Amazon is offering a $50 gift card when you buy a year of Microsoft 365 Family

If you've been thinking about adding Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint to your home office, this may be a good day to sign up. Today only, Amazon is offering a 12-month subscription to Microsoft 365 Family bundled with a $50 Amazon gift card for $100. The price of the yearly subscription is usually $100, so you're essentially getting a free gift card for signing up. The deal is only good through the end of the day and the subscription will auto-renew at the end of the year, so set a reminder if you want to cancel before that kicks in.   

The year-long subscription will come as a digital download and runs on PCs or Macs as well as smartphones and tablets running Apple's iOS or Android OS. It covers up to six people and can run on five devices at the same time, with offline access included. Microsoft 365 is the new branding for the well-known Office software and the Family subscription includes access to Word, Excel, Outlook email and PowerPoint. It also comes with the Microsoft Teams video calling app, which updated last year to include a Live Share feature enabling easier real-time collaboration. You also get Clipchamp video editor, which Microsoft acquired in 2021. Included security add-ons like Microsoft Defender and ransomeware protection will help protect your data and devices. 

Each person gets 1TB of OneDrive personal cloud storage, which not only lets you store a large amount of files in the cloud, it lets you share photos and files with other OneDrive users, across pretty much any device. 

The Microsoft 365 family subscription is activated as a digital download, but the $50 gift card will arrive as a physical card in the mail. And as we said, the deal ends today, so take advantage if you want to add Microsoft's productivity apps to your setup. 

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Apple’s latest iPad Air models are $99 off right now

It's a good time to pick up one of Apple's latest M1-equipped iPad Air models, as they've dropped back down to all-time low prices. The 64GB WiFi model is now on sale for just $500, or $99 (17 percent) off, while the 256GB is available for $650, also $99 off the regular $749 price. Those are substantial savings on one of Apple's best iPads to date.

Shop 2022 iPad Air on Amazon

The M1 chip gives the 2022 iPad Air a substantial performance boost over the previous model, so it's a solid choice for content creation, gaming and other demanding apps. Throughput is also boosted thanks to the 10Gbps USB-C ports that have double the bandwidth of the last model. At the same time, battery life remains unchanged at an excellent 10 hours. All of those things make the 2022 iPad Air future-proof and helped it garner a top-notch 90 score in our Engadget review.

It has more than speed going for it. You get a 10.9-inch liquid Retina LCD display with Apple’s True Tone feature for optimizing the screen’s color temperature based on ambient light, to start with. It also comes with an improved 12-megapixel ultra wide front camera and supports the same accessories as the last model (keyboard cases, Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil).

The main downsides are the relatively miniscule 64GB storage on the budget model, lack of Face ID and pricey accessories. Still, it's a huge leap over the previous model, and the $99 discount makes it a solid buy.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter and subscribe to the Engadget Deals newsletter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

A new AI voice tool is already being abused to deepfake celebrity audio clips

A few days ago, speech AI startup ElevenLabs launched a beta version of its platform that gives users the power to create entirely new synthetic voices for text-to-speech audio or to clone somebody's voice. Well, it only took the internet a few days to start using the latter for vile purposes. The company has revealed on Twitter that it's seeing an "increasing number of voice cloning misuse cases" and that it's thinking of a way to address the problem by "implementing additional safeguards."

While ElevenLabs didn't elaborate on what it meant by "misuse cases," Motherboard found 4chan posts with clips featuring generated voices that sound like celebrities reading or saying something questionable. One clip, for instance, reportedly featured a voice that sounded like Emma Watson reading a part of Mein Kampf. Users also posted voice clips that feature homophobic, transphobic, violent and racist sentiments. It's not entirely clear if all the clips used ElevenLab's technology, but a post with a wide collection of the voice files on 4chan included a link to the startup's platform. 

Perhaps this emergence of "deepfake" audio clips shouldn't come as a surprise, seeing as a few years ago, we'd seen a similar phenomenon take place. Advances in AI and machine learning had led to a rise in deepfake videos, specifically deepfake pornography, wherein existing pornographic materials are altered to use the faces of celebrities. And, yes, people used Emma Watson's face for some of those videos. 

