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2022-08-01 PC Magazine

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CONTENTS AUGUST 2022 FIRST WORD Tech Education READER INPUT Taskbars and Popups WHAT’S NEW NOW 4 THINGS I HATED ABOUT PUTTING 1,700 MILES ON A TESLA There were things I loved too, but first, we need to talk about that touch screen. VIRGIN GALACTIC SELECTS BOEING’S AURORA TO DESIGN NEW MOTHERSHIPS A pair of aircraft are being built to carry out 400 flights every year.

COMMENTARY MAX EDDY Telegram Founder Pavel Durov Owes Me a Million Dollars CHANDRA STEELE The Artificial Intelligence We Fear Is Our Own JORDAN MINOR Doctor Strange Doubles Down on the Disney+ Streaming Content Slop REVIEWS CONSUMER Verizon Orbic Speed 5G SteelSeries Arctis ELECTRONICS UW Mobile Hotspot Nova Pro Verizon Orbic Speed 5G Sony Inzone M9 Microsoft Surface UW Mobile Hotspot Laptop Go 2 SteelSeries Arctis Duolingo Nova Pro HARDWARE Sony Inzone M9 Microsoft Surface Laptop Go 2 SOFTWARE & APPS Duolingo

FEATURES COVER STORY THE BEST LAPTOPS FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS IN 2022 Whether for remote learning or carrying around campus, start your “best laptops” short list with these top-rated, value-focused models. MASTERCLASS VS. SKILLSHARE: WHICH SERVICE FITS YOUR LEARNING GOALS? We consider price, course selection, production quality, and more to help you decide which of these top online learning sites is a better place to study. THE BEST PROGRAMS FOR LEARNING TO CODE We should all learn to code, and no matter your skill level, there’s an online school that can teach you how.

TIPS & HOW TOS 8 IVY LEAGUE COURSES YOU CAN TAKE FOR FREE Seeking enrichment? Skip the tuition fees and take an online class from a prestigious university. HOW TO GET STARLINK SATELLITE INTERNET AND SET IT UP THE RIGHT WAY The satellite-based Starlink internet service unlocks excellent speeds pretty much anywhere. Here’s what you need to know and how to get started. 4 EASY WAYS TO MAKE YOUR SMART HOME MORE SECURE Will hackers use your appliances against you? Probably not, but there are still valid reasons to address the privacy and security of your smart home. Start here. THE WHY AXIS THESE ARE THE BEST TECH PRODUCTS FOR KIDS— ACCORDING TO PARENTS A new PCMag survey reveals the tech products kids love, which ones help them learn—and which ones parents will pay for. PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022

FIRST WORD LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Tech Education Learning is for everyone. Life is cyclical, as are magazine topics. So as fall approaches, our thoughts naturally turn to “back to school.” And we have many product recommendations, suggestions, and tips for all generations of students who are starting classes soon—both here in the Digital Edition and at But life isn’t only about familiar cycles, and neither are magazine topics. That’s why we’re stretching the boundaries a bit beyond traditional back-to- school stories to include some education websites and learn-to-code services. %HFDXVHZHEHOLHYHOLIHORQJOHDUQLQJLVLPSRUWDQWPHDQLQJIXODQGIXO¿OOLQJ and the internet has made it accessible to so many more people. 6RWDNHDORRNDWZKDWZH¶UHR̆HULQJWKLVPRQWKHYHQLI\\RX¶UHQRWLQKLJK school or college—we hope that there’s something in the issue that will capture your attention and maybe propel you to new opportunities. Have you taken any online courses recently? If so, how was the experience for you? We’re eager to hear about both the positive and the negative, so please drop me an email and let me know! Carol Mangis manages the PCMag Digital Edition. Her first job in tech journalism was at PCMag; she also worked for Consumer Reports. She’s fascinated by technology’s evolution. @cmangis PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022



WHAT’S NEW NOW Image: Bob Al-Greene; Getty Images EVS 4 Things I Hated About Putting 1,700 Miles on a Tesla There were things I loved too, but first, we need to talk about that touch screen. BY ROB PEGORARO There may be no more pleasurable part of the Tesla Model 3 driving experience than when you tap the accelerator with some force. The vehicle immediately shoots forward, quicker than most gas-powered cars could ever translate your input into motion. And there may be no more annoying part of that same scenario than what can follow: at 60 miles per hour on the highway, when you turn to the Model 3’s cluttered touch screen to cue up a road-trip soundtrack.

I spent almost 1,700 miles piloting an all-wheel-drive Model 3 Long Range Photo: Rob Pegoraro rented from Hertz on the highways, byways, and streets of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, and California for PCMag’s Best Mobile Networks 2022 testing. It left me loving parts of the Tesla life but sour on others. FIRST, THE GOOD Performance: The Model 3’s lag-free acceleration and its accompanying sense of control and power make the car a joy to drive. Tesla lists a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds for the Model 3 Long Range (base price: $51,390). Although I didn’t WHVWWKDWRQSXEOLFURDGV,FDQGHVFULEHWKHVHQVDWLRQRIÀRRULQJWKHDFFHOHUDWRU as “gut-churningly fast.” +DQGOLQJLVWHUUL¿FWRR7KH0RGHONHSWSODQWHGRQWZLVW\\URDGVVXFKDV86 101 in California’s northernmost reaches, thanks to the low center of gravity SURYLGHGE\\WKHKHDY\\EDWWHU\\SDFNXQGHUWKHFDU¶VÀRRU ,HQMR\\HGGULYLQJHQRXJKWRVDYH7HVOD¶V$XWRVWHHUIRUDSUHGDZQUXQWR6DQ )UDQFLVFR,QWHUQDWLRQDO$LUSRUWDWWKHHQGRIWKHWULS +HUW]GLVDEOHV)XOO6HOI Driving). It kept the car at a constant speed in one lane through curves, but UHTXLUHGWRRPXFKPDQXDOLQWHUYHQWLRQDVWUḊFPRXQWHGWRUHSUHVHQWPXFKRI a game changer over traditional cruise control. Our Tesla in Northern California, beautiful as always

Comfort$WVSHHGRQKLJKZD\\VWKH0RGHOR̆HUHGD calm, mostly quiet ride—although it let in more wind and road noise than the vastly more expensive 0HUFHGHV%HQ](46HOHFWULFOX[XU\\VHGDQ,WHVW GURYHEULHÀ\\LQ'HFHPEHU7KHVHDWUHPDLQHG impressively comfortable, helped by powerful air conditioning that kept the interior cool even with sun streaming through the tinted glass roof. At charging stops, the driver’s seat revealed an extra advantage: It UHFOLQHVDOPRVWÀDWWRHDVHQDSSLQJ Range: Tesla estimates a Model 3 Long Range is good IRUWRPLOHVEHWZHHQFKDUJHVEXWP\\UHQWDO PRGHOGLGQRWIDUHDVZHOO6WLOO,¶OOFDOOLW³JRRG´DV many competing cars would likely have done worse. 6RPHEODPHPD\\JRWRP\\RFFDVLRQDOOHDGIRRWDQGWKH route’s mountainous geography, but the biggest culprit is likely the Best Mobile Networks testing process. $VLQQRWRQO\\GLGZHKDYHWKUHH*DOD[\\6SKRQHV At charging drawing power from the car via an AC inverter, but the stops, the processor-intensive testing apps left the devices running hot enough (even with clamped-on Razer cooling fans, driver’s seat each separately plugged into the inverter) that the air revealed an conditioning had to be cranked down to 66 degrees extra advantage: Fahrenheit most of the time. It reclines My longest drive between charges, a 226-mile leg from almost flat to ease napping. 3RUWODQGWRDFKDUJHUR̆,QWHUVWDWHLQVRXWKHUQ Oregon, took the battery from full to 26%, equating to a 305-mile range. The second-longest such distance, 155 PLOHVIURPDFKDUJHUVRXWKRI6HDWWOHWR3RUWODQG drained the battery by 49%, good for a 316-mile range. The worst I saw was 267 miles, estimated from the battery drain over a hilly 120 miles in rural Washington. My estimated average over six of these measured stretches: 296 miles.

