HTC’s long-rumored smartwatch has been snapped again

There’s been talk of an HTC smartwatch since way back in 2013, but while there’s still no sign of a release date, the watch, believed to be codenamed HTC Halfbeak, has just been leaked in an assortment of photos.

These images, shared on Weibo, match earlier leaked shots and don’t really show us anything new, with the same round display (believed to have a resolution of 360 x 360), the same plastic strap and the same heart rate sensor on the bottom.

The watch also has Under Armour branding alongside HTC’s, which again is something we’ve seen before.

But while there’s no new information here the existence of new images does suggest the HTC Halfbeak might still be in the works – though it appears to be running Android Wear 1.0, which could mean the photos actually aren’t recent, since Android Wear 2.0 is launching imminently and any new Android smartwatch is likely to use that from day one.

It could be coming soon

But that’s also cause for hope, as with Android Wear 2.0 landing in early February we’re expecting a number of new smartwatches to arrive soon after, so the HTC Halfbeak could well be among them.

If so, MWC 2017 at the end of February is likely when we’ll see it. But with LG reportedly launching two new smartwatches on February 9 the HTC Halfbeak could have some stiff competition.

The best cheap PS4 deals in the January Sales 2017

2017 is off to a great start, with plenty of cheap PS4 deals. The January sales have seen some excellent bargains with some prices dipping below £200! the latest PS4 bundles are selling fast, so don’t dawdle if you see a PS4 price you like. The new white PS4 Slim is out this month too, so we’ve rounded up the best deals for the ice cool console.

On this page we’ve listed the best cheap PS4 deals in the UK (here’s our US PS4 deals page) so you can find all of the cheapest PS4 prices. Below you’ll find all of the absolute cheapest standalone PS4 deals from UK retailers, followed by our pick of what we think are the bundle deals that offer the best value. 

The PS4 is currently available in a number of different forms. You can still get the original PS4 in 500GB and 1TB versions and you’ll find prices for those just below. Under that you’ll see the best deals for the new PS4 Slim which has come in to replace the original model with a slimmer design. And at the bottom you’ll see deals for the new PS4 Pro – the new fancy 4K model.

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The best PS4 deals

The original PS4 with optical out audio options

These are the regular, older, full-sized PS4 deals. Expect to see a few tasty bargains as retailers clear space for the new PS4 Slim. Prices have been dropping naturally in recent months, so if you’re not bothered about 4K visuals (get a PS4 Pro if you are) and are yet to pick up a PS4, you could find a fantastically cheap deal here. We’re starting to see this model get phased out with better deals to be found on the PS4 Slim further down this page. 

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The best PS4 Slim deals:

The PS4 Slim is… slimmer, quieter and smaller

The new PS4 Slim launched in September 2016 for around £259 (500GB) or £310 (1TB). This new model has effectively replaced the original PS4 now . The console itself is smaller, lighter and more power efficient and the 500GB model is priced at a similar (if not cheaper) level to the older PS4, so you’re not paying extra for the refined tech. We’d seriously advise you scroll down to the bundles further down this page as many of them are cheaper than buying the console on its own! Stores are now taking orders for the new White model too, so we’ve listed the best deals below.

ps4 pro deals

The best PS4 Pro deals:

The PS4 that offers 4K gaming and Netflix

Essentially, the PS4 Pro is a 4K upgrade of the current PS4, rather than a ‘next-gen’ console. The keywords to take in from the PS4 Pro are 4K and HDR. The new machine allows game developers to include 4K resolution and High Dynamic Range options in their games, so expect the like of Uncharted 4, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Days Gone, Horizon: Zero Dawn and more to look even better on a HDR-enabled 4K TV. You’ll also be able to stream 4K content from Netflix and Amazon. Want to get the right TV? Then check out our cheap 4K TV deals page.

The best PS4 bundle deals this week…

You’ll often find that the most attractive way to get a cheap PS4 is with a bundle with extra hardware or extra games. These are the best PS4 bundle deals currently available in the UK – we update these deals on a regular basis.

White PS4 Slim | Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare | £229.99 @ Amazon
The initial batch of White PS4 Slim pre-orders cost around £260, so we’re delighted to see Amazon knock a chunk off the price and bundle in a game. This brings the price more in-line with similar black PS4 bundles – meaning you’re not forking out extra for paint-job on this super cheap white PS4 deal.

View this deal: White PS4 Slim with Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare £229.99 @ Amazon

White PS4 Slim | FIFA 17 Steelbook Edition | £229.99 @ Amazon
As with the deal above, the value here stems from the fact most retailers are still charging £250-£260 for the new white PS4 Slim. So getting it with a game for £229.99 is a bargain. You’re getting the Amazon-exclusive Steelbook for FIFA 17 too.

View this deal: White PS4 Slim with FIFA 17 (steelbook) £229.99 @ Amazon

1TB PS4 Slim | Driveclub | Uncharted 4 | The Last of Us: Remastered | extra DualShock V2 controller | Now TV Pass | £279.99 @ Hughes
This new official bundle is packed with value and top Sony exclusives. Yes even Driveclub (it’s come a long way since that awful launch). Uncharted 4 is a solid Game of the Year contender and The Last of Us: Remastered is a perfect excuse to play the updated PS3 classic again, or for the first time if you’re really lucky. All that value and you’re getting the 1TB console too, an extra controller and a two-month Now TV pass!

View this deal: 1TB PS4 Slim, Driveclub, Uncharted 4, The Last of Us £279.99 @ Game

500GB PS4 Slim | Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare | £229.85 @ eBay
A great price alone for a PS4 Slim and getting a brand new game too is a sweet bonus. As for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, it marks the series’ first proper space-setting, features a better than usual campaign and includes the usual extensive multiplayer options. It also has John Snow looking clueless in a space suit. The John Lewis has gone up £50 this week but Tesco us still rocking this super price.

