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JUNE 2015

DIGITAL EDITION

HOW TO

BUILD A PC

CONTENTS

JUNE 2015

COVER STORY

FEATURES
HOW TO BUILD A PC:
THE BUYING GUIDE

HOW TO BUILD A PC:
THE BUILDING GUIDE

When you’re putting together
your own PC, choosing the right
components is the vital first step.

Transforming a pile of parts into
the computer of your dreams
needs just an hour of your time
and a Phillips screwdriver.

REVIEWS
CONSUMER
ELECTRONICS
Beyerdynamic
DT 990 (32 ohm)
LG Watch Urbane
Kobo Glo HD

HARDWARE
Maingear Vybe
Dell Latitude 13 7000
Series 2-in-1 (7350)
Acer H257HU
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Wi-Fi Range Extender (EX7000)

SOFTWARE
& APPS
PREVIEW:
Office 2016
for Windows
Our Favorite
Apps for June

Dell Latitude 13
7000 Series 2-in-1

Beyerdynamic DT 990

WHAT’S NEW NOW
RESEARCHERS CREATE
CHIP WITH HUMANLIKE
MEMORY
A new synaptic circuit brings
computers one step closer to
thinking the way humans do.

INCREDIBLE CREATIONS
AT THE INSIDE 3D
PRINTING SHOW
The state of the art for 3D printing
includes violins, jewelry, toys, and
much more.

LIFE BEHIND
MICROSOFT’S
HOLOLENS
This exciting headset could
change everything about how you
interact with your PC.

TOP GEAR
THE LIST

OPINIONS
DAN COSTA
First Word

READER INPUT
SASCHA SEGAN

Only Spotify for Movies Can
Stop Popcorn-Like Piracy

WILLIAM FENTON

Online Education and the
Status Quo

TIM BAJARIN

It’s personal
computing
itself that’s
dying. And this
is by design.
JOHN C. DVORAK

What Is the Holy Grail of
Laptop Design?

Last Word

DIGITAL LIFE
GET ORGANIZED

Make Money While Cleaning
Out Your Closet

HOW TO

Break Bad Habits With Tech

PETS

High-Tech Ways to Find a
Lost Pet

TECH ETIQUETTE

Ask Alex: What to Wearable

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JUNE 2015

FIRST WORD

C
Personal
Computing
Is Getting
More
Personal

DAN COSTA

omputing doesn’t get more personal
than building your own PC. Here in
PC Labs, a lot of us have built our own
custom rigs, for home, for work, and
sometimes just for fun. In fact, Matthew
Murray, the author of this month’s cover
story, works at a desk surrounded by unsteady
piles of PC components, as if he may need to
swap out a spare part mid-workday. I imagine
a lot of PC Magazine readers have similar
work areas, loaded with components imbued
with more potential than purpose. At the same
time, I fully acknowledge that the concept of
building your own PC will be alien to a lot of
readers: Why build when you can buy? The
answer to that question divides people into
two camps: makers and consumers. This
issue has some excellent stories for both types
of reader.
There was a time when building your own
PC was a way to save money, but those days
have pretty much passed. In most cases, you
can log onto Dell.com or HP.com, configure a
system, and have it shipped to you for less than
the price of building your own. At this point,
building your own PC is about control—and it
is just as much a hobby today as it was when
the PC revolution started. Matt walks you
through everything that’s necessary if it’s one
you want to take up (or revisit) yourself, from
shopping for parts to the actual construction,
or if you’re interested in upgrading the
computer you already have.

Another enabling technology at the core of
the maker movement is the 3D printer.
Although we’ve tested most of the major
models on the market, it’s hard to get excited
about 3D printing without seeing how people
are using them. For that, we sent Tony
Hoffman to the Inside 3D Printing Show,
where a few thousand artists, industrial
designers, and 3D printing companies showed
off their latest creations. Suffice it to say, there
are a lot more interesting things to print than
our standard Yoda head test.
Even our hands-on with the new Microsoft
HoloLens augmented reality headset is primed
for the maker market. Microsoft is going to
build the hardware and software ties for the
HoloLens into all of its Windows 10 products,
including phones. But the games,
environments, and use cases for it will need to
be built by third parties. In a lot of ways,
Microsoft is hoping to leverage the HoloLens
the same way it did the Windows platform: by
enabling thousands of developers to build on
top of it.
These stories are exciting and inspiring, but
they aren’t the only narratives at work here. At
the same time a handful of folks are building
their PCs, Apple is making billions cranking
out completely sealed laptops that are
impossible to upgrade. Software has stopped
being something you buy and is now
something you subscribe to. Indeed, Windows
10 will be the last “major release” of the OS;
from here on out new versions of Windows will
come as an endless series of point releases.
Much to the dismay of Spinal Tap fans around
the world, we will never get to 11.
If you skip to the Last Word, you will see that

There’s a time
to build, and
then there’s a
time to just buy
it and move on.

John Dvorak thinks this is nothing short of the
end of personal computing as we know it. I’m
more sanguine. Convenience comes with a loss
of control, but it democratizes the tools we use
today. Mint.com offers some pro-level financial
reporting and budgeting tools for the price of
an email login. I’m never going to build my
own spam filter—or take control of my email—
but I happily pay $7 per month for SaneBox to
turn the noise level down on my inbox. I don’t
even mind Adobe charging monthly for
Creative Cloud—if its products stop being
competitive, you can cancel at any time.
There’s a time to build, and then there’s a time
to just buy it and move on.
Of course, there’s room for both makers and
consumers in this world and in this issue. As
always, it’s about walking the line between the
two. Let us know how we’re doing by sending
an email to [email protected]

[email protected]

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JUNE 2015

READER INPUT

Alien
Invasion
I’m not a gamer. I
use my PCs for
Office, Adobe
Cloud, and similar
business programs.
All I want is speed.
Would the
Alienware Area-51
[mentioned in the
March 2015 cover
story, “The
Changing Face of
the Desktop”] be a
good choice for me?
—Rod Walsh

YOUR EMAILS

OUR ANSWER:
Thanks for writing, Rod. As a general rule,
gaming desktops contain some of the most
powerful components you can buy, so they’ll
add a serious boost to any software you run.
The most recent version of the new Area-51
we’ve looked at here in PC Labs cost upwards
of $4,500 and used an Intel Core i7-5930K
CPU—an unlocked 3.5GHz chip with six
processing cores that, thanks to
hyperthreading, can essentially marshal up
to 12 simultaneous threads. That’s not even
factoring in its three high-end Nvidia GTX
980 video cards, solid-state drive (SSD) for
running programs, or 16GB of RAM.
The real question becomes: Is a system like
this overkill for you? This Alienware is
tweaked every which way to maximize
gaming performance, which may not always
help business users. So you may be better off
financially going another route. First,
determine how multithreaded (if at all) the
software you use is, then find a computer
with a chip that maximizes that potential.
The $350 Core i7-4790K, for example, has a
faster clock speed than the Core i7-5930K
(4GHz) and still has four cores and eight
threads—if you don’t need the extra threads,
why pay for them? An SSD will help speed up
almost any program installed on it, and if
you’re a heavy multitasker or regularly deal
with huge files, more RAM (to the maximum
your PC supports) is never a bad thing. But if
you don’t game, you don’t need those video

cards—or the $1,500 to $2,000 they
add to the computer’s price.
Keep all this in mind and you
won’t have any trouble finding a
computer that suits your needs, and
almost certainly costs thousands less
than the Area-51. Or you could
research the components and build
one yourself so you get exactly what
you need. Check out this month’s
cover story for detailed information
on how to do exactly that.
—Matthew Murray, Managing
Editor of Digital Editions

PROGRAMMING NOTE
How does machine language (or
binary code) differ from basic C++
when it comes to running smoother,
and also can C++ be transformed
into machine language with an
application? And, if so, what
application?
—Isaac L. Sellers
OUR ANSWER:
My programming skills are a bit
rusty, so I posed your question to a
friend of mine who does it for a
living, Michael Martin. Here’s his
response: “Running a program
always involves running some other
program first. For a language like
JavaScript, this program is the Web
browser. Part of the browser—called
the JavaScript interpreter—looks at

the text of the program and then
makes sense of it and then runs it.
For other languages, you don’t run
the text directly, but transform it
into another form first. These
transformer programs are called
compilers. Java and C# compile the
program into a smaller form that is
independent of the machine they run
on. Other languages (basically all of
those invented before Java,
including C++) compile the program
into binary code, which the machine
then runs directly. Machine code is a
blob of incomprehensible numbers
that humans as a rule don’t write
(they write in assembly, which is a
programming language that’s as
close to machine code as a human
can reasonably get), and often much
faster than interpreted code. But
many interpreters nowadays actually
translate the program into binary
code as they load, so that is not—
after startup—where speedup or
slowdown comes from. In short, any
code written in C++ will be turned
completely into binary code by the
time it actually runs. It is possible to
mix it with hand-written machine
code, but that’s almost never used
for speed anymore. You make C++
code faster by turning it into more
efficient C++, not by replacing it with
hand-written binary.” —MM

ROAD TO RECOVERY
Your advice [in the May 2015 story “Recover Deleted Files”] about removing the
hard drive is a valid point. I have had good luck with a program I have installed
on an old laptop with an external drive. The program is called GetDataBack,
and has both NTFS and FAT versions. I use a USB-to-SATA/IDE adapter to
connect the hard drive I removed to the old laptop. This program is even good
enough to recover data that you may have thought lost due to a drive problem.
If you use the software, be sure to turn off Automatic Updates for Windows,
especially if the program has to run overnight.
—Michael Fay
OUR ANSWER:
Thanks for the suggestion, Michael. Data recovery is something everyone
should think about, but not everyone does, so the easier, more versatile, and
more powerful the solution is, the better. We haven’t tried GetDataBack yet, but
we’ll be sure to give it a shot. Interested readers can download it for free at
www.runtime.org/data-recovery-software.htm.
—MM

Ask us a
question!

?

Have a question about a story in
PC Magazine, one of the products we
cover, or how to better use a tech
product you own? Email us at
[email protected] and we’ll
respond to your question here.
Questions may be edited slightly for
content and clarity.

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JUNE 2015

What’s
New Now
RESEARCHERS CREATE CHIP
WITH HUMANLIKE MEMORY

INCREDIBLE CREATIONS AT THE
INSIDE 3D PRINTING SHOW
LIFE BEHIND MICROSOFT’S
HOLOLENS
TOP GEAR
THE LIST: THE BEST CITIES FOR
PURSUING A HIGH-TECH CAREER

NEWS

Researchers Create Chip
With Humanlike Memory
BY ANGELA MOSCARITOLO

LIGHT THE CORNERS
OF ITS MIND
This circuit of artificial
synapses could be
the first step toward
creating a new method
of computer processing
that rival’s the brain’s.

Illustration by Peter Allen

WHAT’S NEW NOW

Photo credit: Sonia Fernandez

T

he computer brain is starting to become more human-like.
In what they call “a significant step forward for artificial intelligence,”
researchers in UC Santa Barbara’s Department of Electrical and
Computer Engineering have announced that they have managed to create a
circuit of about 100 artificial synapses able to perform a simple human task:
classifying an image.
“It’s a small, but important step,” Dmitri Strukov, a professor of electrical and
computer engineering said in a statement. The researchers say that with time
and further advancements, the circuitry may eventually be scaled to rival a
human’s brain, which has upwards of one quadrillion synaptic connections.
The researchers explained that the brain can accomplish certain functions—
such as classifying the shapes of letters, and their relative positions to each
other to derive meaning as you read this—in a fraction of a second. It would
take a computer far more time and energy to perform these same tasks.
In the researcher’s demonstration, a circuit with an artificial neural network
was able to classify the letters Z, V, and N by their images. It correctly classified
the images even when the letters were stylized in different ways and saturated
with “noise,” similar to how humans can pick out friends from a crowd, or find
the correct key on a ring holding many that look similar.
“While the circuit was very small compared to practical networks, it is big
enough to prove the concept of practicality,” researcher Farnood Merrikh-Bayat
said in a statement. “As more solutions to the technological challenges are
proposed the technology will be able to make it to the market sooner.”

NEURAL
NETWORKING
This artificial synaptic
circuit uses the
technology developed
at UC Santa Barbara.
The tech is currently
only capable of simple
functions, such as
classifying images.

UNLOCKING THE MEMRISTOR

Photo credit: Sonia Fernandez

UC Santa Barbara researchers
(clockwise from top left) Farnood
Merrikh-Bayat, Brian Hoskins,
Dmitri Strukov, and Gina Adam
participated in developing the
new neural circuit.

The key to this technology is a so-called memristor, or a combination of
“memory” and “resistor.” This is an electronic component whose resistance
changes depending on the direction of the flow of the electrical charge. Unlike
traditional transistors, memristors work based on iconic movement, similar to
the way human neural cells generate electronic signals.
“Classical computers will always find an ineluctable limit to efficient brainlike computation in their very architecture,” lead researcher Mirko Prezioso said
in a statement. “This memristor-based technology relies on a completely
different way inspired by biological brain to carry on computation.”
The researchers say that this technology could potentially be used to improve
medical imaging, navigation systems, and even Web searches based on images
rather than text. But to even approach the complexity of the human brain, many
more memristors would be required to build neural networks that could do the
same kinds of things humans can do with little effort, such as identify different
versions of the same thing.
“The exciting thing is that, unlike more exotic solutions, it is not difficult to
imagine this technology integrated into common processing units and giving a
serious boost to future computers,” said Prezioso. “There are so many potential
applications—it definitely gives us a whole new way of thinking.”
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WHAT’S NEW NOW

TECH TRENDS

Incredible Creations at the
Inside 3D Printing Show
BY TONY HOFFMAN

A

lthough 3D printing has a lot of uses, it’s become a particularly
valuable tool for tech-savvy artists and designers. This year,
MecklerMedia, organizer of the Inside 3D Printing conferences that
take place in various cities, put this artistic side front and center. Alongside the
Inside 3D Printing New York show that’s been held for the past several years in
the Javits Center was the 3D Print Design Show, which filled an additional
room and effectively doubled the size of the show. It featured 3D-printed
works by sculptors, jewelers, toymakers, and even musical instrument makers.
A 3D Print Fashion Show was also held Thursday night.
There have always been some artists with their wares on display at Inside 3D
Printing, but including a design show along with the display of 3D printing
hardware added a new dimension to the event, and showed off some wonderful
creations. Here are our favorites of what we saw.

Violin
The future just
called: Your
3D-printed
piezoelectric
violin has
arrived, by way of
Monad Studio.

Jewelry
Some amazingly
detailed 3D-printed
metal jewelry available
through Shapeways.

Futuristic Shapes
The Ushak
workshop showed
off the shape of
things to come.

Quadcopter
A 3D-printed quadcopter,
from 3D Systems.

3D SCANNED AND PRINTED FIGURINES
Figurines produced from scans made with
the Artec Shapify Booth, a 3D bodyscanning booth that the company sells. It
sees 3D-printed figurines as the photo
portraits of the 21st century.

3D ARTIST RACHEL
GOLDSMITH
Artist Rachel
Goldsmith with a
lamp of her design,
one of many objects
on display that she
created with the
3Doodler 3D pen.

TOYS
These 3D-printed
toys came courtesy
of InsaniTOY.

CAR
3D print my ride, or at least
the decorations on it.
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WHAT’S NEW NOW

TECH TRENDS

Life Behind Microsoft’s
HoloLens
BY MICHAEL MUCHMORE

I

have seen the future, and it is the Microsoft HoloLens.
When PC Magazine Editor-in-Chief Dan Costa got a first look at the
HoloLens earlier this year, the device was a cumbersome wired contraption.
But at the recent Microsoft Build conference in San Francisco, I was lucky
enough to get to try out a sleek, untethered model.
The whole experience was incredibly controlled and a major production, with
about 100 Microsoft employees on hand. A small group of my colleagues and I
were shepherded down Howard Street to the plush Intercontinental Hotel, half
of which seemed to have been taken over by Microsoft for the event. No photos
and recording devices were permitted in the demos, so we had to stow our

smartphones and cameras in lockers before the demonstration. We were,
however, able to photograph a HoloLens in a case.
Before trying out the headset for ourselves, we were treated to a staged demo
in a living room setting. Presenters Bill and Dan were having a Skype
conversation that was projected on “video cards” that appeared in the air, which
they walked around, grabbed, and placed in different positions. But that wasn’t
all: They also shared a 3D printing model and a custom Minecraft scene.
WEARING THE HOLOLENS
Before you can wear a HoloLens, you need a measure of your IPD—that’s the
distance between your pupils. Microsoft staff used the same device to do this
that any optometrist would. It makes you realize that, as with Google Glass, you
won’t be able to just grab a HoloLens off the shelf; you’ll need a fitting. Once my
measurement was taken, the headset could be adjusted to my IPD. It has a
headband that fits snugly, and a separate collar to adjust the angle of the
HoloLens optics. I was frankly surprised at how light and comfortable the
device was to wear.
Wearers of eyeglasses need not fret: The device was able to accommodate my
rather large specs without trouble, though it seemed as though getting your eyes
closer to the front of the headset would allow for fuller vision-field coverage.