ElevenLabs is now gathering feedback on how to prevent users from abusing its technology. At the moment, its current ideas include adding more layers to its account verification to enable voice cloning, such as requiring users to enter payment info or an ID. It's also considering having users verify copyright ownership of the voice they want to clone, such as getting them to submit a sample with prompted text. Finally, the company is thinking of dropping its Voice Lab tool altogether and having users submit voice cloning requests that it has to manually verify. 

China’s biggest search engine is to set launch a ChatGPT rival in March

Chinese search giant Baidu aims to introduce a ChatGPT-like AI service that gives users conversational results, Bloomberg has reported. It'll be based on the company's Ernie system, a large-scale machine-learning model trained over several years that "excels at natural language understanding and generation," Baidu said in 2021

Open AI's ChatGPT has taken the tech world by storm of late, thanks to its ability to answer fact-based questions, write in a human-like way and even create code. Microsoft invested $1 billion in Open AI back in 2019, and reportedly plans to incorporate aspects of ChatGPT into its Bing search engine. 

Google, meanwhile, likely sees the technology as a threat to its search business and plans to accelerate development of its own conversational AI technology. CEO Sundar Pichai reportedly declared a "code red" over ChatGPT and may be preparing to show off 20 or more AI-products and a chatbot for its search engine at its I/O conference in May. 

Baidu has reportedly seen lagging growth in search and sees ChatGPT-like apps as a potential way to leapfrog rivals. "I’m so glad that the technology we are pondering every day can attract so many people’s attention. That’s not easy," he said during a talk in December, according to a transcript seen by Bloomberg.

ChatGPT has largely drawn positive attention, but the downsides have come into focus as well. Technology news site CNET was forced to correct AI-written articles due to errors and concerns about plagiarism. And New York City public schools recently banned ChatGPT over cheating concerns, because it can create articles and essays that can be difficult to distinguish from student-created content. 

Apple could limit WiFi 6E availability to iPhone 15 Pro models

The feature gap between the iPhone and iPhone Pro could widen with the 2023 models. According to a leaked antenna design document obtained by MacRumors, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will include WiFi 6E connectivity, while their more affordable siblings will not. The document, a schematic outlining the iPhone 15 line’s antenna architecture, shows iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will continue to use the older WiFi 6 standard.

Some of Apple’s latest devices, including the recently announced M2 variants of the Mac mini, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, sport WiFi 6E connectivity, but the company has yet to roll out the feature more broadly. Provided there’s a compatible WiFi 6E router for your device to connect to, the standard promises faster connectivity speeds and lower latency than WiFi 6. The potential omission of WiFi 6E from the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus probably won’t hurt most consumers given that the majority of homes and businesses are running older WiFi 5 and WiFi 6 routers.

As MacRumors notes, in the past Apple hasn’t restricted the availability of new WiFi standards to iPhone Pro models. Before the iPhone 14 line, the differences between the Pro and standard models were fairly negligible unless you had an interest in photography. However, as of last year, only the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max came with Apple’s new A16 Bionic chip, Dynamic Island cutout and ProMotion display. It now appears the company is trying to find even more ways to differentiate its Pro models from their more mainstream counterparts. Per past reports, other features that could be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max include Apple’s upcoming A16 chipset, a titanium frame and more RAM for multitasking. The phones could also sport solid-state volume and power buttons.

Apple could limit WiFi 6E availability to iPhone 15 Pro models

The feature gap between the iPhone and iPhone Pro could widen with the 2023 models. According to a leaked antenna design document obtained by MacRumors, the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max will include WiFi 6E connectivity, while their more affordable siblings will not. The document, a schematic outlining the iPhone 15 line’s antenna architecture, shows iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus will continue to use the older WiFi 6 standard.

Some of Apple’s latest devices, including the recently announced M2 variants of the Mac mini, MacBook Pro and iPad Pro, sport WiFi 6E connectivity, but the company has yet to roll out the feature more broadly. Provided there’s a compatible WiFi 6E router for your device to connect to, the standard promises faster connectivity speeds and lower latency than WiFi 6. The potential omission of WiFi 6E from the iPhone 15 and iPhone 15 Plus probably won’t hurt most consumers given that the majority of homes and businesses are running older WiFi 5 and WiFi 6 routers.

