Gaming audio controller for Xbox with better noise cancellation + gaming modes

If you’ve been looking for a superior gaming audio controller for in-game advantage, then look no further than Turtle Beach’s gaming accessory. It has a better design and features than the official Microsoft offering which makes it a better option.

Microsoft Stereo Adapter for Xbox controller lets you connect gaming headsets (or any other normal headset/earbuds) providing different levels of volume and the level of in-game volume. It also has the party chat volume along with the mute button. However, it lacks two important features for tactical gaming – microphone monitoring and microphone canceling.

Designer: Colin Jackson and Ink Studios

This problem comes to light when you’re in a game room and other players can hear the external noise like TV playing in the background or the irritating thud of a jackhammer at the nearby construction site. This Turtle Beach Gaming Audio Controller solves them both and brings more features for gamers that they’ll relish. The Gaming Audio Controller gets three different levels of background audio canceling. The first one is pretty much the same as the Microsoft adapter, and is of not much use. The second one cuts out most of the background noises and only picks up high-pitched sounds like a train horn or an alarm. The last one is the most powerful at canceling out unwanted background audio clutter, as it cuts out 95% noise.

Other than this the audio controller has different game mode settings for audio signature – Extra Bass, Extra Treble, or both. The standout feature of this adapter is the Super Human Hearing mode which provides greater accuracy in battle royale games. So, you can rest assured of hearing even the faintest of footsteps in the nearby building to ascertain the direction of the enemy’s approach. Overall, the gaming accessory has a much better audio response and microphone clarity than Microsoft’s adapter.

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Microsoft Adaptative Accessories with fully customizable input and buttons is bliss for disabled users

Microsoft is leading the way in creating products for disabled people which is going to push others in the industry to create ones of their own. This will definitely splurge competition and drive the prices down which will benefit the disabled community!

Traditional PC input devices can (at most times) be challenging for people with disabilities to use. Microsoft took a step in solving this problem with their Xbox Adaptive Controller for disabled gamers, and then later on with the Surface Adaptive Kit, tailored for ease of use with existing input devices. Taking things forward, they’ve now developed Adaptive Accessories designed for people with disabilities who want something better than the traditional mouse and keyboard setup.

Designer: Microsoft 

Destined for the second half of the 2022 launch, the PC peripherals are created in close association with the disabled community, understanding their needs in a better way. This line-up consists of three devices namely – an Adaptive Mouse, Adaptive Buttons, and an Adaptive Hub. The first two come with support for customized 3D printing freedom – giving the user option to curate them the way they want to. So, we are talking about completely customizing your mouse, keyboard inputs, and shortcuts to interact optimally with laptops, PC, or even big-screen tablets. Just to give you an idea, the toppers for the buttons can be shaped as per the needs.

The mouse is a small puck-like accessory that can clip into a palm rest, and the tail for the mouse acts as a palm rest. The flipping thumb rest allows the user to use it with the right or left hand with equal dexterity. The low-profile mouse doubles as a joystick, an eight-way D-pad. Those adaptive buttons can be toggles for eight programmable inputs for the PC. In the press release, Microsoft showed off the one with two large buttons.

The inputs can be set for macros or complex keyboard shortcuts which will come more than handy for people with motor disabilities. The normal keyboards can be replaced or augmented with a central hub and wireless buttons to pair with up to four Microsoft Adaptive Buttons, thereby removing unnecessary clutter. This hub works perfectly with 3.5 mm assistive tech switches and comes with three profiles for use with multiple devices.

Microsoft has not yet let out the word on the pricing of the Adaptive Accessories, but the fall launch date is certain. We hope they come at a reasonable price to reach the chunk of disabled end-users who really need them to streamline their productive workflow.  More often than not assistive technology carries a premium price tag, and if Microsoft follows suit, then it will be a bit disappointing.

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Sonic The Hedgehog 2-themed Xbox Series S controllers are a big no-no for sweaty gamers

Xbox is all set to release a limited-edition Hedgehog-themed Xbox Series S console and furry controllers to celebrate the premiere of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 movie set for April 8, 2022 release.

Limited edition Xbox controllers are not something new, but this one is right up there with the most eye-popping yet bizarre creation. Co-developed by Microsoft and Paramount Studios, this creation is for diehard Sonic the Hedgehog fans. The Xbox Series S is draped in a black hue with the big iconic golden ring around the vent. The image of Sonic and Knuckles in emotion is embossed on the front. If you thought that was cool enough wait till you glance over at the controllers.

Designer: Microsoft and Paramount Studios

The gaming controllers are something that got me bamboozled right away, and probably the reason why I’m writing this piece. Coming from the house of Microsoft, these controllers are as outrageous as the brand will ever get. Why I say that is because they are covered in a thick layer of furry-colored hair. One has the cool blue texture of the Sonic’s hair while the other bears the striking red texture emulating Knuckles’ fur. It goes without reasonable doubt, these controllers will be dirt magnets and definitely not meant for sweaty palms.