GESTURES AND CONTROL
You interact with the HoloLens in three ways: gaze (you move your head to
move the display around), gesture (the key one being the “air tap,” in which you
point your index finger straight up and then move it down horizontally), and
voice (just as with Xbox One, you can tell the HoloLens what actions you want it
to perform). I didn’t get to try this out during my brief time with the HoloLens,
but the Skype demo showed its possibilities.
THE EXPERIENCE
To start using the HoloLens after it’s snugly attached to your head, you need to
adjust it so that a rectangle with the Windows logo in the center is completely
within your vision field. I was struck by the fact that your vision field isn’t
completely covered by the HoloLens, as Microsoft’s stage demos implied. I
occasionally had to move my head around to see a whole 3D projection. But
part of the HoloLens’ design is to let you see the real world as well as virtual 3D
objects, so that may not be a bad thing. I did also notice some color shift similar
to chromatic aberration along the edges of the box, but when viewing 3D objects
that wasn’t a factor.
To start my demo, my experience guide, James, showed me an architectural
modeling application on a PC with a regular 2D display. The app was built by
Trimble, a large architectural and engineering software firm. Next to the PC
screen was a physical architectural model that James said would cost about
$12,000 to construct. The HoloLens let me visualize how adding new building
elements would look within the model. I was able to place and resize 3D objects

in the physical model and get a perfect view of the redesign. It’s hard not to see
the value proposition there.
Next I was taken into a brick-walled room where an architectural firm wanted
to add a door. The software had a model for the building’s internal structure,
including electric and plumbing, so I could see that there was an important pipe
behind the wall, right where we were considering placing the door. At this point,
James showed me the notification feature; a message popped up in midair from
a coworker to discuss the problem. An air tap let me answer, recording my own
message. Then an avatar of the coworker appeared. It was a pretty crude wireform humanoid, but you could easily see where other software or game
developers, for example, would create more lifelike human representations than
an architectural app with basic collaboration would.
The HoloLens is as immersive as VR headsets like Oculus Rift, but that’s
actually a real plus for applications like those I tried. Yet it’s definitely a richer,
more immersive experience than that offered by Google Glass.
I will say that I did encounter a bit of vertigo while using the headset, and it
wasn’t something I’d want to be wearing all day, or even for the duration of a
movie. But for applications like those I tried, I can honestly say there’s nothing
like it, and its uses will only multiply.
Microsoft is keeping availability information about the HoloLens very close to
its vest for now. It had nothing to share about a release date other than that it
will be available “within the Windows 10 time frame.” No pricing guidance is
being announced, either, and we don’t yet know where you’ll be able to get one.
But the progress that the company has made on the device since January is
undeniably impressive. The HoloLens seems destined to change the technology
landscape for a long time to come.
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WHAT’S NEW NOW

TOP GEAR

What We Love Most
This Month
BY STEPHANIE MLOT

SKYBELL 2.0 WI-FI VIDEO DOORBELL
Make your house smarter by receiving a live video feed on your smartphone when someone
rings the SkyBell. Not only can you avoid having to saunter up to the peephole without anyone
noticing you’re home, but the doorbell allows two-way conversation. So you can double check
that the pizza delivery guy didn’t forget your side of breadsticks. The SkyBell comes in oilrubbed bronze or brushed aluminum, and is compatible with iOS and Android devices.
$199 skybell.com

WHAT’S NEW NOW

TOP GEAR

What We Love Most
This Month
BY STEPHANIE MLOT

MIGHTY PURSE
Finally, a fashionable way to charge your dying smartphone battery. A tech-infused fashion
accessory, the Mighty Purse can be used as an everyday clutch or wallet. But, like Superman
emerging from a phone booth, it can also transform into a battery-saving portable charger.
Choose from a variety of colors, patterns, and fabrics, from the simple to the extravagant.
But remember: Pre-Lightning Apple products require a separate adapter.
$ 114.99 mighty-purse.com

WHAT’S NEW NOW

TOP GEAR

What We Love Most
This Month
BY STEPHANIE MLOT

SWASH EXPRESS CLOTHING CARE SYSTEM
Between shuttling the kids to and from school, soccer games, and violin practice, working
40-plus hours per week, and catching up with Scandal, who has time to visit the dry cleaner?
Instead, dewrinkle, refresh, restore, and preserve your clothes in the Swash system’s
10-minute express clothing care system. And though it doesn’t remove stains, it will put an
end to your ironing days.
$499 swash.com

WHAT’S NEW NOW

TOP GEAR

What We Love Most
This Month
BY STEPHANIE MLOT

PETCUBE
Caring for a pet is difficult, especially from miles away. So the next time you jet off on a
business trip or a long weekend, turn on the Petcube and stay connected with your furry
loved ones. The 4-inch aluminum box sports a 138° wide-angle camera with streaming HD
720p video, two-way audio, and a built-in laser—for keeping your pet active. And with Wi-Fi
connectivity, anyone with an iOS or Android device can access the camera at any time,
from anywhere.
$199 petcube.com

WHAT’S NEW NOW

TOP GEAR

What We Love Most
This Month
BY STEPHANIE MLOT

1 VOICE SLEEP HEADPHONES EYE MASK
Our society loves hybrids: vehicles, dogs, words. So why not put the concept to use in your
own bed? The 1 Voice Sleep Headphones Eye Mask promises a comfortable night’s sleep, its
memory foam mask helping to block light while over-the-ear headphones suppress ambient
sounds from a snoring partner to city-street noise. The mask works with any phone or MP3
player, and requires no batteries. Plus, its velvet cover is machine-washable.
$49 1voicenyc.com

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WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Seattle, WA
Yes, it’s always sort of gray in Seattle, but
the Emerald City is also pretty green. The
average salary for those in tech is $99,423.
Not that far away, Redmond is known for
being home to Microsoft. But there are
plenty of other tech companies in the area,
including Amazon and Boeing. One thing
that needs work in the region? Broadband
service. Plans for gigabit Internet fell
through last year, and Seattle’s mayor has
lashed out at Comcast for lackluster
service. A group called Upgrade Seattle
recently announced that it’s working on
municipal broadband, which is something
new graduates might be interested in
working on.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Baltimore, MD and
Washington, D.C.
Our nation’s capital and the surrounding
environs certainly are the epicenter of
those working in politics and for the
government. But these cities also contain
a good share of techies, whether they’re
hashing out tech policy strategy on Capitol
Hill or working along the Dulles Tech
Corridor. They earn an average of $98,323.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Boston, MA
With the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (and Mark Zuckerberg’s alma
mater, Harvard) nearby in Cambridge
turning out tech graduates, Boston is one
of the top tech cities in America. The city
encourages grads to stay and entices new
talent with an Innovation District geared
toward startups. Salaries average $97,288.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Sacramento, CA
Sacramento salaries are climbing fast,
rising 14 percent from last year to $96,788.
That’s good news for the girls in the city.
Microsoft and Sacramento have signed a
digital alliance to provide training and
events to encourage girls to enter the tech
sector. There’s also a citywide effort to top
its current tech status, dubbed
Sacramento 3.0.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Los Angeles, CA
Tech workers in Los Angeles might have to
deal with the freeways, but if they can find
a job close to home and a home not far
from the beach, they’ll be happy enjoying
the $95,345 average salary they bring in.
Not to mention some of the Web-based
services available in L.A.: TaskRabbit, Uber,
Lyft, Google Shopping Express, Amazon
Same-Day Delivery, and Seamless.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Denver, CO
There are a lot of Rocky Mountain highs in
Denver and one of them is that those in
tech can expect to earn an average of
$94,940. The Denver Tech Center has been
in business since the 1970s, encouraging
tech companies to settle in the city. A
short drive away, meanwhile, is Boulder,
which was named the top metro area for
high-tech startup density by a recent
study. Denver is a bit more affordable than
Boulder, but both offer tantalizing
proximity to tech startups and plenty of
outdoorsy adventures.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

San Diego, CA
If you’re talking tech and start a sentence
with “San,” you’d probably expect the next
word to be “Francisco.” But San Diego
residents get wonderful weather and high
salaries. You can expect to bring in about
$94,121. The city is home to the mobile
behemoth Qualcomm but also lots of
startups, more than 50 of which are part
of the EvoNexus incubator.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

St. Louis, MO
The hometown of Jack Dorsey has been
keeping some of its most promising tech
talent within the city. Tech job growth from
last year hit 23.1 percent, far more than for
any other city. Part of the reason is that
salaries average $93,829 while there’s
affordable housing compared to other
places on this list. Recent graduates might
want to pass on some of their tech
knowledge with the city’s new
LaunchCode Mentor Center for
underprivileged students.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Houston, TX
NASA and the Johnson Space Center have
a lot to do with why Houston is such a
good place to find a tech job. The city has
boosted that with the Houston Technology
Center, an incubator and accelerator.
Techies who land in Houston can expect an
average salary of $89,838.

WHAT’S NEW NOW

THE LIST

The Best Cities for Pursuing
a High-Tech Career

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

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10

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Source: Dice.com

Want a high-paying tech job with the biggest
companies and the best perks? These U.S. cities
are the best places to start looking. BY CHANDRA STEELE

Austin, TX
Austin is no stranger to the tech elite; the
SXSW Interactive festival is where many a
tech giant got its start, including Twitter.
It’s also the second city to get Google
Fiber, a move that prompted rival AT&T to
roll out its own gigabit Internet service in
the region, which can come in handy when
trying to tap into services like Uber and
TaskRabbit. Tech workers can make an
average of about $93,135 each year, and a
two- or three-bedroom home will set you
back about $400,000.

JUNE 2015

Opinions
SASCHA SEGAN

WILLIAM FENTON
TIM BAJARIN

Movie piracy
seems to be a
nuisance that
just requires
occasional
swatting at.
SASCHA SEGAN
ONLY SPOTIFY FOR MOVIES CAN
STOP POPCORN-LIKE PIRACY

Sascha Sega

OPINIONS

Only Spotify for Movies
Can Stop Popcorn-Like
Piracy

T

he movie piracy Whac-A-Mole popped
up again in May in the form of “Popcorn
In Your Browser,” a Web app that
mashed up torrent and streaming sites to make it
easy to watch pirated movies. It vanished almost
as soon as it appeared, but while it was here it
made an important point.
The film industry has been idly batting at movie
pirates for years, but the issue has never been
terribly urgent. You might think that it’s easy to
pirate movies, but that isn’t true. It’s just difficult
enough to pirate movies that most people will
settle for the mediocre legal alternatives, even
without the library or options they really want.
I subscribe to Netflix and Amazon Prime, and I
feel like they have both been getting worse with
time. As Netflix and Amazon develop their own
libraries of exclusive content, they get less
interested in paying for other studios’ latest TV
shows and movies, and other content creators see
them more as competitors than sales channels.
Moral and ethical issues aside, torrenting is just
enough of a hassle that most people will turn to
renting movies from Amazon or another videoon-demand service. Everybody knows someone
who’s received a warning letter from their ISP.
You need specialized software and probably a
VPN. The sites are a little arcane. Some are

Sascha
SaschaSegan
Seganisisthe
the
lead
leadmobile
mobileanalyst
analyst
for
forPC
PCMagazine.
Magazine.His
His
commentary
commentaryhas
has
also
appeared
appeared
on Fox
on Fox
News,
News,CNBC,
CNBC,CNN,
CNN,and
various
and on radio stations
and
andnewspapers
in newspapers
around
aroundthe
theworld.
world.

Sascha Sega

membership-only. The files are very large and
often in weird formats.
Most important, unlike the total collapse of the
music industry under the peer-to-peer onslaught
of the early 2000s, Hollywood seems to be doing
just fine.
WHY THE STUDIOS DON’T CARE
Spotify is terrible for everyone in the music
industry. The Spotify revolution came because the
alternative was the complete evaporation of legal
music sales. Also, unlimited streaming had a
precedent in radio. Musicians and labels both
hate Spotify, but so far they haven’t been able to
come up with equally compelling alternatives.
If the question is “how to stop piracy,” the
celestial jukebox that is Spotify was in fact the
answer. As early as 2013, peer-to-peer music
downloading was plummeting and most people
were turning to streaming services or YouTube
for their music. The music industry’s problem is
that it has stabilized at a much less profitable
level than in the heyday of CD sales.
The movie industry, on the other hand, isn’t
doing all that bad. Relatively flat year-on-year
U.S. box office has been more than made up for
by an increase in moviegoing; global box office
rose from $31.6 billion in 2010 to $36.4 billion in
2014, according to the MPAA. And a fascinating
PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis sees plenty of
opportunities to improve box office revenues
through lower ticket prices, subscription passes,
and other ideas. According to PwC, 82 percent of
consumers would be willing to pay $10-20 more
than a standard movie ticket to watch a new
movie in their homes. (The reason that hasn’t
happened yet is because it would drive cinema
owners nuts, but I’m mentioning it here to show

Sascha Sega

that there are non-streaming opportunities for
studios to make money.)
Even home video isn’t in crisis. This is
extremely important from the torrenting
perspective, as most movie torrents are Blu-ray
rips, and pretty much anything available on Bluray is available from torrent sites. Yes, physical
discs are in decline. But digital movie sales are
actually on the rise, and movie industry revenues
from subscription streaming services like Netflix
and Amazon leaped by 26 percent in 2014,
according to Deadline Hollywood.
So where music piracy was an existential crisis
that forced the industry to adapt in painful ways,
movie piracy seems to be a nuisance that just
requires occasional swatting at. The problem with
this from a consumer perspective is that there’s
no real force pushing toward more convenient
movie-watching alternatives.
What does that mean for you? The status quo.
Torrenters gonna torrent. The movie industry will
make piracy just difficult enough that it doesn’t
become too popular, through roving site
takedowns and threatening letters from ISPs to
consumers, but it won’t bother itself too much.
But neither will we see the kind of innovation in
film distribution that we saw in music, and now
in TV. Only a Spotify for movies would be able to
stop the next Popcorn—but it doesn’t look like
anyone really needs to.
[email protected]

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The movie
industry will
make piracy just
difficult enough
that it doesn’t
become too
popular.

William Fento

OPINIONS

Online Education and
the Status Quo

D

espite grandiloquent claims about
changing education—or the world—
today’s most popular online courses
largely reinforce the status quo of higher
education. Though many provide the tools with
which adult learners, particularly tech-savvy selfstarters, can pursue continuing education at little
or no cost, there’s a discomforting disconnect
between platforms’ democratic mantras and their
course catalogs.
EMPHASIS ON THE “MO”
When I say “online courses,” I’m really speaking
about “massive open online courses,” or MOOCs.
These MOOCs invite unlimited participation over
the Web. That sounds good—it means that all
sorts of non-traditional students with different
perspectives can participate—but it also means
that instructors can take few competencies for
granted. Students would ideally support one
another through well-regulated discussion
forums. In reality, they get discouraged and drop
out. A recent study from the Community College
Research Center found that “online courses may
exacerbate already persistent achievement gaps
between student subgroups,” a point underscored
by eyebrow-raising attrition rates.
Because of the scale of courses, there’s also
little structural variation. Learners can expect
discussion forums, machine-graded multiple-

PC Magazine
Contributing Editor
William Fenton is a
Teaching Fellow and
director of the
Writing Center at
Fordham University
Lincoln Center.

William Fento

choice assessments, self- and peer-assessments,
and video lectures. When exploring these myself,
I alternatively found myself bored during
lectures, disappointed with peer feedback, and
downright lonely on discussion forums. Certainly,
some courses make better use of core
components. Thanks to an open framework and
massive bank of automated and continuous
assessments, Khan Academy actually required
some note-taking, and a timed class on Coursera
cultivated lively discussions by requiring both
students and administrators to post regularly.
TOP-TIER OR TOP-DOWN
Creating and maintaining a MOOC takes a
village—and a well-heeled one. From my
conversations with faculty who developed online
courses for edX and Coursera, I came to
understand that an educator couldn’t possibly
build an online course without tenure and
voluminous institutional support. For example,
the aforementioned Coursera class lists under its
course credits 21 contributors, including two
pedagogical assistants, two producers, and a
copyright consultant. The professor estimated
that she spent hundreds of hours developing her
first course, and still more time revising it for
later iterations. It’s no wonder that large,
established institutions dominate the catalogs of
edX and Coursera.
Other platforms take a top-down approach. Sal
Khan lectures on everything from the Electoral
College to organic chemistry—a boon if you enjoy
his conversational tone, but less so for critics of
his pedagogy of math and other subjects. Udacity,
meanwhile, has partnered with huge corporations
such as AT&T and Google to create nanodegrees,
programs through which employees accumulate

William Fento

skills and credentials to, in their words, “level-up”
careers. But we don’t know what careers await
nanodegree graduates, or whether these degrees
are simply paths to competitive internships.
Udemy is the only platform I’ve encountered
that challenges this paradigm by allowing anyone
to create courses. Its approach is at once
logistically and philosophically limited, however.
Course modules are Spartan—there isn’t even one
for peer review—and the company appears more
focused on selling courses than vetting content.
During a two-day review period, Udemy commits
to checking courses using 20 standards, only one
of which vets content (“Instructor Delivery”).
WHAT MAKES A WORLD-CLASS
EDUCATION?
In mission statements, each platform describes
its education with the usual degree of modesty:
“highest quality,” “world-class,” “world’s best.”
Perhaps I hold outsized expectations, but I don’t
associate YouTube micro-lectures or multiplechoice tests with world-class education. It’s
wonderful that these resources are available
online, and generally at no cost to students. But
we should hold these platforms to their own
benchmarks. What does a work-class education
look like? What should a world-class education
look like?
As a student, educator, and technologist, I want
to embrace online education. I’m excited about
the possibilities of “blended” or “hybrid” learning,
which by many accounts, improve outcomes.
Today’s most popular MOOCs have yet to disrupt
the status quo, but they can by creating flexible,
open platforms for experimentation,
collaboration, and, perhaps most important, play.