As MacRumors notes, in the past Apple hasn’t restricted the availability of new WiFi standards to iPhone Pro models. Before the iPhone 14 line, the differences between the Pro and standard models were fairly negligible unless you had an interest in photography. However, as of last year, only the iPhone 14 Pro and Pro Max came with Apple’s new A16 Bionic chip, Dynamic Island cutout and ProMotion display. It now appears the company is trying to find even more ways to differentiate its Pro models from their more mainstream counterparts. Per past reports, other features that could be exclusive to the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max include Apple’s upcoming A16 chipset, a titanium frame and more RAM for multitasking. The phones could also sport solid-state volume and power buttons.

Mac mini review (M2 Pro, 2023): Just call it a Mac mini Pro

Since the Mac mini's debut in 2005, it's been Apple's affordable small form factor trooper. Need something cheap to pair with an old monitor? Just get the Mac mini! Want to start a low-power media server, or a computer right near your TV? Mini, baby. The line has had its share of ups and downs — the 2014 refresh was criticized for replacing a quad-core model with a dual-core chip, the 2018 update had notoriously weak graphics — but it made a full recovery with the M1-powered model in 2021.

This year, though, the Mac mini is different. The $599 model remains an entry-level champ, especially since it's $100 less than the M1 version (maybe we'll see the $499 option return eventually). But you can also pay over double that — $1,299! — for a Mini with a slightly stripped down M2 Pro chip and 16GB of RAM. That might have sounded crazy a few years ago, but now it sits neatly into Apple's desktop ecosystem. Not all creatives need the power of a $1,999 Mac Studio with an M1 Max, but those same folks may feel limited by the base M2 chip. At last, there's a mighty Mini to serve them. (And no, the now-dead $1,099 Intel model never really filled that role.)

Just like with Apple's new MacBook Pros, the Mac mini doesn't look any different than before. It's still a squat little aluminum box with a ton of ports on the back, and a slightly raised black base underneath to allow for airflow. The $599 model features an M2 chip with eight CPU cores, 10 graphics cores, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage — that's about as basic as you can get with PC hardware these days. The $1,299 M2 Pro Mini offers 10 CPU cores, 16 GPU cores, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. For an additional $300, you can also upgrade to the full-powered M2 Pro chip with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU (but that's probably not a wise idea, as I'll discuss later).

On the rear, the base Mac mini offers two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connections, HDMI 2.0 (with 4K 240Hz and 8K 60Hz output), two USB-A ports, a headphone jack and gigabit Ethernet (upgradeable to 10 gigabit). The M2 Pro model adds two additional USB-C ports, making it even more useful for creatives with a ton of accessories.

Apple Mac Mini with M2 Pro rear ports
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Most striking about the Mac mini is its combination of simplicity and functionality. Unlike the taller and more domineering Mac Studio, the Mini is meant to disappear into your desk, a sliver of power that doesn't need to be seen. That could be a bad thing if you need to access its rear ports frequently, though. The Studio, in comparison, offers two USB-C ports and an SD card slot up front. You'll need a separate adapter to use SD cards with the Mini — a cheap fix, but one that also leads to more desk clutter.

Our review model, which featured the pricier 12-core M2 Pro chip, performed as well as I expected. It's slower than the M2 Max in the 14-inch MacBook Pro in GeekBench's CPU benchmark, but it also beats the M1 Max in the Mac Studio. The M1 Ultra-equipped Studio is far faster, not surprisingly, because that's essentially two M1 Max chips joined together. What's most important for some creatives though is its potential rendering performance. The Mac Mini scored 2,000 points higher than the M1 Max Studio in the Cinebench R23 benchmark, and it was on-par with the MacBook Pro 14-inch with M2 Max.

