the two monitors – most glaringly being the price. Whilst the Alienware has lower refresh rates and slower response times, they aren’t terrible when you consider this is a 34″ beast of a monitor. Both monitors have IPS panels, both have very similar color accuracy and brightness, and both offer 1440p picture quality with around 300 nits of brightness. However, the curved panel is still over a third more expensive.

But, that isn’t answering our question, are curved monitors good for gaming,? The answer is yes – just be ready to fork out for one.

Related Pages

Below are some pages we feel you may be interested in:


So, there you have it, our complete rundown of whether or not curved monitors are good for gaming. We came to the simple conclusion that, yes they are, but you’ll have to fork out the right cash for a good one.

With that in mind, below are some of the best curved monitors for gaming:

Fallout 76 Review: Almost Hell, West Virginia

Here at PCWorld I try to stick to a simple standard when reviewing games. I either finish the game or the game finishes me—a.k.a. after long hours spent frustrated I deem it unplayable. Fallout 76 is not strictly unplayable, but after 30-odd hours wasted in this West Virginia wasteland I’m calling it. Time of death, around 2 a.m. on November 19 when I logged in to find half my quest log mysteriously wiped away, as if I’d never started any of a half-dozen different missions.

I do want to set this world on fire

And it’s not even the only busted quest! Another early one, “Personal Matters,” concludes with you having to kill a specific enemy inside a specific basement. I entered the basement—and the enemy was already dead. Yes, we’ve traveled back to the days of EverQuest and early World of Warcraft, queueing up to complete quest steps.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

I logged out, then logged back in to a new server. Dead. I came back the next day. Dead. I came back the next day. Dead. Finally, after logging out to eat dinner and then returning, I was lucky enough to find a server where this damn ghoul was alive, pop a .308 round into his head through a window, and finish the quest. It took me three real-world days to finish a quest that should’ve taken three minutes.

Playing the beta a few weeks ago, I already complained about Bethesda’s slavish adherence to real-world logic over video game logic. If someone is using a crafting station, you can’t use it until they’re done. Why? I guess because you need to watch your character sit down and stir a pot, or smack a hammer into a bench over and over while you peruse menus. Same goes for merchants. Someone else is trading with the only robot merchant in town? You’d better hope they don’t take too long, because you’re stuck waiting in line.

The lack of instancing in quests is beyond the pale though. Hell, even The Division—a game that somehow launched in a state where players could stand in doorways and block others from getting out—understood that the campaign should be unaffected by other people’s shenanigans. Safely sandboxed in your own unique instance, you could take in the story (or what passed for a story in The Division) in peace. Not here!

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Not that there’s much reason to explore anyway. Quests? Almost all boring. There are no human NPCs in Fallout 76. Bethesda made that clear repeatedly before release. I still thought that left the door open for ghoul NPCs though, but nope! Not from what I’ve seen. And even robots aren’t really NPCs as much as quest dispensers. They don’t talk with you, they talk at you. There’s no dialogue system in the game whatsoever, and so no real opportunity for roleplaying. You either finish a mission or you don’t.

IDG / Hayden Dingman IDG / Hayden Dingman

Previous Fallouts had these sorts of areas as well, but they provided a counterpoint to the present-day. You were delving into the past to help build a better future. Fallout 76 is all past. There is no future, and there is nothing to work towards except your own survival.

To that end, most of your time in Fallout 76 is spent collecting garbage. Ostensibly the goal is to craft a base, similar to Fallout 4’s settlements. This time you can build pretty much anywhere, courtesy of your C.A.M.P. or Construction and Assembly Mobile Platform. You can even move your base to a new area if you find a particularly scenic overlook.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Unlocking items to build is also very slow. After 30-plus hours I’ve unlocked maybe a fifth of the possible items, none of them very fun or interesting. And none of it has a functional purpose beyond the various crafting benches and the player’s stash. For a long time I moved my base every 10 or 15 minutes, placed a crafting table and the stash, and then unloaded my accumulated junk. That’s another aspect that’s annoying: If you move your base, you have to rebuild it. Bethesda allows you to “Blueprint” your design and place it in one big chunk, but I’ve had times where the blueprint couldn’t be built in the space I’d chosen—and thus none of my crafting tables were accessible. Finally I just created duplicate tables to work around it.

