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Starlink launches satellite internet for RVs that costs $25 more

Starlink has launched a new product meant specifically for RV dwellers and those who can't wait to get connected to the satellite internet service. While applying for a regular Starlink dish and service will put customers in a waitlist until 2023, Starlink for RVs is immediately available and will ship out to buyers right now. The downside? Network resources are always de-prioritized for it, and the service costs $135, which is $25 more than a regular Starlink connection. 

In other words, the RV option costs just as much as a regular Starlink connection with the Portability feature introduced back in March that allows customers to use the service while they're away from home. A regular connection requires one to have a home service first, though, and that may not be possible for some people. Another difference is that the product for RVs gives customers the ability to pause and un-pause service, so they can control when their billing starts and ends. 

Since the network is de-prioritized for the RV service, though, users' connection might be slow and intermittent in congested areas and during peak hours. "Stated speeds and uninterrupted use of the service are not guaranteed," the company wrote in its Help page, clearly making sure interested customers understand that it's prioritizing at-home users. One important thing to note for those looking into the RV option is that they can't use Starlink while in motion at this time. SpaceX chief Elon Musk also added on Twitter that the dish is too big for cars, though that didn't stop at least one user from bolting it onto their vehicle's hood.

Google is testing a smaller, modular Street View camera system

Street View for Google Maps launched 15 years ago this week, and Google is taking advantage of the anniversary to drop some updates, including a major update to the Street View mapping hardware. The one most people can immediately enjoy, though, is the ability to “go back in time” on Street View using Google Maps for Android or iOS. This feature has been available on the web for a while now, but it’s being added to the Maps app for the first time. Accessing this historical data is pretty straightforward: just get into Street View and tap anywhere on the image to pull up details about the location. After that, you’ll find a “see more dates” option that pulls in all other Street View captures for the location. 

Obviously, this will only work for locations where Google has a lot of historical Street View data, so what you’ll be able to find will vary widely by location. Google says that how often it scans areas for Street View depends on factors like how frequently the area changes, how popular it is and how difficult it is to get to. Street View first launched in San Francisco, New York, Las Vegas, Miami and Denver, so those places will have the oldest historical data for the curious.

For those interested in the hardware Google uses to get Street View data, the company is announcing a big update to its camera system. Google says that the new camera (pictured above) has all the resolution and processing capabilities that are in the full Street View car, but it’s a 15-pound device that is “roughly the size of a house cat.” The company hopes this will make it easier to get data from under-mapped areas of the world; one example of such a place Google gave was the Amazon jungle. 

A camera system this small, relatively speaking, will be a lot easier for Google to deploy in more areas — it can be shipped anywhere and mounted to any type of vehicle. As long as it has a roof rack, Google says it’ll be good to go. Google says that historically, it had to create totally new camera systems to fit whatever area they wanted to capture, but the new camera is modular and customizable.

 It’ll serve as the “base” system that can be added to should the circumstances require it. For example, Google notes that the new camera doesn’t have the lidar scanners typically found on Street View cars that operate in cities, but they can be added on when they’re needed. Google says that the new camera system is being tested now and expects it’ll fully roll out in 2023. 

Finally, Google is adding four new collections of Street View imagery from some pretty noteworthy locales. The Pyramids of Meroë in Sudan, The Duomo in Milan, Les Invalides in Paris and the Sydney Ferries in Australia (the last one is coming later this year). The Duomo in particular shows off the inside of the largest cathedral in Italy as well as the exterior, while there's a virtual tour available of Les Invalides in Paris. To check these new sites out, visit Google's blog for direct links.

Logitech MX Mechanical: A gaming keyboard for work without all the RGB

Logitech’s MX Master mice are simply unmatched when it comes to premium productivity (despite what my colleague James says). However, while I like the Craft and MX Keys, the company’s keyboards don’t enjoy quite the same level of dominance. But after testing out the new MX Mechanical, it’s clear Logitech finally has a high-end option to match its mice.

The big upgrade is that, instead of using switches with rubber domes, Logitech's latest offerings feature mechanical switches just like you’d get on its gaming keyboards. In fact, Logitech says they’re actually the same exact switches, with some small tweaks for things like noise and lighting to better suit the home office market. And again just like its gaming keyboards, you now get the option of three different switches: clicky, linear and tactile quiet.

The MX Mechanical can be configured with either linear, clicky, or tactile quiet switches.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The impact of this is immediately apparent – even for someone like me who doesn’t think rubber dome switches are an affront to civilized society. Instead of slightly spongy keypresses, the MX Mechanical offers crisp actuation with generous travel and zero side-to-side wobble. The keys feature a 19mm pitch to support a more comfortable typing position, and notably unlike the MX Keys, there are fold-out tabs in back in case you need some extra elevation. The main downside is that while the MX Mechanical has low-profile keycaps, the added height of its new switches means it can’t match the sleekness of Logitech’s rubber-domed alternatives.

Over the course of a week, I used all the various models, though I ended up settling on the MX Mechanical Mini with linear switches. (I typically prefer keyboards that use Cherry MX Reds, or the nearest equivalent.) Logitech also dampened the noise of the switches compared to most mechanical keyboards, so you get a softer audible “clack” instead of the muffled “pat” of rubber dome boards. Fans of Cherry MX Blues should opt for Logitech's clicky switches, which have that classic high-pitched tick.

Logitech's latest flagship productivity keyboard is available in two sizes: full size and 75 percent.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Logitech opted for a 75 percent layout on the Mini, which ditches the number pad, but retains full-size arrow keys along with a handy row of productivity keys on the right for stuff like Page Up, Page Down and Delete. While some 60-percent keyboards feel a little too spartan, the MX Mechanical Mini strikes a great balance between compactness and functionality.

In the process of bringing some of its gamer sensibilities to the productivity world, Logitech also cut out stuff like RGB lighting in favor of a pure white glow. That said, you do get six different lighting effects like breathing, wave and reaction, which adds a bit of pizzaz without becoming distracting. And while some people might hate it, I kind of like that Logitech included the dedicated emoji key it introduced on the MX Keys Mini.

While it doesn't have a numpad, the MX Mechanical Mini's 75 percent layout retains a handy row of productivity keys and full-size arrow keys.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The rest of the MX Mechanical’s features match what you’d expect from one of Logitech’s flagship peripherals. You can use the keyboard wired, or wireless via Bluetooth or the company’s Bolt receiver. (Though, sadly, there’s still no USB-C model.) And thanks to the Options app, it’s super simple to change shortcuts, set specific hotkeys for individual programs, or sync the keyboard with up to three different computers simultaneously. The keyboard even boasts great battery life, lasting up to 10 months on a charge if you leave its backlight off, or 15 days with it on.

Due to the increased heigh of its switches, the MX Mechanical is taller and features more key travel than the previous MX Keys
Here's how the height of the new MX Mechanical compares to the MX Keys, which features rubber dome switches. 
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Finally, for those looking to pair Logitech’s latest keyboard with a new mouse, there’s also the revamped MX Master 3S. It features almost exactly the same design and specs as the previous model, except that now it’s available in white and it has a new 8,000 DPI sensor (up from 4,000 on the original MX Master 3). The company says the increased DPI is designed to make it easier to move your cursor quickly across one or more large high res screens, which it does. However, if you already own a regular MX Master 3, that upgrade isn’t really worth buying a whole new mouse. Logitech has also seriously dampened the sound of the left and right mouse buttons – it’s not quite silent, but it is really quiet. Honestly, if anyone gets mad about the MX Master 3S making too much noise, there’s probably something else bothering them.