None

Geekbench 5 CPU

Geekbench 5 Compute

Cinebench R23

3DMark Wildlife Extreme

Apple Mac Mini (Apple M2 Pro, 2022)

1,826/13,155

43,241

1,647/14,598

12,769

Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (Apple M2 Max, 2023)

1,970/15,338

71,583

1,603/14,725

18 ,487

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, (Apple M2, 2022)

1,938/8,984

27,304

1,583/8,719

6,767

Apple Mac Studio (Apple M1 Max)

1,715/12,642

61,412

1,534/12,314

10,017

Apple Mac Studio (Apple M1 Ultra)

1,785/23,942

85,800

1,537/24,078

10,020

In a more practical test, the Mac Mini transcoded a minute-long 4K clip into 1080p in 37 seconds with pure CPU power using Handbrake — the same job took 32 seconds with the GPU. Both figures narrowly surpassed the M1 Max Studio, which took 43 seconds with a CPU encode and 34 seconds using the GPU.

Beyond benchmarks, the Mac Mini was an absolute dream for my typical workflow (dealing with dozens of browser tabs, batch image processing, and practically every chat app out there). But I’d expect a similar result from the $599 model, so long as I cut down on demanding browsers to survive with 8GB of RAM. The computer remains a solid entry for mainstream users, and it’s potentially a great home theater PC if you wanted something more customizable than an Apple TV.

Apple Mac Mini with M2 Pro desk setup with Apple Studio Display

As I tested the Mac Mini, I started to wonder if it was even worth having a giant mid-tower PC as my daily driver. Realistically, though, I could never become a fulltime Mac guy because I like games. There are a few modern titles like Resident Evil Village that natively support Macs, but there simply aren’t enough titles out there. That game, by the way, easily reached 60fps while playing in 1,440p on the Mac Mini.

To reiterate, though, you'd have to pay $1,599 for the upgraded M2 Pro to get the same performance figures. I didn't have the slower Mac Pro model to compare it to, but based on what we're seeing with Apple's M2 chips, it would still be a noticeable step up from comparable M1 hardware. Stepping back a bit, I can’t help but think that the $1,299 M2 Pro Mini makes more sense for creatives. If you upgraded our review model to 32GB of RAM, it would come to the same $1,999 as the base Mac Studio. And given that the Studio is almost a year old, it's due for an M2 refresh in the coming months. 

Apple Mac Mini with M2 Pro
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

My advice? Get the $1,299 Mac mini if you're looking for a beefier Mac desktop, but try to avoid upgrading any hardware if possible. I could see stomaching the $200 upcharge to get 1TB of storage, but spending an additional $400 just to get 32GB of RAM isn't worth it. Apple has always been notorious for expensive upgrades — remember the $999 monitor stand? — let's not encourage them.

Apple might as well have just called this computer the Mac mini Pro – but I can see how that would have been confusing. Now the Mini exists in two forms: A cheap computer for most people, and a secret powerhouse for creators. It’s close to being the ideal small-form factor PC, if only it didn’t cost so much to get more RAM.

Mac mini review (M2 Pro, 2023): Just call it a Mac mini Pro

Since the Mac mini's debut in 2005, it's been Apple's affordable small form factor trooper. Need something cheap to pair with an old monitor? Just get the Mac mini! Want to start a low-power media server, or a computer right near your TV? Mini, baby. The line has had its share of ups and downs — the 2014 refresh was criticized for replacing a quad-core model with a dual-core chip, the 2018 update had notoriously weak graphics — but it made a full recovery with the M1-powered model in 2021.

This year, though, the Mac mini is different. The $599 model remains an entry-level champ, especially since it's $100 less than the M1 version (maybe we'll see the $499 option return eventually). But you can also pay over double that — $1,299! — for a Mini with a slightly stripped down M2 Pro chip and 16GB of RAM. That might have sounded crazy a few years ago, but now it sits neatly into Apple's desktop ecosystem. Not all creatives need the power of a $1,999 Mac Studio with an M1 Max, but those same folks may feel limited by the base M2 chip. At last, there's a mighty Mini to serve them. (And no, the now-dead $1,099 Intel model never really filled that role.)