These limited-edition bristly controllers have frankly swept me off my feet for their sheer out-of-the-box (not Xbox’ish) thinking. While a major chunk of the controller designs follows the proven wisdom of going with a smooth plastic feel matched with the matte buttons and joysticks, this one by Microsoft is totally on the flipside. Gaming on these will be a little tricky as after a while you might have yourself a controller all sticky and gooey – imagine playing a high stakes FPS game with that feeling, eww! That said, I would have appreciated if the console also got the furry treatment – of course not around or over the vents!

The fuzzy combo can be a part of your collection via the official contest aimed to promote the movie. The international version of the contest requires the gamers to retweet with the hashtag #XboxSonic2Sweepstakes while interested contestants in North America need to spend Microsoft Reward points earned through gameplay.

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Microsoft Palm concept mouse combines manoeuvrability and ergonomics

MICROSOFT PALM Design Renders

The need for a mouse will never go away, even with all the innovative trackpads and keyboards available. Such a mouse still has numerous advantages, including ease of use and quicker to work with. Using a mouse may also be best to draw graphics and do digital art on the computer.

The tiny tool that sits on your desk has an essential purpose: to help you be more productive and get things done fast, whether for work, school, business, or leisure. A mouse should not slow you down or hurt your wrist; instead, it should allow you to work fast, productively, and without any pain. Industrial designer Arshad Asaaf knows first-hand the importance of an ergonomic mouse, so he came up with one that delivers intuitiveness and practicality.

Designer: Arshad Asaaf

MICROSOFT PALM Details

Asaaf knows that both horizontal and vertical mice have benefits, so he attempted to combine them into one product. PALM is only a conceptual mouse, but Microsoft should consider checking out. The designer has decribed this as an “intuitive wonder that fits your palm.” The description fits because your hand really can fit right into the oddly shaped mouse.

MICROSOFT PALM Concept

Some people may prefer a vertical mouse, but your wrist can hurt after some time. Others find it slippery, so quick motion may be more challenging, especially for those with big hands. A mouse with the right size and angle is what people need as it will perfectly fit your palm.

To develop the perfect shape for the Palm Mouse, the designer implemented several 3D development techniques. With a simple use of CAD and clay, Arshad Asaaf was able to form the ideal shape of the mouse. Several models were made before the correct surface and 45-degree angle were achieved.

MICROSOFT PALM Concept Design

At first glance, you may think this is like any other vertical mouse in the market. It may be inspired by Microsoft, but this one comes with a subtle angled curved in front. The shape of the rest of the mouse follows the horizontal design, but this one still acts like a vertical mouse.

MICROSOFT PALM Details Concept

Unlike the usual mouse options we see or own, the mouse does not feature a scroll wheel. You can rest your hand free and over the mouse more comfortably. There are touch-sensitive buttons that perform what the scroll wheel usually does. It has a trackpad function requiring two-finger action to work and avoid unintended registrations or clicks. The mouse’s S-curve will hold the rest of your palm while the middle part can support your fingers. The wireless mouse works over Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, so you know it can be fast. A reliable connection is promised as long as two devices are paired. You can turn it off/on and it won’t have any problem recognizing your device.

MICROSOFT PALM Design Images

MICROSOFT PALM Design Concept

The Microsoft Palm is only a concept design, but we can imagine it in different colors like Poppy Red, Pastel Popsicle, Ice Blue, and Silver Bullet. Each color version is intended for a purpose like Ice Blue to inspire calmness. Poppy Red develops a sense of energy and confidence—traits you need to get going. The Pastel Popsicle is not a boring option despite the gray shade because the bottom parts show a colorful gradient for an added punch.

MICROSOFT PALM Design Render

Concept MICROSOFT PALM Details

The Silver Bullet boasts a more sophisticated look but may only be released in limited pieces. It has a clean upper look that shows a more elegant form. There is also a stainless steel Microsoft logo to give the mouse a more timeless appearance. The Silver Bullet appears to be unique with the combination of materials and colors. It is the most minimalist-looking version that may be the best choice for professional environments.

MICROSOFT PALM Box

MICROSOFT PALM Versions

MICROSOFT PALM Concept Sketch

MICROSOFT PALM Concept Renders

Concept MICROSOFT PALM Design

The post Microsoft Palm concept mouse combines manoeuvrability and ergonomics first appeared on Yanko Design.

Microsoft Palm concept mouse combines manoeuvrability and ergonomics

MICROSOFT PALM Design Renders

The need for a mouse will never go away, even with all the innovative trackpads and keyboards available. Such a mouse still has numerous advantages, including ease of use and quicker to work with. Using a mouse may also be best to draw graphics and do digital art on the computer.

The tiny tool that sits on your desk has an essential purpose: to help you be more productive and get things done fast, whether for work, school, business, or leisure. A mouse should not slow you down or hurt your wrist; instead, it should allow you to work fast, productively, and without any pain. Industrial designer Arshad Asaaf knows first-hand the importance of an ergonomic mouse, so he came up with one that delivers intuitiveness and practicality.