View this deal: 500GB PS4 Slim, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare £229.85 @ eBay

ps4 deals

500GB PS4 Slim | Watch Dogs and Watch Dogs 2 | £229.99 @ Zavvi
This new PS4 Slim comes with physical copies of both the original Watch Dogs and the new Watch Dogs 2. Even if you don’t need the original game, this represents the best value if you’re after the new console and the sequel as the console alone is usually closer to £250 and this bundle cost £20 more last week

View this deal: 500GB PS4 Slim with Watch Dogs double pack £229.99 @ Zavvi

prime day deals

PS4 Slim: Or if the above deal sells out, you can also get it for £199.99 @ ShopTo’s eBay

PS4 Slim: The cheapest price around for a PS4 with a copy of Uncharted 4. Don’t miss it at just £229.99 @ Amazon

PS4 Slim: Or for the same price (today at least) get the same bundle plus a 2-month Now TV cinema pass. £229.99 @ Game

PS4 Slim: Looking for a PS4 Slim with a copy of FIFA 17? Well, stop looking as you can get this bundle, plus a Now TV pass for £229.99 @ Game. Or ditch the Now TV pass and get a two-year warranty instead for £229.95 @ John Lewis

PS4 Slim: Love Lego? Love Star Wars? We have the perfect PS4 deal for you then as you’re getting a PS4 Slim with Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens and a blu-ray of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for only £229.99 @ Zavvi 

PS4 Slim: Argos has a great PS4 bundle today. Get the PS4 Slim, FIFA 17 and a extra V2 DualShock 4 controller (in blue, black or red) for £249.99 @ Argos.

PS4 Slim: This PS4 deal with the new Slim console comes with either a copy of The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4 or No Man’s Sky for free. An ace PS4 deal for £249.99 @ Argos

Limited Edition Destiny PS4: This super rare white PS4 is covered with Destiny-inspired artwork and also comes with a copy of Destiny: The Taken King. We’ve never seen it at this super cheap price before either. Grab yours for just £249.99 @ Zavvi

The best PS4 Pro deals this week

PS4 Pro 1TB |Infamous: Second Son | Fallout 4 | Now TV | £349.99 @ Game
Not a bad selection of extras at all here. Infamous: Second Son is getting a 4K patch soon and Fallout 4 will last you a small eternity. When you need a break there’s the Now TV movie pass. A bargain considering the RRP of the PS4 Pro is £350 anyways.

View this deal: PS4 Pro, Infamous: Second Son, Fallout 4, Now TV £349.99 @ Game

Cheap PlayStation Plus deals

If you’re buying a PS4, you’ll probably need a cheap PlayStation Plus deal too. PlayStation Plus (aka PS Plus or PS+) allows you to play PS4 games online, along with access to the Instant Game Collection, a bunch of free games for PS4, PS3 and Vita each month. The default price for a year is £40. CD Keys is known for having some great PlayStation Plus deals, so we’d head there if you need a top up or want to stack some subs.

Need an extra cheap PS4 controller? Don’t forget to check our Best DualShock 4 deals. Or maybe a cheap PlayStation VR deal?

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Visit Pricehawk: in the Google Chrome Store

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The best free music app for Windows 2017

The best free music app for Windows

Music makes even the dullest day more fun, but the default players that ship with Windows’ various versions aren’t exactly all-singing, all-dancing audio extravaganzas. Here are the apps that make music amazing on your PC.

Foobar2000 is a powerful free music app that can be as simple or advanced as you like thanks to its modular design

1. foobar2000

Some music players are all style and no substance, with flashy interfaces and a distinct lack of decent features. Foobar2000 is the opposite. It doesn’t look like much – it’s designed to be simple and memory-efficient – but you can make it look any way you like and add whatever features you want.

That’s because what’s already a very useful audio player, ripper and converter offers stacks of ‘components’, which extend its powers even more. Components include CD burning, decoding of PlayStation sound files, visualizations, playlist organisers and all kinds of useful things. You can even customize the keyboard shortcuts to suit your way of doing things. Foobar2000 is the best free music app for Windows.

Download here: foobar2000

Spotify’s desktop app gives you access to all of the service’s best features, including community options

2. Spotify

Spotify’s official desktop client is a great free music app for managing tracks across all your devices
Spotify isn’t the only free music app for streaming, but it’s the one everybody knows and the client software is extremely well designed.

Spotify isn’t just a music player; it’s a music platform that works not just on Windows but on mobile devices, games consoles and all kinds of other devices too.

As you’d expect from a service that’s primarily about subscriptions the free version is limited in what it can do – tracks shuffle and you’ll get the odd advert – but if you don’t mind somebody else controlling the playlist it’s a great way to soundtrack whatever you’re doing.

Download here: Spotify

3. MusicBee

An incredible free music app for Windows that puts a wealth of information at your fingertips
MusicBee describes itself as the ultimate music manager and player, and it’s available for Windows versions from Vista onwards. If you’re still using the Windows default, it’s like moving from black and white to Technicolor.

There’s a multi-band equaliser with digital signal processing effects, support for high-end audio cards, upmixing from stereo to surround sound and even support for some WinAmp plugins to expand the app further.

It comes with a choice of skins, syncs with mobile devices including Android and Windows phones, integrates with and includes a vizualizer to make your music look as good as it sounds.

Download here: MusicBee

Dopamine is wonderfully easy to use, with a simple wizard to help you import your songs and get started

4. Dopamine

Free music app Dopamine guides you step-by-step to help you get more from your favorite tracks
Dopamine is your brain’s happy juice, and its music playing namesake should give you the warm and fuzzies too. This free music app is designed to make organizing and listening to music as simple as possible, and it looks absolutely brilliant on Windows 10.

It supports wav, MP3, Ogg Vorbis, FLAC, WMA and M4A/AAC, and there are a range of views from full-window to sitting in the taskbar. It’s a lovely-looking thing and it really is easy to use, and we like the way you can make it as shouty or quiet as possible by changing the notifications settings. It’s well worth the download.

Download here: Dopamine

MediaMonkey is ideal for managing a messy music collection – adding metadata and syncing with mobile devices

5. MediaMonkey

If your music library is looking a bit disorganized, MediaMonkey will help you get it in order
One of the big pains about digital music is that if your collection is bigger than a few albums, it’s easy for it to get messy. For example, you might have REM and R.E.M., or U2 and good music. Haha!
MediaMonkey can’t stop unwanted U2 albums turning up, but this free music app can automatically tag your music as well as other useful things including DLNA streaming, syncing with devices including Android and iPods, run in DJ mode, automatically set volumes so tracks don’t vary, record CDs and download audio from the internet.