Just like with Apple's new MacBook Pros, the Mac mini doesn't look any different than before. It's still a squat little aluminum box with a ton of ports on the back, and a slightly raised black base underneath to allow for airflow. The $599 model features an M2 chip with eight CPU cores, 10 graphics cores, 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage — that's about as basic as you can get with PC hardware these days. The $1,299 M2 Pro Mini offers 10 CPU cores, 16 GPU cores, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD. For an additional $300, you can also upgrade to the full-powered M2 Pro chip with a 12-core CPU and 19-core GPU (but that's probably not a wise idea, as I'll discuss later).

On the rear, the base Mac mini offers two Thunderbolt 4 USB-C connections, HDMI 2.0 (with 4K 240Hz and 8K 60Hz output), two USB-A ports, a headphone jack and gigabit Ethernet (upgradeable to 10 gigabit). The M2 Pro model adds two additional USB-C ports, making it even more useful for creatives with a ton of accessories.

Apple Mac Mini with M2 Pro rear ports
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

Most striking about the Mac mini is its combination of simplicity and functionality. Unlike the taller and more domineering Mac Studio, the Mini is meant to disappear into your desk, a sliver of power that doesn't need to be seen. That could be a bad thing if you need to access its rear ports frequently, though. The Studio, in comparison, offers two USB-C ports and an SD card slot up front. You'll need a separate adapter to use SD cards with the Mini — a cheap fix, but one that also leads to more desk clutter.

Our review model, which featured the pricier 12-core M2 Pro chip, performed as well as I expected. It's slower than the M2 Max in the 14-inch MacBook Pro in GeekBench's CPU benchmark, but it also beats the M1 Max in the Mac Studio. The M1 Ultra-equipped Studio is far faster, not surprisingly, because that's essentially two M1 Max chips joined together. What's most important for some creatives though is its potential rendering performance. The Mac Mini scored 2,000 points higher than the M1 Max Studio in the Cinebench R23 benchmark, and it was on-par with the MacBook Pro 14-inch with M2 Max.

None

Geekbench 5 CPU

Geekbench 5 Compute

Cinebench R23

3DMark Wildlife Extreme

Apple Mac Mini (Apple M2 Pro, 2022)

1,826/13,155

43,241

1,647/14,598

12,769

Apple MacBook Pro 14-inch (Apple M2 Max, 2023)

1,970/15,338

71,583

1,603/14,725

18 ,487

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch, (Apple M2, 2022)

1,938/8,984

27,304

1,583/8,719

6,767

Apple Mac Studio (Apple M1 Max)

1,715/12,642

61,412

1,534/12,314

10,017

Apple Mac Studio (Apple M1 Ultra)

1,785/23,942

85,800

1,537/24,078

10,020

In a more practical test, the Mac Mini transcoded a minute-long 4K clip into 1080p in 37 seconds with pure CPU power using Handbrake — the same job took 32 seconds with the GPU. Both figures narrowly surpassed the M1 Max Studio, which took 43 seconds with a CPU encode and 34 seconds using the GPU.

Beyond benchmarks, the Mac Mini was an absolute dream for my typical workflow (dealing with dozens of browser tabs, batch image processing, and practically every chat app out there). But I’d expect a similar result from the $599 model, so long as I cut down on demanding browsers to survive with 8GB of RAM. The computer remains a solid entry for mainstream users, and it’s potentially a great home theater PC if you wanted something more customizable than an Apple TV.

Apple Mac Mini with M2 Pro desk setup with Apple Studio Display

As I tested the Mac Mini, I started to wonder if it was even worth having a giant mid-tower PC as my daily driver. Realistically, though, I could never become a fulltime Mac guy because I like games. There are a few modern titles like Resident Evil Village that natively support Macs, but there simply aren’t enough titles out there. That game, by the way, easily reached 60fps while playing in 1,440p on the Mac Mini.

To reiterate, though, you'd have to pay $1,599 for the upgraded M2 Pro to get the same performance figures. I didn't have the slower Mac Pro model to compare it to, but based on what we're seeing with Apple's M2 chips, it would still be a noticeable step up from comparable M1 hardware. Stepping back a bit, I can’t help but think that the $1,299 M2 Pro Mini makes more sense for creatives. If you upgraded our review model to 32GB of RAM, it would come to the same $1,999 as the base Mac Studio. And given that the Studio is almost a year old, it's due for an M2 refresh in the coming months. 