Photo: Brian Westover Topping off at a Tesla Supercharger The Supercharger network7HVOD¶VQHWZRUNRI6XSHUFKDUJHUVPRVWSODFHG near Interstates, erased range anxiety on this trip. They also replenish the EDWWHU\\LPSUHVVLYHO\\IDVW²HVSHFLDOO\\ZKHQ,VHOHFWHGD6XSHUFKDUJHUVWRSLQWKH touch-screen navigation app, allowing the car to warm up the battery for a quicker charge that runs as fast as a 2% increase per minute. ,IRXQGPXOWLSOHFKDUJHUVRSHQDWHDFKVWRSDOWKRXJKD6XSHUFKDUJHUVWDWLRQLQ 6DQWD5RVD&$HQIRUFHGDQFKDUJLQJOLPLWEHFDXVHRIKLJKGHPDQG7KH RQHSODFH,GLGIUHWDERXWEDWWHU\\OLIHVOLJKWO\\ZDVWKH6HDWWOHDUHDZKHUHWKH RQO\\FORVHLQ6XSHUFKDUJHUHDVWRI/DNH:DVKLQJWRQKLGHVLQDJDUDJHLQ GRZQWRZQ%HOOHYXH2QP\\ZD\\RXWRI6HDWWOH,KDGWRGHWRXUPLOHVR̆RI, WRUHFRYHUDWD6XSHUFKDUJHU NOW, THE BAD The touch-screen interface: The leftmost third of the 15-inch touch screen WKDWUHSODFHVWUDGLWLRQDOJDXJHVDQGVZLWFKHVLV¿QHFOHDQO\\SUHVHQWLQJWKH current speed, speed limit, and a graphic showing your car’s position relative to others as seen by the Tesla’s cameras. But the rest of the display combines too-small target areas for on-screen controls, with a menu hierarchy hiding things as basic as the odometer and

side-mirror adjustments. Worse, the system let me interact with complicated apps such as the navigation system—and even open a web browser—while driving. This is despite the car being able to tell (by way of the inactivated passenger airbag) that only a driver was sitting up front. You can control many functions by voice, but this system’s reliance on cloud processing can leave you out of luck in thin coverage areas (much of my route). The nav system, in turn, speaks directions. But on the trip, it kept using “bear right” or “bear left” to describe anything from a slight bend to a 45-degree turn while failing to call out some smaller roads by the route numbers shown on overhead signs and the map display. The Model 3’s 15-inch touch screen Music playback7KH0RGHOFRPHVZLWKWZR86%&SRUWVLQDFXEE\\DIRUHRI the cup holders and two more facing the back seats—but on new models, my EXLOWYHKLFOHLQFOXGHGWKH\\RQO\\FKDUJHGHYLFHV$86%$SRUWLQWKH KDUGHUWRUHDFKJORYHFRPSDUWPHQWDOORZVORFDO¿OHDFFHVVH[FHSW,FRXOGQ¶W open that on my rental without a PIN that Hertz didn’t provide. (Hertz spokesman John G. Friess said the company does that “to protect data storage housed there.”)

Bluetooth streaming from phones still works, but Tesla’s implementation, devoid of support for Apple’s CarPlay, or Google’s Android Auto, required me to select music on my Pixel 5a’s touch screen. Tesla does provide a house-branded set of streaming PXVLFFKDQQHOVWKDWR̆HUVJRRGYDULHW\\²DVD *HQHUDWLRQ;HUKHDGHGWR6HDWWOH,KDGWRWU\\³V $OWHUQDWLYH´,I\\RXSD\\IRU6SRWLI\\RU7LGDO\\RXFDQ stream those services as well. A Jony Ive approach to car design: Despite R̆HULQJRQO\\WKHVKDOORZHVWLQWHURSHUDELOLW\\ZLWK iPhones, the Model 3 still seems resolutely Apple-esque. By which I mean that it reminds me of some of the purist excesses of Apple’s former chief designer. The windshield wipers, for example, dispense with the usual infrared sensor to process imagery from a forward-facing camera using a custom neural network— ZKLFKVRPHWLPHVKDGWKHZLSHUVÀRSSLQJDURXQGLQGU\\ weather. And the only way to lock and unlock a Tesla rented from Hertz is to tap the RFID key card on the driver-side B pillar; I quickly grew tired of having to walk around the car to get at something on the passenger side or in the trunk. Owners, unlike Hertz renters, can use the Tesla mobile app to lock and unlock their vehicles remotely. The proprietary Supercharger plug: Tesla further evokes Apple in its use of a proprietary charging cable ZKLOHPRVWRIWKHUHVWRIWKH86LQGXVWU\\KDVFRDOHVFHG DURXQGWKH86%&RIHOHFWULFFDUVDVWDQGDUGFDOOHG &&6VKRUWIRU³&RPELQHG&KDUJLQJ6\\VWHP´ 7KH Nissan Leaf and a few other vehicles use a third FRQQHFWRU&KD'H0RZKLFKZRXOGEHPLFUR86%LQ this analogy.)

Supercharger plug I understand why Tesla implemented its own plug. When it started developing electric cars 15-plus years ago, GM’s notion of sustainability stopped at VXSSRUWLQJPRVWO\\HWKDQROEOHQGVRIJDV%XWQRZ&&6SUHGRPLQDWHVDFURVVWKH FRXQWU\\DQGWKH$&DGDSWHUIRUWKHVORZHUYHUVLRQRI&&6WKDW7HVODLQFOXGHVLQ a bag in the trunk was essential for overnight charges at some hotels. 7KLVZLOORQO\\JHWZRUVHDVFDUFKDUJHUEXLOGRXWVWLOWWRZDUG&&6DFFHOHUDWHGE\\ almost $5 billion in funding from last year’s infrastructure law that will PDQGDWHVXSSRUWIRUWKDWVWDQGDUG:LWK7HVODDOUHDG\\VHWWRDGG&&6VXSSRUW WRIXWXUH6XSHUFKDUJHUVLWHVH[SHFW86VSHF7HVODVWRVZLWFKVRPHGD\\WR&&6DV European models already have. All that said, when I was soaring up a highway toward a mountain pass at 75mph in this American-made electric land rocket and looking out at giant wind WXUELQHVWKDWFRXOGEHSRZHULQJWKHQH[W6XSHUFKDUJHULWIHOWOLNH,ZDVGULYLQJ toward a future we want. But the electric car market is now big enough that Tesla no longer has the road to tomorrow to itself. PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022