While it features almost exactly the same design, the new MX Master 3S has quiter mouse clicks, a new 8,000 DPI sensor and a new white paint job.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The MX Mechanical is really just a great mix of gamer specs and a high-end minimalist design that can meet all your productivity needs – whether you’re editing videos or toiling away in spreadsheets. Meanwhile, the new $99 MX Master 3S is a more muffled and even better looking version of what is essentially the best non-gaming mouse on the market. Right now, I can’t think of a better duo when it comes to first-class office peripherals. I just wish the MX Mechanical was also available in white to match the Master 3S’s refreshed paint job, though I’m willing to bet Logitech will address that at some time in the not too distant future.

The MX Mechanical, MX MEchanical Mini and MX Master 3S are all available today starting at $170, $150, and 99, respectively.

NVIDIA is bringing liquid-cooled GPUs to data centers

Starting later this year, NVIDIA will begin selling a liquid-cooled version of its A100 GPU for data centers. The GPU maker is positioning the video card as a way for cloud computing companies to make their facilities more energy-efficient. It may seem unintuitive, but by adding a water block to the component, data centers can reduce their dependence on inefficient air- and water-based chillers.

In testing, NVIDIA claims a facility outfitted with its water-cooled A100 GPUs ran the same workload as an air-cooled data center while using about 30 percent less power. The new version of the A100 is also more space-efficient. Thanks to its water block design, it occupies a single PCIe slot instead of two like its air-cooled sibling.

In the consumer market, we’ve already seen companies like EVGA offer GPUs with built-in water blocks, and companies like EK sell aftermarket units you can install on your existing video card. We’re hopeful today’s announcement is a sign that NVIDIA plans to push water-cooled GPUs toward the mainstream. In the meantime, the company has begun sending out samples of the new A100 to enterprise customers. It also plans to introduce a water-cooled version of its H100 Tensor Core GPU sometime next year.

New Jersey Attorney General also investigating Discord and Twitch after Buffalo shooting

New Jersey’s Acting Attorney General has launched a probe into Twitch and Discord to see if the platforms broke laws on hateful and extremist content following a recent mass shooting in Buffalo. In an announcement published Monday, New Jersey's Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin wrote that the purpose of the investigation was to find out if policy or moderation failures allowed the platforms to become vectors for spreading extremist content, especially among young people. The investigation follows a similar one launched by New York Attorney General Letitia James last week.

The 18-year-old who has been charged with shooting 13 people at a Tops supermarket, killing 10—used Discord to spread his white supremacist ideology, and broadcast the attack live on Twitch. Across a swath of posts online, he credited racist memes and discussions on 4chan with inspiring him to specifically target Black people for deadly violence. Eleven of the Buffalo shooting victims were Black. The events of May 14 have been called a "hate crime" and "an act of racially motivated violent extremism," by Attorney General Merrick Garland, and are being investigated by the Department of Justice. The suspect, who Engadget is choosing not to name so as not to further add to the infamy he appeared to seek, has plead not guilty to first-degree murder.

“These social media platforms have enormous reach, especially with young people, and have shown themselves to be staging grounds for hateful and extremist content that may radicalize children and others,” said Acting AG Platkin. “New Jersey has a substantial interest in investigating how these companies moderate and prohibit content that may harm consumers. Under New Jersey law companies must deliver on their promises, and the persistence of violent extremism and hateful conduct on these platforms casts doubt on their purported content moderation and enforcement policies and practices.”

In a blog post, Discord revealed that the alleged shooter kept a diary of his plans on a private server on the platform. Roughly half an hour before the attack, he shared an invitation to the server "within a small number of other private servers and direct messages." In total, 15 users clicked on his invite, according to the company. The suspect also live-streamed the attack on Twitch with the assistance of a Go-Pro camera attached to a helmet. Twitch removed the original livestream two minutes after it was posted, and approximately 22 viewers were watching at the time of broadcasting. Copies of the footage, however, have continued to proliferate on a variety of social media platforms.

A Discord spokesperson told that the company plans to cooperate with the New Jersey attorney general’s investigation. Engadget has also reached out to Twitch for comment, which did not provide a response by the time of publication.

It’s unclear whether New York and New Jersey will coordinate their investigations. (Engadget reached out to the New Jersey attorney general’s office, and will update if we receive a response.) While New York under state executive laws that allow for investigations into "matters concerning public peace, public safety, and public justice," New Jersey is instead leveraging the state's Consumer Fraud Act. “Companies cannot advertise that they will do one thing, then do another," Cari Fais, New Jersey's Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, said. "If these platforms represent that they will proactively moderate or prohibit violent extremism and hate, and then let it flourish unchecked with potentially harmful or even deadly consequences, it is unlawful.” 

Rode's Rodecaster Pro II isn't just for podcasting

When Rode unveiled the original Rodecaster Pro it was something unusual: a capable mixing desk with a singular focus on podcasting. It made it easy to record multiple guests in person or over the internet/phone, while adding background music and audio enhancements in real time or with minimal processing in post. A mini radio station in a box if you will.

Today, Rode is announcing its successor, the Rodecaster Pro II, and the messaging this time is that it’s for all creators, be that podcasting, streaming or music production. The new hardware looks familiar, but brings with it several changes that should improve your audio wherever and whatever you publish.

The most obvious difference you’ll see here is the smaller footprint. The Rodecaster Pro II loses two physical fader strips in favor of occupying less desk space. You still have as many channels available, but some are assigned to virtual controls and it feels like the right move to save desk space.

Other external hardware tweaks include an all new contextual rotary control and the move to combo ports around the back rather than just straight XLR connections like the original. This opens the Rodecaster Pro II to things like guitars and synthesizers without occupying other inputs or needing adapters.

A rear view of the new Rodecaster Pro II mixing desk from Rode.
James Trew / Engadget

Whatever you plug into the new Rodecaster it should sound better as it comes equipped with new preamps that can drive even the most hungry of microphones (looking at you SM7B). Rode claims the new preamps are so powerful and quiet that using an in-line signal booster like a FetHed or Cloudlifter would technically be detrimental, not beneficial, to your audio quality. This remains to be tested, of course, but it’s good news either way if you have a microphone that needs a lot of gain.

On the listening side of things, Bluetooth on the Rodecaster Pro II supports audio out as well as in, which means you can get funky and monitor your show wirelessly on speakers or headphones. Rode also claims if you record call-in guests over Bluetooth there should be improved sound quality also (at least between the phone and the mixer – obviously not the cellular network).

Semi relatedly, there’s no longer a 3.5mm headphone jack on the front edge. On the original, the show’s host/producer could connect their headphones either around the back (with the other headphone jacks) or via the dedicated jack on the front, if that was more convenient. Alas that option has now gone and headphone 1 is only accessible via the 1/4 inch ports on the rear. A mild pain if you have a shorter/non-coiled cable.

On a more practical front, the new hardware has WiFi built-in and ethernet connectivity which allows for easy updating (without having to leave your computer on). You can also connect it to two PCs at the same time, or even your phone which makes it perfect for podcasters on the go or game streamers who have a separate gaming rig. You’ll also be able to record directly to SSDs as well as memory cards. And with that dual-PC connectivity your options for routing where your audio goes are myriad.

A close up of the top right corner of the Rodecaster Pro II where the headphone volume controls are shown with colored LEDs.
James Trew / Engadget

Perhaps the secret sauce here is how customizable the workflow is. This starts with simple things like the eight pads on the Rodecaster Pro II can trigger audio or send MIDI as before but also be assigned to “mixer actions” like a fade out or be used to switch cameras in your stream. You can also reassign mixer channels however you like, including mapping two inputs to one fader and saving them as profiles if you don’t like how things are out of the box.