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Perhaps I
hold outsized
expectations, but I
don’t associate
YouTube microlectures or
multiple-choice
tests with worldclass edcuation.

Tim Bajari

OPINIONS

What Is the Holy Grail of
Laptop Design?

E

ver since I started using the original IBM
laptop in 1986, I have watched with
interest as these machines have become
thinner, lighter, and less boxy.
By the late 1990s, there were significant
breakthroughs in screens, batteries, and
processor voltage regulation, but all laptops were
still basically clamshells. Then Bill Gates outlined
his tablet computer vision, in which a pen and
slate were married to create a completely new
form of personal computing.
Historical purists would argue that pen
computing and tablets actually were introduced
in the early 1990s, and that would technically be
true. But the pen computing era died about as fast
as it came to market. And tablets did not gain any
real industry acceptance until Gates gave his
Comdex speech in which he declared a tablet the
“future of portable computing.”
I remember meeting with Gates in Redmond a
few weeks after that speech, and he went on and
on about how the tablet would redefine portable
computing. In many ways he was right, but the
technology was just not there yet to make tablets
feasible. It took another ten years for tablets to
catch on, but instead of Gates leading the charge
it was Steve Jobs with the iPad.
For the first two years the iPad was on the
market, many thought that tablets could replace
laptops, and this resulted in a PC sales slump. By

Tim Bajarin is the
president of Creative
Strategies and a
consultant, analyst,
and futurist covering
personal computers
and consumer
technology.

Tim Bajari

last year, however, the market realized that
tablets could not really replace laptops, especially
for serious business productivity. Although some
tablets were good for use in vertical markets,
most business folks went back to laptops as their
core personal computing devices and tablet sales
have since declined.
Make no mistake: Even given this change,
tablets are here to stay and will most likely
augment a business user’s personal computing
experience and continue to be fine products for
the family. In the world of business productivity,
various vendors have started to rethink portable
computing designs with two-in-ones. They have
introduced products like Lenovo’s Yoga, a laptop
with a screen that can flip back and turn into a
tablet, and Microsoft’s Surface, which is a tablet
with a detachable keyboard.
There is an interesting debate inside laptop
vendors about whether Apple’s new MacBook and
similar laptops from Lenovo and Dell will
redefine laptops as we know them, or if two-inones will be the way forward. Now also being
thrown around is the concept of the three-in-one,
a new type of ultrathin clamshell that has a
special hinge that can be flipped back like a
Lenovo Yoga but is also detachable.
I have been pondering this three-in-one idea
for a couple of months and am beginning to think
that this could be the Holy Grail of laptops. I have
been testing the new ultrathin 12-inch MacBook
and the 13-inch Dell XPS, and in both cases I
would like the screens to fold back and also have
the option to detach the screen. I like the firm
design of a clamshell that has this versatility; on
my Surface Pro, either keyboard option makes it
too awkward. I am also not a fan of having the
keyboard as the back of the tablet in a Yoga-style

Tim Bajari

setting unless the keys can be recessed so the
back of the screen is flat.
Admittedly, this is a personal preference and a
lot of people like the Surface Pro’s design and
even tolerate the keyboard back of a Yoga style
machine. But given the light weight of the
MacBook, the idea of it being Yoga-like with a
detachable touch screen is really appealing to me
as a serious road warrior.
I see the PC vendors looking hard at trying to
create a hinge that would allow for a three-in-one
in future clamshell designs, but I am afraid I just
don’t see Apple moving in this direction. It seems
very firm in its commitment to the idea that a
MacBook should not be touch-enabled and
should operate as a true clamshell at all times.
It seems to be a good strategy. Mac sales—
especially MacBooks—are growing exponentially,
while PC and laptop sales overall are still in a
decline. Yet, I can’t help thinking that a more
versatile MacBook could extend Apple’s reach in
portable computing even further. Apple is
rumored to be doing a 12.9-inch tablet (and
possibly merging iOS and Mac OS), so perhaps
we’ll see some creativity there.
Although the jury is still out when it comes to
how big the two-in-one or convertible market will
eventually be, my vote is to make it even more
versatile via the three-in-one concept. If the
vendors can get the hinge right, then perhaps a
lot of people will adopt this idea of a solid
clamshell that can be used in just about every
mobile computing setting.

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A more
versatile
MacBook
could extend
Apple’s
reach in
portable
computing
even further.

Reviews
CONSUMER
ELECTRONICS
Beyerdynamic DT 990 (32 ohm)
LG Watch Urbane
Kobo Glo HD

HARDWARE
Maingear Vybe
Dell Latitude 13 7000 Series
2-in-1 (7350)
Acer H257HU
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Wi-Fi Range Extender (EX7000)

SOFTWARE & APPS
PREVIEW: Microsoft
Office 2016 for Windows
Our Favorite Apps for June

REVIEWS

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS

Beyerdynamic
DT 990
(32 ohm)
$379 Price
L L L L m

These Big Headphones Are
Ideal for Home, Mobile Use
As headphones become fashion accessories geared toward on-the-go use with
mobile devices, pairs intended purely for home use are becoming a rarer sight.
The $379 32-ohm Beyerdynamic DT 990 is that even rarer beast, with an
impedance designed for use with mobile devices and home stereo gear
(compared with its 250-ohm sibling, which simply won’t function with mobile
devices without an amp). Listeners are rewarded with an enveloping
experience; the DT 990’s large earcups create a listening environment all their

own, and like all good open headphone designs, the DT
990 provides an excellent sense of space. If you’re
looking for an accurate headphone pair that doesn’t
skimp on the lows, the DT 990 won’t disappoint.
DESIGN
The metallic and black leather DT 990 look almost
intimidating at first—it’s a huge set of headphones, with
circumaural (over-the-ear) earcups so substantial in
size that your ears feel almost lost in them. The plush
cushioning of the circular earpads surrounds the ears
while barely touching them. An open headphone design
means the grilles hiding the drivers sit well off the ear,
and sound is pushed outward through vented slots on
the outer panel of each earcup. Despite the bulky
design, the DT 990 is lightweight for its size (10.2
ounces), and exceedingly comfortable even during
longer listening sessions.
Regrettably, the headphones don’t feature a
detachable cable the way many competing models do.
The cable, which lacks an inline remote, is quite long at
118 inches, and seemingly intended for home use. A
quarter-inch adapter ships with the headphones, but
the 32-ohm model we tested terminates in the more
common 3.5mm (eighth-inch) connection. As the
headphones project sound outward, they’re not well
suited for recording studio purposes, though they’d
be a fine choice for checking back mixes if you’re in
a control room.
The DT 990 also ships with a massive, lunchboxsized protective case. It’s a zip-up soft case with a
molded compartment inside for the headphones,
and a handle on the outside for easy carrying.
PERFORMANCE AND CONCLUSIONS
Your sound source will have a substantial impact on
how the DT 990 sounds. For instance, we got a slightly
richer, heftier bass response when listening through the

Beyerdynamic
DT 990
(32 ohm)
PROS Superb audio
performance with an
accurate response
across the board.
Well-cushioned,
comfortable over long
listening periods
despite its large
frame.
CONS Hardwired
cable. Bulky frame not
for everyone.

headphone outputs of an Apogee Symphony than we did connected to an
iPhone 5s—both of which, technically, the 32-ohm DT 990 32 is perfectly suited
for. The difference isn’t night and day however, and the details of the high-mids
and highs are fully present in both scenarios.
Through both sound sources, the DT 990 delivers the powerful deep sub-bass
of The Knife’s “Silent Shout” effortlessly. No aspect of the low-end goes missing
here, and the high-mids and highs are perfectly clear and present. This is a
near-flat response sound signature, but a flat response that includes the
subwoofer range. So you get plenty of intense, deep bass as long as it’s in the
mix, but nothing is overtly boosted or exaggerated. This is one reason I think
the DT 990 makes an excellent mix-checking headphone pair. It’s too bad the
open design eliminates it as an option for studio tracking headphones.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” the DT 990 gives us accurate representations of
Callahan’s baritone vocals. There’s plenty of natural, rich
presence in the low-mids, and a crisp high-mid edge
that puts the vocals, as well as the guitar
strumming and some of the drum hits,
at the forefront of the mix. The drumming
also gets a nice low-frequency presence. It’s
nothing huge, just a natural, powerful
THE EARS HAVE IT
sound that is a result of the driver’s
The Beyerdynamic DT
990 may be huge, but
range and the open design, and
it’s comfortable to
feels like we’re there in the room
wear for long periods
with the drummer.
of time and delivers
excellent sound.
The attack of the kick
drum loop gets a perfect
level of high-mid presence
on Jay-Z and Kanye West’s
“No Church in the Wild,” so
it remains sharp and tight,
cutting through the layers of
the mix with ease. The lowmids bring out plenty of the
loop’s sustain, while the
sub-bass synth hits that
punctuate the beat have plenty of
depth (but not as much as bass lovers
who’ve heard this tune through heavily bass-

The 32-ohm
Beyerdynamic DT
990 is a strong
option for music
lovers looking to
get an accurate
sound without
sacrificing depth.

boosted headphones might expect). There’s plenty of low-end might here, but
it’s not over-the-top, or even favored over any other frequency range.
Orchestral tracks deliver the full range of frequencies with wonderful balance.
The lower register instrumentation in the opening scene in John Adams’ The
Gospel According to the Other Mary, is full but not overwhelming, while the
higher-register strings, brass, and vocals have a brightness and clarity that
brings out every nuance and detail of the recording. This is an ideal sound
signature for classical music enthusiasts looking for a robust yet uncolored mix.
There are plenty of high-fidelity headphone options worth considering when
your budget is in the $300-and-up range. The Sony MDR-1A, the Master &
Dynamic MH40, and the Shure SRH1540 are all worth checking out for their
unique sound signatures and dedication to providing detail and balance. If
you’re looking to spend less money, consider the Sennheiser HD 558, another
open design that delivers a full, wonderful response. For $380, however, the
32-ohm Beyerdynamic DT 990 is a strong option for music lovers looking to get
an accurate sound without sacrificing depth.
TIM GIDEON

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REVIEWS

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS

Good Looks Only Take This
LG Smartwatch So Far
The LG G Watch R already looked good, but
the LG Watch Urbane looks even better. That’s
important, because appearance is really the
only thing that sets the two watches apart. The
Urbane has a stainless steel finish and a leather
strap for that expensive, business-chic look.
But it’s a tough sell at $349, which is the same
price as the base model of the Apple Watch,
and a lot more than the Pebble ($89.99). And
despite the new 5.1 software update, Android
Wear still underwhelms.
DESIGN AND DISPLAY
LG doesn’t exactly go back to the drawing
board with the Urbane, but the design
refresh is the lone distinguishing factor
between it and the G Watch R. The
Urbane’s face is still round, but it’s
nestled in stainless steel with a silver
finish, rather than the black plastic of the G
Watch R. It’s a more classic look than its
predecessor’s, and it’s definitely more highend than you’ll see on similar Android Wear
smartwatches like the Motorola Moto 360.
Screen aside, the Urbane looks more like a
traditional timepiece than some sci-fi gadget
strapped to your wrist.
The attached black leather band with white
stitching is an improvement over the cheap-

LG Watch Urbane
$349
L L L m m

looking, rubbery sport straps you get with most
smartwatches, but it doesn’t feel like the best quality
given the price. The leather already appeared wrinkled
and stressed in certain areas after a few days of use, and
it’s far too rigid for my taste. You can switch it out for
any 22mm band of your choice, but chances are that
part of the reason you’re buying this watch is for the
leather band. The watch is rated IP67 for dust and
water resistance up to one meter for 30 minutes, but
you’ll still want to take care to keep that leather band
out of the water.
Then there’s the size of the Urbane: It’s big. It’s
the same size as the G Watch R, which measures
1.8 by 2.1 by 0.4 inches (HWD). But the Urbane
is slightly heavier, too, coming in at 2.3 ounces.
I found it comfortable enough to wear, so the
bulk didn’t bother me too much. Still, be
warned that this is a big watch, and if you have
slender wrists (as I do) the Urbane’s size is
even more obvious.
The plastic OLED (P-OLED) display looks
sharp and vibrant. It’s the same 1.3-inch, 320by-320 screen as on the G Watch R, so blacks
are rich, whites are bright, and colors look clear
and crisp, even in direct sunlight. Overall, the
display is comparable with the Apple Watch’s
in terms of brightness and quality. Pressing the
crown on the side activates the display;
otherwise, the Urbane is locked in a dimmed,
always-on state when you’re not actively using
it in order to save battery power. Tapping it
also triggers the screen.
HARDWARE AND BATTERY LIFE
Because the Urbane is a near-exact match of
the G Watch R, it contains the same innards,
including a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 400
processor, 512MB RAM, and 4GB of storage. It also

LG Watch Urbane
PROS Classic design.
Sharp screen.
CONS Expensive.
Bulky. Stiff leather
strap. Android Wear
still underwhelms
despite 5.1 update.

contains an accelerometer, a barometer, a compass, a gyroscope, a pedometer,
and a heart rate monitor. The last was a bit finicky during testing; it jumped
from 56 beats per minute to the high 70s in back-to-back readings.
Also like the G Watch R, the Urbane uses a 410mAh battery that lasts for
maybe two days if you only use it to tell time, or for basic tasks like the
stopwatch app or heart rate monitor. Otherwise you’ll have to recharge it
nightly, which is still a major drawback for nearly all smartwatches on the
market today, including the recent Apple Watch. Only the Pebble family lasts up
to a week on a single charge.
The Urbane uses a magnetic charging cradle. The connection is pretty good,
so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting it to stay put as long as it’s on a flat
surface. It also vibrates slightly so you know when the watch is docked, and the
display gives you a circular graphic that indicates how much battery power has
been restored.
Like other Android Wear watches, the Urbane connects to devices that run
Android 4.3 and higher via Bluetooth 4.0. For this review I tested it with an
HTC One M9.
ANDROID WEAR UPDATES
The Urbane is the first smartwatch to ship with the latest version of Android
Wear, 5.1, which includes built-in Wi-Fi support. That means you can use the
watch without a phone or tablet nearby, provided the watch is connected to a
Wi-Fi signal. That’s a plus, but you’re still mostly relegated to indoor
environments or public spaces where Wi-Fi is provided. And in order to connect
to password-protected networks—which is most of them—you still need to pull
out your phone to type in the code. It seems that the smartwatch, no matter
how hard it tries, just cannot get way from relying on the smartphone.
LARGE AND
IN CHARGE
The oversized LG
Watch Urbane
charges using a
magnetic cradle.

STEP BY STEP
Plenty of handy
features,
including this
pedometer, are
built into the LG
Watch Urbane,
but it’s pricey
for what you
get and the
improved
Android Wear
operating
system still
needs some
work.

Android Wear 5.1 introduces wrist flick gestures for scrolling through the
menu’s “card” interface. It failed to work just as many times as it responded
correctly to my movements. It might be useful when your other hand is busy
holding onto a subway pole, but I can’t think of many other real-world
scenarios for it. Plus, it just looks and feels awkward. The Android Wear
update also improves menu navigation. You can swipe left once from the home
screen to access a vertical list of apps, twice to view your contacts, and three
times to list the basic actions the watch can perform.
Beyond that, there’s not much else to the update, which will also be available
on other Android Wear devices. Yes, there are some new watch faces, but the
Urbane is still primarily for delivering notifications and voice commands.
CONCLUSIONS
With the Apple Watch now available, our standards for smartwatches have
increased. Google’s Android Wear OS is in the best position to offer an
alternative to Apple’s iOS-centric juggernaut, but the LG Watch Urbane, even
with its upgraded look, doesn’t change our lukewarm feelings on Android
Wear in general. The Urbane is definitely one of the better-looking
smartwatches out there, but that’s not enough to recommend it, especially
given the high price. For that kind of money, you can get the better-overall
Apple Watch (if you own an iPhone), or save some dough and opt for the Moto
360 or the G Watch R. Or, if you’re just looking to dip your toe in the
smartwatch waters, the Pebble is a solid alternative, and costs just $99.
TIM TORRES
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REVIEWS

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS

A Less-Pricey Alternative
to the Amazon Kindle
You could say the Glo HD is Kobo’s
answer to Amazon’s Kindle Voyage.
After all, it’s the only other ebook
reader to sport a high-resolution
300ppi display. But the devices differ
significantly when it comes to price.
For $129.99, the Kobo the Glo HD is
far less expensive than the $199
Voyage. Sure, Amazon has a better
ebook store, and the Voyage has a
more striking design, but for those
unwilling to spend the extra $70, the
Glo HD is a worthy alternative.
DESIGN AND DISPLAY
The Glo HD measures 6.2 by 4.5 by
0.4 inches (HWD) and weighs 6.4
ounces, making it roughly the same
size as the Kindle Voyage, which
measures 6.4 by 4.5 by 0.3 inches
(HWD) and weighs 6.3 ounces. The
front is covered in black plastic, and
the back is coated in a tough,
textured rubber. Tiny indentations
allow for a better grip than you get
with the Kindle Voyage’s smooth
underside. It’s comfortable to hold
with one hand for long periods of
time, and it’s just small enough to fit
in a jacket pocket.

