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The DacMagic 200M is Cambridge Audio's newest ...

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Cambridge Audio has introduced a new flagship DAC to its range in the DacMagic 200M, and it arrives with native support for MQA.

The DacMagic 200M (£449/$499/€499) is Cambridge Audio’s newest, flagship digital-to-analogue converter and headphone amplifier, featuring native MQA support, Bluetooth connectivity and a more powerful headphone output.

The DacMagic 200M aims to improve the quality of whatever it is you’re listening to, whether it’s your music streaming subscriptions, CD collection (if you still listen to those) or boosting the quality of your home audio system, the DacMagic 200M is eager to slot in and give music a boost.

Inside the unit are dual ESS Sabre DACs, which Cambridge say are a step up from the configuration in the previous DacMagic Plus. The ESS Sabre DACs can handle PCM and DSD signal inputs at 32-bit/768kHz (PCM) ad DSD512 respectively – higher than the DacMagic Plus was capable of. The dual mono configuration of the DacMagic means the left and right channels are processed separately, resulting in what Cambridge calls a performance that is “free of distortion, incredibly precise and has superb dynamic range.”

Any digital file that passes through the unit is converted to analogue, preserving the track’s detail and dynamic through the process. There are three switchable pre-set digital filters that help to reduce noise generated by the digital-to-analogue process, each filter offering a different sonic option for a more configurable listening experience.

With native MQA support, the DacMagic 200M is the first product from Cambridge Audio to support this feature, with the DAC able to fully decode MQA files so they sound as the artist intended, useful if you’re subscriber to TIDAL. The DAC will let you know when you’re listening to a higher-quality MQA file with the LEDs on the front panel lighting up when it detects an MQA signal.

The look of the unit takes some cues from Cambridge’s recent products, with the box made out of steel and aluminium. Available in a sleek Lunar Grey finish, the DacMagic 200M measures at 52 x 215 x 191, small enough to fit tight spaces. Around the rear are various connections including two coaxial, two optical and one USB-type-B, as well as balanced and unbalanced analogue connections; with the digital connections opening up integration to the likes of laptops, CD players, game consoles and Blu-ray players, while aptX Bluetooth integration means you can fire your music straight at the DAC.

The DacMagic 200M is also designed for headphone listening with its headphone amplifier and 6.3mm output included. Using class A/B amplification, the impedance of the headphone output has been reduced so it can deliver more power, less noise and distortion.

The Cambridge Audio DacMagic 200M goes on sale February 2021 for £449/$499/€499. You can purchase it from Cambridge Audio, Richer Sounds and Amazon.

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Sony Xperia Compact leak reveals Android iPhone 12 ...

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Sony Xperia XZ2 Compact

When Apple released the iPhone 12 Mini towards the end of 2020 it brought back memories of the once-great Xperia Compact range from Sony. And if these rumours are to be believed then we might be getting a followup very soon.

According to popular leaker @onleaks (via his Voice page), Sony is all set to reveal a new member of its Compact family. This would be the first time we’ve seen a model in this series since the Xperia XZ2 Compact, a phone we weren’t overly impressed with when we reviewed it in 2019.

What set this Compact series apart from the bevvy of Android phones out there was a considerably smaller size. The XZ2 Compact, for instance, had a small 5-inch display and the phone itself was very comfortable to use in a single hand – not really something you could say about much of the current competition, even the fairly pocketable Samsung Galaxy S21.

According to OnLeaks, the new Sony Xperia Compact will measure 140 x 68.9 x 8.9mm, pack a 5.5-inch display and come with a fairly prominent chin. The display will be flat and there’ll be an 8MP selfie camera tucked inside a droplet-style notch.

While these dimensions certainly make it smaller than all of the entries on our best Android phone list, it’s notably larger than the diminutive iPhone 12 mini (131.5 x 64.2 x 7.4mm) and this might come as a disappointment to those who want a properly tiny Android device.

Other specs teased in the leak include a 13MP primary camera, 3.5mm headphone jack and a capacitive fingerprint sensor inside the power button. All fairly mid-range stuff.

Little was noted about possible release dates, however Sony tends to release new devices around the MWC (Mobile World Congress) timeframe, so a February release date doesn’t sound too unbelievable. With the sales of the iPhone 12 Mini possibly not as high as expected, it will be interesting to see if there’s much desire for a Compact phone like this.

The post Sony Xperia Compact leak reveals Android iPhone 12 Mini rival appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

iMac 2021: Everything we want to see from the next ...

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The iMac is long due a redesign and, according to people familiar with Apple’s plans, 2021 could be its year. 

This month, Bloomberg reported that Apple is planning to redesign the iMac for the first time since 2012 as part of its transition to the company’s Arm-based Apple Silicon processors.

According to Bloomberg’s source, Apple will slim down the black borders around the edges of the screen and get rid of the metal chin completely, leaving the computer with a display more akin to the Pro Display XDR monitor.

Apple will also reportedly replace the curved rear of the current iMac with a flat back, again giving the display a more modern look.

There are two versions rumoured to be in the works. The computers have been given the codenames J456 and J457 and are expected to replace the existing 21.5-inch and 27-inch iMacs later this year.

Read on to discover everything else we know about the iMac 2021 so far, including the price, release date and our own wish list for the computer. Be sure to bookmark this page too as we update it as more news rolls in.

iMac 2021 price – how much will it cost?

Apple has yet to release any pricing details for the iMac 2021, but we expect it to be in line with the company’s 2020 range. Apple didn’t raise the price for the MacBook Air M1, so we’re hopeful the company won’t charge more for an Apple Silicon-powered iMac.