Max Edd Illustration: René Ramos; Getty Images/AOP.Press/Corbis/Manuel Blondeau COMMENTARY Telegram Founder Pavel Durov Owes Me a Million Dollars Are you there, Pavel? It’s me, Max Back in 2017, Telegram Founder Pavel Durov and I had a disagreement in the marketplace of ideas (Twitter, that is), which ended with Durov saying he was willing to bet $1,000,000 to prove he was right. He wasn’t, but I don’t think I’ll ever see a payout—and ethically could not DFFHSWLWDQ\\ZD\\%XWKRZWKLVKDSSHQHGLQWKH¿UVWSODFHLVLQGLFDWLYHRI some of the information security industry’s worst impulses. It doesn’t have to be this way. PLACE YOUR BETS This all started when Durov tweeted about how the Signal secure messaging app had received money from the US government. This is true; Signal received funds from the Open Technology Fund (OTF)—a QRQSUR¿WWKDWSUHYLRXVO\\ZDVSDUWRIWKH86EDFNHG5DGLR)UHH$VLD $FFRUGLQJWRWKH27)¶VZHEVLWHLWJDYHQHDUO\\PLOOLRQWR6LJQDO EHWZHHQDQG

Max Edd It’s entirely legitimate to be suspicious of That’s quite an accusa- JRYHUQPHQWIXQGLQJ DOWKRXJK7252SHQ931 and WireGuard also received OTF money) and tion to make, even to take a moral stand against recipients of especially money from governments you disagree with. But Durov went far beyond that. He seemed to think without real proof, and WKLVPHDQW6LJQDOZDVERXJKWR̆E\\WKHIHGVDQG it made predicted that a backdoor would be found within me mad. ¿YH\\HDUV That’s quite an accusation to make, especially ZLWKRXWUHDOSURRIDQGLWPDGHPHPDG1RW EHFDXVHSHRSOHZHUHPRXWKLQJR̆RQ7ZLWWHU² that seems to be that platform’s primary function. It made me mad that companies ostensibly working to better people’s lives by protecting their security and privacy were trying to drag each other down publicly. This is not new; the 931LQGXVWU\\LVIXOORIZKLVSHUFDPSDLJQVDQG FRXQWHUDFFXVDWLRQV,FDQ¶WWHOO\\RXKRZPDQ\\ FRQYHUVDWLRQV,¶YHKDGZLWK931YHQGRUVWKDW VWDUWZLWK³¿UVWR̆HYHU\\WKLQJ\\RXKHDUGLVDOLH´

Max Edd But after years of covering infosec (that is, information security), I’ve found that this kind of backbiting is the exception and not the rule. True, antivirus companies might make snarky comments about their competitors, or they might even say that another product isn’t good. But generally, the message from companies in this industry is one of cooperation and protecting everyone. It’s a common theme in keynotes DWWKH56$&RQIHUHQFHDQG%ODFN+DWWKDWWKHSHRSOHZKRZRUNLQ LQIRVHFKDYHDKLJKHUFDOOLQJWRSURWHFWRWKHUSHRSOH¿UVWDQGWRGR business second. So I was mad, and I tweeted about it while I was on a boat coming back from Fire Island. I remember being very nervous—I’m not usually one to VWDUWD¿JKWRQOLQHDQGSHRSOHOLNH'XURYFRPPDQGIDUJUHDWHU IROORZLQJVWKDQ,GR,¶YHVHHQ¿UVWKDQGKRZIROORZHUVFDQEH ZHDSRQL]HGRQOLQH7KDW¶VZK\\,ZDVDW¿UVWWHUUL¿HGZKHQ'XURY responded to me. I tried to stay calm and respond sensibly, but Durov upped the ante:

Max Edd 1RZDEVXUGEHWVDUHVRPHWKLQJ,IHHOYHU\\ comfortable with. My trusting spouse (among others), asked me if I had a million dollars to bet, and my answer was: absolutely not. Unlike Durov, I am not a millionaire, just another aging millennial in a media job. However, I knew there was no way I would lose. This would be the HDVLHVWPLOOLRQGROODUEHW,HYHUPDNH 5 YEARS LATER… ,ZDVFRQ¿GHQW'XURYZDVZURQJEHFDXVH6LJQDO OLNHPDQ\\FRPSDQLHVKDVPDGHDQH̆RUWWRZDUG WUDQVSDUHQF\\WKDW,FDQKDYHVRPHFRQ¿GHQFHLQ Signal has made its code available, has registered DVDQRQSUR¿WKDVDIDLUO\\FRPSUHKHQVLYHSULYDF\\ policy, and has made abundantly clear that it has no information to provide in response to law enforcement requests.

Max Edd Signal’s protocol is also used by competitors, LQFOXGLQJ:KDWV$SSDQG)DFHERRN0HVVHQJHU There have that have surely done their homework when been some selecting a method for encrypting messages. Most tense mo- recently, a document revealed that even the FBI ments over the has been frustrated in its attempts to get data years when I from Signal (and Telegram, too). thought I If there was something truly shifty, surely might be someone in the infosec community would have wrong. ¿JXUHGLWRXW%XWWKHUHDOUHDVRQ,NQHZ,ZDV right and Durov was wrong was because the evidence just wasn’t there. Durov had nothing to point to but some funding, which was done publicly and isn’t that uncommon. If there was something truly damning, Durov would have said so. He didn’t. There have been some tense moments over the years when I thought I might be wrong. One I had forgotten about until I started working on this story came shortly after Durov made his proclamation on Twitter. The one that really VFDUHGPHZDVDFODLPIURP&HOOHEULWH²WKH people the FBI reportedly hired to crack an iPhone. That company hinted that they were able to break Signal’s encryption, but this also turned out to be untrue. Signal continues to be recommended by advocacy groups of all kinds as a safe and secure way to communicate. ARE YOU LISTENING? In fairness to Durov, he did not respond to my R̆HUWRVHWWKHWHUPVIRUWKHEHWLQ1HLWKHU he nor Telegram responded to my attempts to contact them for this story. When I wrote about this bet in my review of Telegram, I joked that I took Durov’s lack of response as complete agreement, but I am sure in his mind, he made no such bet with me.

Max Edd I had actually hoped that Durov and I could do something fun with this bet. Maybe post some snarky tweets and then both make a donation to charity. Everyone wins! That guy from Polygon ate a shoe a few weeks ago, so surely a lowly journalist like me and the founder of an HQRUPRXVO\\SRSXODUDSSFRXOGPDNHD¿YH\\HDUROG7ZLWWHUWL̆LQWR something interesting. So Pavel, if you’re reading, drop me a line. Let’s make something good out of this. Let’s prove that our industry can be about more than just tearing others down, and that there really is a greater responsibility we share. That making people safer, in an age of increased surveillance and threats to democracy, really does matter. I’m ready. PC Magazine Senior Software Analyst Max Eddy has also written for publications such as International Digital Times, International Science Times, and The Mary Sue. PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022

Chandra Steel COMMENTARY Illustration: Getty Images/fotograzia The Artificial Intelligence We Fear Is Our Own A Google engineer was ridiculed for his belief that a language model had become sentient. But if we con- tinue AI research with only profit as the goal, the joke is on us. Have you heard the one about the Google engineer who thinks an AI is sentient? It’s not a joke—although Blake Lemoine, a senior software engineer with the company’s Responsible AI organization, has become a bit of a joke online. Lemoine was put on leave from Google after he advocated for an DUWL¿FLDOLQWHOOLJHQFHQDPHG/DQJXDJH0RGHOIRU'LDORJXH$SSOLFDWLRQV /D0'$ ZLWKLQWKHFRPSDQ\\VD\\LQJWKDWKHEHOLHYHGLWZDVVHQWLHQW /HPRLQHKDGEHHQWHVWLQJ/D0'$ODVWIDOODQGDVKHVDLGWRThe Washington Post, “I know a person when I talk to it.”