Designer: Arshad Asaaf

MICROSOFT PALM Details

Asaaf knows that both horizontal and vertical mice have benefits, so he attempted to combine them into one product. PALM is only a conceptual mouse, but Microsoft should consider checking out. The designer has decribed this as an “intuitive wonder that fits your palm.” The description fits because your hand really can fit right into the oddly shaped mouse.

MICROSOFT PALM Concept

Some people may prefer a vertical mouse, but your wrist can hurt after some time. Others find it slippery, so quick motion may be more challenging, especially for those with big hands. A mouse with the right size and angle is what people need as it will perfectly fit your palm.

To develop the perfect shape for the Palm Mouse, the designer implemented several 3D development techniques. With a simple use of CAD and clay, Arshad Asaaf was able to form the ideal shape of the mouse. Several models were made before the correct surface and 45-degree angle were achieved.

MICROSOFT PALM Concept Design

At first glance, you may think this is like any other vertical mouse in the market. It may be inspired by Microsoft, but this one comes with a subtle angled curved in front. The shape of the rest of the mouse follows the horizontal design, but this one still acts like a vertical mouse.

MICROSOFT PALM Details Concept

Unlike the usual mouse options we see or own, the mouse does not feature a scroll wheel. You can rest your hand free and over the mouse more comfortably. There are touch-sensitive buttons that perform what the scroll wheel usually does. It has a trackpad function requiring two-finger action to work and avoid unintended registrations or clicks. The mouse’s S-curve will hold the rest of your palm while the middle part can support your fingers. The wireless mouse works over Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, so you know it can be fast. A reliable connection is promised as long as two devices are paired. You can turn it off/on and it won’t have any problem recognizing your device.

MICROSOFT PALM Design Images

MICROSOFT PALM Design Concept

The Microsoft Palm is only a concept design, but we can imagine it in different colors like Poppy Red, Pastel Popsicle, Ice Blue, and Silver Bullet. Each color version is intended for a purpose like Ice Blue to inspire calmness. Poppy Red develops a sense of energy and confidence—traits you need to get going. The Pastel Popsicle is not a boring option despite the gray shade because the bottom parts show a colorful gradient for an added punch.

MICROSOFT PALM Design Render

Concept MICROSOFT PALM Details

The Silver Bullet boasts a more sophisticated look but may only be released in limited pieces. It has a clean upper look that shows a more elegant form. There is also a stainless steel Microsoft logo to give the mouse a more timeless appearance. The Silver Bullet appears to be unique with the combination of materials and colors. It is the most minimalist-looking version that may be the best choice for professional environments.

MICROSOFT PALM Box

MICROSOFT PALM Versions

MICROSOFT PALM Concept Sketch

MICROSOFT PALM Concept Renders

Concept MICROSOFT PALM Design

The post Microsoft Palm concept mouse combines manoeuvrability and ergonomics first appeared on Yanko Design.

Microsoft Moab is a cute robot that can learn how to balance balls and eggs

Until the metaverse buzz came along, a lot of the hype was placed on AI and machine learning. The way this technology was portrayed makes it almost like a magic sauce that made anything and everything smarter. Reality couldn’t be more different, though, especially for developers trying to learn the ropes of the different technologies involved in AI. Microsoft set out to make the learning process easier and, curiously enough, ended up with an interesting robot that tries to learn one of the oldest tricks in the book: balancing a ball.

Designers: Microsoft with Fresh Consulting

At first glance, Microsoft Moab doesn’t look like your typical robot. It doesn’t even look like a typical machine aimed at developers. It looks more like a cross between a robot vacuum cleaner and a weighing scale with a glass platform held up by three legs. When it does its thing, however, it resembles a creature lying on its back and flailing its legs to keep a small ball from falling off.

Learning how to balance a ball sounds so trivial, and that’s exactly the point with things like AI and machine learning. Things that we take for granted as humans aren’t exactly intuitive for machines. Adding another layer of complexity is how humans need to learn how to teach these machines to learn, which is what this Moab robot tries to offer in a non-intimidating way.

In a nutshell, Moab uses a camera to see the ball or any rolling object placed on top of its plate and then tries to move the plate until the object becomes stationary. After mastering that, developers can move on to giving Moab “obstacles” to overcome by poking the ball, for example, or using an object that’s not completely spherical like an egg. Moab doesn’t learn all of these automatically, though, and developers learn the ropes of machine learning, including things like visualizing their data in simulations before transferring that to the robot.

What makes Project Moab rather unique is that it was created as a product from beginning to end. Unlike what would usually be characterized as a DIY project or a hack, Moab’s form, the materials used in manufacturing the robot, and even the packaging were made with a commercial product in mind, and it might even be available for purchase in the near future.

The post Microsoft Moab is a cute robot that can learn how to balance balls and eggs first appeared on Yanko Design.