But if the loot harvest is bad, the lack is even worse. I grumbled for the first half of the game about collecting junk, vacuuming up Abrexo Cleaner and Lead Pipes and Alarm Clocks and other miscellanea to break down into crafting components. Then I maxed out my stash, and realized that aside from collecting junk…there’s not much to do in this world. Just the missions, and those are (as we’ve covered) not very enticing either. With no impetus to explore, no especially unique or important items to find, there’s even less reason to enter the various generic buildings dotting the landscape. You go straight to the mission objective, grab the holotape or read the terminal, then leave—over and over again.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

Bugs. Let’s get back to talking about bugs. I’ve had at least four or five server disconnects, each time losing a bunch of progress when I logged back in and found myself half a mile from where I’d been dropped. I had one quest reset itself to an earlier stage when I logged out, losing half an hour of work. I never went back to finish it. I logged in once to find myself trapped inside someone else’s base, all the exits requiring a picklock skill higher than mine—meaning I was just trapped forever, or until I logged out and connected to a different server. Another time, a wolf spawned underground. It could attack me, but I couldn’t attack it, so I died. One time I picked up a comic book and the texture file was apparently just missing.

Performance is abysmal, but inconsistently so. Sometimes you’ll be humming along at a smooth 60 frames per second, and then with no warning you’re battling sub-30 frame rates, your weapon swinging wildly back and forth as you try to draw a bead on encroaching ghouls. I haven’t had this many “I swear I shot you!” moments in over a decade, some of my bullets passing through enemies with, I have to assume, the magic of bad netcode. A thick Vaseline-like smear makes everything more than 100 feet away blurry, but object pop-in is still pervasive. And my personal favorite is enemy pop-in, where a hallway looks deserted until suddenly three baddies appear out of thin air.

These encounters are especially frustrating because Fallout 76’s combat is terrible. I mean, all modern Fallouts have had mediocre gun-play, but in the past they got around this with V.A.T.S., the pseudo-turn-based targeting system that slowed action to a crawl and let you pop off a bunch of targeted shots. Fallout 76, being an online game, can’t be paused or slowed down, so instead V.A.T.S. is a glorified auto-aim with a percentage-to-hit modifier that fluctuates up and down wildly. On PC it’s far easier to just take out a shotgun and blast everything.

IDG / Hayden Dingman

And then there’s the leveling system. Fallout 76 ditches the traditional point-allocation system for some sort of card-based perk layout. More than 30 hours in, I still haven’t figured out how the hell it works, nor has anyone I’ve talked to. I think each card you buy gives you a corresponding skill point, except sometimes that’s not true? Or at least sometimes I’ve bought a card and then found out I can’t use it. So yeah, add “Unintuitive Leveling System” to the list of complaints.

Bottom line

I need to wrap this up, even though there’s so much more I could talk about. Some of it I talked about in the beta, like voice chat being always-on and automatically opted in, so you’re stuck listening to people ramble about “My controller batteries just died!” over top of holotapes and other key story beats. Other parts are just annoying quality-of-life issues, like friend requests not being friend requests—you have to add each other individually, or else every “friendship” is one-sided.

I could talk about the complete lack of reason for player interaction, which raises the question why Fallout 76 is a multiplayer game to begin with.

Roccat Burst Pro Air Review: A Wireless Gaming Mouse That Elevates Rgb

Best Prices Today: ROCCAT Burst Pro Air

The Roccat Burst Pro Air occupies a comfortable niche in Roccat’s line-up, being arguably the most aesthetically pleasing and an excellent performer in games. More precisely it packs four stellar RGB lighting zones as well as a precise 19,000 DPI sensor and dual wireless and wired connectivity.

That said, there are a few downsides: It’s both heavier and pricier than rivals like the HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless and the Razer DeathAdder V3 Pro. But as I found out, these compromises are worth tolerating for a gaming mouse that performs so well and offers as much versatility as the Burst Air Pro does.

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best gaming mice. Go there to learn about competing products, what to look for in a gaming mouse, and buying recommendations.

Roccat Burst Pro Air: Design and build

Unboxing the Burst Pro Air revealed what looked like a straightforward symmetrical, FPS-style gaming mouse. However, its “special something” soon burst into view—literally—in the form of its stunning RGB lighting.