Chandra Steel Lemoine published an edited version of some of KLVFRQYHUVDWLRQVZLWK/D0'$LQD0HGLXPSRVW ,QWKRVH/D0'$GLVFXVVHGLWVVRXOH[SUHVVHGD IHDURIGHDWK LHEHLQJWXUQHGR̆ DQGZKHQ asked about its feelings, said, “I feel pleasure, joy, love, sadness, depression, contentment, anger, and many others.” 7R/HPRLQH/D0'$SDVVHGWKH7XULQJWHVWZLWK À\\LQJFRORUV7R*RRJOH/HPRLQHZDVIRROHGE\\D ODQJXDJHPRGHO7RPHLW¶VDQRWKHUH[DPSOHRI humans who look for proof of humanity in software while ignoring the sentience of creatures we share the Earth with. SCI-FI IS CALLED THAT FOR A REASON When AI research For years, I’ve been cataloging technology- is discussed, there mediated ways people have attempted to test the intelligence and sentience of animals. Pigs can is always an play video games, virtual reality has proved the undercurrent of FRPSOH[FRJLWDWLRQRIFKLFNHQVDQGKRXVHKROG worry as to what it pets can talk with the intermediary of buttons. will do should it Science uses technology and other means to test and test and retest. achieve consciousness. And yet there is no consensus that the thinking and feeling we can easily witness in our own LQWHUDFWLRQVZLWKDQLPDOVFRQFOXVLYHO\\H[LVWVVR we perpetuate cruelty against them. AI is still at the stage where it undergoes a similar level of testing. For now, most researchers /HPRLQHQRWZLWKVWDQGLQJ GRQRWEHOLHYHWKDW$, is sentient. But when AI research is discussed, there is always an undercurrent of worry as to what it will do should it achieve consciousness. 7KLVIXHOVVFL¿SORWVDQGRFFXSLHVWKHPLQGVRI billionaires.

Chandra Steel The imagined outcome on the large scale is the Google demoing LaMDA in 2021 enslavement and eventual destruction of humanity. On the smaller scale, it is captured well The imagined LQDVHULHVRIWZHHWVE\\DQLPPHUVLYHH[SHULHQFH outcome on designer who claims he tried to imbue his PLFURZDYHZLWKDUWL¿FLDOLQWHOOLJHQFHDQGWKDWLWV the large scale response was to try to kill him. is the enslave- What’s curious about this is that humans project ment and this outcome without realizing its source lies eventual within us. We assume that if a being obtains destruction of superior intelligence and communications skills, humanity. it will harness as many living beings in its vicinity to bend to its industrial needs. THE FAULT IS NOT IN OUR STARS We know the algorithms we program are not free of our worst behaviors and biases. But instead of correcting the root problems in society, we seek WRFXUEWKHERWVWKDWDUHUHÀHFWLRQVRIRXUVHOYHV $QGLIDUWL¿FLDOLQWHOOLJHQFHUHDFKHVWKHFRJQLWLRQ that Lemoine believes it already has and even surpasses that, it will be fueled by some of the most inhumane impulses of humanity if left unchecked.

Chandra Steel 7ZR\\HDUVDJR*RRJOH¿UHGWKHFROHDGVRILWV HWKLFDO$,JURXS7LPQLW*HEUXDQG0DUJDUHW 0LWFKHOOUHSRUWHGO\\RYHUUHVHDUFKWKDWZDUQHGRI the sources it was using to feed AI (which LQFOXGHGWR[LFLQWHUQHWPDWWHU DQGRIWKHSXUHO\\ corporate bent of its intent. It’s one of the many signs that big tech, which dominates the AI space, is operating largely without guardrails. $SSOH$PD]RQ)DFHERRN*RRJOHDQG0LFURVRIW are all heavily involved in AI research. For now, AI is trained on people and ways to generate ad revenue from their behavior. But Gebru and 0LWFKHOOKDGDOVRSRVLWHGWKDWVXFKSRZHUFRXOG instead be fed with the best intentions and used to try to solve global issues. Without a reckoning with the worst sides of our own natures, a reconciliation with nature itself, DQGVRPHVHULRXVUHÀHFWLRQRQZKDWZHDVD society can and should do, when it comes to AI we’ll continue to just be sheep along for the ride. PCMag Senior Features Editor Chandra Steele got her tech journalism start at CMP/ United Business Media. She also writes fiction and has been published in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022

COMMENTARYJordan Mino Image: Disney ‘Doctor Strange’ Doubles Down on the Disney+ Streaming Content Slop Blurring movies and TV shows into one endless, indis- tinguishable mass is exhausting, not entertaining. In 2008, Marvel Studios began to blur the line between movies and comic books with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Nick Fury’s cameo in Iron Man promised to bring together characters from previously GLVFRQQHFWHG¿OPVLQWRDVLQJOHVDJDGULYHQE\\DVKDUHGFRQWLQXLW\\$QG it worked! The MCU has legions of fans, from comic-book veterans to WRWDOQHZFRPHUVDQGLWFRQVLVWHQWO\\UDNHVLQELOOLRQVDWWKHER[ṘFH But with the MCU now in its second decade, its treatment of cinematic continuity has become rote. Worse, with the advent of the Disney+ video streaming service, the original goal of turning movies and comics into HDFKRWKHUKDVPXWDWHGLQWRVRPHWKLQJPRUHF\\QLFDO1RORQJHUVDWLV¿HG with just bringing individual movies together under a shared umbrella,

Jordan Mino the MCU asks audiences to keep track of entire, The frantic pac- exhausting content ecosystems in theaters and on ing makes it streaming, even if it hurts the content itself. There’s just so much, and it all “matters.” So tough to appre- nothing matters. ciate the genu- inely impressive STRANGE DAZE ,GRQ¶WUHDOO\\OLNHWKH¿UVWDoctor Strange movie. visual ideas The painfully forced Iron Man–style humor and inventive doesn’t work, and Benedict Cumberbatch’s action beats. GHOLYHU\\PDNHVLWZRUVH$OOWKHZD\\VWKH¿OPWULHV to sidestep the franchise’s baked-in Orientalism feel awkward and uncomfortable, too. Equating magic with science always makes my eyes roll. The frantic pacing makes it tough to appreciate the genuinely impressive visual ideas and LQYHQWLYHDFWLRQEHDWV$QGGHVSLWHEHLQJKHOPHG by horror director Scott Derrickson, the movie isn’t scary—it’s formulaic. Still, you can watch the ÀLFNE\\LWVHOIDQGLWPDNHVVHQVH$VLGHIURPWKH SRVWFUHGLWVWHDVHDQGR̆KDQGPHQWLRQVRI ³$YHQJHUV´DQG³,Q¿QLW\\6WRQHV´\\RXPLJKWQRW even know Strange was a Marvel character until he popped up in the next big crossover. Doctor Strange is its own movie. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is DOVRDPRYLH$VDFULWLF,UHMHFWWKHLGHDRIVD\\LQJ something “doesn’t count” just because I don’t like it. MCU movies may be bad art, but they’re VWLOODUW$QGLQPDQ\\ZD\\V0XOWLYHUVHRI Madness is an improvement. It’s directed by Sam Raimi, of all people. It has elements of the schlock horror-comedy he brought to Evil Dead (now a video game) with the faintest hints of the sincere heroism he expertly explored in his Spider-Man ¿OPV$QG5DLPLNQRZVZKHUHWRSXWDFDPHUD