Kobo Glo HD
$129.99
L L L L m

There’s no visible branding, except for an easy-tomiss Kobo logo at the bottom of the front bezel that
blends in with the rest of the smooth black finish. The
only physical button sits on the top edge of the reader;
it’s a very shallow Power button, and I was never sure if
I actually pressed it until the screen turned on. A
charging port and a tiny reset switch can be found on
the bottom.
The Glo HD sports a 6-inch Carta E Ink
touch screen with 1,448-by-1,072-pixel
resolution (300ppi). It’s extremely sharp,
but it doesn’t get as bright as the Voyage,
and at full brightness, text on the Glo HD
doesn’t pop in quite the same way. The Glo
HD also lacks the Voyage’s adaptive front
light, which automatically adjusts
brightness based on the light around you.
But the Glo’s display more closely
resembles paper, so if you’re looking for
something more realistic and subdued, you
might actually prefer it.
FEATURES
The Glo HD has 4GB of internal memory,
with 3.1GB free out of the box. That’s
enough storage space for up to 3,000
ebooks, but the lack of a microSD card slot
for expanding it is disappointing; most of
Kobo’s other readers include one. On the
plus side, Kobo supports more file types
than Amazon, including the popular EPUB
format. Pocket, an app that lets you save
articles you find online so you can read
them offline, comes preinstalled, which is a
nice touch.
For charging, the Glo HD comes with a simple black
micro USB cable, but no AC adapter, so you’ll need to
keep a computer port handy. Kobo claims up to two

Kobo Glo HD
PROS Sharp display.
Relatively affordable.
Lightweight. Good,
grippy rubber design.
CONS No expandable
storage. Long waking
time from sleep.

PAPER CUT
The backlit display on
the Kobo Glo HD is very
sharp, but the Kindle
Voyage’s gets brighter.

months of reading time per charge. I spent a week of heavy testing with my
review unit, and when I was done there was still plenty of juice left over.
The reader connects to 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi networks.
INTERFACE AND READING
There are 11 built-in fonts and 48 font sizes to choose from, and you can adjust
line spacing and margins with sliders. You can also align the text to the center
or the left, or readjust the page controls so you can choose where you prefer to
tap the screen in order to move your story forward. There’s also a built-in
dictionary, the ability to select passages and look them up in Google or
Wikipedia, and the option to display progress based on either chapters or the
entire book.
The Glo HD’s home screen lets you sort books alphabetically, by title or
author. It also displays large cover images when it’s asleep—the eyes of Haruki
Murakami’s protagonist in 1Q84 stared outward whenever my test unit was
napping. Speaking of naps, it takes quite a long while to wake the Glo HD from
sleep mode—about 10 seconds.
While reading, I never experienced any discomfort or inability to view the Glo
HD’s screen. I took it outside in the sun, and I never had to squint or deal with
any glare. It worked just as well on the bus, on the subway, and indoors. It’s a
good-looking, very readable display.
As with the Kobo Glo, you tap or swipe the sides of the screen to turn pages,
and the center of the screen to bring up the Options menu. Also like the Kobo
Glo, the Glo HD is slow to register lighter touches, particularly when adjusting

settings like brightness—in my tests, it took a second or two for such actions to
register. On the other hand, page refreshes are quick and painless, though you’ll
see dark full-page flashes after every six turns.
Kobo includes a Reading Life app that gamifies reading by awarding you
achievements, and tracking your reading speed and favorite reading times.
Although it’s not something I would normally use, I could see it being a useful
tool for parents to keep track of their kids’ reading habits.
KOBO STORE AND CONCLUSIONS
The Kobo store has more than four million titles, plus magazines and
newspapers. Barnes & Noble claims the same number, whereas Amazon only
claims “millions,” plus 185,000 exclusive Kindle titles. In a random spot
comparison, every major title I searched for was available from both Amazon
and Kobo. But prices are generally cheaper through Amazon. So even though
you’re spending less upfront, the Glo HD could ultimately cost you more in the
long run if you buy a lot of books directly from Kobo. It pays to check out the
availability and pricing of some of the titles you’re interested in before investing
in either ecosystem.
For $129, the Kobo Glo HD is largely comparable with the $199 Amazon
Kindle Voyage. The Voyage boasts a nifty adaptive light and a more-premium
design. But that extra $70 is a lot to spend on new books if you go with the Glo
HD. Your best bet, however, remains our Editors’ Choice, the Kindle
Paperwhite. It costs even less than the Glo HD, and though its screen isn’t quite
as sharp, it’s perfectly readable. If you like Amazon’s ebook ecosystem, it’s the
best bang for your buck.
ALEX COLON

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HARDWARE

Powerful, Affordable
Gaming in a Midsize Tower
Gaming is a big part of the PC market these days,
but it’s rare to find a truly powerful machine at
an affordable price. The latest iteration of the
Maingear Vybe is just such a desktop, leveraging
EDITORS’
CHOICE
affordable components to produce impressive
performance, and offering plenty of room for adding
storage and swapping out parts. Plus, its midsize tower
makes it a nice change of pace from the several smallform-factor systems we’ve seen in this price range.

Maingear Vybe
$1,690 (as tested)
L L L L m

DESIGN AND FEATURES
Gaming desktop designs usually go one of two ways:
completely over the top, with garish colors, custom paint
jobs, and more lights than a Christmas tree; or utilitarian
and subdued, ignoring looks to focus on the functional
and powerful hardware inside. The Vybe takes something
of a middle path, with a look that has some style but
doesn’t scream “gamer” quite so loudly. The aluminum
midsize tower has matte, space-gray panels on the top
and sides, accented with a few LED-lit fans inside, and a
Plexiglas window on the left-hand side to show off the
interior. The rear panel and interior of the tower add a
splash of color with glossy red paint. The front panel is
relatively tame, with a black plastic vent grille.
The front panel has Power and Reset buttons,
headphone and microphone jacks, two USB 3.0
ports, and an LG Blu-ray burner. Most of the Vybe’s
ports are on the rear panel: six USB (four USB 3.0,
two USB 2.0), PS/2, Ethernet, and eight-channel
audio. The main rear panel also has connections
for HDMI, DVI, and VGA, but these are disabled—
you’ll need to connect to the rear ports coming off
of one or both of the system’s video cards, each
of which has three DisplayPort 1.2 outputs, and
one each of HDMI and DVI-D.
Our review unit came with a single Samsung
850 EVO solid-state drive (SSD) with a 250GB
capacity, which isn’t a lot of storage space.
Thankfully, there’s not much on the drive to fill it
up; in addition to Windows 8.1, the system comes
with Nvidia’s GeForce Experience, which is both a
dashboard for driver updates and managing card
settings and Nvidia’s tool for baked-in features for
recording and streaming video, or streaming your
games to Nvidia Shield devices. Maingear also offers
buyers a free 12-month subscription of McAfee
AntiVirus Plus, but that’s an optional offer you’ll
need to select during configuration. Maingear covers

Maingear Vybe
PROS Excellent
gaming performance.
Unlocked processor
simplifies
overclocking. Easy
access to internal
components. Lots of
room for upgrades.
CONS Minimal
storage.

the Vybe with a comprehensive one-year warranty, as well as lifetime service on
upgrades and repairs.
COMPONENTS
Open up the left side of the tower—a simple task, thanks to a single thumb
screw—and you’ll be met with a cleanly laid-out interior that omits any
unnecessary cabling for extra drives or other components (they’re included in a
separate bag), with what cables are there routed behind the motherboard. The
full ATX chassis measures 17.3 by 8.25 by 19.9 inches (HWD).
The system is built around a Gigabyte GA-Z97X-SLI motherboard with an
unlocked Intel Core i5-4690K CPU and 8GB of Corsair Vengeance DDR3-1600
memory. The processor is kept cool with a Maingear Epic 120 water cooling
system, which has a rear-mounted radiator and 120mm fan. There are also four
other 120mm fans, two on the front for intake and two for exhaust on the top of
the tower, which are lit with red LEDs, but there is no control to adjust or turn
off the lighting. Two PNY graphics cards, based on Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 960
GPU, offer plenty of muscle for gaming and graphics. All of this hardware is
powered by a 750-watt EVGA power supply.
The Vybe also leaves things wide open for upgrades. Though our system came
with only two 4GB RAM modules, each of the four slots can accommodate up to
8GB, for a total of 32GB. The two video cards are big enough that they block the
third, unoccupied PCIe port. In addition to the optical drive, there are two free
5.25-inch drive bays. There are also three open 2.5-inch bays and four open 3.5inch bays. Finally, there’s space in the bottom of the tower for a fifth 120mm fan.

GOOD VYBE
RATIONS
Powerful hardware
and an easy-toupgrade design make
the Maingear Vybe a
good choice for the
serious PC gamer.

PERFORMANCE
As you might expect, the Vybe is a surprisingly potent
performer—tested without overclocking engaged—
especially considering that most gaming systems opt for
higher-performing Core i7 processors. In PCMark 8 Work
Conventional, the Vybe scored 3,880, putting it ahead of
the Digital Storm Eclipse (3,809) and the Core i7–
equipped Acer Predator AG3-605-UR39 (3,128), but
behind the Lenovo Erazer X510 (5,005), which boasts an
unlocked Core i7 processor.
In Handbrake the Vybe completed transcoding our test
video in 1 minute, 2 seconds—several seconds ahead of
most competing systems, and only 1 second behind the
CyberPower Zeus Mini. It also completed the Photoshop
test in 2 minutes, 26 seconds, outpacing all of the
comparison systems.
Gaming was quite impressive as well, especially given
the Vybe’s price. In 3DMark, it scored 23,449 in Cloud
Gate (our moderate 3DMark test) and 5,768 in the more
demanding FireStrike Extreme. The second number is the
most applicable, and the Vybe has a pronounced
advantage, thanks to its dual-card setup; similarly priced
single-GPU systems struggled to come close, and only the
Lenovo X510 (5,469) surpassed 5,000. In our 1,920-by1,080 Heaven 4.0 and Valley 1.0 DirectX 11 tests, the
system managed scores of 85 frames per second (fps) and
84fps, respectively, rocketing past the competition.
CONCLUSION
As components become more powerful, those
improvements trickle down to midrange systems, making
it easier to get an affordable, high-performance gaming
experience. That combination of powerful gaming
performance and ample room for upgrades puts this
Maingear Vybe ahead of the pack, and makes it our new
Editors’ Choice midrange gaming desktop.
BRIAN WESTOVER
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HARDWARE

Dell Latitude 13
7000 Series
2-in-1
(7350)
$1,549 (as tested)
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For Business Users, a
Feature-Rich Hybrid Tablet
The Dell Latitude 13 7000 Series 2-in-1 (7350) is tailor-made for
business use. This detachable-hybrid tablet makes it easier to carry
just one device if you need both a laptop and a tablet in your life. Its
almost-10-hour battery life, corporate-friendly features—like IT
EDITORS’
CHOICE
manageability—and versatility help make it a fine choice if you’re a
business-minded user and spend a significant time away from your desk.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
The Latitude 7350 comes with a keyboard dock, which differentiates it from
slate tablets like the Microsoft Surface Pro 3. The system with the keyboard
attached measures 0.79 by 12.6 by 9 inches (HWD) and weighs 3.59 pounds. It’s
smaller, but exactly the same weight as the Dell Latitude 14 7000 Series

(E7450), our Editors’ Choice business ultrabook.
Docked with its keyboard base, the system resembles
a standard black corporate laptop. Slide the latch on the
keyboard dock’s hinge and you can detach the
1.92-pound tablet. The dock has a Mini DisplayPort
jack, a Noble security lock port, an SD card reader, and
two USB 3.0 ports, so you won’t miss the E-series dock
that the Latitude E7450 uses for semipermanently
attached wired connections at your desk.
The sliding-latch release is easy to use, though you
will need two hands to remove the tablet. That’s oldschool and more reliable than more innovative latching
mechanisms like the push-to-click catch on the
Toshiba Satellite Click 2 Pro P35W-B3226.
Magnetic latches like the one on
the Acer Aspire Switch 11 (SW5171-325N) and the Asus
Transformer Book T300 Chi are the
easiest by far and the most
convenient, but your IT manager will
probably want the tried-and-tested
sturdiness of the physically locking
latch. When the tablet is docked, the
system is a little top-heavy, but it doesn’t
tip over after leaning back too far the way
the Acer Aspire Switch 11 does.
Once undocked, the tablet has a dearth of
I/O ports. There are only a headset jack, a
port for a Noble security cable, and the AC
power adapter port. The edge on the top-right
corner of the tablet has a Power button,
volume controls, and a Windows key. You’ll
need to carry the keyboard dock on business
trips so you can interface with wired displays
and the ubiquitous USB flash memory keys you’ll
be handed at conferences and meetings. That
said, you’re still carrying around less weight than
an ultrabook and a separate tablet combined.

Dell Latitude 13
7000 Series
2-in-1
(7350)
PROS Lengthy
battery life. Keyboard
dock has battery,
good selection of
ports. No bloatware.
Backlit keyboard.
Three-year warranty.
CONS No I/O ports
on tablet.

The 13.3-inch, full HD (1,920-by-1,080) display is an In-Plane Switching
(IPS) touch screen that is clear and pleasant to look at, and has good touch
sensitivity. The backlighting on the keyboard is pretty standard for Dell Latitude
laptops, but somewhat rare for most detachable tablets. This is good if you need
to work in darkened rooms during keynote speeches or presentations. The
multitouch touchpad built into the keyboard base is wide and responsive.
There’s 8GB of memory, which is enough to keep open a bunch of programs
at once, and a 256GB solid-state drive (SSD) for storage, so you can store all of
your current files locally in case your mobile hotspot runs out of juice. Like most
corporate systems, the Latitude 7350’s Windows 8.1 Pro build is free of
bloatware. The three-year standard warranty includes in-home and on-site
service after a remote diagnostic.
PERFORMANCE
The Latitude 7350 comes with an Intel Core M-5Y71 processor with integrated
Intel HD Graphics 5300. Its score of 2,426 on the PCMark 8 Work
Conventional test is good for a Core M processor. It beat the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
(2,094) and the HP EliteBook Folio 1020 (1,464), and it was barely lower than
Core i5– and i7–powered systems like the Latitude E7450 (2,681), the Surface
Pro 3 (2,704), and the Click 2 Pro (2,939). Its times on Handbrake (3 minutes,
50 seconds) and Adobe Photoshop CS6 (5:52) were a bit slower than those of its
rivals with standard Core i5 and i7 CPUs, but most graphics-oriented users will
be better served by a traditional clamshell laptop in any case. The 7350’s 3D
performance is predictably slow, but you’d expect that in a business laptop
that’s not intended for heavy 3D use.

Battery life is a strength for the Latitude 7350. The tablet alone lasted 7 hours,
29 minutes, and with the dock attached the system lasted 9:51. That’s just shy of
the Dell E7450 (10:12) and an hour behind the 13-inch Apple MacBook with
Retina display (11:10), our Editors’ Choice ultraportable. That’s still many hours
longer than Core M–equipped systems like the Transformer Book T300 Chi
(5:54), the HP EliteBook 1020 (7:20), and the Yoga 3 Pro (8:19). Full Core i5–
and i7–equipped laptops and tablets, such as the Click 2 Pro (6:48), didn’t last
as long, but the presence of a higher-powered processor is no longer indicative
of a short battery life. For instance, the latest Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Touch, which has a Core i5 CPU, lasted 8:57 in battery testing.
Tablets are excellent for portability and touch-screen use. Laptops are better
for doing a lot of work, particularly when you need to type more than a few
words at a time. The Dell Latitude 13 7000 Series 2-in-1 (7350) is the best of
both worlds, giving you the flexibility of using a tablet or clamshell laptop and
vice versa at a moment’s notice. It has a lot going for it, including battery life,
flexibility, and power for getting your job done. Sure, the scarcity of ports on the
tablet portion is a drawback, but you’re likely to use this most often with the
keyboard dock (and its ports) attached. It’s a fully capable detachable-hybrid
tablet that will help you do your job on the go, with minimal compromises. As
such, we have no qualms giving it our first Editors’ Choice for business
detachable-hybrid tablets.
JOEL SANTO DOMINGO

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HARDWARE

Acer H257HU
$369.99
L L L L m

This Monitor’s Images,
Sound, Size Are Just Right
If you need more pixel density than you get from a full HD (1,920-by1,080) monitor, but don’t have the money or desktop space for an
Ultra-High-Definition (3,840-by-2,160) model, the Acer H257HU has
you covered. This sharp-looking 25-inch display features a Wide Quad
EDITORS’
CHOICE
High-Definition (WQHD) panel with a 2,560-by-1,440 resolution and
a 350-nit brightness level. It uses In-Plane Switching (IPS) technology to deliver
rich, accurate colors, solid grays, and wide viewing angles, and its audio output
quality is unusually high. Despite its lack of USB connectivity, it’s our top pick
for midsize mainstream monitors.