The current 21.5-inch iMac can cost between $1099/£1099/€1299 and $1499/£1499/€1699, depending on which processor you get. Meanwhile, prices for last year’s 27-inch iMac start at $1799/£1799/€2099 and can go as high as $2299/£2299/€2599.

iMac 2021 release date – when will it launch?

It’s still early days for iMac 2021 rumours, so we don’t yet know when Apple will announce the desktop.

Apple last updated its 27-inch model in August 2020. Before that, the 21.5-inch and 27-inch versions were both given a refresh in March 2019. If Apple follows this trend, we’d expect to see a new iMac in spring or summer 2021, but as of right now the launch date is tough to predict.

Everything we want to see from the iMac 2021

With rumours still thin on the ground for the iMac 2021, we’ve decided to make a list of features we’d like to see on Apple’s next all-in-one desktop PC. We’ve included upgrades that are very likely to arrive, as well as more hopeful wishes that are unlikely to come true. Check them out below:

The iMac 2021 is expected to feature a new Apple Silicon processor

Improved performance

One of the biggest upgrades we hope to see with the iMac 2021 is a transition to the company’s own Apple Silicon processors.

Apple officially unveiled the M1 chip, along with the devices it would power, at its One More Thing event in November. So far, the MacBook Air, the 13-inch MacBook Pro and the Mac mini have been given the Apple Silicon treatment, so we’re hoping that the iMac could be next in line.

The perks of Arm architecture include better power and thermal efficiency, as well as a longer battery life. Apple claims the M1 in particular offers 3.5x faster CPU performance, 6x faster GPU performance and 15x faster machine learning when compared with the Intel chips found in previous Macs. The potential iMac 2021 Apple Silicon processor is expected to be even more powerful, and we can’t wait to see it in action.

The iMac 2021 could say goodbye to the chunky bezel, with a new redesign rumoured

Smaller bezel

Another obvious improvement we’d like to see is a smaller bezel around the screen.

Apple unveiled the Pro Display XDR in 2019, offering us a peek at what the future of its displays could look like. While the wide strip at the bottom of the iMac allows the company to show off its iconic logo, the combination of this and the rather chunky black bezel surrounding the display give the iMac a slightly outdated look.

An edge-to-edge display, or even a slim bezel like that on the Pro Display XDR, would do a lot in terms of modernising the iMac’s design, while also potentially freeing up desk space.

The iMac 2021 is rumoured to have a flat back, marking a change from the curved design of the 2019 iMac

Modular upgrades

While some companies allow you to upgrade your hardware yourself after you purchase a computer, Apple is notorious for making this difficult.

It’s possible to upgrade iMac components such as the CPU, GPU, RAM and storage after purchase, but you run the risk of invalidating your warranty by fiddling with the computer yourself. By making it so difficult to upgrade, most people will buy an entirely new iMac instead of upgrading the individual components.

We’d love to see Apple adopt a similar approach to the Dell OptiPlex 7070 Ultra, with a modular design allowing you to easily swap in new internals. Unfortunately, we don’t see Apple going down this route, especially with the move to Apple Silicon, but that won’t stop us hoping.

We've got our fingers crossed that Apple will finally add touchscreen support to the iMac

Touchscreen support

iMacs are well-loved by creators, which is why we’d love to see Apple introduce a touchscreen model this year.

Microsoft’s Surface Studio 2 showcases the benefits of such a design, allowing users to doodle and scribble directly onto the screen. This is arguably the Studio’s greatest strength over the iMac, so it would make a lot of sense for Apple to embrace touchsreen technology.

That said, we’re not overly optimistic on this one. While Apple does own a patent for a touchscreen iMac, the company has repeatedly shot down the idea. In 2016, VP of marketing Phil Schiller called a touchscreen iMac “absurd” after years of testing the idea in the hopes of making it work.

 

The Lenovo Yoga AIO 7 features a rotating screen and we'd love to see Apple to do something similar with the iMac 2021

Rotating monitor

A recent trend we’ve seen in high-end displays has been rotating screens (the Samsung Sero, anyone?). Lenovo launched the Yoga AIO 7 at CES this year and it certainly caught our eye. The all-in-one desktop PC features a rotating display, allowing its user to view content in horizontal or vertical simply by turning the screen.

Situations where this could come in handy include browsing, viewing PDFs, editing documents and watching vertical videos. Just imagine editing your next TikTok video on a 27-inch display. Okay, it’s definitely not the most necessary new feature, but it’s one we’ve been seeing pop up recently and there are bound to be some users who will appreciate the ability to turn their display vertical at a moment’s notice.

With Apple Silicon potentially allowing the iMac to make use of iOS apps, a rotating screen would even allow the desktop PC to use software that was originally designed to work on vertical screens. Again, such a feature probably won’t come to fruition on iMacs anytime soon, but we’re certainly not ruling it out.

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Genshin Impact to celebrate Lunar New Year in ...

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Genshin

Mihoyo has announced the latest major update for Genshin Impact, which is set to arrive alongside the Lunar New Year next month. 

The hugely popular free-to-play RPG has received a number of big updates since its initial release, and this pace shows no signs of slowing with the arrival of the Lantern Rite. 

Update 1.3 will arrive on February 3 and will be split into four distinct events: All That Glitters, Lantern Rite Tales, Theater Mechanicus, and the Xiao Market.

Theater Mechanicus is a new limited time mode which seems to be a distinct take on the tower defense genre as players place down defenses in the wake of oncoming enemies. 

Related: Genshin Impact System Requirements

Competing in such an event will offer the player a selection of distinct rewards, which will increase depending on how much time you’re willing to dedicate to it. Knowing Genshin Impact players, they are in it for the long haul.

The latest update will also see the introduction of a new 5-star character in the form of Xiao. Having appeared in the narrative in a number of ways thus far, you will finally have an opportunity to recruit him if you’re lucky enough to land a worthwhile pull.