Jordan Mino While the second Doctor Strange is a movie, though, it’s not its own movie. Whatever charm Raimi manages to smuggle into the work is XQGRQHE\\WKHFUXVKLQJZHLJKWRIUHO\\LQJRQH[WHUQDOVRXUFHVIRUWKH¿OP to make sense. This is why Multiverse of Madness is best experienced not as a movie in theaters but as streaming content on Disney+ (starting June 22). This way, you can watch it back-to-back with everything else you need to watch—all the extra information and outside context—to understand its basic plot points. With streaming, you get all the extremely necessary backstory from WandaVision (and ignore the wishy-washy stance on Wanda’s villainy). You can brush up on the multiverse-fracturing that happened in Loki. Disney+ even has that terrible Inhumans show that earned an inexplicable Black Bolt cameo in Multiverse of Madness. (Get $QVRQ0RXQW¶VDJHQWDUDLVH 2KDQGUHPHPEHUWKDWWKLVDOOWDNHVSODFH DIWHUWKH¿YH\\HDUGHDWKDQGUHELUWKWLPHVNLSIURPAvengers: Endgame. MULTIPLE REVENUE STREAMS OF MADNESS The problem isn’t just the latest Doctor Strange; it’s also the MCU’s entire current approach, on Disney+ and elsewhere. Multiverse of Madness also references Spider-Man: No Way Home, a Sony movie

Jordan Mino streaming on Starz. For whatever reason, HBO Max has the 2008 Incredible Hulk, just as Tim Roth gets ready to reappear in the upcoming She- Hulk show on Disney+ (with its hideous, KRSHIXOO\\XQ¿QLVKHG&*, )RONVVHHPWRUHDOO\\ dig Ms. Marvel’s live-action, streaming adventures, so with luck they won’t screw things up when she joins Monica Rambeau and Carol Danvers in Marvel Studios’ The Marvels, a whole other movie. (YHQ'&LVFDWFKLQJXS$PDQGD:DOOHULVJHWWLQJ her own show, which will join Peacemaker as the QH[W7KH6XLFLGH6TXDGVSLQR̆,QDQHQWLUHO\\ separate continuity, Colin Farrell’s Penguin is getting a show after stealing the spotlight in The Batman. This should sound familiar to old-school comic- We must pay for book fans: people who are used to reading all movie tickets in sorts of ongoing parallel stories to keep up with addition to ZKDW¶VKDSSHQLQJLQWKHXQLYHUVH$UJXDEO\\WKH streaming sub- ¿UVWEDWFKRIPRGHUQFRPLFERRNPRYLHV scriptions to get succeeded because they presented the appealing characters in far more approachable stories than the complete today’s increasingly incestuous plots. story—not just cute Easter eggs. Movies are now on the same path as the comics. If anything, this is even more annoying, because we’re forced to keep track of multiple kinds of media. We must pay for movie tickets in addition to streaming subscriptions to get the complete story—not just cute Easter eggs but vital plot SRLQWV$OWKRXJKWKH0&8LVHSLVRGLFPRYLHV don’t work like this. Even TV doesn’t work like WKLV$QGPDQJDUHDGHUVFDQWHOO\\RXWKDWFRPLF books don’t have to work like this, either.

Jordan Mino Economically, however, this approach makes a dark sort of sense. The ongoing story, when spread throughout so many vectors, not only makes WKH¿OPVDSSRLQWPHQWYLHZLQJEXWDOVRORFNVLQDOR\\DOVWUHDPLQJ audience. You get the best of both worlds: the exciting hype of an event PRYLHSOXVWKHFRQVLVWHQF\\RIDVKRZ,QDQHUDZKHQ1HWÀL[LVQRORQJHU willing to pay for “indulgent” movies like The Irishman (and as it loses its own Marvel shows to Disney+), of course these services are pivoting toward pumping out endless slop in which every drop is crucial to keeping up. This just turns entertainment into claustrophobia, an all-encompassing IRJ\\RXFDQ¶WHVFDSHIURP:HZDWFKHGWKH$YHQJHUVSX]]OHFRPH together, and our reward is a nagging sense that we’ll never fully enjoy or even understand anything next unless we plug into the entire content machine, wherever it asks us to go. Movie theaters deliver art with the grandeur of the big screen. Streaming services conveniently let us watch nearly anything we can think of. They both deserve better than what Disney and Marvel serve up. In 2013, I started my Ziff Davis career as an intern on PCMag’s Software team. Now, I’m an Analyst on the Apps and Gaming team, and I really just want to use my fancy Northwestern University journalism degree to write about video games. I host The Pop-Off, PCMag’s video game show. PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022

REVIEWS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS Verizon Orbic Speed 5G UW Mobile Hotspot: Speedy Indeed The first hotspot that supports Verizon’s C-band 5G BY SASCHA SEGAN Verizon’s fresh C-band network showed up about 20% of the time in our recent Best Mobile Networks tests and generally unlocked speeds at least twice as fast as the rest of the carrier’s 5G nationwide coverage. But older phones with a hotspot mode can’t take advantage of those mid-band speeds as well as a dedicated hotspot such as the Orbic Speed 5G UW can. This device is currently the only one that can handle the carrier’s new 5G network, and that support VKRXOGPDNHDELJGL̆HUHQFHLQQHWZRUNSHUIRUPDQFHIRUWKRVHZKROLYHLQD C-band zone. We’re not fans of its bulk or middling battery life, but those issues are worth working around to get the best possible network speeds. Because of its unrivaled network performance (for now), the Orbic Speed 5G UW is an Editors’ Choice award winner.

LARGE AND (MOSTLY) KEEPS A CHARGE PROS The Orbic Speed 5G UW isn’t pocketable, at 4.92 by 3.35 by 0.87 inches (HWD) and 9.91 ounces. And •Only hotspot that works despite its large frame, it uses a relatively small (albeit removable) 4,400mAh battery. The exterior features a with Verizon’s latest 5G power button, USB-C and Ethernet ports, and a 2.4- inch touch screen. •Clear, simple on-screen There’s no place to attach an external antenna, a interface common restriction on mmWave-compatible devices. As Verizon shifts its focus to C-band, we would like to •Ethernet port for see a C-band hotspot that trades in the short-range mmWave for better external antenna compatibility, but network output we aren’t getting that tech just yet. CONS The Orbic Speed works on 4G bands 2/4/5/12/13/48/66 and 5G bands •No external antenna 2/5/48/66/77/78/257/260/261. Those are very 9HUL]RQDQG86VSHFL¿FEDQGV²WKHKRWVSRWZRQ¶W ports work well outside the US and Canada or on another carrier’s network. We are happy to see support for the •Big and heavy new CBRS n48 band, though, which Verizon plans to •Battery life is short on use to extend its mid-band 5G capabilities. fastest 5G The hotspot broadcasts Wi-Fi 6 in ways similar to an AX1800 router. Expect basic performance with a real- THE BOTTOM LINE world cap of about 600Mbps to a 5GHz Wi-Fi-6- Despite relying on a last- FRPSDWLEOHGHYLFHZHURXJKO\\FRQ¿UPHGWKRVHXSSHU gen modem, Verizon’s speed limits in testing. Orbic Speed 5G UW hotspot can get up to 30 devices online via the carrier’s latest mid-band 5G network. The battery is removable.