Add-ons offer even more including sound effects and additional format support.

Download here: MediaMonkey

What Winamp lacks in gloss, it makes up for in downloadable add-ons for dozens of other programs and services

6. Winamp

A classic free music app supported by a huge collection of downloadable skins and plugins
Winamp has been languishing in development hell for a while now, but a new version is coming and the classic version remains a very good little music app that we love to bits, largely because it was our introduction to the joys of MP3 music.

It’s ancient in software terms but there’s a charm to it that more modern players lack – partly because it looks horrible, and partly because you can make it look even more horrible.

But the real fun is in its visualizations and plugins, which have the benefit of two decades of developers’ efforts. If you fancy kicking it old-school, it’s a lot of fun.

Download here: WinAmp

VLC Media Player isn’t just great for video – it can also handle pretty much any audio format you can think of

7. VLC Media Player

A brilliant free music app, VLC Media Player can play just about any file or music stream
You probably know about VLC, the kick-ass free video player, but you might not know about VLC, the kick-ass free music app. And here’s the twist: they’re the same program.

VLC Media Player might not be as pretty as some other media apps, but that’s never been a key part of its appeal: it’s the fact that VLC can import and export in file formats so numerous that we’re secretly convinced some of them are completely made up. It plays any kind of disc you can throw at it, supports all the main online streaming protocols, and of course it has brilliant video features too. It’s an absolute gem.

Download here: VLC Media Player

AIMP is an advanced free music app packed with tools to enhance your listening experience and ensure you get the best performance from your PC’s audio hardware


A free music app towards the pro end of the spectrum, with advanced audio-enhancing options
AIMP has been kicking around for 10 years now, but it’s still very much alive; its most recent release was just a few weeks ago. This is a free music app for power users, with a built-in 18-band equalizer and a whole host of sound effects and even a vocal remover, smart playlists based on criteria you select, a fantastic audio file converter and CD grabber, and group tag editing to keep your library in top shape.

You can even get AIMP to wake you up in the morning or automatically shut down the system at night once your favorite tunes have lulled you into a deep sleep. 

Download here: AIMP

Resonic’s main selling points are its superb real-time frequency analysis and brilliantly designed interface that minimizes time-consuming clicking

9. Resonic

Give your mouse a rest with Resonic’s single-click interface, no-click scrolling and quick shortcuts
Resonic might not have the high profile that other music apps enjoy, but it’s a high quality app with an interesting approach: it’s built around frequency analysis and waveform viewing so you can actually see what you’re listening to – not as a visualization but as a real-time view of the audio file and the frequencies it’s using. There’s something wonderfully hypnotic about that.

The rest of this free music app is good too with an attractive interface, wide format support, automatic fades and a sleep timer. Resonic integrates with the Taskbar in Windows from Windows 7 onwards too. And there’s an integrated MIDI synth that’s optimized for quick auditioning of MIDI tracks.

Download here: Resonic

Audacity is an excellent tool if you make your own music, enabling you to enhance and perfect your tracks before you publish them

10. Audacity

An oldie but a goodie, Audacity can be used as a music player, but we like it more for editing music. It’s particularly good for jobs such as digitizing old cassettes or vinyl records, removing background noise and chopping albums into discrete tracks, and you can use it for multi-track recording and for audio mastering.

If your hardware supports it, you can even record at sample rates of up to 192,000Hz – the same as pro recording studios use – or up to 384,000Hz if you have a high-res sound card. The loopback feature is particularly handy – it captures whatever the system is playing, making it great for recording Skype calls and other audio.

Download here: Audacity

Best movies on Netflix UK (January 2017): over 100 films to choose from

Welcome to our new and constantly updated list of the best Netflix movies in the UK right now, charting the best movies on Netflix to watch, so you don’t have to endlessly search for something new. 

Netflix may have taken the world by storm with its TV output but, as you will see from the following list, there’s plenty of movies on Netflix to devour once you have got all that binge-watching out of your system.

Netflix has had its regular purge of titles, ridding itself of a number of movies for 2017, but it’s also added some fantastic ones too, as you will see in this comprehensive list.

Our Best Netflix Movies list has been broken up into categories to make it easier for you to navigate. To make things neat and tidy we have chosen 10 movies to watch in each category – with further recommendations listed at the bottom.

In all there’s around 150 movies to choose from here, all chosen because they are, simply, the best films on Netflix to watch right now.

From comedy to indie, to horror and kids, there’s a movie category for everyo

Samsung, nobody cares about your 8-point battery safety check

I’m pretty sure that Samsung is going to make the least-explodey phones in the world from now until doomsday, as it simply cannot absorb another PR nightmare like the one it’s still experiencing.

But after the flaming Galaxy Note 7 debacle last year, there was a sense of ‘why bother?’ when the phone manufacturer announced a press conference to tell the world why the battery caught fire in its big-selling phablet.

We know why Samsung wanted the conference – it needed a PR exercise to properly explain what happened, and assure the world that it was never going to make such a dramatic error again.

The brand needed to try and restore consumer confidence that the forthcoming Galaxy S8 – which could be one of its best-selling phones of all time – is hampered as little as possible by the Note 7 fallout.

A missing explanation

To that end, we got two things: a detailed explanation from three independent experts as to what happened with the Note 7 battery, and a long explanation of the 8-point battery safety check Samsung will implement going forward.

But Samsung, you missed one vital thing: how this whole mess started in the first place. Consumers need to know how a company of your size managed to make such a slip. We all knew the batteries were to blame, and previous documents showed it was because of deformations in the battery shape.

The independent testing announced at the press conference showed that a few things were at fault: the aforementioned deformed batteries, as well as punctures caused by poor-quality welding, and thermal tape either missing or not providing the right level of protection.

But the consumer doesn’t really care about this, and nor are they required to; nobody should have to know what kind of battery safety checks are in place with the consumer electronics they’re buying.

What Samsung failed to outline is why the designs they supplied to the battery manufacturers were faulty in the first place. 

When the first reports of Note 7 fires emerged, rumors swirled that Samsung was hell-bent on getting its phone out ahead of Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus after it learned the upgrade from Cupertino was going to be underwhelming – and that its haste compromised checks in the design process.