You will also have a chance to earn a number of 4-star heroes for free, with  Xiangling, Xinyan, Beidou, Ningguang, Xingqu, and Chongyun being given away as part of a new mini-event.

Right now, a Slime Festival has begun in the world of Genshin Impact, offering rewards to those who manage to make the slimes happy. Mihoyo also tends to give out a bunch of freebies alongside updates, so keep an eye out for those.

Are you excited for this new Genshin Impact update? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter @Trustedreviews. 

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Another Tony Hawk Pro Skater remaster is in ...

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Activision has announced that Vicarious Visions is merging with Blizzard Entertainment, and will be set to work exclusively on its titles moving forward. 

Known in recent years for helming the excellent remakes of Crash Bandicoot and Tony Hawk Pro Skater, the developer has revived classic franchises in spectacular fashion. Now, that trend will come to a close as it joins forces with Blizzard. 

Speaking to Gamesindustry.biz, the merger is effective immediately, meaning that Vicarious Visions is unlikely working on any projects right now that aren’t involved with Blizzard in some way. Don’t expect another Tony Hawk remaster in the coming years, or at least not from the original creator. 

“After collaborating with Vicarious Visions for some time and developing a great relationship, Blizzard realized there was an opportunity for [Vicarious Visions] to provide long-term support.”

Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier offers some additional insight, claiming that Vicarious Visions is currently working on a full remake of Diablo 2, while once of Blizzard’s original teams was dismantled in the latter months of 2020. 

The studio has remained quiet for several moments, although the digital version of BlizzCon in the coming weeks is expected to feature a number of announcements. Expect to hear more on Overwatch 2, Diablo 4 and a number of other projects at the event. 

Earning 4.5/5 in our review, the recent remake of Tony Hawk Pro Skater was brilliant, translating the original duo of games onto modern platforms with ease: “THPS 1+2 Remastered remembers everything that made the classic skateboarding series so great, and brings it back for the modern era. The game is a little slower than some of the more wacky titles in the series, but the focus on pure skill and reward makes it difficult to put down.”

What do you want to see from Vicarious Visions as they join forces with Blizzard? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @trustedreviews. 

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Virgin Media just launched 5G in 100 towns and ...

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Virgin Media kicked off the week by announcing the launch of its 5G services in 100 towns and cities across the UK.

Virgin Media customers can now access 5G speeds in 100 locations, including major cities such as Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, York, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as a large number of small towns.

You can find the complete list on Virgin Media’s website or use the coverage checker to discover whether the network has launched its 5G services in your area.

Virgin Media’s 5G service boasts an average speed of 176.62Mbps – that’s four and a half times faster than the network’s 4G service – and will allow anyone with a 5G plan to stream, browse, hold video calls and game at home and on-the-go.

“The launch of 5G is a milestone moment for us”, said Virgin Media COO Jeff Dodds. “As the world’s first virtual mobile operator, our offering has long been about breaking boundaries and offering our customers a premium service without the price tag. That’s why we’re launching fast, reliable 5G connectivity at no extra cost while keeping the added extras of our existing mobile plans in place.”

“By offering 5G and gigabit broadband all under one roof, Virgin Media customers can experience next-generation connectivity both in and out of the home, putting them in a great place to take advantage of the latest technology.”

The company currently offers 5G on both SIM only and pay monthly plans at no extra cost and with all the added extras available with its 4G plans. These perks include data-free WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook Messenger, data rollover and flexible airtime allowances.

Users who bought a 5G device via Virgin Media from last April will automatically receive access to the company’s 5G services, while broadband customers can also take advantage of the new 5G service by opting for one of Virgin Media’s “Oomph” bundles for broadband, TV and mobile in one.

Virgin Media 5G deals

Virgin Media has already announced 5G deals for some of the best phones released in the last year, including both Apple and Android picks.

The network is offering the incredible iPhone 12 on a 5G contract from just £30 a month.

If you prefer Android to iOS, this month’s new Galaxy S21 is also available on a 5G contract from just £32 a month.

There’s also a SIM-only option for anyone who’s already happy with their phone and is looking to upgrade to Virgin Media’s 5G services. You can get the 25GB 5G-Ready SIM for just £12 a month for a limited time.


For more amazing offers, follow us @TrustedDealsUK

We may earn a commission if you click a deal and buy an item. That’s why we want to make sure you’re well-informed and happy with your purchase, so that you’ll continue to rely on us for your buying advice needs.

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How to unlock the secret ending in Hitman 3

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Hitman 3

Players have uncovered a secret ending to Hitman 3 which acts as a loving homage to Codename 47, the very first game in IO Interactive’s stealth franchise. 

Having launched last week across all major platforms, Hitman 3 is the final chapter in IO Interactive’s stealth trilogy, and concludes the narrative of Agent 47 in spectacular fashion. 

Now, a secret ending has been uncovered in the final level, although it requires a few simple steps to execute. Be warned that we’ll be spoiling the game’s ending from here onwards, so consider yourself warned. 

How to unlock the secret ending in Hitman 3

The final mission takes place on a moving train that Agent 47 must infiltrate, murdering members of Providence along the way until he finally comes across their leader – Arthur Edwards. He gives himself up after a sinister monologue, allowing you to dispatch him however you like. 

You can use a gun, melee weapon or even a syringe which will wipe his memories for good. This final object is the key to Hitman 3’s secret ending. Pick up the syringe, but don’t use it, simply hold it in your hands until Edwards speaks up, encouraging Agent 47 to use the syringe on himself and finally acquire his freedom. 