There’s an Ethernet port, which is faster than Wi-Fi. An on-screen menu lets you change some basic Wi-Fi settings and check your GDWDXVDJH$ZHELQWHUIDFHXQORFNV0$&DQGSRUW¿OWHULQJSRUWIRUZDUGLQJ VPN pass-through, a DMZ, and device blocking, but no parental controls. You can set up the Wi-Fi on either 2.4GHz or 5GHz frequency bands, and there’s also a guest network option. Battery life heavily depends on how you use the hotspot. When we streamed video over low-band 5G, which is basically 4G LTE with a cherry on top, we got 11 hours and 45 minutes of runtime. That test involves several gigs of data but GRHVQ¶WUHTXLUHDFRQWLQXRXVWUDQVPLVVLRQYLGHREX̆HUVJLYHWKHKRWVSRWD chance to rest. Battery life can sap much faster if you strain the device. 20 minutes of heavy work (running speed tests, loading uncached webpages, and using the Ethernet port) over a mmWave connection drained the battery by 7%. Projecting that drain rate out leaves us with a battery life estimate of 4 hours and 45 minutes. We were pleased that the hotspot didn’t overheat in this testing scenario (we tried it outside).

INDEED, IT’S SPEEDY We compared the Orbic Speed 5G UW primarily with a Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra on Verizon’s 4G LTE, 5G DSS, and 5G mmWave networks. Signal strength and range seemed comparable, although we weren’t able to test in very weak-signal areas. The hotspot had maybe between 50 and 100 extra feet of mmWave range over the phone, a result I’ve seen before. When you’re really trying to squeeze range out of a hotspot, though, you should pick one with an external antenna. At a 5G mmWave site, we got speeds of up to 3Gbps on my Galaxy Note 20. The networking technologies and adapters ended up limiting the output from the hotspot, though; with Wi-Fi 6 to a phone, you can’t get more than 550Mbps to 600Mbps per device. That’s a Wi-Fi limit, not a Verizon limit. When we hooked up a Lenovo laptop via the Ethernet port and a gigabit-Ethernet adapter, we VDZ0ESVGRZQORDGVSHHGV²RQFHDJDLQWKLVLVDOLPLWRQWKH(WKHUQHWSRUW not the network. The hotspot is chunky and doesn’t fit in most pockets. Super-fast networks like mmWave are designed to support lots of people at once, and the Orbic Speed can handle up to 30 Wi-Fi devices simultaneously.

We connected four phones to the hotspot’s Wi-Fi in the The mmWave zone and saw them split up speeds between capabilities of about 700Mbps and 800Mbps (in total). the hotspot The capabilities of the hotspot matched up better with matched up the phone where Verizon’s network was slower. With a better with the weak 5G DSS signal, we got around 45Mbps natively on phone where the phone as well as via Wi-Fi from the hotspot. With a strong 4G LTE signal in a stone building, we got slightly Verizon’s faster speeds using Wi-Fi via the hotspot than on the network was phone. slower. &EDQGR̆HUVDVLJQL¿FDQWOLIWRQGRZQORDGVWKDWHDUOLHU hotspots can’t bring. In a good C-band location in Brooklyn, NY, a 5G DSS connection was 14Mbps to 40Mbps down, while C-band brought us 211Mbps to 354Mbps down. There was no improvement in upload speeds, however, which ranged from 14Mbps to 50Mbps up and were similar on DSS 5G. In a weaker C-band location in Manhattan, we saw a smaller but still noticeable improvement in downloads, from 74Mbps with 5G DSS to 107Mbps with C-band. Considering that C-band can span neighborhoods ZKHUHPLOOLPHWHUZDYHFDQ¶WWKDW¶VDELJEHQH¿W I CAN’T DRIVE X55 One of my concerns about the Orbic Speed 5G UW is that it uses an older Qualcomm modem, the X55. This ZDVWKH¿UVWGHFHQW*FKLSVHWLWVKRZHGXSLQWKH iPhone 12 and Samsung Galaxy S20 lineups. Since then, WKHPRUHSRZHUḢFLHQW; LQWKHL3KRQH DQGWKH better signal-capturing X65 (in the Samsung Galaxy S22) have hit the market. X55-based hotspots are what Verizon has right now. 0RUHDGYDQFHGKRWVSRWVH[LVW²$7 7DQG'LVKERWK have the X65-based Netgear Nighthawk M6. But if you want or need a hotspot now, you’re stuck with what 9HUL]RQR̆HUV

There’s a ‘5G’ on the bottom, in case you forgot. If you’re in a place where you aren’t going to get the good Verizon 5G until 2024, it’s worth waiting for a device with an X60 or X65 modem. But even though we don’t like the X55 much, it gets the job done. And of course, any C-band is better than no C-band. If you care most about network reception, you may slip down the rabbit hole of WU\\LQJWR¿JXUHRXWZKHWKHUDSKRQHKRWVSRWZLWKDQ;PRGHP D*DOD[\\ S22) is better than a dedicated hotspot with an X55 (this one). ,QP\\PLQGWKHGL̆HUHQFHSUREDEO\\LVQ¶WVLJQL¿FDQW<RXULQWHQGHGXVHFDVHLV more important. A phone hotspot is personal. It is designed to get your laptop or other gadgets online. A dedicated mobile hotspot is best for several people in DGH¿QHGSK\\VLFDOVSDFH,W¶VIRUDYDFDWLRQKRPHDFRQIHUHQFHURRPRUDZRUN VLWHZKHUHSHRSOHDUHPRYLQJLQDQGRXWDOOWKHWLPH,WPD\\EHELOOHGGL̆HUHQWO\\ than your phone, perhaps to your company. Even in a family context, you don’t want your kid’s tablet losing its connection when you run out to the grocery store with your phone in tow. So, to sum up, a dedicated X55-based mobile hotspot beats an X65-based phone for situations in which using a phone as a hotspot isn’t convenient.