DESIGN AND FEATURES
The H257HU is easy on the eyes in more ways than
one. It uses Acer’s Flickerless technology and a nonreflective panel to reduce eyestrain, and it features a
sleek, bezel-free design with a circular aluminum base
and matching trim. The base allows for 20 degrees of
tilt maneuverability, but you can’t adjust it for height,
swivel, or pivot.
The 2-watt speakers aren’t the most powerful you
can find, but they get some help from DTS Sound
processing and Acer’s True Harmony audio
technologies, both of which combine to enhance
overall loudness and add a touch of bass. At the rear of
the cabinet, facing outward, are video inputs for
DisplayPort 1.2, DVI, and HDMI 2.0. As with Acer’s
K272HUL, the H257HU doesn’t have any USB ports,
nor does it have a Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL)
port for connecting to smartphones and tablets.
There are five function buttons and a Power switch
located under the aluminum trim at the bottom of the
panel. Pressing any button launches on-screen labels
for each control. As with most Acer monitors, the “e”
button opens the Acer Empowering Technology menu,
where you can choose one of five picture presets (User,
Standard, Graphics, Movie, and Eco), and the Menu
button takes you to basic and advanced picture
settings pages. In addition to Brightness, Contrast,
Color Temperature, and Gamma settings, the H257HU
offers a Low Blue Light setting (which also helps
reduce eye strain), an sRGB color mode, 6-Axis
Saturate settings, and 6-Axis Hue settings. The 6-Axis
settings are ideal for calibrating the monitor to your
exact specifications and are usually found on more
expensive models. Acer covers the H257HU with a
three-year warranty on parts, labor, and backlight, and
the monitor comes with DVI, DisplayPort, HDMI, and
audio cables.

Acer H257HU
PROS Stylish design.
High-resolution panel.
Wide viewing angles.
Solid performance.
Good audio output.
CONS No USB ports.
Tilt-only stand.

PERFORMANCE
Although the H257HU offers advanced 6-Axis color settings, you may not have
to use them, as the IPS panel delivers very accurate colors out of the box. The
panel’s inky blacks provide a solid background that give colors some added pop
while providing good shadow detail. The H257HU had no trouble displaying
every shade of gray on the DisplayMate 64-Step Gray-Scale test. Highlight
detail was sharp and well defined on my test photographs and while playing the
Blu-ray version of Marvel’s Iron Man 3. Skin tones appeared natural and evenly
saturated with no trace of tinting. As with most IPS panels, colors and
luminance remained intact from all angles.
I saw solid gaming performance from the H257HU, thanks to its 4ms (grayto-gray) pixel response. I couldn’t spot any ghosting while playing Crysis 3 on
my PC or Burnout Paradise on the Sony PlayStation 3. The panel’s 10.1ms input
lag (the time it takes for the monitor to react to a controller command), as
measured with a Leo Bodnar Lag Tester, means you can enter a field of battle
without fear of getting blown away while waiting for your shot to finally hit its
intended target. Only the BenQ GL2760H has a better lag time (9.9ms).

OMISSION
STANDARDS
The Acer H257HU
has all the display
inputs you’re likely to
need, but there’s one
kind of port you
won’t find on it: USB.

The H257HU consumed 32 watts of power during testing while operating in
Standard mode, which is a tad high compared with the AOC i2473PWM (22
watts) and the NEC MultiSync EA244WMi (26 watts), but pretty much in line
with the BenQ XL2420G (30 watts) and the AOC G2460PG (32 watts). But if
you utilize the H257HU’s Eco mode, you can bring power consumption down to
25 watts without having the picture appear too dim.
CONCLUSION
If you’re looking to move up to a WQHD display, but have limited finances, the
Acer H257HU is an excellent choice. It offers solid color accuracy and grayscale
performance, pleasing aesthetics, and lots of picture settings, and its list price
won’t kill your budget. A USB hub would be nice, as would a stand with height,
pivot, and swivel adjustability, but adding these features would likely increase
the overall price. That said, neither gripe prevents the H257H from becoming
our latest Editors’ Choice midsize mainstream monitor.
JOHN R. DELANEY

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REVIEWS

HARDWARE

The Best Way to Extend
Wi-Fi to Your Whole House
Range extenders offer a way to
provide wireless networking to those
dead spots in the far corners of your
house, but they have a reputation of
EDITORS’
CHOICE
being tricky to set up. With the
Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi Range Extender
EX7000, setup is as easy as it gets, but more
important, this extender delivers outstanding
throughput on both the 2.4 and 5GHz bands.
Unlike most extenders, the EX7000 is big, and
it’s expensive, but its top-shelf performance
and robust feature set are just compensation.
DESIGN AND FEATURES
Much bigger than a typical plug-in range
extender, the EX7000 measures 1.2 by 9.9 by
6.9 inches (HWD). As it sports a shiny, black
finish and three adjustable antennas, it could
easily be mistaken for a full-blown router,
which means it will probably stand out no
matter where you put it in your house.
The EX7000 supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi, uses
a 1GHz Broadcom BCM 4708 dual-core
processor, and is capable of speeds of up to
1,900Mbps (600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band
and 1,300Mbps on the 5GHz band). It’s
equipped with five Gigabit Ethernet ports, a
Wireless Protected Setup (WPS) button, a
Reset button, and a Power switch, all of which
are located on the back of the chassis. A USB

Netgear Nighthawk
AC1900 Wi-Fi
Range Extender
(EX7000)
$169.99
L L L L H

3.0 port is positioned on the front, and the top of the
extender has nine LED status indicators (one for each
band, one for each LAN port, a device to extender LED,
and a USB activity LED). The extender can be
positioned horizontally or vertically using the included
vertical mount stand.
Managing the EX7000 is easy thanks to the Netgear
genie, a user-friendly Web-based management
interface. The genie opens to a status page that displays
signal strength for both bands (green is best, amber is
good, red is poor), the firmware version, and connection
information for each band, including SSID, channel,
region, and Wi-Fi speed. Pressing the Smart Setup
button takes you to a screen where you can configure
the EX7000 as an extender or an access point.
On the left side of the page are tabs for Settings,
Firmware Update, Do More, and Logout. The Settings
section is where you go to change Wi-Fi properties,
such as SSID (network name), channel, speed, and
password. You can also assign a static IP or use DHCP.
The Connected Devices page displays information about
wired and wireless devices connected to the extender,
including the IP address and MAC address. On the
Other Settings page, you can back up your Wi-Fi
settings, restore previous settings, reset the device to its
factory defaults, and restart the extender.
The Do More section contains an Access Schedule
page that lets you determine what time of day users can
connect to the extender and a Wi-Fi Coverage page that
lets you to choose one of four wireless output power
settings (25, 50, 75, and 100 percent) depending on
your coverage area. With Netgear’s FastLane technology
you can configure the extender to connect to the router
with one band while saving the other band for wireless
network traffic. Lastly, the USB Port page is where you
go to enable Media Server and TiVo support. Here you
can also enable printer sharing and file sharing for
connected USB devices.

Netgear
Nighthawk
AC1900 Wi-Fi
Range Extender
(EX7000)
PROS Excellent
throughput on both
bands. Easy to install,
configure. Five Gigabit
LAN ports. Generous
settings options.
CONS Expensive.
Large footprint.

INSTALLATION AND
PERFORMANCE
Installing the EX7000 is quick and easy.
After you power up the extender, select the
NETGEAR_EXT SSID in your wireless
device’s Wi-Fi control panel. This launches
a New Extender Setup page where you
must create an account that requires an
email address, password, and two security
questions. Next, select a mode (Extender
or Access Point) and a Wi-Fi network to
connect to, and enter your router’s Wi-Fi
password. You have an option to enter
SSID names and assign unique passwords
to each band if you prefer, or you can use
the default Netgear names and passwords.
That’s all there is to it. At this point, you’re
ready to connect to one of the extender’s
bands using your Wi-Fi control panel.
The EX7000 delivered fast throughput
and good range in testing, particularly on
the 5GHz band. In the close proximity
(same room) test, it measured an average
throughput of 179Mbps. That’s light years
faster than our previous leader, the Amped
Wireless High Power 700mW Dual Band
AC Wi-Fi Range Extender REA20, which
turned in an average throughput of
50Mbps, and significantly faster than the
Netgear AC1200 WiFi Range Extender
(EX6200), which managed 31Mbps. At a
distance of 50 feet the EX7000 averaged
105Mbps, blowing away its nearest
competitors, the Amped REA20 (44Mbps)
and the D-Link DAP-1520 (34Mbps).
Although throughput dropped to 31.1Mbps at
75 feet, the EX7000 still outperformed
all comers.

On our close proximity test on the 2.4GHz band, the EX7000 took a share
of first place with the Amped REA20—both clocked in at 50Mbps. At 50 feet,
the EX7000 (28.6Mbps) beat out the Netgear EX6200 (25Mbps) and the
Amped REA20 (18Mbps). Its speed of 26.9 Mbps at 75 feet also led the pack.
CONCLUSION
The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi Range Extender (EX7000) gives you
the throughput and range performance necessary to provide robust wireless
coverage to every corner of your home. It’s a breeze to install and offers
enough wired LAN ports to connect to gaming consoles, HDTVs, and other
networked devices. It also offers access control scheduling and FastLane
technology that let you optimize your bandwidth by directing wireless traffic
to a specific band. Though it’s expensive, the EX7000 costs around $10 less
than the Amped Wireless High Power 700mW Dual Band AC Wi-Fi Range
Extender REA20, and outperforms it across the board. If you want to save
$40, its sibling, the Netgear EX6200, offers lots of features and a friendly
user interface, but like the Amped REA20, it can’t touch the EX7000’s
performance. All that makes the EX7000 a shoo-in as our Editors’ Choice
wireless range extender.
JOHN R. DELANEY

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REVIEWS

SOFTWARE

PREVIEW: Microsoft
Office 2016 for Windows
Free for Office 365 users;
upgrade price not announced
NOT YET RATED

New Office Delivers Good
Changes, Few Surprises

M

icrosoft recently released a free public preview of Office 2016 for
Windows, and, for most Windows users, the biggest news about it is
that there’s no big news about it. Microsoft has made the new Office
apps “universal,” meaning that they’re designed for use on phones and tablets
just as well as on desktops and laptops. For the rest of us, Office 2016 is mostly
business as usual, and that’s a good thing.
For desktop and laptop users, most of the improvements in Office 2016 are
invisible, including enhancements to security settings for SharePoint-based
workgroups. Almost nothing significant has changed in the interface. If you’re
familiar with Office 2013, then you’ll have no trouble using Office 2016. When

the new version is released, subscribers to Microsoft’s
Office 365 service will get the upgrade at no extra cost.
Buyers of the “perpetual” version—the traditional buyit-once-and-keep-it variety—will be able to buy an
upgrade at a price not yet specified.
If you install the preview, you won’t be able to use
Office 2013 again until you uninstall the preview, so be
sure you’re willing to take the inevitable minor risks
that come with any preview software. In two days of
testing, the Word preview seemed rock-solid, but Excel
sometimes took an alarmingly long time to close a file,
making me think it had locked up, though it eventually
sorted itself out every time. Office 365 subscribers can
install the preview from their account page at
office.microsoft.com. Click on “Language and Install

Options,” then “Additional Install Options,” then
choose “Office Preview (32-bit)” from the Versions
drop-down list. If you want to try the “perpetual”
version, follow the links on Microsoft’s Office 2016
preview page, accessible from products.office.com.
The biggest technical advance in Office 2016 is realtime collaboration, available now only in Word, but due

TELL ME? MORE
Office 2016’s new
“Tell Me” feature
provides quick
descriptions of
features you’re
searching for, so it’s
easier to find the one
you want.

to arrive in other apps later. You can edit a document in Word on your home
machine while a coworker edits it at the same time using the online version of
Word in a browser. When other users are working on a shared document, a
“refresh” icon appears in the margin next to the paragraph they’ve edited, and,
when you save the document on your machine, the other users’ changes appear
over a green background. Simultaneous collaborative editing is one of the
biggest attractions of Google Docs, but Office 2016 finally steals at least a little
of Google’s thunder.
The biggest change in the interface is a “Tell me what you want to do...” box
in the top-line menu of Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Thanks to this feature,
you don’t have keep clicking tabs on the Ribbon until you find a feature like
“Update table of contents” or “Insert a page break.” Instead you simply type in a
word or two that identifies the feature, and select the exact feature you want
from a drop-down menu. The dialog box you want pops up immediately, and
you don’t need to use the Ribbon at all. There’s no built-in keyboard shortcut to
the “Tell Me” box in the preview version, and I wasn’t able to assign a shortcut
for it in the Keyboard Customization dialog, but that’s presumably a preview
glitch. Otherwise, the only interface changes I noticed are subtle ones, such as
the return of upper- and lowercase tabs on the Ribbon instead of the shouting
capitals in Office 2013, and some relocated buttons in the file-management
“Backstage” view.
According to Microsoft’s blog posts about Office 2016, Excel gets plenty of
new features, including improved pivot tables, the ability to publish to the
Microsoft BI (Business Info) service, and new charts and graphs including builtin sunburst (concentric pie charts) and waterfall charts. I couldn’t find these on
the Charts menu, but presumably they’re on their way. Outlook, when used with

a Microsoft Exchange server, gets a new automatic
decluttering feature that moves some messages to a new
Clutter folder, but I wasn’t able to try this either. Except
for the “Tell Me” feature, PowerPoint 2016 looks almost
identical to the 2013 version.
This is Microsoft’s first public preview of Office 2016
for Windows, following a couple of months behind the
public preview of Office 2016 for the Mac. The Mac
preview has already had an update that added new
features, and you can expect similar updates to the
Windows version. If you make heavy use of Excel, which
seems to be the most unfinished of the preview apps, I’d
suggest you try out the preview only on a system you
don’t use for real work. But if you use mostly Word,
PowerPoint, and Outlook, I would consider switching to
the preview version now. The Tell Me feature will save
you a lot of time-wasting browsing in the Ribbon, and
real-time collaboration in Word can be a major plus for
teamwork. Even if you don’t switch to the preview, you
can take comfort in the knowledge that Office 2016 is an
incremental upgrade that makes worthwhile
improvements without disrupting anything.
EDWARD MENDELSON

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POSITIVE
OUTLOOK
Outlook 2016
resembles the 2013
version visually, but
it’s now much easier
to navigate its
massive feature set.

REVIEWS

APPSCOUT

Our Favorite Apps

Confide

Android, iOS

L L L L m
If you’re concerned about how private your mobile communications are, you may want to
check out Confide. It aims to be your go-to app for sending secure messages (even with
attachments) that can’t be preserved via screenshots or even easily read over your shoulder,
and uses 128-bit AES encryption to ensure security on both ends. Interface and attachment
improvements in the latest version make Confide sleeker and smarter than ever.

REVIEWS

APPSCOUT

Our Favorite Apps

Luminos—Astronomy Companion
EDITORS’ CHOICE

iOS

L L L l m

Whether you’re an experienced amateur astronomer or merely a novice, Luminos—
Astronomy Companion is a magnificent tool. It depicts more stars, comets, and asteroids
than any similarly priced app we’ve seen; it charts solar and lunar eclipses; it offers advanced
features like guiding a computer-controlled telescope and creating lists of objects to
observe; and it can help beginners navigate the night sky. Luminos’ incredible versatility
makes it an app every stargazer will love.

REVIEWS

APPSCOUT

Our Favorite Apps

Layout From Instagram

Android, iOS

L L L L m
A squadron of mobile apps has emerged recently to help you stitch together your photos, but
few do the job as well as Layout From Instagram. It has an extremely clear and powerful
interface that simplifies selecting photos, and customizing the layouts you use to display
them. You get a good selection of layout options, facial recognition, and sharing capabilities,
though you can’t edit your pictures from within the app. Even so, this app is elegant and easy
to use.

REVIEWS

APPSCOUT

Our Favorite Apps

The Sailor’s Dream

iOS

L L L l m
The Sailor’s Dream, the latest game from innovative developer Simogo (Year Walk, Device 6),
takes you on a journey across a sea of memories as you try to piece together a sad tale of
longing and regret set on a group of whimsical islands. Beautiful visuals and music (from
Jonathan Eng) contribute to the enriching experience. In order to discover everything, you’ll
need to play across many days, but chances are you’ll find the investment as rewarding as
you would reading a great novel.