Upon taking the serum, Agent 47 will awaken in a padded cell where a voice is telling him he has a job to do. This essentially resets the timeline, ridding our protagonist of his memories so he’s ready and willing to be a mindless assassin carrying out the will of Providence. 

This is a homage to the opening moments of Hitman: Codename 47, the original game which released for PC way back in 2000. It’s a cool touch, and rewards players who have stuck with the franchise for several decades. However, this ending seemingly isn’t canon, that one goes to the ending where you decide to inject Edwards instead. 

Hitman 3 is full of hidden secrets and discoveries, which players will hopefully continue to uncover in the weeks to come. I scored it 4/5 in my review, describing it as a “superbly engaging experience that encourages you to play levels again and again in search of the perfect recipe for assassination.”

Have you uncovered the secret ending in Hitman 3? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @trustedreviews. 

 

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Apple Watch 7 could be a game-changer in the fight ...

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apple watch 6

In what could be a game-changer for anyone suffering from diabetes, Apple is reportedly looking to include a non-invasive blood glucose sensor in the Apple Watch 7.

Spotted by ETNews, the rumour states that the next Apple Watch could use an over-the-skin optical sensor to monitor levels of glucose in the blood – a key metric in determining the state of health of anyone afflicted with diabetes. The report mentions that the same feature could also find its way into the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4.

Until now, patients have typically used continuous glucose monitoring systems to keep their blood glucose in check, but these devices penetrate the skin in order to be effective. If the Apple Watch 7 can conduct this essential operation without any invasive procedures, then this could be a huge breakthrough in the medical community.

For years now, Apple has been positioning its wearables as go-to devices for health-conscious folk, first by adding an ECG sensor and more recently, SpO2 tracking for anyone looking to monitor their blood oxygen.

Expected to drop sometime in September or October of this year, the Apple Watch 7 is also rumoured to have a major design overhaul after following the same aesthetic for several years. There’s also the expectation that the device could include MagSafe compatibility, allowing iPhone users to charge both their phone and smartwatch with just one charger.

Despite minimal improvements over its predecessor, the Apple Watch 6 is still our favourite wearable right now. As our review surmised: “It’s got a wide range of fitness features for varying users, excellent notification support, an unmatched haptic engine and a great design.”

If the Apple Watch 7 does come packed with a blood glucose monitor, will you putting money down on day one? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @trustedreviews.

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Netflix new Android app features boosts audio ...

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Netflix worth the wait

Netflix users on Android can expect an audio boost, which the company says will deliver studio quality sound.

The updated Netflix app now for Android includes support for Extended HE-AAC with MPEG-D DRC (xHE-AAC). Wondering what all that means? Well you’re not alone. This is some complex stuff.

The long and short is, those on Android 9, and above can expect higher audio quality when the web connection allows. In a length post on its tech blog, Netflix says: “Our xHE-AAC streams deliver studio-quality audio when network conditions allow, and minimise rebuffers when the network is congested.” So far, so good.

Related: Best Netflix shows

Netflix also says the new codec offers greatly improved dialogue in noisy environments. That’s in part due to a loudness management feature that ensures there’s a smoothed experience across genres and the addition of dynamic range control. So, for example, you can go from a drama to an action movie without having to adjust the volume, Netflix says.

“By using metadata and decode-side gain to normalise loudness, Netflix leverages xHE-AAC to minimise the total number of gain stages in the end-to-end system, maximising audio quality, the firm writes. “Devices retain the ability to customise output level based on unique listening conditions. We also retain the option to defeat loudness normalisation completely, for a ‘pure’ mode, when listening conditions are optimal, as in a home theatre setting.”

Netflix says that adding dynamic range control to the mix boosts the listening experience even when you’re streaming TV shows and movies. It says the softest details of programs are boosted enough to ensure they’ll be audible when background noise is present.

If you’re struggling to grasp some of these concepts, Netflix sums up: “So the next time you experience The Crown, get ready to be immersed and not have to reach out to the volume control or grab your earbuds.”

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What does WWE Network's shock new home mean ...

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WWE Network

WWE Network, the professional wrestling company’s pioneering streaming service is about to become part of the NBC Peacock streaming service in the US.

In a surprise move, WWE Network will cease to operate as an independent entity in the United States and instead become part of the wider Peacock offering, which also offers Premier League Football and classic television shows like The Office and Saturday Night Live.

The switchover will take place on March 18, just before WrestleMania, WWE’s annual biggest event of the year. WrestleMania and all other pay-per-views will still be available on Peacock moving forward, as revealed on Variety.

Interestingly, current WWE Network subscribers will be moved across to Peacock and could get a 50% price cut on their current rate. WWE Network is $9.99. Peacock Premium, which has ads despite the misleading name, is just $4.99. Peacock Premium Plus gets rid of those ads and is $9.99.

Related: Best Disney Plus movies and TV shows

To replicate the full experience, subscribers will probably want to pay $9.99 and remain free of advertisements and take the win of all that additional Peacock content.

Those subscribers will still get to access everything in the Peacock library as well as every WWE pay-per-view event, original series and the vast array of archive content of pay-per-views and television shows from WWE(F), WCW and ECW going back almost half a century.

If you’re wondering how this concerns you as a UK WWE Network subscriber, it doesn’t right now. The deal only applies in the United States and all international customers will see no changes as a result.

That’s not to say there won’t be knock-on effects in the future, but for now it’s business as usual for WWE Network aficionados in the UK and beyond. Overall, its great news for wrestling fans in the US no matter how you slice it, but we’re really surprised WWE has taken this route and sacrificed that independence.

The post What does WWE Network’s shock new home mean for Brits? appeared first on Trusted Reviews.

Winners and Losers: S21 Ultra puts Samsung back on ...