The irony of pressure being applied from above resulting in pressure within the battery causing the fires shouldn’t be ignored.

What buyers want

Was it the design of the Note 7, combined with a desire to plug a massive battery into a super-thin, curved phone that caused one of the big issues? Did Samsung reach too far in a bid to increase market share and profits? That’s what we need to know.

Consumers thinking about buying the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 who are aware of the Note 7 fires just want to know what mistakes Samsung made in the design of the phone, why they made errors in the first place, and whether the company’s principles have changed to ensure this never happens again.

But we didn’t get definitive answers, and as such the Note 7 ‘explanation’ press conference shouldn’t be seen as anything other than a PR exercise for Samsung, rather than an explanation to help out future customers. 

The long and the short of it is that Samsung put poorly-designed batteries in the Note 7, and we don’t know how that happened. We know what happened, but not the series of events that led to it.

Of course the Galaxy S8 won’t explode – but neither has this press conference put the issue to bed for Samsung.

You know that, the second someone uses a charger made of paperclips and foil, which some people around the world persist in doing, a Galaxy S8 will start smoking in some remote location – and this debacle will be brought up time and again.

So Samsung can put in as many safeguards as it likes. It can help the rest of the industry make safer batteries, create advisory committees and work with experts to make sure it doesn’t have this happen again. 

But it’ll be a year or two before the Note 7 is forgotten – so Samsung had better hope the Galaxy S8 is a brilliant phone, as there’s nothing that helps rewrite people’s memories than a new and improved must-have shiny thing to look at.

  • The Samsung Galaxy S8 won’t be there, but we’re going to see loads of new phones at MWC 2017

ZTE’s crowd-sourced smartphone is in trouble

The ZTE Hawkeye was hailed as a fantastic new direction for the mobile industry as the Chinese firm paraded its innovative, fan-designed phone in front of the media at CES 2017. Thing is, all is not well in the ZTE fan camp. 

Cooked up under ZTE’s Project CSX, which gave fans the opportunity to design and pitch their ideal smartphone to the manufacturer with one winning design getting built, the Hawkeye was born with eye-tracking tech and an adhesive back which can stick to any surface. 

Thing is, fans invested in the project thought they’d be getting a flagship smartphone, but it turns out ZTE has put the two key features into a more mid-range offering – leading to mass disappointment. 

The ZTE Hawkeye is currently listed as having a 5.5-inch Full HD display, Snapdragon 625 chipset, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 3,000mAh battery, fingerprint scanner, dual rear cameras (13MP+12MP) and an 8MP front snapper. 

Among the top grumbles are the mid-range chipset, relatively small battery size and lack of network band support for many carriers and countries.

One change only

Stuck with the $199 price point on the Kickstarter campaign, ZTE can’t give the handset a total spec overhaul, so it’s instead committed to upgrading one aspect of the phone. 

To decide what gets upgraded it’s given its community the choice of a Snapdragon 835 chipset, a larger 3,500mAh battery, stock Android or ‘other’ with voters able to leave comments on what they’d like. 

At the moment the Snapdragon 835 is winning, although several comments are calling for 4GB of RAM, a smaller screen and more internal storage. 

Head to the Kickstarter page for the ZTE Hawkeye and the scale of the trouble is clear to see. It’s nowhere near its $500,000, having raised just under $35,000 at time of writing from 182 backers in just 19 days. 

With 26 days left of the campaign it looks unlikely to reach its “all or nothing” funding goal.

Via PhoneArena

Mass Effect: Andromeda release date, news and rumors

Updated: Good news for Origin Access and EA Access subscribers – BioWare has confirmed in a tweet that you’ll get access to your 10 hour trial of the game on March 16, five days before the US release of the game and a week before the UK release.

Like with other Access trials, your progress will transfer over to the full version of the game so you’ll be able to make a good chunk of progress before everyone else. 

Original article continues below…

Mass Effect: Andromeda, the fourth installment in BioWare’s hugely popular sci-fi role-playing franchise, is one of the most highly anticipated games of 2017. The vast ‘open galaxy’ adventure promises to take fans on an exciting new adventure across unexplored worlds with fresh characters.

Cut to the chase

  • What is it? The fourth game in BioWare’s sci-fi RPG Mass Effect franchise
  • When’s it out? March 21 in North America and March 23 in Europe
  • What systems is it coming out for? Xbox One, PC, PS4, and PS4 Pro
  • What will it cost? Pre-order prices start at £49.99

Andromeda was officially revealed to be under development at E3 2015, where fans were treated to some early concept footage, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting more solid information on the game for a while now.

The game was originally slated for a 2016 release but was delayed to early 2017 instead, with BioWare stating that it needed more time to make sure it could deliver “everything the game can and should be”.

Following the game’s delay, EA released a trailer at E3 2016 which didn’t give much away in terms of story but did show that the game will have some impressive visuals. 

Andromeda will be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC. It was also revealed in September that the game would also run 4K on Sony’s new PS4 Pro system. 

BioWare general manager Aaryn Flynn has also confirmed that the game will support HDR on Xbox One S, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 4 Pro. As far as PC is concerned, he has confirmed that it will support HDR but wasn’t able to say whether it would be HDR10 or Dolby Vision. 

What’s the story?

In its feature Game Informer has cast some light on the Mass Effect: Andromeda’s back story, which has been summarised on NeoGAF.

The Andromeda Initiative was set up as a multi-species, civilian missions which would send scientists, explorers and colonists to the distant Andromeda Galaxy where they would settle. The overall goal was for these explorers to establish a permanent base in the galaxy and create a reliable route between it and the Milky Way Galaxy so that the many species involved could travel between the galaxies and transport resources.

Each species embarking on the mission travelled on its own ark captained by its own pathfinder, with 4 arks in total.

From what we understand, these events take place before the Reaper invasion and those travelling on the arks towards Andromeda have no idea of the events taking place in the Milky Way Galaxy after they depart as they’re deep in cryosleep. 

The game begins with humanity’s ark, Hyperion, becoming separated from the rest and getting trapped in a dangerous location faced with a frightening enemy called the Kett. 