What will Microsoft’s next digital frontier be? This POS system shows how ‘Windows Pay’ could revolutionize retail

Microsoft’s current CEO Satya Nadella famously mentioned that his vision for the company was to make it like air – invisible, but completely surrounding every single thing you see. After Ballmer’s failed attempts at pushing Windows into smartphones and tablets, Nadella helped pivot it back on track, bolstering Windows and Azure to become the reliable and omnipotent services they are for both consumers and enterprises, while also acquiring LinkedIn and GitHub to really cement Microsoft’s widespread reach. So what’s the next frontier for the Redmond-based company? NFTs? Self-driving cars? Well, designer Bas Kamp believes the next place for the company to make its mark is in the payments industry. Created at a Microsoft Surface virtual design workshop, the Windows Pay concept is a combination of hardware and software that allows Microsoft to cement its place in the retail space by allowing Microsoft Surface tablets to become point-of-sales devices. In a world with oddly shaped POS units that eventually have to interface with Windows computers used by cashiers, Windows Pay makes everything simple and elegant, streamlining the process in a way that Apple Pay or Google Pay probably can’t.

Kamp’s conceptual system uses three hardware devices that pair up with the Surface Book to cover a wide range of scenarios. From a barcode reader that helps with scanning inventory to a tap-to-pay card reader to process payments and finally a traditional POS device for accepting cards and printing invoices, Windows Pay brings the archaic system of retail payments into the modern age with a refined design and experience.

Right above is the Digital POS device that lets you use magnetic strip cards to make payments. The product definitely echoes the Surface’s uniquely minimal design language, with sleek lines, sharp edges, geometric shapes, and the use of matte/chrome metal. While most POS devices come with archaic black and white screens and ugly keypads, the Windows Pay POS refines it by giving it a touch of minimalism. The interface on the Windows Pay POS is entirely touch-sensitive, with capacitive buttons and a minimal display that guides you through the payment procedure.

For newer cards with tap-to-pay features, or even NFC-enabled payment systems on Apple and Android devices, the Windows Pay Card Reader sits perpetually docked against the side of a Surface device, letting people instantly checkout with a mere tap of a card or smartphone. This makes checking out faster and works exceptionally well for self-checkout kiosks and terminals, leveraging the power of Windows Pay to help people easily make payments. The card reader doesn’t need a display, like the POS device. Instead, it sits docked against a computer, using the computer’s interface to simplify payments.

Perhaps the most eyecatching of all the products is the Windows Pay barcode scanner. Designed with a minimal form language and in a variety of eye-catching colors, the Windows Pay barcode scanner brings the entire retail experience into the modern age, equipping cashiers with the best modern tools to get the job done.

Kamp even took the liberty of designing a new Tablet/Laptop hybrid for Microsoft, relying on the Surface Book’s famous hinge design, and a modular setup that lets you swap out the keyboard for a secondary display.

The reason Windows Pay stands out as such a powerful concept is that even though it’s so remarkably designed, it makes natural sense for Microsoft to expand into payments. While Apple and Google will have you believe that their payment platforms and wallets are all the rage, the truth is that Windows finds itself in literally every payment gateway in the world, from the computer your cashier uses to bill you, to even the ATM you withdraw cash from. Although it would be a pretty massive undertaking for Microsoft to roll out this series of devices and services across every corner of the world, it does definitely make sense for the company, allowing them to cement themselves in retail and enterprise in a way that not a single other silicon valley giant can. If Nadella wants Microsoft to be like ‘air’, it should definitely look at the world of retail and payments – two places where Windows play an absolutely integral role.

Designer: Bas Kamp

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The best 2-in-1 laptops you can buy

The perfect hybrid machine that’s just as good a tablet as it is a laptop still doesn’t exist. But, in 2021, companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google continued to improve their operating systems for machines that do double duty. Windows 11 has features that make it friendlier for multi-screen devices, while Android 12L is on the horizon and promises an optimized experience for larger displays. Plus, with the rise of ARM-based chips for laptops, especially Apple’s impressive M1 series, prospects for a powerful 2-in-1 with a vast touch-friendly app ecosystem is at an all-time high.

These machines still have their limits, of course. Since they’re smaller than proper laptops, they tend to have less-powerful processors. Keyboards also tend to be less sturdy, with condensed layouts and shallower key travel. Plus, they’re almost always tablets first, leaving you to buy a keyboard case separately. (And those ain’t cheap.) So, you can’t always assume the advertised price is what you’ll actually spend on the 2-in-1 you want.

Sometimes, getting a third-party keyboard might be just as good, and they’re often cheaper than first-party offerings. If you’re looking to save some money, Logitech’s Slim Folio is a cheaper option, and if you don’t need your keyboard to attach to your tablet, Logitech’s K780 Multi-Device wireless keyboard is also a good pick.