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Winners and Losers Samsung S21 Ultra and PS5 Scalpers

Been too busy to catch up with the week’s biggest stories? We’ve whittled them down to the two top stories you need to know in Trusted Reviews’ Winners and Losers.

Between CES last week and the reviews for the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra this week, we’ve had absolutely no shortage of topics to talk about. In fact, it seems as though Samsung is determined to absolutely dominate the conversation right now with additional announcements and rumours, including the newly unveiled A series of Samsung smartphones for 2021.

For that reason, we couldn’t help but bring Samsung into the fold (pun intended) but it’s the Galaxy S21 Ultra that is arguably the biggest talking point of the week. On the flip side, it was the latest round of scalpers versus console gamers that had us all raising our fists, yelling at our laptops over the frustration that continues to plague the PS5’s first few months on the market.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra

Winner: Samsung

In our virtual Trusted Reviews office, the team had a good laugh last week at Samsung spending no less than three minutes explaining the process of “finding the right black” to cover the Galaxy S21 Ultra’s rear-end. It seemed daft at the time, but now that we’ve had time to test out the phone and see how it stacks up, it’s clear that there was an undercurrent of confidence to Samsung’s presentation.

Last year’s Galaxy S20 was a great device, and one of the best Android phones out there, but its far more expensive sibling, which was supposed to wow the tech community, seemed to just fall into obscurity. The Galaxy S20 Ultra struggled with battery life, underperformance due to the Exynos 990 chipset, and the often-touted 100x zoom ended up being nothing more than a gimmick due to poor stabilisation.

This time around however, even though the Galaxy S21 is the far more eye-catching device, it’s the Galaxy S21 Ultra that has everyone talking. The quad-camera set-up on the back is a lot more capable, offering the user more tools to play around with, including video recording from all cameras simultaneously.

The fact it’s also just marginally smaller with a 6.8-inch screen (over last year’s 6.9-inch), there’s a case to be made that the S21 Ultra is a far more alluring premium smartphone than the iPhone 12 Pro Max, which could go a long way in establishing Samsung as new the king of premium. Whatever happens, it’s clear that Samsung is back on track with what an Ultra phone should be.

ps5

Loser: Anyone wanting a PS5

The latest gen consoles have had a bit of a rough start where stock is concerned. The absence of readily available stock does have some connection to the ongoing pandemic, but the problem has only been exacerbated by scalpers who continue to make everyone else miserable by bulk buying whenever stock does appear.

This week it was PS5 hopefuls who were hit the hardest as UK retailer GAME managed send to over 2000 units of the console straight into the hands of scalpers. How do we know this? The twitter account for Carnage Bot – the automated software used by scalpers – bragged about this disgraceful accomplishment over the internet.

Until brick-and-mortar stores open up again, this will continue to be a problem for gamers everywhere. At the tail-end of last year, US retailer Walmart admitted that it had been forced to block 20 million attempts from scalper bots to buy the PS5 during a single sales event.

One can only hope that in the meantime, some of these scalpers find themselves on the business end of some karmic justice. Nothing too severe mind you, but if a scalper were to accidentally drop one of the hefty next-gen consoles on their foot, then I’d be lying if I said that wouldn’t bring me great pleasure.

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Gears 5 headlines a huge February for Xbox Live ...

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You’ve probably heard the standalone Xbox Live price is going up for new subscribers, but Microsoft is hoping to make it worth your while with February’s Games With Gold offerings.

The company is promising $105 worth of games for Xbox Live Gold and Game Pass Ultimate subscribers (which includes Xbox Live Gold) during February, the company announced on Xbox Wire on Friday.

That includes Gears 5, the remaster of the original Resident Evil, Dandara: Trials Of Fear Edition, Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb and Capcom’s Lost Planet 2 will be available either on February 1 or February 16.

Gears 5 is a first party Microsoft exclusive and was the biggest the company had to offer in 2019. We gave it a four-star review and praised the long, varied and ambitious campaign, well-developed characters, massive world and variety of gunplay.

Our games editor Jade King wrote: “Gears 5 can happily stand alongside this generation’s other blockbusters without fear.” The game sits proudly among our round-up of the best Xbox One games.

The next most-notable game is Resident Evil HD, the spruced-up version of the game that started it all. With Resident Evil Village previewed this week, there’s never been a better time to go back to the beginning and enjoy the remastered version of the original 1996 game.

Our reviewer wrote: “First timers and long-absent friends should open the creaky mansion door and step nervously inside. This horror pioneer is still one of the greats.”

Earlier it emerged that Microsoft will now charge $10.99 a month for Xbox Live Gold, while six months will cost $60.99. However, it is thought this may be more of a carrot to make Game Pass Ultimate seem even more attractive by comparison. Game Pass Ultimate includes Xbox Live Gold, Games With Gold and a library of over 100 first-party games to enjoy. That provides much more value.

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Spotify Premium subscriber benefits don't ...

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Spotify Family Plan

One of Spotify Premium’s key propositions is the ability to listen to unlimited music without commercial interruption. However, if you’re expecting this to be carried over to the company’s podcast offering, you’re out of luck.

Spotify is now bringing its proprietary ad insertion technology to podcasts airing via the streaming service in the UK, just over a year after it landed in the US.

Ads for BT Sport were among the first podcasts ads to air in the UK, within the now-Spotify-exclusive The Joe Rogan Experience. However, listeners heard these ads whether they’re free or Premium subscribers. That means Spotify is earning money twice from Premium listeners of the JRE.

Spotify told The Independent that advertisements are “an integral part of the podcasting industry” and looked to create a distinction between the best music streaming services and the more-radio-like podcasts.