Events lead to the protagonist, Sara or Scott Ryder depending on the player’s choice, becoming the pathfinder of their ark and responsible for the safety of those on board. 

Being dubbed “the new pathfinder” in the game’s cinematic trailer, it seems the main storyline will revolve around the player taking charge of navigating this hostile and unfamiliar galaxy in order to lead their crew to safety or find the other arks. No doubt they will be faced with many difficult choices in the process.

There’s a sense of desperation and urgency in the trailer which will give the series a completely different tone. With a whole new galaxy, ship, and the competent Commander Shepherd gone, Andromeda will certainly stand far apart from the rest of the games in the series as a fresh and complete story. 

Combat and customisation

We know the story is supposed to be different from the rest of the games in the Mass Effect series, but how will the gameplay differ? Apparently there will be some similarities but some big changes to contend with. 

The biggest change is the abandonment of the class system which is being replaced by a Skill Tree. This will allow players to access abilities from all classes though they’ll absolutely still be able to specialise which is encouraged through specialisation bonuses.

As far as combat is concerned, it’s not just guns anymore; players will be able to wield melee items such as swords and hammers and even use their jetpack to give their approach to combat more variety.

In a gameplay trailer released by BioWare at NVIDIA’s keynote speech during CES 2017, we got a better look at the game’s combat. The footage showed the player battling a hoard of robot foes. 

The combat appears to be fast paced, with the player constantly having to move around an open play area to land hits and dodge attacks. It also shows how players will be able to change their class type mid-battle thanks to the decision to focus on skill tree instead.

It’s also recently been revealed by lead designer Ian S Frazier that players will be able to craft and name their weapons, including melee weapons such as swords and hammers. 

Frazier revealed the information on Twitter. Unfortunately, he didn’t go into details and describe how exactly weapon crafting would work, but it’s a feature that already exists in BioWare’s other RPG series Dragon Age so chances are it will take some inspiration from there. 


Forging relationships with companions is one of the most enjoyable aspects of playing a BioWare title and companion loyalty missions are a big part of the way the player is able to actively invest in these relationships and delve into NPC backstories. 

To the disappointment of many these loyalty missions were absent from Mass Effect 3, but they’ll be making a return in Andromeda, though they’ll be slightly more detached from the main storyline than they were previously. That said, there will apparently be more relationship options in Andromeda than any previous Mass Effect Game.

Whereas in Mass Effect 2 the loyalty missions were inexorably tied up with the main plot and could effect the game’s ending, in Mass Effect: Andromeda they’ll be “much more optional” and players will be able to complete them even after the game’s main story ends. 

Apparently the game will feature a host of optional side content that players will be able to explore, including a variety of exploration activities and a mystery surrounding the protagonist’s family. 

Detaching the loyalty missions and side content from the game’s critical path could be a good decision as while it retains these aspects of the series that many players love, it doesn’t force them on players that just aren’t interested. 

We hope, however, that separating these different aspects of the story doesn’t lessen the impact of player choices and their consequences. There is the risk that making players able to access all of these character storylines after the game’s critical path is complete could reduce replayability and result in a more shallow story. 

Perhaps in an attempt to balance this out, decisions will apparently be less clear cut between “good” and “bad”. Say goodbye to the Paragon/Renegade system. Instead each choice the player makes will have pros and cons which should make settling on a choice a more nuanced and difficult process. 

We don’t have any solid details on who exactly the companions will be in Andromeda but BioWare says that interacting with them will involve more dialogue options. 

These dialogue options will also be about more than romance. Some will be interested in long-term romantic relationships, some won’t be interested in romance at all. It’s nice to see BioWare making character relationships about more than reaching a sexy cutscene. 


The player’s ship will be called the Tempest. Apparently moving through the ship will not trigger any loading screens which is part of a larger effort to make travelling through the galaxy feel seamless.

Players will select which planet they want to travel to through a Galaxy mini map and though you won’t get to manually pilot the ship, the game will apparently attempt to give you a sense that you’re travelling towards a planet. No doubt this will be achieved through a skippable cut scene.

Once you land on a planet, you’ll jump into a smaller vehicle called the Nomad which is a throwback to the Mako of Mass Effect. Thankfully, the Nomad is a big improvement on the rather volatile Mako. 

All aboard

Mass Effect: Andromeda waves goodbye to the Normandy ship of previous titles and introduces The Tempest. 

In Mass Effect, the player’s ship serves a variety of purposes; it’s where you plan missions, get to know your companions, decide upon your character’s progression, and feel safe and secure from the terrifying galaxy around you.  Since so much happens here, it’s important that gameplay on the ship be as enjoyable as possible – it’s your new home for tens, perhaps hundreds, of hours. 

The Tempest is planned to function much as The Normandy did in previous titles, though it’ll have a few additions that set it apart. 

According to Game Informer, players won’t encounter any loading screens when exploring The Tempest. Players will handle the ship’s navigation from the bridge, looking out into the stars rather than accessing a galaxy map.

The galley will become the place where the players is able to change Ryder’s abilities and skill-point distribution between missions. 

Ryder will have their own personal quarters, the decor of which players will apparently have some control over and they’ll also see small souvenirs and markers of their journey appear here. 

As you’d expect, you’ll also find your crew scattered around the ship performing various activities and, though efforts have been made to make these NPCs look more active than in previous titles, they’re essentially waiting for you to interact with them.

To make walking through the ship a more immersive experience, the view out of the windows will change to reflect the player’s location in the game world. Exploring the game world using The Tempest will also be a more seamless experience and the developers said they’ve made a big effort to reduce load times and make the process of flying to a planet, landing and leaving the ship much smoother. 

You won’t, however, be able to fly the ship yourself at any point. According to the game’s developers, this would just have been too much to include alongside all of the other new features 


The multiplayer feature of Mass Effect 3 is back in Andromeda, though BioWare says it’s more refined and improved.

According to Game Informer’s recent report, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s multiplayer mode has been designed to feed into the game’s single player mode. How exactly this is going to play out has been left unclear, though we do know that mission funds from the multiplayer campaign will have “tendrils going out into the rest of the campaign.”

The hope is that it will leave players feeling that the two are connected without making them feel forced to play multiplayer to make the most of the game. “If you feel cheated, we’ve done something wrong” said lead designer Ian Frazier.