There are also a number of new audio effects including stereo panning, echo and reverb. But perhaps the most unexpected addition here are some funny voice effects. This might make podcasters recoil, but Voicemod has proven popular… so somebody somewhere is all about the squeaky voices.

Overall, there’s quite a lot new here. The new audio internals and connectivity should make this a more viable option for all types of creators, and the ways to connect, configure and process the audio will likely make this much more flexible. Details important to streamers such as OBS control, dual PC connectivity and the ability to sync/delay audio to match video suggest it’s a genuine attempt at being more capable rather than just a few buzzy marketing terms.

Whatever your use case, the Rodecaster Pro II is available for pre-order starting today for $699. Rode expects to start shipping "early to mid-June."

Former PlayStation employee files new gender discrimination lawsuit against company

Former PlayStation employee Emma Majo has filed a new lawsuit against the company after her previous complaint was dismissed by a federal judge in April. According to Axios, Majo’s new filing includes many of the same gender discrimination allegations found in her original one, but the scope of the lawsuit is more limited.

Rather than seeking to represent all women employed by Sony’s PlayStation unit in the US as was previously her intent, the complaint instead seeks damages for those women who worked for the company in California. When judge Laurel Beeler dismissed the original case, she said Majo could file again with additional details. The new complaint incorporates allegations from the nine women who came forward to support the first suit.

“Sony tolerates and cultivates a work environment that discriminates against female employees, including female employees and those who identify as female,” the complaint reads. We’ve reached out to Sony for comment. In the meantime, we'll note the company previously asserted Majo’s claims were based on “unactionable allegations.”

Airbnb to shut down domestic operations in China

Airbnb is shutting down its business in mainland China this summer due to mounting costs and domestic competition, reported CNBC. The online vacation rental platform first launched operations in China in 2016, spurred by enthusiasm from Chinese tourists who frequently use it while traveling abroad. But according to sources who spoke to CNBC, Airbnb’s China segment became too complex and expensive to operate, particularly in light of the pandemic. Similar to what happened with Uber in China, a bevy of local competitors made it tough for the American company to gain an edge. Stays in China only accounted for one percent of the platform’s revenue for the past few years.

While a growing number of cities have banned or passed restrictive laws on short-term rentals, Airbnb's fallout in China was due to entrenched competition and regulatory issues. Airbnb China operated differently than other Airbnb operations in other countries due to constraints by the Chinese government. The company was forced to sign agreements with local city governments and store its data on government servers.

Another more recent obstacle for Airbnb was an inconsistent flow of international and domestic visitors due to the pandemic, given China's significant restrictions on travel. While global tourism is on the mend, the number of international tourist arrivals still hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels according to figures by the UN World Tourism Organization. The Chinese government has also limited “unnecessary travel” for its citizens in light of a recent surge in COVID-19 numbers, scaling back the number of potential domestic users for Airbnb.

Meta will share Facebook's political ad targeting data with researchers

Meta is finally peeling back the curtain on how political and election ads are targeted on Facebook. The company is making information about how political and “social issue” ads are targeted available to researchers and the public, Meta said in an update.

Researchers who are part of the company’s Facebook Open Research and Transparency (FORT) program will get access to the most detailed information. “This data will be provided for each individual ad and will include information like the interest categories chosen by advertisers,” Facebook writes.

The company had previously experimented with making some targeting data available to researchers via FORT last year, but the information was only available for political ads during a three-month period before the 2020 election. Now, researchers will also be able access “all social issue, electoral and political ads run globally since August 2020.”

Meta is also making a more limited amount of political ad-targeting data available to the public via its Ad Library. That update, expected in July, will allow anyone to see more general information about how specific Facebook Pages are targeting their ads. “This update will include data on the total number of social issue, electoral and political ads a Page ran using each type of targeting (such as location, demographics and interests) and the percentage of social issue, electoral and political ad spend used to target those options,” the company writes. “For example, the Ad Library could show that over the last 30 days, a Page ran 2,000 ads about social issues, elections or politics, and that 40% of their spend on these ads was targeted to ‘people who live in Pennsylvania’ or ‘people who are interested in politics.’”

Some ad targeting details will be available in Facebook's Ad Library.
Facebook

Questions about how political ads are targeted on Facebook have been a thorny topic for the company. Researchers have long argued that understanding how election and political ads are targeted is just as important as having a record of the people and organizations behind each ad. But Meta has resisted making detailed targeting data available, citing privacy concerns.

But that hasn’t stopped groups from trying to study the issue on their own. A team at New York University created a browser extension to help them understand how political ads are targeted on Facebook. Using the data, they uncovered multiple flaws in Facebook’s Ad Library. Meta accused the team of scraping and disabled their accounts, which also cut off their ability to use the company’s CrowdTangle tool to study misinformation.

Making more detailed targeting information available through FORT may still not go as far as some researchers would like — researchers still need to be vetted and approved by Facebook to access FORT — but it at least offers one avenue where the data is available. And, with the 2022 midterms coming up later this year, there’s likely to be significant interest in learning more about how political ads spread through Facebook.

Former Activision Blizzard employee appeals $18 million harassment settlement

Former Activision Blizzard employee Jessica Gonzalez is appealing the publisher’s recent $18 million settlement with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). On Monday, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) announced Gonzalez is challenging the settlement on the grounds that it prevents workers who apply as claimants from suing Activision Blizzard in the future.

When the settlement was first approved by a federal judge in late March, many Activision Blizzard employees criticized it for not going nearly far enough to hold the company accountable. The fact the settlement prevents claimants from taking part in future litigation against Activision Blizzard was seen as particularly problematic as it would make those individuals ineligible to participate in California’s sexual harassment lawsuit against the publisher.

Employees have also argued $18 million is far too little to compensate everyone who could come forward with a claim against the company. The sum means there’s only enough money for the EEOC to award 60 employees with the maximum settlement allowed.

"Today’s appeal continues efforts by CWA and DFEH to interfere with and delay an $18 million settlement that benefits eligible employees. This is the tenth attempt," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson said. "It is unfortunate that DFEH – both directly and through those working with it – continues the campaign of misinformation and inaccurate claims.”

“The court allowed Activision and the EEOC to keep the affected workers and others who had an interest in holding the company accountable out of the process. Eligible employees should not have to give up their right to pursue other legal remedies if they accept the settlement,” Gonzalez said.

There is a precedent for workers winning a better settlement in these types of situations. Following a 2018 class-action lawsuit alleging sexual harassment and discrimination at the studio, Riot Games was ordered to pay $10 million to eligible employees. California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing later blocked that settlement, and the amount was eventually increased to $100 million.

Update 5:09PM ET: Added comment from Activision Blizzard. 

'Call of Duty: Warzone' quality assurance workers vote to unionize

Quality assurance workers at Activision Blizzard studio Raven Software have voted to unionize, becoming the first group to do so at a major gaming publisher in North America. The National Labor Relations board counted the ballots on Monday — 19 workers voted in favor of the union and three voted against. Two ballots were challenged, though they weren't sufficient enough to affect the result. There were 28 eligible voters and no void ballots.

The NRLB notes that the parties can file objections by May 31st. If it doesn't receive any by then the agency will certify the results and Raven will need to start bargaining with the union in good faith.

In December, 60 workers (including contractors and full-time employees) at the Call of Duty support studio went on strike after it laid off 12 QA testers. They demanded that the company hire those workers back. The strike ended the following month, but not before the QA workers announced plans to unionize with the Communication Workers of America (CWA). Once they were back at work, Raven split them up among various departments, in an apparent attempt to make their unionization efforts more difficult.