The company said in a statement: “All Spotify users receive an on-demand podcast listening experience that may include ads or sponsorships. Spotify Premium offers users an ad-free music listening experience. However, Spotify offers all listeners the ability to pause, rewind and fast forward through any part of a podcast episode, including advertisements.”

Spotify’s expansion into podcasts comes as it seeks to diversify its offerings. The company’s Streaming Ad Insertion technology uses real-time commercial insertions and provide podcasters and advertisers with much more specific analytical data.

Relevant parties receive anonymised audience information on the age, gender, the device they’re listening on and their listening habits. It also provides information on ad impressions, reach and frequency, which provide the “precision and transparency of modern-day digital marketing.” Yay! More targeted advertising.

“The popularity of podcasts is rising exponentially in the UK and as a relatively untapped medium for advertisers they offer so much potential for brands to reach diverse audiences in new and engaging ways,” said Rak Patel, the top UK sales bod at Spotify (via Mobile Marketing).

“Unlike some digital media channels, podcasts are intimate, they are trusted, they reach people in a very direct and personal way. With Spotify Podcast Ads we aim to take podcast advertising to the next level, offering brands unique insights into their audiences and creative solutions that can truly capture consumer attention. We’re really excited about what’s to come.”

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There's finally a way to use iMessage on ...

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Beeper app iMessage Android

A developer behind the pioneering Pebble smartwatch has plans to bring Apple’s iMessage app to Android users via a rather convoluted workaround.

The Beeper app will enable Android, Windows and even Linux users to jump on iMessage and up to 14 external messaging applications. Essentially, it promises all of your messages from WhatsApp, Slack, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, Instagram, Telegram and more.

However, the real significance here is the ability to sync iMessages with Android. In a post on its website, Beeper explains how it uses a jailbroken iPhone(!) to act as a go-between.

“Beeper has two ways of enabling Android, Windows and Linux users to use iMessage: we send each user a Jailbroken iPhone with the Beeper app installed which bridges to iMessage, or if they have a Mac that is always connected to the internet, they can install the Beeper Mac app which acts as a bridge. This is not a joke, it really works!” The company says (via Gizmodo).

So, you’ll actually need an iPhone to receive iMessage content on your Android phone. If that seems like it kind of defies the point of having Android in the first place, you wouldn’t be far wrong. Eric Migicovsky, the former Pebble founder, is currently shipping out old iPhone 4 handsets to interested parties.

If you’re an iPhone user, texting with your Android counterparts can be frustrating, especially in a group message setting. Loads of your favourite iMessage features don’t work. For example, there’s no delivered/read reports, the message reactions annoyingly arrive as texts and for some reason there’s some reason video quality is compressed within an inch of its life. And eugh! Those green bubbles among the blue ones. So untidy. We’re not sure whether this workaround undoes any of these inconveniences though.

And, considering the skepticism surrounding WhatsApps forthcoming privacy policy changes, it’s kind of a shame there’s no option for Android users to just hop onto iMessage and we can all just get along without having the spectre of Facebook looming. Apple of course, has no plans to launch iMessage for Android as it considers the ecosystem a major advantage for iPhone, iPad and Mac users and one of the reasons users stick with the company’s hardware.

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Fast Charge: The Galaxy S21's biggest ...

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It’s been over a week since Samsung unveiled the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Ultra and I’ve spent the last few days putting two of the biggest phones of 2021 through their paces for our full, in-depth reviews.

One thing that hit me straight away after putting my SIM into the cheaper Samsung Galaxy S21 was just how familiar it felt. I’d used something very similar recently, and it certainly wasn’t the Galaxy S20.

For this year’s big S series update, Samsung has done things differently. The S21 isn’t really an upgrade to the S20 and in many ways, it’s more of a downgrade. With a lower screen-resolution, no glass back, a lack of expandable storage and basically the same camera system I wouldn’t advise anyone who already keeps an Galaxy S20 in their pocket to upgrade. It’s simply not worth it.

Instead, the £769 Galaxy S21 feels far more like the Galaxy S20 FE. Released towards the end of 2020, the FE was a cheaper version of the S20 without some of the more luxurious extras. It had a plastic back, a 1080p display and it ditched the curves seen on the main S20. When you put the FE side-by-side with the Galaxy S21 there are many similarities.

While Samsung is clearly trying to entice those people who haven’t upgraded in a while, or simply who don’t want to spend close to £1000/$1000 on a phone, the Galaxy S21’s biggest competition is actually the Galaxy S20 FE. They just have so many similarities that I am not sure why you’d spend the extra money on the S21.

Of course, the S21 does have some features you won’t find on the FE. It has a larger, far better in-display fingerprint scanner and the Snapdragon 888 chipset or Exynos 2100, if you’re in the UK. While it’s nice to have to the latest chips, the Snapdragon 865 in the Galaxy S20 FE is more than capable and I really don’t see too many benefits for the mass-market of paying more just for the newer chips.

S20 FE vs S21

The Galaxy S21 also has slightly better camera specs, with a much higher resolution 64MP zoom camera. However, once again, there’s not a huge gulf in overall quality if you jump from the S2o FE to the Galaxy S21. There is a slight improvement yes, especially with better video skills, but the camera on the S20 FE is more than good enough for most people.

We raved about the Galaxy FE when it came out. It bagged a high 4.5/5 score in our review, sits near the top of our best Android phone list and is one of the easiest to recommend devices around. It’s also very affordable for what you get: £599 for the 4G model and £699 for the 5G model. You’ll also find it frequently on sale and we saw huge price drops making it even more tempting during Black Friday.

There are some areas where the S20 FE does a better job than the S21. I prefer the slightly roomier 6.5-inch display and the bigger 4500mAh battery gives slightly better endurance. You also still get a charger in the box.