That sounds like a difficult balance to strike, but BioWare’s plan should work. Apparently, in the single campaign for Andromeda the player will have the ability to send teams of people across the map to complete side missions – perhaps like securing bases or perimeters. If the player would rather do these missions themselves, they can do so in multiplayer mode where they’ll be part of the mission team.

It sounds slightly like how the War Table missions from Dragon Age Inquisition or the assassination contract missions work in Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood. Except this time rather than being restricted to giving out these missions for unseen NPCs to complete over a set amount of play time, players will have the option to jump straight in and do the job themselves. 

This should allow players to complete the necessary task of expanding humanity’s presence in the Andromeda galaxy but doesn’t force them to be too involved in the task unless they wish to be. 

BioWare says that playing multiplayer will create advantages for the player in the single campaign, however it’ll have no impact on the game’s final ending. 

The end game

According to Game Informer, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s ending will leave the door open for future games. As for details on the ending itself, fortunately those are sparse but BioWare do say “it’s different than the trilogy” which wouldn’t be such a bad thing.


Fans of Mass Effect who know without a shadow of a doubt they’re going to purchase the game will likely consider pre-ordering the title, especially since it’s been revealed there will be some neat pre-order bonuses on the Origin Store. 

No matter which edition of the game is purchased, customers who pre-order will receive Deep Space Explorer Armor, a multiplayer booster pack containing five 50% XP boosters, and a bonus skin for the protagonist’s ship, The Nomad.

The standard edition pre-order price is currently listed as £49.99/US $59.99.

Those who pre-order the Deluxe edition for £54.99/US $69.99 will receive the game and the previously mentioned bonuses as well as more outfits and armours, four unique weapons, a pet space monkey that will be your companion, a digital download of the game’s official soundtrack, and the Multiplayer Deluxe Launch Pack which includes more weapons and equipment for you to use on co-op missions.

Then, there’s the Super Deluxe edition. At £69.99/ US$99.99 it’s much more expensive but it’s also much more deluxe as the name suggests. In this edition you’ll get everything previously mentioned and more multiplayer booster packs which will provide one co-op premium pack every week for a period of 20 weeks to help boost player progress.

It seems like the Super Deluxe edition might only really be worth buying for those who plan to be highly invested in the game’s mulitplayer mode. 

N7 celebrations

As November 7 is N7 day (the official Mass Effect celebration day) fans were certain that new Andromeda details would drop. 

EA began teasing announcements on Twitter, posting that we’d learn about the “new characters” and “new worlds” of the game on N7 day:

Adding fuel to the fire, the official Mass Effect Twitter account confirmed that there would be a whole new trailer drop:

As recently as November 1 we were treated to a teaser trailer which involved the Andromeda Initiative, a group tasked with travelling outside the Milky Way galaxy. 

In the trailer a narrator, who was later revealed to be the father of the game’s main character, said “The time has come to prepare ourselves for a future beyond the Milky Way; a future that begins 600 years from where we stand, in a time and a place among unknown stars and unseen dangers.“

The cinematic trailer for the game officially dropped on the BioWare YouTube channel and you can watch it right here:

It’s another cinematic trailer and it doesn’t appear to feature much (if any) gameplay, but the visuals are certainly impressive and it confirms that the player is indeed “the new pathfinder.”

Probably the biggest thing to take from this trailer is that it gives us a glimpse of the main enemy of Andromeda, the Kett. As you’d hope/expect they look threatening and frightening. 

Fans eager to stay on top of the latest announcements are able to sign up to the Andromeda Initiative on the game’s website which states that “Registered recruits will be among the first contacted to receive critical mission information, special training opportunities, and will also be eligible for reward upon program completion.”

  • Thinking of getting a PS4 Pro just for Andromeda? Why not read our PS4 Pro review

Faster charging batteries are possible thanks to in-phone tunnels

You may think the fast charging technology we have from companies like Qualcomm and Samsung right now is fast, but thanks to a recent technology breakthrough even faster charging could be on the horizon.

According to new research published in the Nature Communications journal, the charging speed of the lithium batteries we currently use in everything from phones and laptops to electric vehicles could be improved by adding charged metal atoms to tunnel structures.

By using a mix of structural experiments and computer simulations, research teams at the Universities of Bath and Illinois discovered that by adding charged potassium into the tunnel-like structure of manganese dioxide they could greatly improve a battery’s performance. 

Performance boost

This is because the addition of the positively charged ions improves the electrical conductivity of the batteries, allowing the lithium ions to move faster therefore improving the charge rate of the battery.

According to Professor Saiful Islam from the University of Bath, “understanding this processes is important for the future design and development of battery materials, and could lead to faster charging batteries that will benefit consumer and industry.”

Though we already have faster charging techniques in our smartphones, they aren’t actually the result of improved batteries and instead use carefully controlled current increases which make the most of the battery technology we already have. Unfortunately, it relies on using phones and chargers that have been manufactured to support the technology.

Improving the batteries themselves, if it proved affordable, could make the process of fast charging possible and safer in a wider range batteries, perhaps even the larger lithium batteries that are used in electric vehicles.  

Sonos wants to build home speakers that work with all AI assistants?

Sonos, a US-based tech company best known for its quality wireless home speakers, may jump on the Amazon Echo bandwagon with its own AI-powered solution. Sonos, however, may also be looking at ways to create an all-in-one device that works with more than one AI.

The details are not clear at this point, but a recent memo penned by Sonos’ new CEO Patrick Spence reveals that the company may be developing a smart home speaker that is compatible with all major AI assistants. That means Alexa and Google Assistant currently, and possibly Cortana and a rumored Apple contender further down the line.

Such a move would make sense for Sonos, as the company has already asserted itself as one of the best makers of high-quality wireless speakers for the home. However, with the arrival of Amazon’s Echo line of devices, the recent launch of Google Home, and the upcoming entries by other major players, the company is bound to lose some ground in a market where most contenders can do more than just play music.

Last year, the company announced that users will be able to control all Sonos speakers in their homes through their Amazon Echos, but a dedicated all-in-one may be on Sonos’ mind. A wireless speaker that matches the quality of previous products by the brand and can work with all major AI assistants would be no small feat, but how the company may try to put the latter part of this plan into motion is pure conjecture at this point.