A CAPABLE (BUT NOT FUTURE-PROOF) 5G HOTSPOT The adage about waiting for “Mr. Right” instead of spending some time with “Mr. Right Now” applies here. If your area recently got Verizon C-band, the Orbic Speed 5G UW is Mr. Right Now. 7KLVKRWVSRWXQORFNVVLJQL¿FDQWO\\EHWWHUSHUIRUPDQFHWKDQROGHUPRGHOVDWD relatively reasonable price. That’s enough for it to earn our Editors’ Choice award. If you don’t live in one of the 46 areas that are getting C-band before 2024, wait for a hotspot with a newer modem and, hopefully, compatibility with an external antenna. Until then, the 4G Verizon Jetpack MiFi 8800L ($99.99) is a PXFKPRUHD̆RUGDEOHDOWHUQDWLYHZRUWKFRQVLGHULQJ Photos by Sascha Segan PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022

REVIEWS Credit: SteelSeries CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro: Wired Gaming Headset One of the best BY FRANCISCO LAHOZ The SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro Wireless previously earned our Editors’ Choice award for wireless gaming headsets thanks to its clear audio, strong noise cancellation, and easily swappable batteries—but that said, it costs $349.99. If you like that headset’s features but don’t want to spend so much money, check out the Arctis Nova Pro. The wired version of the headset is compatible with Nintendo Switch, PC, and PlayStation (or Xbox, depending on which version you buy) and features robust sound, useful EQ software, and excellent build quality. But, it exchanges wireless connectivity and active noise cancellation $1& IRU+L5HV$XGLRVXSSRUW,I\\RXGRQ¶WPLQGWKDWWUDGHR̆\\RX¶OO¿QG that the Arctis Nova Pro is one of the best wired gaming headsets on the market, making it worthy of our Editors’ Choice award.

ARCTIS NOVA PRO BUILD QUALITY PROS The headset’s build quality is top-notch. Whether listening to podcasts, streaming the latest shows, or •Full, clear audio late-night gaming, I never felt as though it was a burden •Good microphone on my head. The earcups swivel into a comfortable •Slim, useful GameDAC position and have a subtle horizontal tilt that lets them •Powerful software with easily rest on your head without causing discomfort. That said, the padded, foam earcups became slightly extensive audio uncomfortable to wear in the summer heat; I couldn’t adjustments stop thinking that my ears would have been much cooler if SteelSeries wrapped the cups in anything other •Effective simulated than faux leather. surround sound 7KHOHIWHDUFXSLVZKHUH\\RX¶OO¿QGWKHPPDXGLR jack, volume wheel, mute button, and retractable •Suspension strap PLFURSKRQHDUPWKDWVLWVÀXVKZLWKWKHHDUFXSZKHQ prevents unsightly hair not in use. A foam windscreen cover is included in the imprints box to reduce unwanted noises when speaking into the mic. The Arctis Nova Pro lacks the wireless version’s •Supports Hi-Res Audio hot-swappable batteries (seeing as how it needs to be plugged in to work), but keeps the replaceable CONS headband and magnetic speaker plates that you can •Relatively expensive for VZLWFKWRGL̆HUHQWFRORUVZLWK6WHHO6HULHV¶1RYD Booster Packs. a wired headset •Foam earcups get uncomfortable in warm environments •Some slight audio distortion on the high end THE BOTTOM LINE The wired SteelSeries Arctis Nova Pro headset offers crisp audio, a powerful software suite, and a useful DAC, making it suitable for nearly all of your gaming needs.

In a nice touch, the headset has a suspension strap that The earcups prevents the headband from pressing down into your swivel into a hair and leaving an unsightly imprint. My regular comfortable headphones—the Sony WH-CH700N—have this position and annoying band issue, so I’m glad that SteelSeries found have a subtle a solution for that problem. I also appreciate the Arctis horizontal tilt Nova Pro’s subdued color scheme. After all, not every that lets them gaming headset needs RGB lighting or gaudy colorways; easily rest on the matte-black and gunmetal gray materials have a mature look. your head. EXPLORING THE GAMEDAC In terms of functionality, the Arctis Nova Pro’s digital- to-analog converter (DAC) is identical to the wireless version’s. But this GameDAC (as SteelSeries brands it) is nearly a third thinner and has a triangular, prism-like design that takes up less space on your desktop. Its monochrome OLED screen displays the active USB input and audio levels. On the back side are two USB ports that let you connect the headset to a PC or game console. The standard PRGHOZHUHYLHZHGLVVSHFL¿FDOO\\GHVLJQHGIRU3&DQG PlayStation use, but a dedicated Xbox version is also available (which also has two USB ports, and works with PCs). The headset contains a line-in port if you’d like to connect speakers and control them with the GameDAC. There’s also a line-out port to send audio signals to a mixer or your PC’s sound card, which is useful for game streaming. The headphone jack is located to the left of the OLED display. Rotating the dial changes the volume, while tapping it launches ChatMix (more on that in a bit). Holding the dial for a second activates a menu that lets you swap between the two USB sources, tweak audio options (setting a custom equalizer setting, gain, sidetone), and change the line-out settings.

STEELSERIES GG SOFTWARE The free SteelSeries GG app (available for Mac and Windows) lets you manage and update all your SteelSeries products. The app has an audio-focused feature, Sonar, that enables simulated surround sound. It also provides a full, parametric equalizer for game audio, and 10-band equalizers for the chat and microphone audio. In an annoying move, SteelSeries requires you to create an account to use Sonar—it’s just another account to keep track of. Downloading the app updates the headset to use ChatMix, a feature that gives you more control over the chat and game audio. You simply click the GameDAC’s URWDU\\GLDODQGWXUQLWXQWLO\\RX¿QGDVZHHWVSRW,Q testing, turning it to the left made my Discord chat quieter and game louder. Turning it to the right had the RSSRVLWHH̆HFW8QIRUWXQDWHO\\XSGDWLQJWKH*DPH'$& to gain ChatMix removes the ability to adjust EQ on the GameDAC proper (you can make tweaks via the GG app, in that case).

The software lets you save Sonar settings, which you can’t do with the wireless version. You can set custom EQ settings for individual games, and Sonar has presets for Call of Duty: Warzone, Dota 2 and other popular titles. ARCTIS NOVA PRO SOUND QUALITY The Arctis Nova Pro’s rich sound makes for an incredibly immersive game- playing experience. In fact, wearing the headset while playing Dead By Daylight facilitated the most frightening experience I’ve ever had in the survival-horror title. Sonar’s spatial audio created chilling scenarios where I could tell the NLOOHU¶VSRVLWLRQE\\KHDULQJWKHJDPH¶VKHDUWEHDWDOHUWFRPLQJIURPVSHFL¿F directions. In addition, the Arctis Nova Pro brought new life to Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse’s high-energy music tracks. 6SHDNLQJRIPXVLFWKH$UFWLF1RYD3URKDQGOHVEDVVKHDY\\OR¿EHDWVZLWK aplomb, but you might be somewhat disappointed upon cranking the newest Bad Bunny album to maximum level, which creates a bit of distortion. On the upside, the Arctis Nova Pro keeps most of the sound isolated to your ears, even at maximum volume. This is helped by the earcups’ thick, foam padding. The Arctis Nova Pro supports Hi-Res Audio, but you should check out the Audeze Penrose if you want a gaming headset with audiophile-level drivers.