With phones seemingly getting more expensive each year, I have to applaud Samsung for bringing the base price of the S21 down rather than pushing it up even more. Yet, with the Galaxy S20 FE already taking this approach and offering it for even less, the biggest threat to Samsung’s new flagship comes from within.

If you’re disappointed about the lack of upgrades for the S21, then Samsung isn’t completely forgetting tap. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is a true next-gen leap and one of the best phones Samsung has ever made.

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iOS 15 could spell doom for three popular iPhone ...

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iPhone SE low power, low battery, charge, charging
The original iPhone SE

Apple may end support for the iPhone 6s range and original iPhone SE when iOS 15 arrives this autumn, according to a new report.

The French site iPhoneSoft (via 9to5Mac) reckons the pair of 2015/2016 handsets are on the chopping block as Apple whittles down the number of legacy devices eligible to receive new updates.

The site says the information comes from a “developer friend” and would suggest it is devices with the A9 processor being phased out. The best iPhone now runs an A14 Bionic processor, of course.

Apple often culls at least one range of iPhones whenever it launches a new operating system, but performs far better than the rival Google Android platform by ensuring iPhone owners get day-one iOS upgrades for at least 5 years after they go on sale.

The iPhone 6s was notable for an improved 12-megapixel camera, with a better Touch ID sensor. The device had the same design as the iPhone 6, but improved durability over complaints the previous generation was easy to bend. It’s still quite a popular phone, particularly on the secondary market, largely because it still receives annual iOS updates.

Likewise with the iPhone SE, which was launched in March 2016 and saw a return to a smaller form factor for those seeking a pocket-sized device. So popular was the device, Apple fans were clamouring for a sequel until the iPhone SE 2 finally arrived last spring.

However, iOS 15 looks likely to be the end of the road for those handsets as Apple continues to add more and more phones to the range in 2021 and beyond.

Back in December Apple revealed that 72% of all eligible devices were already running on iOS 14, just two months after its launch. 81% of devices launched in the previous four years had downloaded and installed the operating system too.

Are you still rocking an iPhone 6s or iPhone SE (2016)? Would this change prompt you to upgrade? Let us know @trustedreviews on Twitter.

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FIFA 21 dominated 2020 gaming in one major ...

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FIFA 21

When it comes to boxed video games, the big legacy franchises continued to reign supreme in 2020, according to a new industry report that crowned FIFA 21 European Champion.

GfK Entertainment (via GamesIndustry.biz) reckons the EA Sports football sim was the best selling physical title across 16 of the 19 European countries probed in its report. It’s the fourth year in a row the franchise has claimed the honour, despite some rather modest updates in recent times.

Our reviewer wrote: “FIFA 21 is an often great football game packed with content and modes. The few gameplay tweaks that are here make for a better overall experience and keeping Volta around adds some variety.”

Overall, it’s no surprise to see Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which places highly in our best Switch games roundup, take the second spot overall. The RPG arrived in March 2020 and was excellent lockdown fodder for millions of gamers around the continent.

Somewhat surprisingly, it was a three-year-old game that came in third, with Mario Kart 8 Ultimate claiming the bronze. Perhaps this has something to do with the game coming bundled with new Switch consoles? The game also finished in the top three in seven of the 19 countries.

Other legacy games like Minecraft also continued to do well. In fact, the only other 2020 release mentioned within the report is The Last Of Us 2.

The report is quite illuminating and gives us some insight into the type of games that are still attracting purchases of boxed games, as opposed to digital sales. Perhaps it’s an older generation of gamers receiving FIFA in their Christmas stockings every year, while the major titles generating all the excitement are generally pre-ordered so they can be played digitally as soon as they become available?

Do you continue to buy physical games? Share your reasoning with us @trustedreviews on Twitter.

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OnePlus and Oppo phones are about to get even more ...

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Oppo Reno 4 Pro Review

Smartphone makers Oppo and OnePlus share the same parent company, which has led to the release of some pretty similar phones over the years.

The OnePlus 8 Pro looks a lot like the Oppo Find X2 Pro, which made our best phones list, for example. So much so that you’d have to assume some resources are being shared.

That synergy looks set to grow with the news the two Chinese manufacturers are streamlining their R&D efforts, while continuing to focus on individual releases. Following reports of an R&D merger, OnePlus issued a statement saying there is further integration that should assist the company with further growth.

“To better maximise resources and further position OnePlus for growth, we are in the process of further integrating some R&D capabilities within OPLUS, our long-term investor,” a spokesperson said in a statement emailed to Trusted Reviews. “OnePlus will continue operating independently and working to deliver the best possible user experience for existing and future OnePlus users.”

In case you were unaware, OPLUS is an investment group that piles cash into OnePlus and Oppo. Shared resources are likely to result in shared features appearing in the company’s respective phones. While OPPO is gaining a presence in the west, OnePlus is unquestionably more popular in Europe and the United States, meaning there won’t be that much in the way of overlap to the eyes of the average consumer.

What we might get is some features quicker than they’d arrive if both companies are operating more independently from a research and development perspective.

A previous report on the matter from Android Authority speculated that the two companies may operate in the vein of Xiaomi and Redmi from a hardware perspective. However, the OnePlus OxygenOS and Oppo ColorOS will remain independent.

Are you on board with Oppo and OnePlus’ quest to dominate more of the smartphone landscape? Let us know @trustedreviews on Twitter.

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Resident Evil Village release date and new ...

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Resident Evil Village

Capcom has confirmed the release date for Resident Evil Village – the eighth major version of the blood-and-guts survival horror game – while also announcing a surprise new online multiplayer deathmatch game.

In a live-streamed Resident Evil Showcase late on Thursday evening the makers announced a May 7 release for Xbox Series X/S and Sony PS5, as well as the previous-gen Xbox One and PS4 consoles.