Spence’s memo mentions things like “bias to action” and “more product innovation.” It also makes mention of how the company will have to “partner and compete with global leaders like Amazon, Google, and (likely) Apple.” Although this sets nothing in stone at this point, it is an interesting insight into Sonos’ plans for the future. Read Spence’s memo in its entirety below:

I am humbled and honored by the opportunity to serve as your CEO. I joined Sonos four and half years ago for two reasons:

First, I was a passionate Sonos customer – it changed the way my family and I enjoy music around our home. It was awesome to see my friends sharing their favorite musical memories around our dining room table and to see my two kids dancing their hearts out in the kitchen. Our company matters because music matters, and bringing that into more homes matters more than ever.

The second reason I joined was because of the people. The first person I met was John, and he was even more wonderful than the product. And then I got to meet the talented team and was blown away. Every day I leave work inspired by the passion and ideas I see from all of you. My passion for why we’re here, for what we build, and my love for all of you has only grown over that time. For these reasons, taking on the CEO role is incredibly exciting, and I’m all in.

I’d like thank John for his leadership in bringing Sonos from an idea to a company of more than 1,300 people that has filled millions of homes with music. He’s done it by leading with clear mission and strong set of values. He has taught us what is possible when all of us show up every day ready to pursue our mission and carry out those values. John is a special entrepreneur, and one of the most selfless and high integrity people I know. We will build on this great foundation and relentlessly pursue the mission he set the company on fifteen years ago.

With the full arrival of streaming, the advent of voice, and the promise of the connected home, we are at a pivotal and defining moment – this is our time. The next few years will define our future as we step into the big leagues – partnering and competing with global leaders like Amazon, Google and (likely) Apple. It requires new thinking and a different pace than we had in our first fifteen years.

We know that life at home requires the support of a variety of services since each family member has their own preferences. We have already proven the ability to do this in an elegant and reliable way with music services. We are going to do the same with voice services, bringing all the services that matter to every home. This, combined with our strength and breadth in music streaming services, our commitment to building a software platform that partners can easily build on, our variety of awesome products that fit every room (vs. a one-size-fits-all approach), and sound quality that makes music come alive unlike anyone else, sets us up for a strong future.

We must challenge ourselves to stay ahead of the curve. Being great doesn’t always require being first, but when it comes to the home music experience, we must be the pioneer. More companies are jumping into our space because they see the big opportunity ahead. What got us here won’t alone get us through the next phase. Given this, there are two important areas we need to evolve:

First, we must have a bias towards action. You are all talented and bring diverse perspectives. You have ideas. Please share them freely – especially before they’re “perfect.” Take a risk and share them with others. Listen to the new ideas of your colleagues with the goal of learning about what could be, and help them make them better. Apply yourself to putting ideas into action and being nimble enough to adjust along the way. The pace in which we do this must be faster than the rate of change in the world, and the world is getting a lot faster.

Second, we must innovate boldly. When Sonos began, it was all about product innovation– and while we need more product innovation and pace than ever, we also need to expand our innovative thinking to the way we market to customers, the way we sell to customers, and the way we service customers. We need to be bold about where we believe the world should go, and then we need to lead it there.

I’m fired up to go after the opportunity in front of us, and bring the joy of Sonos to millions of new homes. I look forward to doing it together with all of you.

Best, Patrick

The best free PC backup software 2017

The best free PC backup software

Regular backups are an essential part of PC housekeeping, but one that’s easy to ignore or forget. Windows includes its own backup tools, but they’re not all in one convenient place, their scheduling options are limited, and they don’t offer encryption or optimization. For hassle-free backups, it’s worth installing a third-party program.

Before we begin, it’s worth understanding the different types of backups. An image is an exact copy of an entire drive or partition, including all installed programs and system files. If you need to reinstall Windows, you can boot from the image file and avoid having to reinstall all your programs and reconfigure your Windows settings. Note that you can’t use an image to restore your system on a different PC.

Images are very large and take a long time to create, so you won’t want to make one every day. For everyday backups, you’ll only want to copy the most important data on your PC – your documents, photos and music, for example. There are several types of regular backup:

  • Full backup: a copy of all selected data.
  • Differential backup: a copy of the data that has changed or been added since the last full backup.
  • Incremental backup: a copy of the data that has changed since the last backup, whether that was full backup or incremental.

Each differential backup will be larger than the last, but to restore your system you’ll only need the full backup and the latest differential one. Incremental backup files are smaller, but to restore your system you’ll need your full backup as well as all subsequent incremental ones, which takes longer.

With that in mind, here’s our pick of the best free backup software available to download today.


Easeus Todo Backup Free

Easeus Todo Backup Free wraps a powerful toolkit in an amazingly straightforward interface. It’s hard to believe it’s free

1. Easeus Todo Backup Free

Download Easeus Todo Backup Free
The best free backup software – a perfect balance of automatic protection and manual control
Easeus Todo Backup Free is a full backup suite offering both imaging (with optional creation of a Linux-based boot disc) and file backup (full, differential or incremental). It’s intuitively designed and packed with advanced features, making it our backup software of choice.
When you start Easeus Todo Backup Free, its Smart Backup function kicks into gear, immediately backing up your Documents directory, the favorites from your web browser and any files on your desktop. It makes a full backup once a week by default, with differential backups every half an hour if changes are detected. It’s an ingenious feature that immediately takes some of the hassle out of protecting your data, and you can customize it later to back up other files if you like.
It’s easy to make and schedule your own custom file backups too (full, differential or incremental). Easeus has included some brilliant extra options, such as the ability to run a backup immediately on startup if one was missed while your PC was powered off, and wake it from sleep if necessary.
Full system images are easy to create, and can be encrypted for extra security. You can choose a compression level (high compression takes longer, but uses less space) and split the image into chunks rather than one huge file. The Image Reserve option lets you choose when old images should be deleted or merged – another very helpful function that helps conserve drive space.
There’s also a superb drive-cloning tool with optional SSD optimization – brilliant if you’re planning an upgrade.
Easeus Todo Backup Free has a couple of limitations compared to the paid-for version: backups can’t be triggered by events like logoff and shutdown, and the software won’t back up and restore Outlook emails. In all other respects it’s superb, and is our number one choice for protecting your system.
Download here: Easeus Todo Backup Free