The workers asked Activision Blizzard to voluntarily recognize their union, which they called the Game Workers Alliance. However, the company declined to do so. Last month, the National Labor Relations Board gave the workers the go-ahead to hold a union election.

“Activision did everything it could, including breaking the law, to try to prevent the Raven QA workers from forming their union. It didn’t work, and we are thrilled to welcome them as CWA members,” CWA secretary-treasurer Sara Steffens said in a statement. “Quality assurance workers at Raven Software are bringing much-needed change to Activision and to the video game industry. At this critical time for the company and its employees, these workers will soon have an enforceable union contract and a voice on the job.” 

Activision Blizzard has been accused of union busting. Last July, it hired the law firm WilmerHale, which has reportedly engaged in efforts to stamp out union drives at Amazon and other companies, to review its human resources policies. It also shared anti-union messaging in company Slack channels.

In April, Activision Blizzard said it was hiring 1,100 QA workers on a full-time basis, increasing their pay in many cases and providing benefits. However, it claimed the Raven QA workers were not eligible “due to legal obligations under the National Labor Relations Act.”

Earlier on Monday, the NRLB determined that Activision Blizzard violated the National Labor Relations Act. It claimed the company threatened employees who sought to organize and imposed an 'overbroad social media policy.'

Activision Blizzard is being bought by Microsoft for $68.7 billion, pending regulatory approval. Microsoft has said it "will not stand in the way if Activision Blizzard recognizes a union." The company told Axios in March that it “respects Activision Blizzard employees’ right to choose whether to be represented by a labor organization and we will honor those decisions.”

In December, workers at indie studio Vodeo Workers formed the first video game union in the US. Management voluntarily recognized Vodeo Workers United. Workers at studios outside of North America have unionized as well, including at Paradox Interactive in Sweden and Japanese–Korean publisher Nexon. Meanwhile, QA workers at BioWare contractor Keywords Studios in Edmonton, Alberta are attempting to unionize.

The Game Workers Alliance provided the following statement to Engadget:

Five months ago, we formed the Game Workers Alliance-CWA on the principles of solidarity, sustainability, transparency, equity, and diversity. Activision Blizzard worked tirelessly to undermine our efforts to establish our union, but we persevered. Now that we’ve won our election, it is our duty to protect these foundational values on which our union stands. Our biggest hope is that our union serves as inspiration for the growing movement of workers organizing at video game studios to create better games and build workplaces that reflect our values and empower all of us. We look forward to working with management to positively shape our working conditions and the future of Activision Blizzard through a strong union contract.

Motorola teases upcoming phone with massive 200MP camera

While I wasn't all that impressed with its most recent pseudo flagship phone, it appears Motorola has much bigger ambitions for its next handset thanks to the addition of a super high resolution 200-MP camera.

In a post on Weibo (via 9to5Google), the general manager of Lenovo (Moto's parent company) teased an upcoming device by showing a picture of a massive lens alongside a message about entering a new era of mobile photography. While the post doesn't shed a lot of light on potential specs, it does mention a 200-MP sensor, suggesting the use of Samsung's ISOCELL HP1 which was initially announced last fall.

That said, while putting a huge sensor on a phone is certainly intriguing, it's important to remember that there's a lot more to snapping a nice photo than packing in as many megapixels as possible. Recently, I've noticed that a lot of Moto phones including the $1,000 Edge+ have struggled with low-light photography, routinely capturing blurrier or more underexposed images than rival handsets. And while the ISOCELL HP1 supports an impressive 16x pixel binning technique that allows a 200-MP sensor to capture a 12.5-MP image with improved light sensitivity, it will still fall upon Motorola's processing to produce a sharp and well-lit final pic.

Current rumors claim Moto's upcoming 200-MP phone could be the Frontier, which was spotted back in January by TechnikNews. The phone is expected to feature a triple rear camera module with a huge main lens, along with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip, 125-watt fast charging and a 6.67-inch OLED display with a 144Hz refresh rate. Sadly, while all of this is speculation for now, we should know more real soon as Moto teased an announcement date for the phone sometime in July. 

Speaking of phones with new Qualcomm chips, in a separate post on Weibo, Motorola teased another upcoming device — this time a foldable — that will feature a Snapdragon 8+ Gen 1 chip. While it's too early to say for sure, all signs point to this device being the long-awaited Razr 3, which is welcome news for flippy phone fans as the previous Razr has been somewhat neglected since its last refresh back in late 2020.

But for me, the biggest takeaway is that it finally looks like Motorola may be ready to take a break from pushing out the countless rehashes that have clogged up its device portfolio in recent years. And if all this results in a true new flagship phone and a proper update to the Razr, that's something worth paying attention to. 

NLRB accuses Activision Blizzard of violating labor law by threatening employees

A regional director for the National Labor Relations Board has determined there's "merit to the allegations" that Activision Blizzard violated the National Labor Relations Act. It says there are indications the company and its subsidiaries Blizzard Entertainment and Activision Publishing maintained an "overbroad social media policy" and that Blizzard threatened employees who were exercising their right to organize. The findings were first reported by Bloomberg and confirmed to Engadget.

“These allegations are false. Employees may and do talk freely about these workplace issues without retaliation, and our social media policy expressly incorporates employees’ NLRA rights," an Activision Blizzard spokesperson told Engadget in a statement. "Our social media policy explicitly says that it ‘does not restrict employees from engaging in the communication of information protected by law, including for example, rights of employees in the United States protected by the National Labor Relations Act.’”

If the company does not settle the case, the NLRB's Los Angeles office will file a complaint. That will lead to a hearing in front of an NLRB Administrative Law Judge (unless a settlement is reached in the meantime).

While the agency can't impose punitive measures against a defendant, it can require them to reverse punishments or policies; reinstate fired workers and provide backpay; or post notices containing promises not to break the law. An NLRB regional director can petition a district court for a temporary injunction if workers' rights have been violated. The agency can also file cases in federal court.

The allegations were made in September by the Communications Workers of America (CWA). It accused Activision Blizzard in an Unfair Labor Practice filing of telling employees they can't discuss wages, hours or working conditions; enforcing an "an overly broad social media policy" against workers who "engaged in protected concerted activity" (i.e. their right to organize or discuss unionization); and threatening or suveilling such employees.

The news comes on the same day that votes will be counted in a Raven Software union election. Quality assurance workers at the Activision Blizzard studio, who are organizing with the CWA as the Game Workers Alliance, got the go-ahead from the NLRB to hold a vote. If they're successful, the group of 21 or so workers will form the first union at a AAA game publisher in North America, despite the company's reported attempts to stymie their efforts.

Activision Blizzard's labor practices came under intense scrutiny last July when California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing accused it in a lawsuit of fostering a "frat boy" culture where sexual harassment and discrimination were present. Other suits have been filed against the company since, including a wrongful death case.

In the wake of the initial suit, Activision Blizzard workers formed an employee advocacy group called A Better ABK. They used social media to organize and share their concerns and demands publicly.

The company is the subject of a proposed $68.7 billion takeover by Microsoft. Its shareholders voted in favor of the deal last month, but regulatory approval is still required.

Update 5/23 3:10PM ET: Added Activision Blizzard's statement.

Meta’s ‘MyoSuite’ AI platform could help doctors develop better prosthetics

Meta’s AI division has been busy in recent months finding ways to make concrete production more sustainable and machine translation better. Now one of the company’s ML teams has created a tool that builds realistic musculoskeletal simulations that run up to 4,000 times faster than state-of-the-art prosthetics. According to Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the company can train the models to do things like twirl pens and rotate objects.