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Features
HOW TO BUILD A PC:
THE BUYING GUIDE
HOW TO BUILD A PC:
THE BUILDING GUIDE

FEATURES

The
Buying
Guide

HOW TO
BUILD A PC

The best computer for you is
still the one you build yourself.
BY MATTHEW MURRAY

C

omputing has changed a lot in the last decade. Smartphones have
become most people’s go-to method of playing games, staying in touch
with friends, and browsing the Web for cat pictures and answers to
spur-of-the-moment trivia questions. When they need something more
powerful, or with a bigger screen, they might reach for a tablet. If actual, real
work calls, the laptop they use is probably svelte, light, and stylish. Traditional
bulky desktops are increasingly rare, and when you see them they’re usually allin-ones or decked out in some wacky style that’s designed to be noticed rather
than to actually do anything. And, let’s face it, no one really builds their own
desktop PC anymore, right?
Wrong, actually. DIY may not be everything it used to be, but it’s still a thriving
sector of the industry, and one that any serious computer user—we mean the
type of person who cares more about what a computer can do than how small an
envelope it can slide into—should be aware of. Because, if you want the strongest,
most adaptable, most upgradeable, and most personal computer you can
possibly get, there’s no way around it: You have to build it yourself.
By researching each individual component’s capabilities and limitations, you
can tailor your purchases to your exact needs now and in the future. Then you
spend an hour (or probably less) installing them all, and become intimately
familiar with them and invested in their operation. If you further tweak
performance or mod your case, you’re molding your machine even further to your
exact specifications. And if your requirements or your mood change tomorrow,
next week, next month, or next year, you can easily pull out and replace as few as
one of the pieces, and your computer is perfect for you yet again. Nothing else
gives you this much control or satisfaction. Yes, you’ll have to sacrifice some—
maybe a lot—of portability, but the result will be something you can totally and
deeply call your own as you never will be able to with an unchangeable system
designed and manufactured entirely by someone else.
Building your own PC is not necessarily an inexpensive or quick proposition. But
if you’re willing to devote the time and resources to the project, you will end up
with the best possible computer on Earth for you—and that will make everything
else worthwhile.

SHOPPING FOR PARTS
The dirty little secret of PC building is that the most
difficult and time-consuming part of the process
happens long before you start looking for a
screwdriver. You can’t even start thinking about
assembling the individual components until you buy
them—and that means doing a lot of investigating
into the options (of which there are thousands)
and, believe it or not, some serious soul-searching.
The first, and most important, thing to consider
is: What do you want your PC to do? Are you looking
for a really inexpensive system to put in the kids’
room? Do you want a squat, console-like desktop
that will fit right next to the TV that you can use for
streaming media, or maybe as a Steam Machine?
Is a dedicated work PC for your home office the
goal? Or do you want the biggest, baddest build
that can play the hottest new games without
breaking a sweat?
Sorry, we can’t decide this for you. But once
you’ve decided it for yourself, you’ll have a better
idea of what components you need to buy and how
much money you’ll have to spend on them. And
then you can get on to the actual shopping.
For purposes of this story, we did our research
and shopping using Newegg.com. We highly
recommend it for its dizzyingly wide selection of
components in every conceivable category and one
of the Internet’s most powerful search engines for
narrowing down your precise needs. But feel free to
use whatever tool (or brick-and-mortar store) is
your favorite.
The nuances of what components do, and how to
best get them to serve your needs, is beyond the
scope of this story. But the following descriptions
of their functions and what you need to look for
when shopping should give you a solid of idea of
where to start in collecting all the parts you’ll need
for your PC.

Processor
(CPU)

If you’re building a gaming
PC on a budget, you’ll
probably want to start off
by choosing a video card.
Everyone else can start
with the central
processing unit (CPU), or
processor, the “brain” of
the computer that, well,
processes all the
instructions it receives
from the software you run
and the other
components you have
installed. Because of the
considerable difference it
will make in how well you
run every program on your
PC, paying particular
attention to its
capabilities is crucial.

Processor

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Number of cores. Back when every
CPU only contained one processing unit,
or core, clock speed (see below) was the
easiest way to measure performance. But
practically every processor today is a
multicore CPU, and the more cores a chip
has, the more it can accomplish at once
(if it’s supported by the software). Most
common are two- (dual-) and four(quad-)core CPUs, though six- and eightcore CPUs are becoming more visible on
the market.

Number of threads. Most
processors today, particularly from
market leader Intel, can simultaneously
operate two processing threads per core
(Intel calls this technology
hyperthreading), effectively doubling your
core count. Because not every processor
supports this, check that yours does if
you expect to be running a lot of
multithreaded applications.

Clock speed (operating frequency).
This is the frequency at which each core
in a CPU runs, or the number of cycles it is
able to execute per second. The higher
the number, the faster CPU will generally
be per core. These days, clock speed is
measured in gigahertz (GHz), or billions of
cycles per second.

Cache (L2 or L3). A processor uses
memory installed in the chip itself to store
and speed up operations before utilizing

external system RAM. This onboard
memory is stored in one or more caches,
which are identified L2 or L3. More
powerful processors will be equipped
with larger caches.

Socket type. CPUs come in different
sizes and are identified by the kind of
socket they plug into. (For example, Intel’s
most powerful current chips use the third
revision of the LGA 2011 socket.) You’ll
need this information to determine what
motherboard to buy.

Manufacturing technology.
Every year or two, processors get thinner
and more power-efficient. Knowing a
chip’s manufacturing technology
(measured in nanometers, or nm) will give
you some insight into its capabilities, but
is not strictly necessary.

Cooler. Most processors come with a
fan rated for their specific speed and
estimated heat output; unless you’re
planning to overclock your computer or
otherwise put it through particularly
traumatic paces, you probably don’t need
to buy another fan or liquid cooling
system. (And for that reason, we’re not
going to dwell on the question here.) But
if you do decide to go with an aftermarket
solution, or if you choose a high-end CPU
that doesn’t come with its own fan, make
sure that the cooler you get is designed
for the family of processor you have.

Motherboard
If the CPU is a computer’s brain,
the motherboard is its nervous
system. Most of your other
components will plug into the
motherboard, so the one that
you use in your build needs to be
exactly what you need now, and
what you expect to need from it
in the future.

Motherboard
WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Socket type. A motherboard’s socket
type must match that of the CPU you
plan to use in it. Always cross-compare.

Form factor. Motherboards come in a
range of form factors, which determine
how many other components you can
install and what kind of case you need.
For most full-size desktop builds you’ll
probably want either Micro ATX or ATX;
for smaller builds, Mini ITX will work.

Memory. You need to know the
memory type and standard your
motherboard uses, which are usually
listed together; just buy what it supports
and you’ll be fine. (Ignore “O.C.” numbers if
you don’t plan to overclock your memory.)
The number of memory slots tells you
how many individual modules, or DIMMs,
you can use; you’ll also see the maximum
memory supported. A motherboard
labeled dual-, triple-, or quad-channel
supports a CPU technology that delivers
increased performance if you fill enough
of the RAM slots.

Expansion slots. The ATX and Micro
ATX motherboard form factors have
between four and seven PCI Express
(PCIe) slots, for adding expansion cards.
These may use either the current top-end
standard, PCIe 3.0, or the older 2.0, with
designations based on the size of the
slots and the number of PCIe lanes they
use. The longest and fastest slots are x16,

though some that look identical may run
at x8 or x4; in addition, there are visibly
smaller x1 slots. On a Mini ITX
motherboard, expect only one x16 slot.

Storage. SATA remains the most
common interface for connecting internal
storage devices. The newest version of
the standard, SATA 3, supports data
transfer rates of up to 6Gbps. You may
also find some other interfaces; M.2, in
which a flash-based storage module
plugs directly into a thin slot on your
motherboard, is becoming increasingly
popular. Regardless, you’ll want to have
enough of the right kind of ports for
whatever storage you want to buy.

Onboard technologies. All boards
have USB ports, sound output, and
Ethernet; most include integrated Wi-Fi
and/or Bluetooth; and many have ports
for taking advantage of lower-end
processors’ integrated video capabilities.
It’s worth checking the specs so that you
don’t forego something you really want.

Video card support. Think you may
want to concoct an ultra-powerful
gaming machine with more than one
graphics card? Even if you have enough
slots to hold multiple cards, your
motherboard must be designed for use
with either Nvidia’s SLI technology or
AMD’s CrossFireX, so verify that first.

Memory

Your computer’s randomaccess memory, or RAM,
is where data is stored
while the processor is
waiting to crunch the
numbers. More is pretty
much always better,
within the boundaries of
your budget and your
system (if yours is 32-bit,
it’s limited to about 4GB—
vastly less than 64-bit
PCs can use), though if
you use simple
applications and aren’t an
avid multitasker, you can
get away with less. The
nice thing about building
your own PC: If it turns out
you need more later on,
memory is one of the
easiest things to add.

Memory

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Type. Memory will only be useful to you
if the motherboard supports it; read that
section for more information. Each new
standard offers some additional speed
and features, but not in all situations, so
don’t feel as if DDR4 RAM, rather than
DDR3, is an automatic must for you if
you’re building from scratch. Just
remember that RAM is not backwardcompatible, so DDR4 will not work in a
DDR3 slot. The higher the number in a
memory’s standard, such as DDR4 2666,
the faster it generally is. Faster memory
designed for the same slot type will work
in a slower slot, but save yourself some
money and don’t leave any performance
on the table you don’t have to.

Capacity. DIMMs for each memory
type come in a variety of capacities, so
you can buy what you need and can
afford. It’s best to buy at least one chip
for each memory channel (three for
triple-channel, four for quad-channel),
and memory often comes in “kits” to
make that easier; and we don’t
recommend mixing and matching
capacities within any one build. If you see
a capacity listed as something like “8GB
(2 x 4GB),” this means the total amount

of RAM is divided up between a number
of chips (in this case, two DIMMs of 4GB
each, for a total of 8GB)..

Memory timings. Most memory
specs include a series of four numbers,
separated by hyphens, that provide an
at-a-glance way to tell how speedy the
memory is. The first number, CAS latency
(the amount of time between when the
memory controller requests data and
when it’s available) is the most
significant, and may be listed by itself.
The lower the numbers, the faster you
can expect the memory to be.

Other specs. Error Checking and
Correction (ECC) memory is intended for
high-performance systems such as
workstations and servers; you will need a
motherboard that specifically supports
this type of memory if you want to use it
(and most ordinary users won’t need to
bother). Voltage numbers give you
specific information about how the
memory uses power, with higher voltages
typically meaning speedier RAM—but
this is really of use only to performancecraving overclockers.

Video Card

Though integrated
graphics systems are
more commonplace today
than ever, even the best
versions in the latest
processors can’t deliver
what you can get from
even a lower-end discrete
video card. If you’re into
gaming of any sort, a
video card is a must, but
any programs that are
designed to do so, from
Windows to Photoshop
and beyond, can benefit
from offloading video
processing to a dedicated
subsystem. Unless you’re
blasting out a tightbudget build, there’s no
good reason to forego a
video card.

Video Card
WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Processing cores. Like your CPU,
your graphics processing unit (or GPU)
contains multiple processing cores
exclusively for churning out graphics. The
more of them your video card has, the
better a performer it’s likely to be (and
the more it’s likely to cost). AMD calls its
versions “stream processors” and Nvidia
has named its own “CUDA cores”—note
that while you can’t directly compare the
two types, the numbers of cores are good
indicators of relative power within each
company’s chipset families.

Clock rates. As with your CPU, this is
the speed at which the GPU runs. It’s not
unusual to see cards with fewer
processing cores and faster clock speeds,
or vice versa, so finding the best blend for
the amount of money you have to spend
is a good way to go.

Memory. Video memory (VRAM)
serves a function for video cards that’s
similar to what ordinary RAM does for the
rest of your computer: It stores the data
until it’s needed for processing. This
matters less if you’re playing at lower
resolutions, where there aren’t as many
pixels and other visual effects to be
wrangled, but, as a rule of thumb—as with

RAM—more tends to be better. (You’ll see
4GB or more on the highest-end, most
expensive video cards.) Also watch for
the memory clock speed, which can also
factor into performance.

Ports. A video card isn’t worth much if
it’s not hooked up to at least one monitor.
Look at the list of its ports to determine
what sort of outputs your card has for
DVI, HDMI, and DisplayPort; if you’ll be
using your computer with a monitor you
already own, you’ll want to know ahead of
time whether you’ll need to buy an
adapter. Another good idea is verifying
how many monitors the card can drive at
once: It may not be the same as the
card’s number of output ports.

Power requirements. Video cards
are among the most power-hungry PC
components you can buy, so know what
you need to get from your power supply.
Usually there will be a minimum value you
should respect, and you’ll also be told the
specific number of connectors (six- or
eight-pin) you’ll need in order to get the
card to work as well as the number of
amps needed from the power supply (see
that section for more information).

Storage

Even if you love
smartphones and tablets,
you have to admit that
storage is one of their
biggest weaknesses:
You’re pretty much stuck
with whatever you buy.
When you’re building your
own PC, that’s not a
problem—it’s easy to add
more pretty much
whenever you want. But
even if you don’t have to
worry too much about
capacity, you need to
make a few other crucial
decisions when shopping.

Storage

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Hard drive or SSD? The price of

Form factor. This refers to the size of

solid-state drives (SSDs), which store
data on flash memory, has dropped a lot
in recent years, making them a better
choice than ever to add to your computer
if speed in booting up and accessing files
is what you crave. But by and large,
they’re still punishingly expensive on a
cost-per-gigabyte basis compared with
traditional, slower mechanical hard drives:
It’s not hard to track down a 3TB hard
drive that costs $100 or less, whereas
consumer-oriented SSDs top out at
about 1TB—and those will run you $350
at an absolute minimum. Because of this,
the classic advice is still the best: Pair a
lower-capacity SSD, for installing
Windows and your most important
programs, with one or more spinning hard
drives for housing data.

the drive, with hard drives coming in 3.5or 2.5-inch varieties, and SSDs coming in
2.5- or 1.8-inch models. For desktop
computers, form factor seldom matters
much, though you’ll need to have the right
kind of space in your case for whatever
drive you choose.

Interface. Serial ATA (SATA)

Optional optical. Now that most

connections are still common, especially
for hard drives, and your motherboard will
undoubtedly have plenty. But you can also
buy newer SSDs that install into your
motherboard’s expansion slots and use
the faster PCIe bus. Other interfaces are
less common, but you may want to take a
page from space-saving smaller systems
and consider M.2 (which plugs directly
into a motherboard port) for use as a
boot drive. Just be certain your
motherboard supports whatever
standard you intend to use.

software is purchased and delivered
digitally, an optical drive may not be a
necessity for you, particularly if you don’t
plan to install a lot of older programs. If
you don’t want an optical drive, you’ll
need another strategy for installing the
operating system; use another computer
to create an installation USB key, for
example. If you do want a drive, it may be
worth it to splurge a bit on a Blu-ray
burner (they cost around $100, or about
five times what you’d pay for a DVD
burner), so you can watch high-definition
movies you may have hanging around.

Hard drive specs. Extra details may
appear on hard drive listings that you
won’t see with SSDs. Most consumer
hard drives spin at either 7,200 or
10,000rpm, with speedier drives costing
more and using more energy. You can also
select the amount of cache memory your
hard drive uses (up to 128MB) to boost
performance. This information is helpful
for detail-oriented purists, but of limited
use if you don’t boot from your hard drive.

Power
Supply
You can buy the best
components to be found
on the Web, and they’ll be
useless if you can’t
actually turn your
computer on once you’ve
finished building it. A
power supply unit (or
PSU) may be the most
unappreciated of
components, but without
it, nothing else will work,
so don’t forget to give it
the thought it deserves.

Power Supply
WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Maximum power. This is the

Form factor. Like other components

highest amount of power the supply is
capable of directing to your
components. The less complicated or
intense the build, the lower a number
you can get away with—for most people,
500 to 750 watts will be fine. But if
you’re using high-end parts, particularly
energy-sucking video cards (or more
than one), your power needs could
increase to 1,000 watts or more.
Checking your components’ power
usage or thermal design power (TDP) is
vital—get a PSU that’s too weak, and
your computer may not even turn on.

we’ve covered here, power supplies
come in a variety of form factors that
determine the kinds of hardware you can
use with them, and under what
circumstances. The most common for
mainstream motherboards right now is
the ATX12V, but you may also see others
(such as EPS12V), and you may need to
buy a smaller power supply if you’re
building a system too miniature to fit a
full-size ATX power supply, say.

Voltage rails. Simply put, voltage
rails are like individual power circuits
within your PSU, with each of the major
varieties (+3.3V, +5V, and +12V)
powering different kinds of components.
In most cases, the most important one
to pay attention to is the +12V rail, as
that’s what will be driving your video
cards; one of these capable of supplying
34 to 40 amps should be enough for the
most power-hungry cards you can
currently buy, and is likely to be more
reliable than using multiple +12V rails for
the same job.

Connectors. Power supplies come in
two varieties: one in which all the cables
are preattached, and another (called
modular) that lets you hook up only the
cables you need. In either case, your PSU
still has to have the right connectors,
whether six- and eight-pin PCIe for video
cards, SATA for newer hard drives and
SSDs, or Molex for older drives and other
devices. The good news is that if you
don’t have all the connectors you need,
adapters aren’t too tough to find. Still,
it’s easiest to verify that you have what
you need ahead of time; the video card
(or PCIe) connectors are most likely to
trip you up, so find out what your card
needs so your PSU can supply power in
the proper way.

Case
Yes, you’ll need a case to
house all the other
components you buy, and
that’s what we’ll focus on
here. But remember that
it’s also the outward
expression of your
computer’s personality—
and your own. How big
should it be? What
shape? What color? Do
you want a window?
Make these decisions, too,
so that your final
computer will look every
bit as good as it runs.