While we’ve typically made sure to include a budget 2-in-1 in previous years, this time there isn’t a great choice. We would usually go with a Surface Go, but the 2021 model is too expensive. Other alternatives, like cheaper Android tablets, are underpowered and don’t offer a great multitasking interface. If you want something around $500 that’s thin, lightweight and long-lasting, you’re better off this year looking at a conventional laptop (like those on our best budget PCs list).

Apple iPad Pro 12.9 2020
Chris Velazco / Engadget

When you’re shopping for a 2-in-1, there are some basic criteria to keep in mind. First, look at the spec sheet to see how heavy the tablet is (alone, and with the keyboard). Most modern hybrids weigh less than 2 pounds, with the 1.96-pound Surface Pro 8 being one of the heaviest around. The iPad Pro 12.9 (2021) and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S7+ are both slightly lighter. If the overall weight of the tablet and its keyboard come close to 3 pounds, you’ll be better off just getting an ultraportable laptop.

You’ll also want to opt for an 11-inch or 12-inch screen instead of a smaller 10-inch model. The bigger displays will make multitasking easier, plus their companion keyboards will be much better spaced. Also, try to get 6GB of RAM if you can for better performance — you’ll find this in the base model of the Galaxy Tab S7+, while this year’s iPad Pro and the Surface Pro 8 start with 8GB of RAM.

Finally, while some 2-in-1s offer built-in LTE or 5G connectivity, not everyone will want to pay the premium for it. An integrated cellular radio makes checking emails or replying to messages on the go far more convenient. But it also often costs more, and that’s not counting what you’ll pay for data. And, as for 5G — you can hold off on it unless you live within range of a mmWave beacon. Coverage is still spotty and existing nationwide networks use the slower sub-6 technology that’s barely faster than LTE. 

Engadget Picks

Best overall: Surface Pro 8

Microsoft's Surface Pro 8 and Signature Pro Keyboard accessory.
Dana Wollman/Engadget

There’s no beating the Surface series when it comes to 2-in-1s. They’re powerful, sleek tablets running an OS that’s actually designed for productivity. The Surface Pro 8 is Microsoft’s latest and it addresses most of the issues we had with its predecessor. It’s thinner and looks more modern, borrowing the design of last year’s Pro X. Plus, it has a 120Hz display that makes scrolling endless spreadsheets or emails feel much faster. Just remember to drop the refresh rate to 60Hz if you want to get respectable battery life out of this thing. Windows 11 also offers a better split-screen experience for on-the-go multitasking.

Like most of the other 2-in-1s on this list, the Pro 8 doesn’t come with a keyboard cover — you’ll have to pay extra for that. That’s a shame, considering it starts at $1,099. Microsoft offers a variety of Type Covers for its Surface Pros ranging from $100 to $180, depending on whether you want a slot for a stylus on it. But at least they’re comfortable and well-spaced. You can also get the Surface Slim Pen 2 ($130) for sketching out your diagrams or artwork, and it also features haptic feedback for a more responsive experience.

Buy Surface Pro 8 at Microsoft starting at $1,099

Best for Apple users: 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2021)

Apple iPad Pro (2021) review
Chris Velazco/Engadget

If you’re already in the Apple ecosystem, the best option for you is obviously an iPad. The 12-inch Pro is our pick. Like older models, this iPad Pro has a stunning 12.9-inch screen with a speedy 120Hz refresh rate, but this year it uses mini-LED backlighting to deliver greater dynamic range. Apple’s M1 chipset is impressively fast too, and more than good enough for most tasks. Plus, the latest iPadOS is superior to older versions thanks to widgets and quick notes support.

Apple’s new Magic Keyboard provides a satisfying typing experience, and its trackpad means you won’t have to reach for the screen to launch apps. But it’ll also cost you an extra $300, making it the most expensive case on this list by a lot. The iPad also lacks a headphone jack and its webcam is awkwardly positioned along the left bezel when you prop it up horizontally, so be aware that it’s still far from a perfect laptop replacement. Still, with its sleek design and respectable battery life, the iPad Pro 12.9 is a good 2-in-1 for Apple users.

Buy 12.9-inch iPad Pro at Amazon - $1,099

Best for Android users: Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+

Samsung Galaxy Tab S7+
Cherlynn Low / Engadget

While Windows is better than iPadOS and Android for productivity, it lags the other two when it comes to apps specifically designed for touchscreens. If you want a tablet that has all the apps you want, and only need it to occasionally double as a laptop, the Galaxy Tab S7+ is a solid option. Though it was released last year, it’s still the best Android-powered 2-in-1 around. You’ll enjoy watching movies and playing games on its gorgeous 12.4-inch 120Hz AMOLED screen, and Samsung includes the S Pen, which is great for sketching and taking notes. The Snapdragon 865+ processor and 6GB of RAM keep things running smoothly, too.