At the moment, Meta sees the platform’s usefulness in two different ways. To start, there’s the obvious metaverse angle. Zuckerberg suggests MyoSuite could help the company develop more realistic avatars for applications like Horizon Worlds. Another more interesting use case could see researchers tapping the platform to develop new prosthetics, as well as novel surgery and rehabilitation techniques. To that end, Meta says it plans to open-source the model.

Meta isn’t the first company to think to use AI to improve prosthetics. Back in 2019, an independent team of researchers created a machine learning system that allowed them to quickly tune a robotic knee to an individual patient. That same year, Intel unveiled a “neuromorphic” deep-learning chip that the company said would make prosthetic limbs more efficient.

SiriusXM buys Conan O'Brien's podcast and media company

Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and Team Coco's other podcasts now belong to SiriusXM. O’Brien has sold his digital media company and podcast network to the satellite radio giant.

As part of the deal, which The Wall Street Journal says is worth around $150 million, O'Brien has signed a five-year talent agreement to keep hosting his podcast. He'll also create and produce a Team Coco comedy channel. In addition, SiriusXM will have the right to distribute some videos from O'Brien's podcast, along with archival footage from his TBS late-night show.

Team Coco's staff of around 50 will continue to produce existing shows and work on other SiriusXM content. The network's other podcasts include Conan O’Brien Needs a Fan (a spin-off of the flagship show) and Parks and Recollection, a Parks and Recreation behind-the-scenes show hosted by star Rob Lowe and writer Alan Yang. Collectively, the 10 podcasts have been downloaded more than 418 million times.

Don't worry too much if you listen to Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend and other Team Coco shows elsewhere. They'll still be available on other podcast platforms.

"When I started in television my ultimate goal was to work my way up to radio," O'Brien said. "This new deal with SiriusXM builds on the great relationship that began several years ago with a team that is the standout in their field."

SiriusXM has been trying to become a bigger player in podcasting amid stiff competition from the likes of Spotify. Over the last couple of years, it has scooped up the Stitcher platform and podcasts such as 99% Invisible. SiriusXM has also beefed up its original content with exclusive shows from the likes of Marvel. It bought podcast hosting and analytics platform Simplecast too.

DC Attorney General sues Mark Zuckerberg over the Cambridge Analytica scandal

Meta's Cambridge Analytica woes are far from over. Karl Racine, the Attorney General of the District of Columbia, has sued Mark Zuckerberg. He accused the Meta CEO of having a direct hand in making the decisions that led to the major data breach.

Racine claims that Zuckerberg "contributed to Facebook’s lax oversight of user data and implementation of misleading privacy agreements." That, according to the suit, allowed consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to acquire personal data on more than 70 million Americans, including more than 340,000 DC residents. The company allegedly used the data to help sway voters in the 2016 presidential election through political ad targeting.

The AG previously sued Meta (then known as Facebook) over the scandal in 2018. That case is still ongoing. This time, Racine is targeting Zuckerberg directly. Under the jurisdiction's Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which bans unfair and deceptive trade practices, individuals are liable for a company's actions that they were aware of, controlled or failed to stop.

Racine is seeking a jury trial against Zuckerberg. He wants Meta's CEO to refrain from future CPPA violations and to pay damages and civil penalties. Engadget has contacted Meta for comment.

“Since filing our landmark lawsuit against Facebook, my office has fought tooth and nail against the company's characteristic efforts to resist producing documents and otherwise thwart our suit. We continue to persist and have followed the evidence right to Mr. Zuckerberg," Racine said in a statement. “This unprecedented security breach exposed tens of millions of Americans’ personal information, and Mr. Zuckerberg’s policies enabled a multi-year effort to mislead users about the extent of Facebook's wrongful conduct. This lawsuit is not only warranted, but necessary, and sends a message that corporate leaders, including CEOs, will be held accountable for their actions.”

AT&T customers can now stream ‘Control’ on their phones, tablets and PCs

Following a pilot last fall that saw AT&T test Google’s Immersive Stream for Games technology to allow its customers to stream Batman: Arkham Knight, the carrier is back with a new game. Starting today, AT&T mobile postpaid subscribers can play Control: Ultimate Edition on their phones, tablets and computers at no extra charge. To access the game, all you need to do is visit the company’s Play Now website and input the phone number and ZIP code associated with your account.

No download is necessary as you’re streaming the game through the same technology that powers Stadia. AT&T envisions a future where publishers could use the technology to offer limited-time demos of their games. The carrier says you could search for a game and then, if you decide to buy it, your progress from the demo would carry over. Coincidently, that’s functionality Google already offers in Stadia through the platform’s “Click to Play Trials” feature.

Google Assistant is now available on the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4

Galaxy Watch 4 users can now start using Google Assistant on the device. Along with being available in the app tray, you can trigger Assistant via voice command and assign it to a long press on the home button. In addition, today's update offers users access to Google Pay, Maps and YouTube Music.

During Google I/O earlier this month, Samsung said Google Assistant support would arrive on the device sometime this summer, so it's arriving earlier than some may have expected. Patrick Chomet, Samsung's executive vice president of products and experience, noted that Assistant would allow for "faster and more natural voice interactions."

Samsung also said Spotify control will be available via Google Assistant and support for other third-party apps is on the way. Google apps and services will be optimized for the Galaxy Watch lineup will later this year.

While Galaxy Watch 4 owners are able to sideload Google Assistant, official support should make it easier for most folks to start using the feature. The move comes a year after it emerged that Samsung and Google are collaborating on Wear OS. Samsung is phasing out the Tizen platform on its wearables and will use Wear OS going forward.

Take-Two's $12.7 billion purchase of Zynga is complete

One of the biggest takeovers in the history of the gaming industry is complete — Take-Two now owns Zynga. The companies announced the $12.7 billion acquisition in January. The two sides have cut through all the red tape and, after shareholders gave the thumbs up last week, the deal is done.

Zynga has joined the likes of Rockstar Games and 2K under Take-Two's umbrella. As s result of the deal, Take-Two now has a bigger stable of well-known mobile and casual gaming franchises, including Words with Friends and Farmville. Among the games Zynga is working on is Star Wars: Hunters, a free-to-play arena shooter for mobile and Nintendo Switch that's supposed to arrive this year.

“As we bring together our exceptional talent, exciting pipelines of games, and industry-leading technologies and capabilities, we believe that we can take our portfolio to another level of creativity, innovation, and quality," Take-Two chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick said in a statement. "Each of our teams has a strong history of operational execution, and together, we expect that we will enhance our financial profile through greater scale and profitability, paving the way for us to deliver strong shareholder value.”

Take-Two's buyout of Zynga is part of a major wave of consolidation across the gaming industry. In January, Sony announced it was buying Destiny 2 studio Bungie for $3.6 billion. That news came just days after Microsoft said it planned to buy Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. Both takeovers are pending regulatory approval. Activision Blizzard shareholders voted in favor of the Microsoft deal last month.

The best immersion blenders you can buy

Back in the 80s and 90s, immersion blenders were often restricted to high-end restaurants and the kitchens of nerdy home cooks. But thanks to improvements in tech, immersion blenders (also known as hand or stick blenders) have become powerful and affordable general-purpose cooking gadgets – especially for people who might not have the space for a traditional countertop model. Unfortunately picking the right one for you can get a bit confusing, so here’s a guide covering the important things you need to consider, along with our favorite devices across a handful of categories.

Which device is right for you?