Apple Mac Mini with M2 Pro
Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

My advice? Get the $1,299 Mac mini if you're looking for a beefier Mac desktop, but try to avoid upgrading any hardware if possible. I could see stomaching the $200 upcharge to get 1TB of storage, but spending an additional $400 just to get 32GB of RAM isn't worth it. Apple has always been notorious for expensive upgrades — remember the $999 monitor stand? — let's not encourage them.

Apple might as well have just called this computer the Mac mini Pro – but I can see how that would have been confusing. Now the Mini exists in two forms: A cheap computer for most people, and a secret powerhouse for creators. It’s close to being the ideal small-form factor PC, if only it didn’t cost so much to get more RAM.

Apple Watch can now be used by pro surfers during competition

Pro surfers will soon start using an Apple Watch during competitions. The World Surf League (WSL) has designated the wearable as official wearable equipment. The organization says it's the first time that Apple Watch is being "used as official competitor equipment in a professional sports environment."

Before each heat, every surfer on the Championship Tour will receive an Apple Watch that's preloaded with the new WSL Surfer app. They can use it to keep track of scores, wave priority and times. The app, which works on Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra, syncs with the WSL's scoring system in real time. The WSL says Apple Watch fits the bill thanks to its durability, cellular data connectivity and large, bright screen.

"The noise of the wind and the waves can sometimes make it impossible to hear the announcers while competing, and that means you miss crucial information," Ítalo Ferreira, the 2019 WSL champion and an Olympic gold medalist, said in a statement. "Challenging conditions can make it hard to see the beach and a priority penalty could cost you the heat, so not needing to rely on seeing the beach or hearing the announcers makes a huge difference and prevents guesswork."

The WSL didn't say which Apple Watch model competitors will use, but the Ultra makes the most sense. It has the largest screen of any Apple Watch to date and it's the most rugged version the company has built. Apple says the Ultra has more accurate GPS and water resistance than its other models.

The 2023 WSL Championship Tour starts this weekend in Oahu, Hawaii. If you're interested to see how the Apple Watch is used in pro sports, you can watch the event on YouTube, the WSL's app or the organization's website. Meanwhile, the second season of docuseries Make or Break, which follows competitors on the Championship Tour, will hit Apple TV+ in February.

Apple Watch can now be used by pro surfers during competition

Pro surfers will soon start using an Apple Watch during competitions. The World Surf League (WSL) has designated the wearable as official wearable equipment. The organization says it's the first time that Apple Watch is being "used as official competitor equipment in a professional sports environment."

Before each heat, every surfer on the Championship Tour will receive an Apple Watch that's preloaded with the new WSL Surfer app. They can use it to keep track of scores, wave priority and times. The app, which works on Apple Watch Series 8 and Apple Watch Ultra, syncs with the WSL's scoring system in real time. The WSL says Apple Watch fits the bill thanks to its durability, cellular data connectivity and large, bright screen.

"The noise of the wind and the waves can sometimes make it impossible to hear the announcers while competing, and that means you miss crucial information," Ítalo Ferreira, the 2019 WSL champion and an Olympic gold medalist, said in a statement. "Challenging conditions can make it hard to see the beach and a priority penalty could cost you the heat, so not needing to rely on seeing the beach or hearing the announcers makes a huge difference and prevents guesswork."

The WSL didn't say which Apple Watch model competitors will use, but the Ultra makes the most sense. It has the largest screen of any Apple Watch to date and it's the most rugged version the company has built. Apple says the Ultra has more accurate GPS and water resistance than its other models.

The 2023 WSL Championship Tour starts this weekend in Oahu, Hawaii. If you're interested to see how the Apple Watch is used in pro sports, you can watch the event on YouTube, the WSL's app or the organization's website. Meanwhile, the second season of docuseries Make or Break, which follows competitors on the Championship Tour, will hit Apple TV+ in February.