Thankfully the company significantly improved its keyboard case over previous models, with more comfortable and responsive keys. You could type for hours on this thing and not hate yourself (or Samsung). The battery life is also excellent, so you won’t need to worry about staying close to an outlet. The main caveat is that Android isn’t great as a desktop OS and, while Samsung’s DeX mode offers a somewhat workable solution, it has plenty of quirks. Still, with Android 12L on the horizon, a simple software update could ease some pain.

Buy Galaxy Tab S7+ at Samsung - $849

Best Chrome OS option: HP Chromebook x2

HP's Chromebook X2 is a 2-in-1 convertible that works as both a tablet and a laptop.
Nathan Ingraham / Engadget

Android might suck as a desktop operating system, but Chrome OS doesn’t. If most of your tasks take place inside a browser, the HP Chromebook x2 will serve you well. It has great battery life, an excellent 11-inch screen and looks nice, to boot. HP even includes the keyboard and stylus with the tablet, which almost none of the competition does.

Chrome still isn’t a great OS in tablet mode, and the Chromebook x2’s Snapdragon 7c processor sometimes struggles if you rack up too many tabs. It’s also a little pricey at $600, but you can often find it for $400 when it goes on sale at sites like Best Buy. That makes it a solid choice considering everything HP includes for the money.

Buy Chromebook x2 at HP - $679

This handheld console brings back the Microsoft Windows phone as a portable Xbox gaming device

An ideal carrier for the Xbox Game Pass, this console concept from Anestétique Projets shows what a portable Xbox would look like.

Titled the XBOX Series A, this little number hopes to be the Google Pixel of handheld gaming devices. Just as the Pixel was invented to showcase the Android experience in its true glory, the XBOX Series A is a handheld console that’s designed to unleash the true power of Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass. Designed to outshine all the handheld devices taking a stab at mobile gaming (practically aiming directly at the Razer Phone 2, ASUS ROG, and Lenovo Legion), the XBOX Series A literally puts the power of an Xbox in your pocket.

Interestingly, the Series A device isn’t a highly-specced smartphone moonlighting as a gaming device… it is, from the looks of it, a console first, and a phone later. It also isn’t a handheld computer, like Alienware’s absurd experiment with the UFO concept. The Series A is a sleek device with smartphone-ish proportions but comes with actual physical controls that appear through the screen, acting sort of like physical keys that sit right where you’d expect the virtual controls to be while playing a triple-A title game on your handheld touch-sensitive device.

The XBOX Series A comes in the console maker’s signature B/W colorway and minimal design, and just through its handheld format, reminds me a lot of a similar concept for a portable modern PlayStation. However, while Sony’s already had experience in the portable gaming domain (on three separate occasions), the Xbox famously hasn’t ever made any portable console in 20 years of its existence. Microsoft, on the other hand, has released a whole line of Windows Mobile devices through the acquired Nokia brand, before finally shuttering that project. Recently, Microsoft resurrected their handheld computing device line in the form of the Surface Duo and Surface Neo. Having already scaled down the Windows OS for those two devices, a portable Xbox gadget running Windows with the Xbox Game Pass definitely sounds like something Microsoft could pull off… even if it were as a vanity project, or as a way of stealing the limelight from Sony’s wildly successful PlayStation 5.

Speculation aside, the XBOX Series A concept is quite the looker, with a slick design and practically flush or countersunk controls that make it easy to slip the gadget into your pocket without the joystick catching any fabric. The device comes with all the controls you’d need on-screen, including two joysticks, a D-Pad, action keys, and function keys, but look over to the other side and you’ll even see L1 L2 + R1 R2 buttons on the edge of the device. On the opposite edge lie power and volume buttons, a sim tray, a USB-C charging port (for easy charging while you’re gaming), and a 3.5mm headphone jack, much to the joy of seasoned gamers.

The device also comes with a camera, placed along the middle of the device, so your finger doesn’t brush against the lens while you’re gaming. I’d imagine it also makes AR gaming a possibility, allowing you to use the camera DURING gameplay. If you look carefully, there’s a hole-punch camera on the front too, located not in its conventional position, but rather along the longer edge of the phone, so it’s on the top when you’re holding the phone in landscape – a feature that could possibly allow gamers to capture themselves while online streaming.

The XBOX Series A is, much to my chagrin, just a fan-made concept. Designed to appeal to the hardcore gaming fan base (although seasoned gamers famously detest the idea of mobile gaming), the Series A hopes to provide some sort of fusion between a console and a smartphone, basically allowing you to play games even while on the go. It definitely isn’t, from Microsoft’s business model perspective, a practical or feasible idea… so let’s just admire this little work of art and hope that Microsoft IS, in fact, planning on building a portable version of the Xbox.

Designer: Anesthétique Projets

The post This handheld console brings back the Microsoft Windows phone as a portable Xbox gaming device first appeared on Yanko Design.

The best digital gifts to send your friends and family

In a world where so much of our lives revolve around digital services, giving someone a virtual gift no longer has a stigma attached to it. For gadget-lovers who seemingly have everything, or someone getting an exciting new piece of hardware this holiday, digital gifts can help them get even more out of things they own and love. This year, we’re including time-tested music and TV streaming services, some game subscriptions and practical options like learning services to keep your brain both calm and limber just as the new year gets here.