Roccat buried a honeycomb grid just below the surface of the mouse’s semi-transparent plastic outer layer—a design that creates a dazzling RGB glow that’s mesmerizing from every angle. But once you switch off the RGB, it’s all black again—the Pro Air will fit in just as easily next to your office PC as it will your gaming rig.

By customizing the Pro Air’s RGB in the Swarm app you can get some stunning visual effects. 

Palm gripping is super easy to do too since the Pro Air is nicely proportioned to rest against the top of your palm. Its 4.7 x 1.5 x 2.6-inch body fits snugly into your hand’s contours, feeling neither too small nor too big. The left-hand side buttons deserve a special mention, too, for being just the right size and shape for your thumb.

Two large, heat-treated PTFE glide skates make any movements across your mouse pad very smooth and effortless, and there are hexagonal grids flanking each side that serve as useful grips to prevent your fingers slipping—a bonus when your hand gets sweaty.

That said, the Pro Air’s design isn’t perfect. While it scores marks for size, it loses a few points for its 81-gram weight. Just last year 81 grams would have been considered quite light for an FPS gaming mouse, but releases like the 62-gram Razer DeathAdder V3 Pro and the 63-gram Logitech G Pro X Superlight have set a new benchmark for what constitutes lightweight.

RGB lighting zones beneath each of the Pro Air’s main buttons illumiate your fingers as you use it. 

Despite this, most rivals lack at least one of the Pro Air’s features: The V3 Pro, for instance, has no RGB lighting, whereas the HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless doesn’t offer as many connectivity options. So while the Pro Air might not be the cheapest or lightest gaming mouse you can buy, it certainly is an all-rounder that goes the extra mile.

mentioned in this article

HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless

Read our review

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Roccat Burst Pro Air: Connectivity

The Burst Pro Air differentiates itself from its near sibling, the Roccat Burst Pro, by sporting wireless as well as wired connectivity, which means it’s a go-anywhere mouse that you can just as easily use plugged into your home gaming rig as you can unplugged on a laptop you take to your friend’s house.

Additionally, you get not one, but two wireless options—Bluetooth 5.2 as well as low-latency 2.4GHz Wi-Fi—which adds to its versatility as a mouse that you can use for work as well as play. By comparison, the HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless offers only a low-latency 2.4GHz Wi-Fi option as well as wired connectivity.

For a wired connection, Roccat provides you with a long 1.8-meter, flexible USB-C to USB-A cable that should service even the hardest to reach PCs. This cable also doubles as a fast-charging cable when you’re out of battery, and it comes with a neat plastic protector to keep the USB-A side free of water or dust.

A discrete dongle storage port on the underside of the mouse is also a nifty inclusion that makes losing your USB-A receiver a little harder to do.

ROCCAT Burst Pro Air: Software

The Burst Pro Air makes use of ROCCAT’s Swarm app, which is where you’ll need to go to assign commands, create the five on-board profiles and customize the RGB lighting colors or effects. ROCCAT have made this fairly easy to do with submenus that you can easily navigate through, and thanks to a recent update the app looks modern and more visually appealing than before.

You can customize the Pro Air’s debounce time in the Swarm software app. 

Dominic Bayley / IDG

ROCCAT Burst Pro Air: Performance

The Pro Air packs a Roccat Owl-Eye optical sensor which tracks movement at 19,000 DPI and at 400 IPS (inches per second). It’s based on the PixArt PAW3370 sensor, which for your reference, is considered an excellent option for FPS gamers.

I did at times find myself wishing it also had left and right tilt functionality which would have been highly useful in games like Rainbow Six Siege, where peeking around corners is easier to do with a four directional wheel. Still, it was easy enough to assign extra commands to my keyboard, and gamers who need the left and right lateral wheel inputs, or otherwise more commands, can always opt for the Roccat Kone XP instead, a mouse which does both of these things extremely well.

Button assignment in the ROCCAT Swarm app.

Dominic Bayley / IDG

My only nit-pick about the Pro Air, if I had to name one, is that it can very rarely overshoot the mark when carrying out super precise maneuvers. This doesn’t happen a lot, but the one time in one thousand when it does, can be a little off-putting.

This could have been due to the inertia of its 81-gram weight or the fact that I had become accustomed to the much lighter HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless, so I may have been pushing it a little over-enthusiastically to compensate. Regardless, it’s worth noting, nonetheless.