Before you even think about buying a new kitchen gadget, it’s important to figure out how you’re going to use it and where it fits in with any appliances you already own. In an ideal world, everyone would have a dedicated food processor, countertop blender and a stand mixer. But the reality is that many people don’t have the room or the budget.

Engadget's favorite immersion blenders are the Breville Control Grip, the KitchenAid Cordless Variable Speed Hand Blender and the Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

While immersion blenders and traditional countertop models have a lot of overlap, there are strengths and weaknesses to both. For example, if you’re looking to make smoothies every day, a countertop blender might be a better choice. The bigger pitchers make it easier to blend drinks for multiple people at once, while larger motors will make short work of ice and frozen fruit. Additionally, more expensive options like those from Vitamix or Robocoupe can even cook soup during the blending process using the heat generated from the blender’s motor, which isn’t something you can do with an immersion model. I’d even go so far as to say that if you have the space for it and don’t own a blender of any kind, a countertop version is probably the best option for most people.

That said, immersion blenders are often less expensive and, thanks to a wide variety of accessories offered by some manufacturers, they can be great multitaskers. A whisk attachment allows you to make whipped cream or meringues quickly without needing an electric hand mixer, or risk getting tendonitis in your elbow doing it manually. Some immersion blenders also come with food processing bowls, so you can easily throw together things like a homemade pesto in minutes. And because immersion blenders are smaller and less bulky than traditional models, they're a great choice for apartment dwellers or anyone with limited storage or counter space. That means if you’re simply trying to expand your culinary repertoire without blowing up your budget, an immersion blender can be a great way to try something new without committing too hard.

Corded or cordless?

Similar to figuring out if you should get a blender or not, trying to decide between a corded or cordless model depends a lot on the other gadgets you already own. Corded versions typically have more powerful motors, which makes them great for people who don’t have a countertop blender or food processor. But if you do own one of both of those, cordless is the way to go. Not only do you get the convenience of not worrying about wires, but the ease of use makes it fast and easy to whip out your immersion blender to add some extra texture to a soup or sauce.

A quick word about safety

The most important safety tip for immersion blenders is to always keep the blade pointed down and away from you.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

No one should be ashamed of being nervous around a device that is essentially a motorized wand with a spinning blade at the end. But with proper care and use, an immersion blender doesn’t have to be much more dangerous than a chef’s knife. The most important safety tip is to make sure you always keep the sharp end pointed down and away from you or anyone else nearby. That includes your hands, along with any utensils (like a spoon), that might be in or around your mixing bowl.

Thankfully, all consumer immersion blenders are designed to prevent their blade from directly hitting the vessel holding your food (be it a mixing bowl or a pot). However, to be extra safe, you should avoid blending things in glass containers or non-stick cookware, as glass can chip or shatter while the metal blades and shroud of an immersion blender can damage teflon and ceramic.

Immersion blenders are extremely useful kitchen gadgets, especially when it comes to making creamy soups like this roasted cauliflower chowder.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

You’ll also want to make sure you keep water away from the plug or outlet of corded immersion blenders. And if you want to remove the blade or clear away any food that might have gotten tangled, first make sure the blender is off and disconnected from its power source (either its battery or wall socket).

On the bright side, cleaning an immersion is rather simple and straightforward. All you have to do is fill up a bowl or cup with soapy water, submerge the immersion blender, and then run it for 10 to 20 seconds. That’s it. If it’s still not clean, you can repeat that process again until it is. And if that’s too much work, the blending arms on a lot of models (including all of the gadgets on this list) are dishwasher safe too.

Engadget picks

Best wired immersion blender: Breville Control Grip

Between all of its included accessories and powerful 280-watt motor, the Breville Control Grip is our pick for the best immersion blender on the market.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Starting at $120, Breville’s Control Grip not only has one of the most powerful motors (280-watts) available on an immersion blender in this price range, it also comes with a wealth of handy accessories. In addition to the main 8-inch shaft/immersion blade, the kit features a 25-ounce chopping bowl for cutting and mincing and a 42-ounce blending jug for making soups and smoothies. There’s also a whisk attachment, which means that between all of its accessories, the Control Grip can take the place of three different common kitchen gadgets: a food processor, blender and hand mixer.

I also appreciate the two-button attachment system, which ensures accessories are properly locked in before use. Breville even includes a removable blade guard to help prevent the blender from scratching your other appliances in storage. And with support for 15 different speed settings, there’s a lot of flexibility to handle all sorts of dishes. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an all-purpose immersion blender with even more attachments for making drinks and sauces, you may want to consider KitchenAid’s 5-Speed Hand Blender, which comes with two extra bell blades to help crush ice, froth milk and more.

Buy Control Grip at Breville - $120

Best cordless immersion blender: KitchenAid Cordless Variable Speed Hand Blender

Thanks to its easy-to-use controls, the KitchenAid Cordless Variable Speed Hand Blender is a great wire-free addition to your cooking arsenal, even if you already own a countertop blender.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

If you just want an immersion blender that’s simple and easy to use, KitchenAid’s Cordless Variable Speed Blender is the one to get. It comes with a dishwasher-safe blending jar and an optional pan guard to help ensure you won’t nick your cookware. However, the real nifty feature is that instead of having discrete speed settings, you can adjust the blender’s 180-watt motor simply by squeezing down on the trigger. This makes using it incredibly intuitive, and thanks to its built-in safety switch, it’s much more difficult to spin up the blade by accident.

KitchenAid also claims the battery can blend up to 25 bowls of soup on a single charge. And while my kitchen is too small to test this properly, I never ran into any issues. That said, you’re going to want to make sure to top off its battery beforehand because its charging port is next to where you attach the blending arm, which means you can’t have it plugged in while it's running.

Buy KitchenAid cordless blender at Amazon - $100

Best budget immersion blender: Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender

With a price tag of just $35, the Hamilton Beach 2-Speed Hand Blender is simply the best budget immersion blender on the market.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

For those who want something that’s versatile and a great value, Hamilton Beach’s 2-Speed Hand Blender is a great pick. While it isn’t cordless, in addition to the main blending arm you also get a whisk attachment and a chopping bowl – all for just $35. On top of that, its 225-watt motor is rather powerful for its price, though you don’t get as many speed settings as you would on more premium rivals. With this thing having been on the market for more than 15 years, this blender has long been a top choice among budget-conscious cooks.

Buy Hamilton Beach hand blender at Amazon - $35

The best laptops

Whether it’s in anticipation of back to school season or you just need a new machine for work, a new laptop may be near the top of your shopping list right now. Given we’re still dealing with the global chip supply shortage, you might find yourself concerned about rising prices or what might be in stock. The good news is, companies are still making a ton of new laptops, and there are plenty of models for you to choose from.

What to expect

You probably have an idea of your budget here, but just so you know, most laptops with top-of-the-line specs can cost you around $1,800 to $2,000 these days. That doesn’t mean you won’t find a good system for under $1,000 — a grand is the base price for a lot of premium ultraportables in the 13-inch category, with chips like Intel’s Core i3 or i5 series. And if that’s too expensive, you’ll still have respectable options in the $600 to $800 range, but they might come with older, slower processors and dimmer screens. I’ve included our favorite budget-friendly model in this roundup but we have a list of more-affordable laptops that you can check out as well.

After working out how much money you want to spend, the laptop’s operating system is usually the first thing you have to narrow down. As always, the decision is slightly easier for people who prefer MacBooks. Now that Apple has brought its M1 chip to its whole lineup — your only real considerations are budget, screen size and how much power you need.