If you haven’t snared a new console yet, no problem. The game will support Smart Delivery on the Xbox platform, while the upgrade will also be free on the PlayStation 5 if you buy the PS4 version. A PS5 demo of the game is already available and we’ll have a full report on Friday.

The event also saw a brand new trailer for the game, built on the RE Engine platform, which offers our first real insight into the setting and plot. We’re inside a castle described as a “place full of nothing but blood and death.”

We’re also re-introduced to the returning hero Ethan Winters from Resident Evil 7 as he faces a new adversaries who’ve apparently kidnapped his daughter. They seem to be the castle’s inhabitants including one strikingly-dressed female antagonist (above) who can seemingly turn herself into a swarm of bugs. Charming. We’ve previously been informed that franchise legend Chris Redfield is back on the scene too, although his role hasn’t been outlined yet. The trailer, featuring some gameplay footage, can be seen below:

Elsewhere Capcom also announced a new online multiplayer game called Resident Evil Re:Verse, which will see legends from the series face-off against each other in combat. The game, which will be free with Village, will see Leon Kennedy and Jill Valentine and the rest of the game fight to the death in 4-6 player matches. You can see that trailer below also:

Can Resident Evil: Village rank among the best PS5 games and the best Xbox Series X games? Time will tell, but we could be witnessing another classic in the making.

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Could virtual reality be the future of online ...

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I recently made a visit to the Gugenka VR Store, a shopping vendor based within the confines of VR Chat. It was a strange, innovative and surprisingly fun experience. 

The Gugenka Virtual Shop first opened back in 2019, but has since expanded to promote a number of popular anime and games, while also providing a way to purchase Vive products from the comfort of your own home. 

Much like VR Chat on a normal day, it’s a surreal yet welcoming idea that feels especially poignant in the age of the pandemic. We aren’t allowed to enter any shops in reality due to the current lockdown, so this was an usual way to simulate normality – but with a dose of extra anime. 

The Gugenka Virtual Shop is a building which consists of various different floors, each one representing a specific brand or franchise. Vive has opened up shop on the fourth floor, transforming it into a massive display filled with virtual reality headsets and other accessories. 

Boxes of products are stacked upon shelves, and you can view 3D models of select headsets to determine whether or not they’re right for you. The experience isn’t perfect, and the visual fidelity could certainly use some work, but putting that aside it remains a novel approach to the retail experience.

Given you are browsing products from a VR company while wearing a virtual reality headset, such a storefront almost feels pointless, but that will likely vary depending on the person. The storefront was opened in Japan during the midst of both a national lockdown and Golden Week, a holiday period which has the entire country taking time off work.

I visited the storefront using the Vive Cosmos Elite, which earned a 3.5/5 in our review: “The impressive room-scaling, motion-tracking and high screen resolution combine to ensure this headset offers one of the best VR experiences yet, but its laborious setup, wired limitations and fussy space requirements are so frustrating that it takes a lot of willpower to even start playing.”

But could online shopping in virtual reality be a true possibility for the future? Right now – it’s a hard pill to swallow, especially in Vive’s case. Right now, the company doesn’t have a product which provides virtual reality experiences in a way that is easy for the average consumer to enjoy. Oculus Quest 2, on the other hand, allows anyone to put on the headset and immediately lose themselves in VR.

However, there is an audience for this kind of thing, especially during the pandemic. VR Chat is a compelling social platform where you can don an avatar and communicate with friends and strangers alike in a realistic space. It’s fun to play and there’s not much else like it, so why not combine a concept like this with games and other activities like shopping?

I’ve been raving in VR Chat and it was wild, and feels like a real night on the town with a few like-minded friends by your side. Virtual reality holds endless possibilities, but its progress depends on a wider audience, which right now remains a mixed bag of hardcore consumers and curious players dipping their toes in for the very first time. Either way, I’m excited to see where things like Gugenka Store go in the years to come. If you fancy giving VR Chat a shot, it’s free on Steam and can be played without a headset.

Are you a regular VR player? Let us know on Facebook and Twitter @trustedreviews. 

 

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Xbox Live Gold is going up in price, Microsoft has ...

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Xbox Live

Microsoft has announced that it will be raising the monthly price for Xbox Live Gold across all territories, although this change won’t affect those who already have an active membership.

The monthly price of Xbox Live Gold will be increasing by $1, while three month memberships will be increasing by $5. This brings the tiered prices to $10.99 (one month), $29.99 (three months) and $59.99 (six months). 

$120 for a full year of Xbox Live Gold without the benefits of Game Pass is awful steep, which is likely deliberate so consumers consider the more expensive subscription. Microsoft is yet to announce the UK pricing equivalent, although we’ll be sure to update you once it becomes clear. 

Messages are currently being sent out to subscribers (via Eurogamer) and it seems that players won’t have their price raised until 45 days after receiving the message. If you have an active membership that doesn’t run out for months or years, the new price won’t apply to you until it does. 

Related: Upcoming Xbox Series X Games

Xbox Game Pass is an almost essential service for those playing on Microsoft consoles nowadays, since all of the company’s first-party exclusives launch for the service at no extra cost, and with the acquisition of studios such as Bethesda and Obsidian Entertainment, its value has only increased. My membership doesn’t run out until 2023 so I don’t need to worry, but this could sting less fortunate players.

The big title from Microsoft this year is Halo Infinite, which is set to launch in the Winter. With any luck, we will also hear more about Fable, Avowed and Hellblade 2 in the coming months. The exclusive offerings on Xbox Series X are absurdly thin right now, and it would be nice to have something to look forward to.

What are your thoughts on the Xbox Live price hike? Let us know your thoughts on Facebook and Twitter @trustedreviews. 

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