Comodo BackUp

Comodo BackUp is a superb backup tool, though some of its brilliant options are hidden away in odd places

2. Comodo BackUp

Download Comodo BackUp
A powerful backup suite with some ingenious hidden extras and a free sample of cloud storage
Comodo BackUp’s main draw is its flexibility – you can store your backups on local or network-attached drives, an FTP server or the company’s own Comodo Cloud server. The free edition comes with 10GB online storage which is free for 90 days.
If you fancy keeping the cloud storage, prices start at US$7.99 (about £6, AU$11) per month for 100GB once the trial is over. The software itself is completely free if you’re happy to store your data locally, though.
Creating a full drive image and emergency rescue media is a simple process, though it’s strange that this feature is accessed via the Settings menu rather than the dashboard.
You’ll need the Windows Automated Installation Kit to make an image, so make sure you’ve installed it first, but once that’s done the process is effortless. It’s strange that Comodo BackUp doesn’t come with this tool already included, and that it doesn’t run with admin privileges by default (essential for creating system backups).

Comodo BackUp offers full, differential and incremental backups of files, directories, partitions and drives. It doesn’t automatically suggest particular file types or locations to back up, instead letting you take your pick from files and directories, disks and partitions, registry files and registry entries. It’s fine for users who know precisely what they should keep, but not the most intuitive system for new users.

Backups can be scheduled for regular intervals and, like Easeus Todo Backup Free, Comodo BackUp lets you choose what should happen if it misses a backup. There’s also support for file compression and splitting, encryption and email notifications. Interestingly, there’s also a hidden tool that lets you scan for junk and malware before backing up – presumably a little add-on originating from Comodo’s Internet Security suite.

Comodo BackUp uses Windows’ Volume Shadow Copy function to make backups while files are in use, enabling it to run quietly in the background. It’s undoubtedly a powerful backup tool packed with useful functions for protecting your data, but its slightly awkward interface and lack of guidance for new users put it just behind Easeus.

Download here: Comodo Backup


AOMEI Backupper Standard

With AOMEI Backupper Standard, drive images and file backups are incredibly straightforward – and restoring them is just as simple

3. AOMEI Backupper Standard

Download AOMEI Backupper Standard
AOMEI offers a wizard-based system for creating images and file backups. Good for beginners
AOMEI Backupper Standard includes a simple wizard that makes creating images straightforward, even for complete beginners. It suggests which drives to back up and where to store the resulting image – whether it’s a local drive, an optical disc or network attached storage. Give the image a name (ideally including the date) so you can find it easily later, create a schedule so the process is repeated at regular intervals, and click ‘Start backup’.
This can take a long time, depending on the amount of data on your drive, so the option to shut down the PC automatically once it’s complete it a thoughtful touch. You can then restore your system from within Windows, or by booting from the image.
For day-to-day backups, AOMEI Backupper Standard lets you save whole partitions or selected directories, with a simple drop-down menu enabling you choose between full, differential or incremental backups. Again, these can be scheduled to take place at regular intervals, making it a simple set-and-forget affair.
The process is incredibly straightforward, and there are also a few handy extras including password-protection and encryption to secure your data, but not as many as you’ll find in Easeus and Comodo’s backup software.
Download here: AOMEI Backupper Standard


Personal Backup

Personal Backup was created by just one programmer, and the depth of control it provides is amazing

4. Personal Backup

Download Personal Backup
This tiny backup program doesn’t offer imaging, but is ideal for off-site backups of important files
One-man project Personal Backup is small and easy to use, but only creates regular data backups – not images. As an indie passion-project it lacks the gloss of its commercially-driven competitors, but is nevertheless great for saving copies of your most important data.
Personal Backup offers both a straightforward wizard and manual options for more advanced users. The wizard begins by asking you to select a destination for the backups. This can be local or network-attached storage, or an FTP server. The latter option is ideal for off-site backups.
Next, you’re prompted to select the data to be backed up, whether it should be compressed, and whether to apply encryption. It’s advisable to select the option to verify your completed backups. Backups can be scheduled to take place daily, weekly, or when an event is triggered (such as logon or shutdown).
The advanced tool is where things get really interesting – you can create a desktop shortcut for a backup task, enabling you to run it with a simple double-click whenever you like, decide which file types should be compressed, set filters so only files containing a certain string are backed up, and decide whether backups are full, incremental or differential. The restore options are equally detailed; you can select the type of files to be overwritten or kept, whether to keep file permissions intact, and the age of files to be restored.
Download here: Personal Backup


Genie Timeline Free

Genie Timeline Free takes the stress out of the vital process of backing up your data, and its optional iOS app is a nice extra touch

5. Genie Timeline Free

Download Genie Timeline Free
A simple file backup tool that’s fine for novice users, but lacks more advanced options
If you’re a little daunted by the prospect of making your own backups, Genie Timeline Free is as user-friendly as they come. Its wizard (there’s no manual mode for fine-tuning your backups) takes you by the hand, suggesting the drive to be used for storage and making a folder for you automatically, then showing you various file types that can be stored (emails, pictures, videos, documents, music and the contents of your desktop are selected by default).
Sneakily, Genie Timeline Free lists drive images among the file types it can back up, but you can only create them using the premium version of the software. Compression and encryption are also unavailable unless you open your wallet, which pushes this otherwise great backup tool down to fifth place.
Genie Timeline Free backs up your files quietly in the background – an unobtrusive approach that’s welcome, but wouldn’t be possible if it was creating an image. It’s not mentioned in the interface, but all backups are incremental, making them as fast as possible.
The restore tool is similarly straightforward – simply select the backed-up files to restore, choose where to restore them to (and whether to overwrite existing files with the same name) and click ‘OK’.
Uniquely, Genie Timeline Free has its own iOS app, which provides status updates on your scheduled backups. It would be handy to be able to start backups manually via the app as well, but it’s a welcome addition for those of an anxious disposition, and a modern alternative to the email notifications offered by some other backup tools.

Download here: Genie Timeline Free

See all free backup software available to download on TechRadar