Over on Team Windows, however, the shift to ARM-based chips hasn’t been as smooth. Though Apple has been able to bring huge increases in battery life while maintaining (and in some cases improving) performance with its own silicon, PC makers have been limited by Windows’ shortcomings. Microsoft released Windows 11 last year, and it’s supposed to run better on ARM-powered machines. Since the first of these laptops, like Lenovo’s ThinkPad X13s or 10w tablet, haven’t been available for review yet, we can’t tell how well the system runs. Of course, you can upgrade to Windows 11 on existing ARM-based PCs, but for now, it’s still safer to stick with an Intel or AMD processor.

Dell XPS 13
Devindra Hardawar / Engadget

Let’s not forget there’s a third and fairly popular laptop operating system: Chrome. If you do most of your work in a browser (lots of online research, emails and Google Drive), then a Chromebook might be a suitable, and often more affordable option.

As for other things to look out for, it’s worth pointing out that a couple of laptops coming out this year are doing away with headphone jacks. Though this doesn’t seem to be a prevalent trend yet, it’s a good reminder to check that a machine has all the connectors you need. Most laptops in 2022 offer WiFi 6 or 6E and Bluetooth 5.0 or later, which should mean faster and more stable connections if you have compatible routers and devices. While 5G coverage is more widespread this year, whether you need support for that depends on how much you travel.

Where you plan on taking your laptop also helps in deciding what size to get. Many companies launched new 14-inch machines in the last year, straddling the line between ultraportable and bulkier 15-inch offerings. For most people, a 14-inch screen is a great middle ground. But if you’re worried about weight, a 12- or 13-inch model will be better. Those that want more powerful processors and larger displays will prefer 15- or 16-inch versions.

Engadget picks

Best overall: MacBook Air M1

Apple MacBook Air M1
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

As a Windows user, I find myself reluctant to name a MacBook the best overall laptop. But I can’t deny that Apple’s transition to its own Silicon has made its machines better. The MacBook Air M1 even outperformed many PCs while maintaining a fanless design. Though the current model is two years old at this point, it’s still one of the best laptops around. You’ll get blazing fast performance, a great keyboard and excellent battery life, along with a nice Retina display.

Our main gripes with it are the low-res 720p webcam and the fact that it only has two USB-C ports. But if you’re already living a largely wireless life, that shouldn’t bother you too much. Plus, thanks to its ARM architecture, the M1 MacBook Air can also run iPhone and iPad apps.

If you can wait a little longer, the MacBook Air is overdue an update and Apple’s new model is likely to deliver even better performance. But if you need a new machine right now and want a bit more power than the M1 Air has to offer, then consider the 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M1 Pro chip. It’s more expensive, but will smoothly handle more intensive tasks like video editing and also packs an onboard SD card reader. The M1 Pro still lags more-powerful NVIDIA and AMD systems, though, so if you need something for 3D rendering, you may need to turn to a Windows machine.

Buy MacBook Air M1 at Amazon - $999

Best Windows: Dell XPS 13 Plus

Dell XPS 13 Plus
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The best PC has long been Dell’s well-rounded XPS 13 series and I still recommend it to anyone that doesn’t want a Mac. Yes, the new XPS 13 Plus lacks a headphone jack, and we haven’t got one in to test yet. But the XPS 13 is a well-rounded machine and still one of the best-looking PCs out there.

Like its predecessors, the XPS 13 Plus offers a lovely OLED screen with impressively thin bezels and packs a roomy, comfortable keyboard. It also features a new minimalist design that looks more modern. I’m not sure about the row of capacitive keys at the top in lieu of traditional function keys, but I’m confident that the laptop’s 12th-gen Intel Core processors will provide a healthy performance boost from the last model.

If you’re not sure about the changes Dell has made to the XPS 13, or if you definitely need a headphone jack, the older generations are still solid options. There’s also the Samsung Galaxy Book 2 Pro series, which feature beautiful OLED screens and sharper webcams in thin and light frames. I also like Microsoft’s Surface Laptops, and the most recent edition offers great performance and battery life, albeit in an outdated design.

Buy XPs 13 Plus at Dell - $1,299

Best for gaming: Razer Blade 15 Advanced

For its 2022 refresh, Razer has added updated components along with a few design tweaks like larger key caps to the Blade 15.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Gamers should look for machines with responsive screens and ample ports for their favorite accessories that can best help them defeat their virtual enemies. My colleague Devindra Hardawar goes into more detail about what to consider in his guide to buying a gaming laptop, which you should read to learn about different CPUs and GPUs, minimum specs and more. Our favorite gaming laptop is the Razer Blade 15 Advanced, which has an Intel Core i7 processor, and an NVIDIA RTX 3070 graphics for $2,500.

It’s the most expensive item on this list, but you also get a 15-inch quad HD screen that refreshes at 240Hz. Different configurations are available, depending on your preference, including a Full HD 360Hz and a 4K 144Hz version. The Blade series is also one of the most polished gaming laptops around.

Those looking for something cheaper and more portable should consider the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14, which was our favorite model last year. The main reason it got bumped down a notch is because the 2022 refresh is almost $600 more expensive. It’s still a solid gaming laptop though, with an excellent display, roomy trackpad and plenty of ports in spite of its thin profile.

Buy Blade 15 Advanced at Razer - $2,500

Best Chromebook: Lenovo Flex 5 Chromebook

laptop
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Our favorite Chromebook is Lenovo’s Flex 5 Chromebook, which Engadget’s resident Chrome OS aficionado Nathan Ingraham described as “a tremendous value.” This laptop nails the basics, with a 13-inch Full HD touchscreen, a fantastic keyboard and a 10th-generation Intel Core i3 processor. The 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage may sound meager, but in our testing the Flex 5 held up in spite of this constraint. It’s also nice to see one USB-A and two USB-C ports, eight-hour battery life and a 360-degree hinge that makes it easy to use the Flex 5 as a tablet. That’s a bonus, especially now that Chrome OS supports Android apps.

Though the Flex 5 is almost two years old by now, it’s a solid deal at around $400. In fact, you can sometimes find it on sale for as little as $300, making it a great option for someone looking for a basic browser-based machine on a tight budget.

Buy Flex 5 Chromebook at Amazon - $430

Best budget: HP Pavilion Aero 13

HP Pavilion Aero
Daniel Cooper / Engadget

If you’re looking for something under $800, your best bet is the HP Pavilion Aero 13. For around $750, you’ll get a Full HD screen with a 16:10 aspect ratio and surprisingly thin bezels, as well as a comfortable keyboard and spacious trackpad. Importantly, the Aero 13 provides relatively powerful components compared to others in this price range, with an AMD Ryzen 5000 series processor and Radeon graphics. Plus, it has a generous array of ports and enough juice to last you the entire work day and then some.

Buy Pavilion Aero 13 at HP starting at $739

Best convertible: Microsoft Surface Pro 8

The Microsoft Surface Pro 8, photographed on a roof deck with the keyboard folio attached.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

For those who need their laptops to occasionally double as tablets, the Surface Pro series is a no-brainer. Compared to notebooks with rotating hinges, tablets with kickstands are often much slimmer and lighter. The Surface Pro 8 is the most recent model and it features Microsoft’s sleek new design with a thinner profile and minimal bezels. The Pro 8 also has a 120Hz display that makes scrolling long documents or spreadsheets feel much faster, and you can drop the refresh rate down to 60Hz if you want to conserve battery life.

We also like Microsoft’s Type Covers for its Surface Pros, though it’s worth noting that they’ll cost you an additional $100 to $180. Those who want to doodle or sketch on the display may appreciate the Surface Slim Pen 2’s haptic feedback.