Case

WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Form factor. Though a case can
basically be as big or as small as you
want, what matters more is which form
factor of motherboard it’s designed for.
One intended for ATX motherboards will
have room for the board and the proper
number of expansion slots; a Micro ATX
motherboard is smaller and will have
fewer slots, though the case itself won’t
necessarily be smaller; and smaller form
factors still, such as Mini ITX, may require
other adjustments to your component
choices (less storage, for example, or
maybe a smaller power supply). Many
larger ATX cases can also be used with
motherboards of other form factors; as
long as yours is supported, you should be
just fine.

connect any front-panel ports to the
motherboard, so cross-comparing those
specs ahead of time is a good idea.

Drive bays. You’ll need someplace to
store your hard drives and SSDs, and any
other devices you may be using. Generally
speaking, cases may have one or more
5.25-inch external bays for optical drives
and other enthusiast gadgets, and
multiple bays for 3.5- or 2.5-inch hard
drives and SSDs. (Some cases also have
externally accessible 3.5-inch bays for
quickly swapping hard drives in and out.)
The smallest cases, though, can have
very few of these, so pay attention, or risk
not being able to perform desired
upgrades later.

Front-panel ports and controls.

Fans and filters. Cooling is one of a

You’ll definitely want to access all of your
computer’s features, and its front-panel
ports are the most convenient way to do
that. Every case will have Power and
Reset buttons and an activity light, and
most will also have headphone and
microphone jacks and USB ports; some
may even have fan or lighting controls.
Just remember that you’ll need to

case’s most important functions. Your
case will probably come with one or more
intake or exhaust fans preinstalled, and
have room for adding more (in several
sizes, from 80mm on up) if you want
them. Removable filters, which capture
dust to keep your PC’s interior tidy and
are easy to clean, are also common on
higher-end cases.

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FEATURES

The
Building
Guide

HOW TO
BUILD A PC

Once you’ve decided on and purchased your parts, it’s time to do the really exciting/
fun/scary part and assemble them all. Believe it or not, this is less difficult than it may
sound, especially now that tool-free cases are de rigueur and you won’t need your Phillips
screwdriver for installing much more than the motherboard. But doing things in the proper
order will help out a lot.
What follows is the basic procedure for building a higher-end larger or midsize system
that we’re planning on using to test hardware in PC Labs. It illustrates most of the points
you’ll encounter in your building, though the details will differ a bit depending on the
components you buy. The basic techniques, however, seldom vary much from build to build.

1

Get Prepared
Just as a professional chef wouldn’t dare fire up the stove without the mise en
place ready to go, neither should you. Unpack all of your components, remove
the packing material from them, and arrange them cleanly on a large, flat
surface. The floor will absolutely work if that’s all you have, but try to avoid
doing it on a carpet—static electricity remains a major danger when working
with electronics, and frying your system before you even get to use it is one
shock you don’t want. Also, open up the main side panel of your case, because
that’s where you’ll be starting with your build.

2

Install the Power Supply
You won’t need the power supply until much later in the build process, but
you’re better off installing it first because once the other components are in
place, it becomes a lot more difficult to pop the supply into position. Position
the PSU in the bay with the fan pointing downward (many cases will have a
vent there) and the screw holes lining up with the holes on the back of the
case. Secure the power supply with the provided screws, then drape the
cables over the side of the case to keep them out of the way while you work on
everything else.

3

Install the Processor
Most of the time, it’s going to be easiest to install some components on
the motherboard before you put the motherboard in the case—you’ll have
a lot more room to work that way. The processor definitely qualifies for this
treatment. Begin by opening the socket. If you’re using an AMD CPU, just lift
the lever to release the locking mechanism; you’ll also need to do this for Intel
chips, but notice that a metal cover will also secure the chip in place, and that
needs to be lifted as well. (On higher-end Intel chips, such as the one pictured
here, two levers may hold down the socket cover, and you’ll need to lift those
in the proper order.) Once the socket is opened, use the arrows printed on the
socket and chip to align the CPU correctly, then lower it gently into the socket.
(With AMD processors, the pins are on the CPU, so they’ll need to all go down
into the proper holes and the chip sits flat before proceeding.) After you’ve
correctly placed the chip, secure the socket again by reversing the procedure
you used to open it earlier.

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4

Install the CPU Cooler
If your fan or cooler doesn’t come with thermal compound already applied,
you’ll need to do so yourself. Once the processor is in place, squeeze a small
dab onto the center of the top of the processor; you can spread it around
evenly with something like a business card if you want, but this isn’t strictly
necessary. With most stock coolers, you just align the support posts for the
cooler around the socket and secure them in place; each cooler is slightly
different in this regard, so refer to its instructions for exact directions on doing
this with the model you have. If you’re using a liquid cooler (shown below) or
another aftermarket cooler, you may need to install mounting hardware on the
underside of the motherboard or configure a universal support mechanism
for use with your specific motherboard and processor—either is another good
reason to install the cooler with the motherboard outside the case.

5

Install the RAM
The RAM bays are opened with the little clips at either end (some
motherboards use only one set of clips, but most have two)—just push them
down to open. Align the notch in the memory connector to the raised “key” in
the RAM bay (you could damage the DIMM if it’s not oriented correctly), then
push the DIMM firmly into place. When it’s correct, the clips should rotate
back up and lock the memory in. Repeat with your other chips. Note: If you’re
using multiple-channel memory, the DIMMs should be installed in the proper
channels if you want the according speed boost. It’s pretty easy if, say, you
have a quad-channel board and only four memory bays, but it might be more
confusing in other situations, though the bays are often color-coded to clear
things up. Consult your motherboard’s manual if you’re not sure.

6

Place the I/O Plate
Each motherboard comes with a specially designed I/O plate that labels
each of its ports and helps close off the back of the computer from dust and
other intrusions; you don’t absolutely need it, but it’s a really good thing to
have. Align it right-side up (you may want to compare it to the back of the
motherboard, just to be safe), place it inside the wide space at the rear of the
case, and push on it—hard—until it locks into place on all four edges.

7

Mount the Motherboard
Find the collection of risers that came with your motherboard, and screw
them by hand into holes in the main floor of the case. You’ll need these to
line up with the holes in the motherboard itself, so you may want to place the
motherboard in the case to verify the positioning first. (Alternately, some
motherboards have the holes needed for the various motherboard form
factors marked so you won’t have to either do this or guess.) Tighten each of
the risers as much as you can. Guide the motherboard gently into the case,
guiding its rear-panel ports through the correct openings in the I/O plate, and
then laying the motherboard on top of the risers so you can see them through
the screw holes. Insert and screw in half way all the screws; once they’re in
and you’ve verified that the motherboard’s position is correct, go back and
screw them all in the rest of the way. Be careful to not overtighten the screws.

8

Install the Video Card
The video card plugs into the longest (x16) PCIe slot on the motherboard,
the first in the series of slots if the board has more than one. Open that slot
on the case, either by unscrewing the cover blocking it or utilizing your case’s
tool-free mechanism. Line up the card’s backplate with the slot and the gold
connectors (avoid touching them) with the slot itself. Then push the card
down until it clicks. Secure the card in its position using whatever method your
case employs. Note: If you’re using an extra-wide video card or multiple video
cards, you’ll need to open more than one slot.

9

Install Your Drives
Because every case is different, it’s tough to provide a blanket explanation for
how to install the specific drives for your build. Most 5.25-inch drives, if you’re
using them, will either screw in place or use a simple tool-free system on one
or both sides of the drive cage. It’s not uncommon for 3.5-inch drives to install
using caddies or trays, though they may also screw into a smaller cage below
the 5.25-inch one (almost always at the top of the drive well). And many of
those same trays will also have space for 2.5-inch drives, though some of
these drives come with adapters that let them work easily in 3.5-inch bays, or
other slots (such as on the floor of the case or beneath the motherboard tray)
may be provided for installing them. Other drive form factors, such as mSATA
or M.2, install into special slots on the motherboard itself; and still other
drives can be placed in PCIe slots. The manuals for your motherboard and any
unusual drives will have the information you need about this.

10

Connect Your Cables
With all your hardware installed, it’s time to start linking everything together.
Run data cables from your drives that need them to the appropriate ports on
the motherboard. (SATA ports are often located along the inner edge.) Ensure
that everything that needs power gets it: Connect the appropriate cables
from the power supply to the motherboard (you’ll probably need two: one
terminating in a 24-pin plug, another in a four- or eight-pin plug), to your video
card (one or more of the six- or eight-pin cables, probably labeled “PCIe”),
and to your drives (the connectors are thin and black). For bonus points and
to improve airflow, route your interior cables through the holes in the inside
of the case and around the back of the motherboard if you can; most nonbudget cases today are designed to facilitate this.

11

Connect Your Wires
Connect the power wires from your fans and your CPU cooler to the proper
pins on the motherboard; sets are clearly marked for “CPU Fan,” Chassis Fan,”
or “Aux Fan.” Then connect the wires from the front panel to the appropriate
headers: USB will be common here (note that the 2.0 and 3.0 standards’
headers look different), as will the headphone and microphone jacks (which
will connect via the same audio header). Finally, link the tiny front-panel
wires for your activity lights and Power and Reset buttons to the pins on the
motherboard. A legend is typically printed on the board itself, but it can be
difficult to know how to properly orient each of the two-pin connectors. Again,
consult your motherboard manual if you have questions—your activity lights,
or even the whole, PC might not turn on if you make a mistake here.

12

Start Ysing Your PC
That’s it! You’ll still need to install Windows and software on your new
computer, and tweak the BIOS or UEFI settings to your liking, so there’s a fair
amount of work yet to be performed. But remember that this isn’t the end of
the process. If you want more speed, swap out the processor for a faster one.
Tackle more demanding projects by upping the RAM. Make your games more
exciting by replacing your video card with the latest and greatest model. The
choice is yours, and you can change your mind at any time. In any event, rest
easy knowing that you’re doing it all on a PC you built especially for you, and
that will always reflect your needs and desires in a way no tablet or laptop
easily can. Who knows? You may just find that the satisfaction you can gain
from ultimate configuration freedom is worth the mobility you lose.

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GET ORGANIZED
Make Money While
Cleaning Out Your Closet

HOW TO
Break Bad Habits
With Tech

PETS
High-Tech Ways to Find a
Lost Pet

TECH ETIQUETTE
Ask Alex:
What to Wearable

Digital

e

DIGITAL LIFE

GET ORGANIZED

Make Money While Cleaning
Out Your Closet
Get rid of old clothes, get paid, and maybe get a
whole new wardrobe in the process. BY JILL DUFFY

M

y wardrobe needs an overhaul. It’s not that I’m out of style. It’s that
I’m about to move to southern India, where the climate is tropical
year-round, and cashmere sweaters have no place. There’s a semiunspoken dress code for women, too: no bare shoulders, and bottoms must
cover past the knee. So long, tank tops and shorts! So long, winter clothes!
Although my situation is unusual, there are plenty of reasons—maternity,
weight loss or gain, change in taste, a compulsive shopping habit—you might
have valuable clothes in good condition that you just don’t need anymore. One
of the best solutions is to sell those pre-owned items through an app that
specializes in secondhand clothing.

Quite a few such marketplaces have been
building momentum in the last few years. The
companies that run them offer superb
convenience for people trying to clean out their
closets, as anyone who’s ever dragged garbage
bags of old clothes to a local consignment shop or
donation drop-off site surely knows. Now you can
ship items to a central location, where they’ll be
photographed, listed, and sold; or you can snap
your own pics with a mobile app and do the
selling yourself. Selling methods and payouts
vary, as do the quality standards.
Here are some of the best clothing consignment
apps I’ve tried, and explanations of how they
work and what makes them different.
POSHMARK
Poshmark offers a wide range of women’s clothes
and accessories, including unused swimsuits,
makeup, and fragrances. Poshmark’s range is so
wide, you can find traditional Chinese
cheongsams, Indian saris, salwar kameez sets—
the works. But it’s also a very busy site, where you
can (and by default do) follow other sellers, join
rooms with real-time sales, and message with
buyers and sellers. Quality varies.
Selling: Sellers do the bulk of the work. Sellers
use Poshmark’s mobile app to upload photos of
their items, describe them, set prices, and seal the
deal. When a buyer snags your item, you receive a
shipping label to mail it. Buyers and sellers can
message one another directly to haggle, or to ask
the seller to bundle multiple items into one
purchase and shipment. Sellers get 80 percent of
the value for items that sell for $15 or more, and
for cheaper sales, Poshmark takes a commission
fee of $2.95 per item.

POSHMARK APP

SHOPWELLSUITED
ShopWellSuited is an online men’s clothing and accessories consignment shop,
with physical retail stores in Phoenix and San Diego. It’s part of a family of
consignment shops, affiliated with the flagship My Sister’s Closet. Shopping on
ShopWellSuited is a drag, however. Although the site has a nice display and
interface, you have to call the store to make the purchase and pay $15 in
shipping for items that cost less than $500.
Selling: ShopWellSuited advises sellers to focus on “the three Cs”: cute, clean,
and current. Sellers can ship clothes to the flagship store in Arizona either on
their own or by requesting a shipping kit. Sellers in the Phoenix and San Diego
areas can also drop off their items in person. Sellers take 45 percent of sales in
cash or 55 percent in credit. Just bear in mind that if you take store credit, you
have to make a few phone calls to buy the items you see listed on the site.
THREADFLIP
Threadflip, which you can access via the Web or a mobile app, specializes in
select brands of high-quality secondhand women’s clothing.
Selling: Threadflip will send you a shipping kit, or you can print out a prepaid
label if you have your own box to mail in the items you want to sell. The
company’s employees inspect items and will return to you (for a $10 fee) or
donate to Goodwill any items they reject. Items ready for sale are professionally
photographed, listed, and sold on your behalf, so convenience is high. You can
earn cash or store credit, but the commission fees vary tremendously. You can
earn anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of the sale price.

THREDUP
Specializing in women’s clothing and accessories,
and children’s clothing, thredUP leans more toward
designer items, and it doesn’t accept or sell socks,
swimsuits, or undergarments. Quality control is
high; thredUP verifies designer items and doesn’t
accept items that are missing labels.
Selling: With thredUP, you can forget all the hassle
of selling. You can request the company send you a
Clean Out bag, which arrives with a prepaid shipping
label. Fill the bag with clothes that meet thredUP’s
standards, drop it in the mail, and wait for your
payout. The price is set by thredUP, but you have the
option to override it if you think the list price is too
low. Sellers earn a cut, which varies from 10 to 80
percent, based on the sale price and whether you
take an up-front payment or an actual cut of the sale.
You can earn store credit or cash, or donate the
proceeds to a charity. If thredUP can’t sell one of
your items and you decide you want it back, you pay
a $12.99 return shipping fee.
THEREALREAL
TheRealReal buys and sells both women’s and
men’s luxury fashions, fine jewelry and watches, and
fine art.
Selling: When selling on TheRealReal, you have a
few options. You can request a shipping kit and mail
in your items. You can create a list of items you’re
going to sell on the site, and TheRealReal will rangeestimate the value of each item; then you can print a
free shipping label yourself and mail your items. Or
in some cities, you can schedule free in-person
pickup. As with most sites, you can take cash or store
credit, and you’ll receive around 60 to 70 percent of
the sale, depending on the amount sold.

THREDUP APP

TRADESY
Tradesy deals in women’s clothing (mostly high-end) accessories, and wedding
items, including menswear and accessories for grooms and groomsmen.
Selling: Tradesy takes an intermediary approach to helping sellers. The
company doesn’t do all the work for you, but it assists you more than Poshmark
does. Tradesy makes you photograph your items for sale, but it enhances the
photos. It also suggests a selling price, and when an item sells, Tradesy provides
a shipping kit or label. If the buyer changes her mind, Tradesy handles the
return. Tradesy takes a low rate of 9 percent commission when you take your
earnings as store credit, and keeps an additional 2.9 percent if you cash out.
TWICE
Twice is a marketplace for secondhand, quality-controlled women’s clothes,
men’s clothes, and accessories. It only accepts certain brands and clothing and
accessories in excellent condition.
Selling: As with thredUP, Twice handles all the pains of photographing,
describing, pricing, listing, and selling your items for you. It has high quality
standards and only accepts select brands. There is no set commission rate, so
you’ll need to use Twice’s payout calculator to estimate the payout value of each
item you’re selling. When Twice sells your used clothing, you get a cut of the
money, of course, and can take cash (via PayPal, Venmo, check, or Target gift
card) or store credit, for which you’ll earn an additional 25 percent. If you
change your mind and want an unsold item back, return shipping is $4.95 per
item. The company donates all items it rejects.

VINTED
Vinted runs the gamut in terms of brands, quality, style, and types of clothing
and accessories it sells. It caters to women, and the app facilitates direct
communication between sellers and buyers.
Selling: With Vinted, you have two options for how to sell. You can sell items
yourself by taking photos of items with the Vinted app, adding a description,
and mailing out the item once it sells (using a shipping label that Vinted
provides but you ultimately pay for). You set the price, or you can tell shoppers
that you’re interested in swapping for clothes rather than taking their money.
The other option, which is currently in beta, is to find a seller already on Vinted
who will handle the photography, description, and selling for you. All you have
to do is mail that person your stuff and wait until it sells. Either way, Vinted
takes 19 percent. Commission and fee details for using a seller aren’t yet public.