Unfortunately, the Arctis Nova Pro lacks the wireless If you use the version’s ANC feature. If you use the headset in a noisy headset in a noisy environment, such as public transportation or a busy living room, you’ll miss its noise-dampening tech. The environment, earcups’ padding blocks out many noises, but loud ones such as public get through. transportation or ONE OF THE BEST WIRED GAMING HEADSETS a busy living At $249.99, the Arctis Nova Pro is a well-built gaming room, you’ll miss headset that caters to people who spend a lot of time at their desks. The included GameDAC lets you quickly its noise- jump between audio channels, and the robust software dampening tech. OHWV\\RXWLQNHUZLWK(4VHWWLQJVIRUWHUUL¿FVRXQG quality. For its overall performance, build quality, and options, the Arctic Nova Pro is our new Editors’ Choice winner for premium wired gaming headsets. For a more budget-friendly choice, check out the Astro Gaming A10 *HQ RXUWRSSLFNIRUD̆RUGDEOHJDPLQJ headsets. And for audiophile-grade performance, the Audeze Penrose ($299.99) is worth a look. Photos by Francisco Lahoz PC MAGAZINE DIGITAL EDITION I SUBSCRIBE I AUGUST 2022

REVIEWS HARDWARE Sony Inzone M9: Excellent Visuals Sony enters the gaming display field with a 4K field goal BY ZACKERY CUEVAS With the advent of next-generation consoles such as the Sony PlayStation 5 and Microsoft Xbox Series X, console gamers are now able to experience what PC gamers have enjoyed for many years: playing games at high frame rates and high resolutions. Caveats abound, but that hasn’t stopped classic monitor PDQXIDFWXUHUVIURPSXWWLQJWKHQHHGVRIFRQVROHV¿UVW²DQGWKHODWHVWWRGRVR is the PlayStation manufacturer itself. The Sony Inzone is a new division IRFXVHGRQGHYHORSLQJJDPLQJJHDUDQGRQHRIWKH¿UVWSURGXFWVWRKLWVKHOYHV LVWKH6RQ\\,Q]RQH0DLQFK+].JDPLQJPRQLWRUORRNLQJWR¿QGLWV footing in the under-$1,000 4K-elite gaming category.

For the most part, the monitor impresses, with Full PROS Array Local Dimming (FALD) panel technology for better depth perception, highlights, and deeper blacks. •Eye-catching design It also supports DisplayHDR and packs plenty of •Exclusive features for custom features exclusive to the PlayStation 5. The PlayStation 5 PRQLWRUWULSVXSRQDIHZRIWKHEDVLFVEXWR̆HUVD quality gaming experience, one tailored for those who •Very low input lag jump often between their PC and their console on the •HDMI 2.1 and USB-C same panel. ports included A NEW PLAYER IN DESKTOP GAMING MONITORS CONS :KLOHWKH,Q]RQHEUDQGQDPH¿UVWVRXQGHGWRPHOLNH some sort of subscription service you’d sign up for at a •Expensive Blockbuster in 1996, Sony is positioning it as a branch •Sound quality is of gaming monitors, separate from the PlayStation brand. (Think Sony Bravia TVs, for example.) That said, unremarkable the Inzone M9 pays design tribute to the PlayStation 5, including the white back panel with black accents. The THE BOTTOM LINE panel sits on a sliding rail in the center on which you Sony’s new gaming can adjust it vertically for height changes, while two monitor line enters a smaller legs support the main stand, similar to a tripod. crowded field, but its first A knuckle in the center of the monitor keeps the screen offering, the Inzone M9, and stand connected. delivers excellent visuals for both PC and PlayStation 5 gamers.

Aside from its unique stand, a small inset hides the monitor’s soundbar and gives the monitor a kiss of that sweet, sweet RGB lighting that many gamers crave. The lighting is limited to just the back of the monitor, subdued enough QRWWRR̆HQGWKRVHZKRGRQ¶WIDQF\\LW At the lower-right is a lone OSD control stick and the power button. Tucked away in the OSD are game-assist tools, among them the ability to superimpose a frame-rate counter and a crosshair, as well as to turn on FPS Gaming Picture PRGHZKLFKRSWLPL]HVEULJKWQHVVDQGFRQWUDVWIRU¿UVWSHUVRQVKRRWHUJDPHV <RXFDQDOVRDFFHVVWKHVHRSWLRQVYLDWKH,Q]RQHDSSWKRXJKLWGRHVQ¶WR̆HU anything outside of easier OSD control on the PC. At the center of the monitor’s rear is the I/O cluster, which includes a DisplayPort connector, a headphone jack, three USB-A ports, a USB Type-B upstream port, two HDMI 2.1 ports, and a USB Type-C port. The latter two are welcome additions, and the HDMI 2.1 port is essential to achieving higher frame rates when connected to a PlayStation 5. The monitor is also surprisingly lightweight, weighing just 15 pounds. It’s not as light as the Alienware 27 Gaming Monitor’s 13.8 pounds, but it’s still lighter

WKDQPDQ\\RWKHULQFKR̆HULQJV7KH,Q]RQH0PHDVXUHVE\\E\\ inches (HWD) with the stand, which can be removed to mount the monitor on the wall, if desired. Overall, the monitor rocks a small footprint, smaller than another 27-inch gaming monitor we reviewed recently, the HP Omen 27u 4K. The main star of the Inzone is, of course, its 4K panel. On the surface, the Inzone seems like your standard 27-inch monitor, with super-thin bezels framing the 4K 144Hz IPS screen, but it comes with a few additional bells and ZKLVWOHVRULQWKLVFDVHOLJKWV²EDFNOLJKWVWREHSUHFLVH7KHSDQHOPDNHV use of FALD zones, which can be adjusted independently across the screen. That’s in contrast to edge-lit solutions that can only adjust brightness in horizontal bands. 7KHVHGLPPLQJ]RQHVUHGXFHEDFNOLJKWLQWHQVLW\\LQVSHFL¿FDUHDVRIWKHVFUHHQ which improves the contrast ratio, resulting in brighter highlights and deeper blacks. Typically, more zones mean greater control over the image being displayed on the screen. FALD was once reserved for higher-end LED monitors and TVs but has begun to appear in midrange and budget monitors, which typically include eight to 16 zones of light.

FALD has its limits, however. For one, since it relies on the monitor’s processor, it can potentially increase latency. And dimming zones can result in ghosting or loss of shadow detail, subtle highlights, or even “black crush,” a photography WHUPWKDWUHIHUVWRWKHORVVRI¿GHOLW\\LQGDUNDUHDVRIDQLPDJH The Inzone M9 does its best to ensure picture quality is immaculate, as it also supports Nvidia G-Sync (the panel is rated G-Sync Compatible), VESA adaptive sync, and variable refresh rate (VRR), the last of which can be used when connected to consoles that support it. Like G-Sync, VRR adjusts the display’s UHIUHVKUDWHWRPDWFKWKHÀXFWXDWLQJIUDPHUDWHVRIWKHJDPLQJGHYLFH¶VRXWSXW and in doing so, eliminates stuttering delay and screen tearing for smoother, PRUHÀXLGJDPHSOD\\ TESTING THE INZONE M9: ALL-AROUND SOLID PERFORMANCE Let’s now turn to some real-world testing, using Datacolor’s SpyderX Elite tool, our HDFury Diva input lag tester, and some good old-fashioned gaming. First, we start with the SpyderX Elite to measure brightness, contrast ratio, and FRORUJDPXW:H¿UVWWHVWWKHGLVSOD\\LQLWVGHIDXOWSLFWXUHPRGHZLWKDQ6'5 signal. Here, the Inzone M9 reached a brightness of 342 nits and a black level of 0.32, which yields a contrast ratio of 1,080:1. A 1,000:1 contrast ratio is typical of an IPS-panel-based gaming monitor.

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