Unless you’re bent on sticking to Apple’s ecosystem, in which case an iPad Pro would suit you best, the Surface Pro 8 is arguably the best convertible laptop around.

Buy Surface Pro 8 at Amazon - $1,600

Tile's 2022 Essentials pack is back down to a record low of $68

We've all misplaced our keys, wallet or TV remote in the past, but Bluetooth trackers can help you find those things a bit more easily the next time that happens. Tile's devices are some of the most popular out there since they work well with both Android and iOS devices and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Now, you can pick up a four-pack of 2022 Tile trackers for $68, which is 15 percent off and a return to its all-time-low price.

Buy 2022 Tile Mate Essentials pack at Amazon - $68

The Essentials pack comes with two Tile Mates, one Tile Slim and one Tile Sticker. The Mate chips have built-in keyring holes so you can easily attach them to your keys, while the Slim is designed to slip seamlessly into your wallet, a luggage tag and other thin places. The Sticker has an adhesive backing that lets you stick it to things like a remote control, a game controller or even your pet's collar. All of these Tile trackers have IP67 water-resistant designs along with three-year, non-replaceable batteries.

Their designs may be different, but all of the Tile trackers in this pack do the same thing: allow you to keep track of your things from within Tile's mobile app. The trackers connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth and transmit the last known location of your stuff to the Tile app. And if someone else finds your things before you do, you can add your contact information to the Tile so they can get ahold of you.

Each model in this pack has a Bluetooth range of 250 feet, and when you're within that range, you can force the Tiles to ring so you can more easily find your stuff. The opposite also works too — if you've misplaced your phone but have your keys with a Tile in hand, you can use the tracker to ring your smartphone even when it's on silent. Aside from the fact that you'll have to replace the entire tracker once the three-year battery runs out, Tile devices are a good way to digitally keep track of your things.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

Amazon installs AI-powered cameras in UK delivery vans

Last year, it was reported that Amazon planned to use AI-equipped cameras to surveil delivery drivers on their routes. Now, the company has started installing such cameras on its vans in the UK, according to The Telegraph. The action has created concern from privacy groups who called it "excessive" and "creepy." 

Amazon will use a pair of cameras to record footage from inside vans and out to the road. They're designed to detect road violations or poor driver practices and give an audio alert, while collecting data Amazon can use later to evaluate drivers. 

They don't allow drivers to be monitored in real time and won't capture sound, but can supposedly upload footage to a dedicated safety team in certain circumstances. Some of the actions monitored include illegal road behavior like failure to stop or speeding, along with actions like hard braking or seatbelt violations. 

A privacy group called Big Brother Watch said the system is "excessive, intrusive and creepy worker surveillance" and called for it to be paused. "This kind of directed surveillance could actually risk distracting drivers, let alone demoralizing them," director Silkie Carlo told The Telegraph. "It is bad for workers’ rights and awful for privacy in our country."

The GMB union that represents Amazon workers said the cameras inside the cabins aren't necessary and create a major distraction. "We are against cameras being pointed in the face of the drivers every second of every day that they are working. This is surveillance, it does not aid driver safety," a spokesperson said.

In a statement, an Amazon spokesperson told The Telegraph that "the purpose of introducing this technology is to keep drivers and communities safe, there is no other reason behind that. We have carried out a comprehensive data privacy assessment in line with applicable laws."

The Morning After: Will EA be the next gaming giant to sell itself?

Electronic Arts is actively courting buyers — or another company willing to merge with it, according to insider news site, Puck. The video game company reportedly held talks with several potential buyers or partners, including major players Disney, Apple and Amazon.

EA remains a company of its own for now, but Puck said it’s more proactive in its quest to find a sale since Microsoft announced it's snapping up Activision Blizzard for $68.7 billion. In short, it shows that some companies are willing to throw around enough money to buy a gaming giant like EA.

The company, arguably best known for its legion of sports games, recently parted ways with FIFA for its soccer/football series. It’ll be called EA Sports FC going forward. No, it is not catchy.

— Mat Smith

The biggest stories you might have missed

Leica’s latest smartphone collaboration is with Xiaomi

The camera brand has already worked with Sharp and Huawei.

TMA
Xiaomi

Xiaomi finally confirmed its "long-term strategic cooperation" with Leica, and that they've been co-developing a flagship smartphone for launch in July 2022. Teaming up with camera companies has been done several times over – especially by Chinese phone manufacturers trying to stand out from the crowd. In 2020, Vivo joined forces with Zeiss, while Oppo and OnePlus started releasing handsets jointly developed with Hasselblad, including the Find X5 series and the OnePlus 10 Pro.

Harder to stand out when everyone is doing the same thing, though.

Continue reading.

Amazon beamed its new Prime Video sci-fi show into outer space

Why?

Amazon beamed the first episode of sci-fi series Night Sky out of Earth's atmosphere. It’s calling it "the first-ever intergalactic premiere for a TV series."

Prime Video’s press release said the transmission won't be caught by broadcast satellites and sent back to terra firma, as is usually the case. "Theoretically, this makes the broadcast available to anyone open to receiving satellite signals 384,000 kilometers away from Earth and beyond — the equivalent distance from Earth to the Moon."

Theoretically.

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Watch the first 8 minutes of 'Stranger Things' season 4

The last episode will be longer than some movies.

TMA
Netflix

Netflix is trying to build up hype for Stranger Things season four in a not-so-subtle way: sharing the first eight minutes of the introductory episode. It’s heavy on the flashback, but there should be enough to hook intrigued parties.

Watch here.

The FCC has a plan to boost rural broadband download speeds to 100 Mbps

Some users could get a 20-fold speed increase.

The FCC wants to boost rural broadband internet speeds through proposed changes to the Alternative Connect America Cost Model (A-CAM) program. It wants to crank up download and upload speeds to 100/20 Mbps in areas served by carriers that receive A-CAM support. The current baseline is 25/3 Mbps.

Last week, the Biden administration launched a $45 billion project to bring all Americans online by 2030.

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Clearview AI fined £7.5 million and told to delete all UK facial recognition data

Clearview AI has been fined £7.55 million ($9.5 million) by the UK's privacy watchdog for illegally scraping the facial images of UK residents from social media and the web. It was also ordered to stop obtaining the data of UK residents and to delete any it has already collected. "The company not only enables identification of those people, but effectively monitors their behavior and offers it as a commercial service. That is unacceptable," said UK information commissioner John Edwards in a statement. 

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) opened a joint investigation with Australia into Clearview AI back in 2020, and issued a preliminary fine of £17 million ($21.4 million) against the company late last year. At the time, the office noted that "Clearview AI Inc’s database are likely to include the data of a substantial number of people from the UK and may have been gathered without people’s knowledge from publicly available information online, including social media platforms."

In issuing a final injunction, the ICO noted that globally, the company illegally collected more than 20 billion facial images for its database. "Although Clearview AI no longer offers its services to UK organizations, the company has customers in other countries, so the company is still using personal data of UK residents," it said. 

Clearview AI sells an app that can be used to upload a photo of someone, then try to identify them by check its database. The data has been used by thousands of public law enforcement agencies, despite the technology being in a legal grey area. 

Twitter, Google and YouTube have all sent cease-and-desist letters to the company, alleging that it violates their terms of service. Facebook has also demanded that Clearview stop scraping its data. The company has received complaints from privacy groups in Europe, and was hit with a €20 million fine in Italy.

In the US, the ACLU sued Clearview for violating Illinois state laws. The company recently settled that lawsuit by agreeing to restrict the use of its database in Illinois, though it will still supply it to federal agencies and other states.