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DIGITAL LIFE

HOW TO

Break Bad Habits With Tech
No matter your bad habit, there is an app or service
waiting to help you make a lifestyle change.
BY ERIC GRIFFITH

W

hether you
tend to
procrastinate,
inconsiderately clip your
nails, or smoke, drink, or
eat to excess, there are
plenty of ways to get help.
Therapy, meetings, family,
friends—these are all
methods you should
seriously consider.
Plus, there are websites
and apps. With some help
from software—and by
applying some of your own
willpower, an aspect that
can’t be overlooked or
ignored—it’s possible to
better yourself. Even if all
you do is correct one
practice or pattern that is
bugging, governing, or
ruining you and those
around you on a regular
basis, it may be worth it.

ALL HABITS BROKEN
Start at habitforge.com, a site that promises to
“inspire and encourage you every day” by creating
a community to help you. That’s right, it’s habitbreaking via social networking (though going it
alone is also an option). Perhaps more important,
Habitforge sends you a daily email asking how
you’re doing. Answer yes or no, it tracks your
progress, and once you reach milestones like 21,
30, or 60 days, you’ll get some kudos. Just enter
your email address to get started.
Similarly, Coach.me (formerly Lift; free for iOS
and Android) is all about training you to be the
best you. You pick a goal and the targets to reach
that goal, but you can pay a little extra for some
personal in-app coaching if the community aspect
isn’t enough.
Try HabitSeed (free, iPhone only) if you’re the
nurturing type. It simply tracks your progress over
21 days of trying to break or create a new habit. If
you’re successful, the seed you planted at the start
matures into a full (albeit virtual) tree.
HabitRPG (free, Web-based) is a bit more
involved. It “gamifies” your habits, turning bad
things into monsters to vanquish. The more work
you do to break the offending practice, the more
points and prizes you can score. Again, it makes a
quantum leap ahead when you go with the
collaborative “gaming,” similar to how Halo is
better with a group than in solo play.
SNOOZE ALARM ABUSE
If you’re the type to hit the snooze button multiple
times—enough that you end up late for work
anyway—there are some technological options to
help you get up. Mathe Alarm Clock is a free iOS
app (with some Android variations) that won’t
shut off the alarm until you’re awake enough to do

some math problems. Enter the answer and you’ll get
some quiet, but by then, it’s probably too late to fall
back to sleep.
Once you’ve mastered getting out of bed, perfect
what you’ll do to start your day with the HabitClock
app (free on iOS, Android is in the works). It helps
create worthwhile morning routines, and provides
reports on how well you’re managing the changes.
THE MOBILE TECH SWEAR JAR
Have a problem with salty language? If you’re on
Twitter, and you use that platform to mouth off with
bad words and regret it, link your account to
SwearJar.cc. It will donate cash (£1, or about $1.49)
to famine relief when you do. There are also several
app options, including the free Vice Jar for iOS.
Or, build your own jar by enlisting IFTTT. The
excellent “if this, then that” service that merges Webbased services can help you at least track the bad
words. Download IFTTT’s Do Button apps for iOS
and Android—they provide one-click instant results.
With that one click, you can build, for example, a
shared spreadsheet in Google Sheets to track your
mouth, send a notifying email to your spouse, or
even make a Facebook status update outing you. As
long as you’re honest.
WRITE IT DOWN AND WATCH IT
If there’s anything that dieters know, it’s that losing
weight is a lot easier when you know what you’re
eating. So keeping a written record is a must. Apps
like MyFitnessPal and Lose It! make this a breeze.
Relaxation coach Andrew Johnson has a whole suite
of apps for iOS and Android that help with weight
loss, stopping smoking and drinking, and even
dealing with social phobias and tech addiction.
There’s really no end to the apps that can help.

Don’t forget, you live in an age with cameras
attached to everything. Use that video to create a
visual journal, for anything from an early morning
pep-talk (“Hey, today’s the day: No more
cupcakes!”) or a late-night post mortem (“Well, at
least I ate fewer cupcakes...”) There’s also that
option of making some embarrassing video that you
or someone you trust will toss out to social media
when you backslide. Perhaps the threat of that
super-cut of your private pole dancing practice going
public will curtail your cravings.
GET ACTIVE WITH APPS
Sometimes the best way to break a bad habit is to
develop a new, better habit. You need to download
an app that will push you to new limits while you’re
not doing something you really want. Consider a
fitness app. There are plenty of Couch to 5K apps out
there, but geeks will appreciate Zombies, Run!
($3.99, iOS and Android) the most. It turns exercise
into a game, as you hear the hordes of undead on
your heels, and you have to stay ahead of them.
You’ll also find no shortage of 7-minute workout
challenge apps—the kind that make it clear that
anyone can do 7 minutes of work per day. But it’s
also 7 minutes you’d probably like to avoid. With the
Superhero Workout ($2.99, iOS and Android), your
device camera tracks your movements so you can’t
cheat and you get missions to accomplish. Plus, it’s
just nicer to know your efforts lead, eventually, to
wearing a cape.
If you already belong to a gym and your bad habit
is that you just don’t go, download Pact (free, iOS
and Android). Every time you miss a session or eat
too much, the app makes a donation on your
behalf—sometimes to other users of the app who did
what they were supposed to.

MANAGE YOUR TIME
Feel as if your worst habit is being scattered? How do
you better focus your ability to get things done?
Consider the Pomodoro technique, created in the
1980s. It’s simple: Work for 25 minutes on a single
task, take a 5-minute break. After three or four
sessions, take a full 15-minute break. Do it all day
long, and you’ll get a lot done, and a lot of breaks.
The basic tool of Pomodoro is, naturally, a timer
(it’s named for the timers that looked like tomatoes).
But there are many options beyond a kitchen timer
(though that’s a perfect option). Load up Tomato.es in
the browser and you have a Web-based timer. There’s
even a Chrome extension. For iOS try Pomodoro
Timer ($1.99) or Focus Time ($4.99); Android users
have Simple Pomodoro and ClearFocus (both free).
RECOVER WHAT’S LOST
If you can never remember where you put anything,
modern wireless tech is here to help. Small Bluetoothbased wireless tags are everywhere these days, and
you can buy a few to put on your keys, in your purse,
even on the back of your electronics, so you never
have to go without them again. Most of them then use
your phone or tablet to help you locate the lost items.
They’ll even alert you if you get too far away from the
tagged item.
Among the products you can try: Chipolo ($30 per
chip; up to $199.95 for nine), Kensington Proximo
($24.99 per tag), PebbleBee ($24.99 up to $124.95 for
six), Protag Duet ($29.99) and Protag Elite ($79.99)
wallet cards, and there are many more.
This is just the start of the many apps and services
out there designed to help you make changes. Do
searches in the various app stores to find just the right
digital tools to help you. You’ll probably find exactly
what you, and your habit, are looking for.

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DIGITAL LIFE

PETS

High-Tech Ways to Find
a Lost Pet
BY CHANDRA STEELE

T

here are few things as heartbreaking as missing-pet flyers. I recently
spent an afternoon papering nearby neighborhoods with them after a
friend lost her cat, and felt her pain. But if you can’t exactly give Fido a
cell phone to track him down when he goes on an adventure, there are a
number of gadgets that help you keep tabs on your precious pets.
Microchipping animals is now a common practice and is a good idea as
shelters and vets routinely scan stray pets. But the RFID chips are good only for
identifying pets that have been found, not locating those that are still lost. For
that, you can now attach a device to your pet’s collar that keeps tabs on him and
even alert you if he wanders out of his normal zone. And while you might not
think facial recognition would be much good with fuzzy mugs, there’s
technology advanced enough to note what’s unique about your pet and crossreference it with databases from shelters and rescues.
We’ve found several tech solutions to reuniting you with your pet. Some of
them are preventative measures and others can be undertaken should you
unfortunately need to use them.

Tagging Along
In those first panicky minutes when your pet has disappeared from sight,
you’re going to be grateful that you can find them using Tagg GPS Plus
($79.95 plus service plan). The pet tracker attaches to a collar and
monitors the pet’s location using GPS and cellular signals, and sends that
information to an app that can also provide directions. The app can be
set to let you know when your pet has wandered outside of a set radius
so that you’ll know when it happens even if you’re not home.

That Face
That fuzzy face is like no other to you—or to facial recognition technology.
Take a photo of your pet, upload it to the PiP app (petrecognition.com),
and alert PiP if your pet gets lost (or if you’ve found someone else’s lost
pet). PiP will then reach out to vets, rescues, and shelters, and notify
them that your pet has been lost. It will also scan its database to look for
a match.
Finding Rover (findingrover.com) is a similar service. You take a photo of
your dog and upload it so that it’s on file. If your dog gets lost or you find
one, report it using the app and it searches the database, which includes
dogs that have come in to shelters and rescues.

High Alert
When your furry friend is lost, put out a Pet Amber Alert at
petamberalert.com. The service will take down information about your
pet and fax fliers to vets’ offices, shelters, and pet stores; send out search
info across social media; and call your neighbors.

Safe Harbor
You’re out searching the neighborhood for your lost pet, but you should
also search online. Go to PetHarbor.com to look for the pet’s photo in a
database that includes animals brought into shelters and rescues in
your area.

Chipping Away
Your vet can implant a small RFID microchip under your pet’s skin so that
if the pet is found and brought to a shelter or another vet’s office, a quick
scan will turn up the contact information you provided. Even if you have
your contact info on your pet’s collar (and you definitely should), a collar
can be easily slipped out of while your pet is on the lam. Ask which
microchip service your vet uses and see if they have a pet recovery
process. Some, such as HomeAgain (public.homeagain.com), will alert a
network of vets, shelters, and rescue organizations.

A Flyer on the Wall
Flyers are old-school but they can work. When you’ve lost your pet
though you have little patience or time to think about what makes an
effective one. Pet FBI (petfbi.org), a volunteer organization with a pet
lost-and-found database, has a template that is fast to fill out and easy
to print out directly from your browser.

Social Sharing
The ASPCA app (available for iOS and Google devices) has plenty of
useful information for pet owners, including an action plan if your pet
gets lost. It also has a template to create a digital missing-pet flyer that
can be shared on social media.

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DIGITAL LIFE

TECH ETIQUETTE

Ask Alex
Q

What to
wearable.
BY ALEX COLON

I just got an Apple Watch. What’s the best
way to use it in public without looking like
a jerk? —Time Sensitive

Alex Says: Wearable technology is awesome, but in the wrong hands, it can also

be incredibly annoying. Whereas there’s some voluntary action in pulling your phone
out of your pocket and looking at the screen, glancing down at your forearm every
time you receive a notification requires far less thought. So it’s important to become
self-aware that you’re basically wearing a tiny computer on your wrist. And
congratulations, reader, as it sounds like you’ve already mastered this first step.

Other than that, you should treat the Apple Watch exactly the same way you’d treat
a smartphone. Don’t glance at notifications when you’re talking to someone in
person, don’t send your heartbeat after you’ve sat down to dinner, and don’t browse
through emails while you’re in a work meeting. But feel free to check the news
headlines during your morning commute on the train, or hail an Uber as you’re exiting
the building. Just be prepared for people to stare.
And to be clear: The above advice pertains to all smartwatches, not just the Apple
Watch. I’m looking at you, Pebble wearers.

DIGITAL LIFE

TECH ETIQUETTE

Ask Alex
Q

What to
wearable.
BY ALEX COLON

When is it actually okay to wear a
wearable camera?
—Little Brother

Alex Says: Wearable cameras come in many flavors, and the type of camera you
wear largely determines when and where it’s okay to wear it.

Take an action camera like the GoPro, for instance. It’s totally cool to wear when
you’re scaling an inactive volcano or skiing down the face of a mountain. But take it
outside of a sporty context, and it becomes creepy or weird (or, if you use one to
record yourself walking down the aisle at your own wedding, tacky).
Other wearables, such as Google Glass, are slightly more tolerable in a general public
setting, since they aren’t necessarily dedicated cameras. That doesn’t make it
acceptable to wear them to a formal event, but it does mean you can wear one on
the subway. You’ll still look like a tool, though.
And this should go without saying, but here it is, just in case: Never wear a camera of
any type to the bathroom. I get stage fright at urinals as it is. If some dude rolls up
next to me wearing a GoPro, I’m zipping up and heading out.

DIGITAL LIFE

TECH ETIQUETTE

Ask Alex
Q

What to
wearable.
BY ALEX COLON

I’m joining a gym, and I’m not exactly looking
forward to it. What type of tech can I bring
to help ease the pain? —Tech Crunches

Alex Says: The first thing you need to do is find out what the rules are at your gym.
I recently saw someone get kicked out of a spin class for sending a text message, and
it wasn’t pretty.

Assuming you attend a gym where any tech goes, you actually have plenty of gadgets
at your disposal. The first is your phone, and a good pair of sweat-resistant
headphones. I also see plenty of people bring tablets and use them to read or watch
movies while they’re on a bike or an elliptical. I don’t necessarily get it, but if it works
for you, then I think it’s fine. And of course, pretty much all activity trackers are fair
game. Just be mindful of how you use your devices—if you’re spending more time
reading than you are biking, then you should do everyone a favor and leave the tablet
at home.
I’d draw the line at gadgets like action cameras. The occasional sweatbanded selfie is
fine, but your entire workout doesn’t need to be captured on first-person video, so
please don’t attach a GoPro to your weights while lifting.
Have a question for Alex? Send it to [email protected]

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LAST WORD

O
Personal
Computing Is
Getting Less
Personal

JOHN C. DVORAK

ver the last few years, people have
discussed the end of the PC or the death
of the PC, all while billions of PCs are still
being sold. I’ve always thought this was nonsense,
but I’ve reconsidered the PC and where it’s
headed. It’s not the PC that is dying; it will always
be around. It’s personal computing itself that’s
dying. And this is by design.
To understand why, we need to look at how we
got here. The personal computer revolution, which
began in earnest in the mid-to-late 1970s, was
about wresting control from the priests of
computing—those people and companies who ran
big iron and made you wait in line to run code.
But when the small microcomputer, as it was
then called, appeared at the first West Coast
Computer Faire in 1977, you could finally have
your own computer at your own desk to do with as
you pleased without interference from some
overlord. The machines were ridiculed by the big
computer companies, most of which are now out
of business, as toys of little value. Of course, once
the spreadsheet was invented, these “toys” began
to take over the office as well as the home. By the
time the Internet made its move in the early 1990s,
the little machines had taken over and the
revolution was complete.
It became apparent by 1995, however, that the
counterrevolution would reverse the tide and
slowly make the users once again slaves to the
overlord structure. The irony here is that two
companies that were both involved with the
original revolt, Microsoft and Adobe, both played

turncoat in the process.
First, Adobe swapped out the shrink-wrapped
Creative Suite for a never-ending monthly or
yearly license. This is actually a good deal if you
use enough of the Adobe packages, but it removes
all control from the user.
Microsoft subsequently released the similarly
structured Office 365, then looked at its success
and decided that a licensing scheme or
subscription model should work just as well for
the operating system. Now it’s stated that
Windows 10 will be the last full version of the OS.
How Microsoft will get people to pay for perpetual
Windows remains to be seen, but it’s coming.
Microsoft’s OneDrive and the Adobe Creative
Cloud make all this more ominous. Offering
OneDrive with Office 365 is something of a scam,
as users are supposed to get a full 1TB, but are
limited to 20,000 files. This is laughable: My
“terabyte” maxed out at about 80GB within a
month. Only a few people have complained about
this. In the meantime, Microsoft says that the
terabyte will expand to “unlimited.” Really? How?
Again, this is all about reducing the users’ power
and soaking them for as much money as possible,
largely because there is no other game in town.
There is no real competition for Windows, Office,
and Photoshop. And now by having the user pay a
perpetual fee, these software subsystems are
looking more like a public utility than anything
you once “owned”—even though the end-user
license agreement (EULA) has made that notion
dubious for decades.
Apparently the EULA wasn’t onerous enough.
Now you are renting everything, including your
storage. If any of these companies decides to take
a dislike to you, then confiscates your storage and
stops the software from working, then what?

Within the
next few years,
everything that
began in 1975,
insofar as
you getting
control of
these powerful
machines,
will be fully
reversed.

Yes, there are always work-arounds, but that is
not the point. Within the next few years,
everything that began in 1975, insofar as you
getting control of these powerful machines, will be
fully reversed. We will have the CPU, but the real
control will be in the hands of the new overlords.
Sure, you can always use Linux and the secondrate application software in that universe, and go
your own way. But if you haven’t noticed, the big
boys are lined up like big bullies to beat back any
chance for that to be a trend.
Then there’s the Mac. It’s just a matter of time
before Apple falls in line with Microsoft and makes
users of its machines just as subject to the whims
of the overlords running the perpetual treadmill of
never-ending rental.
What I find fascinating is that nobody is really
complaining much about this. Either that, or, as I
suspect, the complaining is so fragmented that it is
not being heard. That means that we will never get
the control back and the “personal” computer is
indeed dead. Sorry, but you let it happen.

[email protected]

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