Should you buy the Roccat Burst Pro Air?

If you’re looking for the lightest FPS gaming mouse at the cheapest price possible, then the Pro Air won’t match the likes of the HyperX Pulsefire Haste Wireless, or some other rival FPS gaming mouse that may beat it on both of those fronts.

On the other hand, for just a bit more pocket change and a few extra grams weight, the Pro Air give you a mouse that has more dazzling RGB, more connectivity options, and performs equally as well in fast-paced games. Plus, it’ll pass as an attractive work companion when you want it to, something that many FPS mice simply can’t do—yet another reason this mouse should win tons of fans.

12 Things Siri Is Actually Good At

Apple’s digital assistant is one of the company’s more limited offerings. While she’s not as powerful as competitors like Google Assistant, Siri’s abilities have improved over time. There are some tasks that are actually easier with Siri than without. Here are a few good reasons to actually use Siri.

1. Set a Timer

I don’t use Siri all the time, but when I do, I’m setting a timer. Activate Siri and say “Set a timer for 10 minutes,” and Siri will automatically start the countdown. Excellent for cooking.

2. Add Calendar Events

3. Make a Note

I tend to get a lot of ideas while I’m driving, but that’s not really a situation where pen and paper is easily accessible. I use Siri to take notes instead. The voice trigger for this command is fairly flexible. Start with something like “Note to self…” or “Make a note…” and Siri will create a new item in Notes containing whatever you say afterwards.

4. Spell a Word

Pronouncing a word and spelling a word are two bits of knowledge that are only loosely related. Rather than typing incorrect permutations and hoping AutoCorrect catches your meaning, check the spelling through Siri. Just say “Spell definitely,” for example, and Siri will reply with a text box showing the word. She’ll also spell it out loud, which could be embarrassing or helpful, depending on your location.

5. Check the Weather

Get quick weather updates through Siri’s voice commands. You can trigger this one with a wide variety of voice commands, from a conversational “How’s the weather?” to a more direct “What’s the temperature?” Either way, you’ll get a quick summary of current conditions by voice. You can also check the screen for the day’s hourly forecast.

6. Calculate a Tip

Ask Siri “What’s 20% of thirty-five dollars and forty-six cents?” and she’ll reply with the correct answer, $7.09. This is especially useful if you forget how to calculate percentages after you’ve had a few drinks.

7. Get Sports Stats

There’s a very specific set of structured data that Siri can fetch, and sports stats are almost perfectly suited for that ability. Ask “What was the score of the Super Bowl?” to get a quick voice summary and a more detailed info box. You can also get a more complete picture by asking something like, “How’s Manchester United doing?” As you can see, the correct answer to the second question is “poorly.”

8. Search the Dictionary

You can also use Siri to find the definition of words. Say “What’s the definition of inconceivable?” and Siri will reply verbally. This might be another context-dependent usage, but it’s great for words you’ve heard spoken but don’t know how to spell.

9. Search Your Own Photos

While Siri’s strongest suit might be web-based querying, that’s not all she can do. You can also search your phone’s own photos using Siri. Say “Find pictures of cats” to see all the photos of cats that you’ve taken. It’s not guaranteed to get every image of cats, but it does a decent job.

10. Find a Movie to See

Say “Search movie times” to see a list of the movies that are currently playing nearby. The well-organized UI for this information is the most valuable part since it makes it easy to see what movies are out now and if they’re any good. Tap on a movie’s poster image to see a description, and then tap “Playing at…” to see the list of theaters current showing the film.

11. Start Your Workout

Thanks to the third-party integrations that Apple added in iOS 10, Siri can now trigger events in non-Apple apps. One of the most useful integrations is starting a workout. Just say “Start a run with MapMyRun” to begin tracking your workout. This will also work with Runtastic, Zova, and Nike+.

12. Get a Ride with Uber or Lyft

Catch a ride with Siri’s third-party Uber and Lyft integration. Say “Take me home in an UberX,” for example, and Siri will generate a request matching those parameters. Confirm the request, and wait for your ride.


Siri has not yet reached the level of an all-purpose digital assistant, but she’s getting there. Take the time to experiment with what she can do: you might just be surprised at how helpful she can be.

Alexander Fox

Alexander Fox is a tech and science writer based in Philadelphia, PA with one cat, three Macs and more USB cables than he could ever use.

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