Apple One

Apple One
Apple

If you know someone with multiple Apple devices, chances are good they’re already paying for a little bit of iCloud storage, and maybe a few other Apple services like Music or Arcade as well. If that’s the case, consider gifting them an Apple One subscription. In a single monthly charge, Apple offers a combo of Apple Music, Apple TV+, Apple Arcade and either 50GB, 200GB, or 2TB of iCloud storage. If you spring for the $19.95 Family plan, that 200GB can be shared with five other family members. The $29.95 plan adds subscriptions to Apple News+ and Apple Fitness+ too. At this point, all of Apple’s offerings are pretty good – Arcade has a load of fun games with no ads, TV+ has Ted Lasso, and Music is second only to Spotify in the streaming world.

Buy Apple One starting at $15

Xbox Game Pass

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Microsoft

Getting an Xbox Series X or Series S this holiday season is likely going to be difficult. But if you know someone who managed to get their hands on Microsoft's latest console, Xbox Game Pass is an outstanding addition to their new console. A $15/month subscription offers more than 100 games that can be played on the Xbox or PC, and they can be streamed to phones and tablets as well.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate also includes a number of other perks, including Xbox Live Gold. That's usually $10 a month on its own, and it's a requirement if you want to play games online. It also includes EA Play, which opens up access to more games for the Xbox and PC. Perhaps the best part of Xbox Game Pass, though, is that it offers access to first-party Xbox Game Studios titles the day they're released, so you don't even have to purchase them. For an Xbox owner, it's a no-brainer. If the person you’re shopping for is a PlayStation owner, PlayStation Now offers access to hundreds of streaming games for $60/year (or $10/month), while Nintendo’s Switch Online unlocks online play and a large selection of NES, Super NES, Sega Genesis and N64 games for $50/year.

Buy Xbox Game Pass at Microsoft - $15/monthBuy PS Now (12 months) at Amazon - $60Buy Switch Online (12 months) at Amazon - $20

YouTube Premium

YouTube Premium
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / YouTube

There's something for everyone on YouTube — and there are also enough ads to make watching it pretty painful. Shrewdly, YouTube offers a solution. A $12/month subscription removes the ads, but there are a number of other benefits as well. If you're watching on a phone or tablet, you can download basically any video and save it for offline playback. Videos also can play in the background, which means you can switch to other apps without stopping. This comes in handy for picture-in-picture, or if you just want to hear the audio while you switch away to send a text message.

Premium also comes with a subscription to YouTube Music, the company's competitor to Spotify and Apple Music. It's a pretty solid service, and it does a few things that Apple and Spotify can't offer. For example, all of YouTube's music video content lives alongside its standard streaming catalog, which means users can build playlists that combine videos uploaded to YouTube alongside official artist releases. For $12, the combination of a better YouTube experience and a full-fledged music streaming app is a pretty good deal.

Buy YouTube Premium - $12/month

The Disney Bundle

The Disney Bundle, showing logos and images of popular shows.
Disney

Disney's $14/month video bundle that includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu is a great digital gift for basically anyone who likes good entertainment. The appeal of Disney+ is well-known at this point: it includes basically all of Disney and Pixar's classic animated films, alongside basically everything in the Marvel cinematic universe, the entire Star Wars saga, and new original shows like WandaVision, The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch and more.

Hulu offers a vast slate of current and classic TV shows, a solid rotating selection of feature films, and a growing roster of originals. Those include The Handmaid's Tale, Little Fires Everywhere, Veronica Mars, Shrill, Pen15 and plenty more. ESPN+, meanwhile, offers a host of live sports, including MLB games every day of the season, a wide variety of soccer leagues, golf, tennis and college games across multiple sports. Add in ESPN's 30 for 30 documentary library and a smattering of originals and the Disney bundle ends up being a great option for almost anyone — and it’s only $6 more than Disney+ on its own.

Buy Disney Bundle - $14/month

HBO Max

HBO Max
HBO Max

HBO Max might not have the best app we've ever used, but it does have one of the biggest and best video libraries you can find. Its collection of original shows and films is still unrivaled in a lot of ways, from classics like The Wire and The Sopranos to newer hits like Mare of Easttown and Succession. The service also has a huge movie library, and lately it’s offered a number of movies at the same time as their theatrical release. For example, The Matrix Resurrections is going to hit HBO Max just a few days before Christmas and will stream there for a month. Speaking of new HBO content, Curb your Enthusiasm is coming back to HBO for an 11th season this fall. And if you're a DC fan, HBO Max has all of the classic Batman movies (including the Dark Knight Trilogy and Michael Keaton's two films) as well as more recent films like Aquaman, Wonder Woman and, of course, the infamous Synder Cut of Justice League. Oh yeah, it has Friends, too.

Buy HBO Max starting at $10/month

Headspace

The Headspace app seen on smartphones.
Headspace

Chances are good that, after the year we've all had, you know someone whose mental health could use a little bit of a boost. The Headspace app is a great option for adding some peace and quiet to the day. It features a wide variety of guided meditations, including sessions for beginners as well as specific exercises that focus on reducing anxiety, learning breathing techniques, increasing your compassion and so on. It also has sleep tools like soothing music and "sleepcasts,” while other audio programs center on focusing, moving more, and starting your day. For $13/month or $70/year, Headspace can be a great tool to bring someone much-needed peace of mind.

Buy Headspace - $13/month

Endel premium subscription

Endel
Endel

Endel is a unique app in the focus and mental wellness space. In a nutshell, it plays algorithmically-generated soundscapes for a variety of different scenarios. Whether you're actively on-the-go, want to get some work done, need to relax, or get some sleep, Endel will produce a soundtrack to help you achieve your goal.

If you give it permission to collect data from your phone (and Apple Watch, if you have one), it can adjust its soundscapes based on things like your heart rate, time of day, location, weather, and so on. Endel is also frequently adding scenarios — recently, the company added study and recovery, and it also has something called an AI Lullaby that was created in partnership with Grimes. At $10 per month or $60 per year, it's a solid relaxation tool, and I've also found it to be particularly useful as a soundtrack when you want to just sit down and focus on a craft, like writing or art.

Buy Endel Premium - $10/month

Codecademy

Code Academy for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Code Academy

If you know someone interested in making a jump into coding, or a coder looking to augment their existing knowledge, a subscription to Codecademy could be a big help. A $240 annual subscription (or $40/month) opens up a huge catalog of courses, including things like a career path for front-end engineering, learning JavaScript or Python, digging into development or data science and many other options. Along with these courses, Codecademy also connects you with a large community for support and feedback, gives you real-world projects to test your skills on and offers completion certificates. It's a bit of an investment, but helping someone you care about invest in themselves is very much in the spirit of the holidays.

Buy Codecademy - $240/year

Skillshare

Skillshare
Skillshare

In the same vein as Code Academy, Skillshare is a great option if you know someone who wants to jumpstart their abilities in a creative field. The service offers thousands of classes in topics like animation, creative writing, graphic design, photography, web development and music, as well as courses to improve skills like leadership and management, marketing or business analytics. A $180 annual subscription (or $32/month, each with a free month included) unlocks ad-free classes with unlimited access to everything Skillshare has to offer. The subscription also includes access to Skillshare's community and offline courses for your phone or tablet. Finally, a subscription includes some perks of its own, like 20 percent off Squarespace and 15 percent off Adobe Creative Cloud.

Buy Skillshare - $15/month

Parallels Toolbox

Parallels Toolbox
Parallels

Parallels Toolbox is a great gift for the tinkerer in your life. You know, the kind of person who wants to tweak and optimize everything they can on their computer, so that everything works just right. For $20/year, Parallels Toolbox offers a surprisingly wide variety of utilities for macOS and Windows, including shortcuts to see your clipboard history, capture screens shots, convert video files, download audio from websites, resize images, and and many more. Most of these things can be done using built-in utilities or other apps, but having such a wide variety of quick and useful tools right in one place can be a major productivity boon, especially for the power user in your life.

Buy Parallels Toolbox - $20/year

1Password

The 1Password app seen on a laptop screen.
1Password

If you know someone who doesn't use a password manager, do them a huge favor and get them set up with 1Password this holiday season. It's one of the best options available: it works on unlimited devices and is available on pretty much any platform you can think of. Naturally, it features two-factor authentication for additional security, and gives you 365 days to restore any passwords you may have deleted. It's $36 a year for an individual, or $60 a year for a family of five. That family membership can be particularly useful if you need to share account passwords between members of a household securely. It's not the flashiest gift, but I wager that once you get someone on board, they'll wonder how they went so long without using it.

Buy 1Password - $36/year

Adobe Creative Cloud Photography plan

Adobe Photography / Lightroom plans for the Engadget 2021 Holiday Gift Guide.
Will Lipman Photography for Engadget / Adobe

For the budding photographer in your life, Adobe’s photography plans are a natural fit. Adobe has been in this game for years, and Lightroom remains an excellent tool for managing and editing photos anywhere you are.

The company offers a few different plans: For $10/month, you can get both Lightroom and Photoshop, along with 20GB of cloud storage to sync images and edits across your devices. For the same price, you can also get Lightroom only, but with a whopping 1TB of storage. If the person you're gifting this to has been really good, you can spend $20 and get them both Photoshop and Lightroom alongside 1TB of storage, which is ideal for anyone shooting photos in RAW. The plans with Photoshop also include Photoshop for the iPad, so keep that in mind if you're getting this for someone who loves Apple's tablet.

Buy Adobe CC Photography plan starting at $10/month