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Apple's MacBook Air M2 is up to $300 off, plus the rest of the week's best tech deals

Fri, 2023-12-22 11:50

While it's a bit too late to receive most gifts in time for Christmas, there are still a handful of good gadget deals floating around if you're shopping for yourself. If you need a new laptop today, for instance, multiple configurations of the 13-inch MacBook Air are $200 off Apple's list price. The 15-inch Air, meanwhile, is available for as low as $999, a $300 discount. A bundle of Apple's AirTags is down to $79, while a pack of Tile trackers is down to $50. The Xbox Series X is still $150 off, and the major video game storefronts have kicked off their annual winter sales, with sweeping discounts across Steam, the Nintendo eShop, the PlayStation Store and the Microsoft Store. We're also seeing price drops on recommended gaming mice, wall chargers, wireless earbuds and more. Here are the best tech deals from this week that you can still get today.

A configuration of the 13.6-inch MacBook Air with an Apple M2 chip, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD is down to $1,299 at B&H. That's $200 off Apple's list price. If you can live with less storage and memory, a variant with 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD is also $200 off at $899. A version of the 15.3-inch Air with the same specs, meanwhile, is $300 off and down to an all-time low of $999. The M2 MacBook Air is the top pick in our guide to the best laptops, and both models earned a score of 96 in their respective reviews.

That said, you should only grab one of these if you need a notebook right away, as a recent report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman said that Apple plans to launch updated MacBook Airs in the coming months. If you absolutely can't wait, however, the current models remain supremely well-built and should perform well for everyday tasks for years to come.

If you want a more affordable desktop PC, the M2 Mac mini is also on sale for an all-time low of $479. That's about $30 off its usual street price, though, again, it's likely just a matter of time until we see a refresh with Apple's new M3 chip.

It's a great time to pick up a new video game, as Steam, Nintendo, PlayStation and Xbox have all kicked off their respective holiday sales. There are simply too many deals for us to list them all here, but one highlight is Baldur's Gate 3 for $54. That's only $6 off its usual price, but it's the first discount to date for the recent game of the year winner and recommendation in our guide to the best couch co-op games. The PS5 version of the RPG is also on sale for $63, another 10 percent discount.

Beyond that, other notables include the sweeping open-world RPG Elden Ring for $36, the stylish roguelike Hades for $12.49 and the superb 3D platformers Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury for $35. Mass Effect Legendary Edition, which compiles three classic action-RPGs, is available for just $6, while Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which includes six entries in the Xbox's premier FPS series, is back down to $10. A few more personal recommendations: the all-time great puzzler Portal 2 for a buck, the frantic 2D platformer Pizza Tower for $15, the wonderfully kinetic FPS Titanfall 2 for $4 and the ultra-stylish third-person shooter Max Payne 3 for $6. Outside of these sales, the intense mech-action game Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon is down to a new low of $40 at Amazon.

There are hundreds more deals beyond those, so it's worth perusing the sales for yourself if you're looking to pad your backlog. (Use sites like Deku Deals and IsThereAnyDeal to ensure you're getting a good price.) All of these promos will run into 2024, so even if you don't want anything right now, you'll have time to apply any gift cards you may receive over the holidays. PC gamers should note that the Epic Games Store is still running its holiday sale, which includes a recurring 33 percent coupon that makes many games cheaper than they are on Steam and other storefronts.

The Apple AirTag is the top pick for iPhone owners in our Bluetooth tracker buying guide, as it can utilize Apple's giant Find My device network to locate lost items with impressive accuracy. Right now you can get a single AirTag for $24, which is $6 off Apple's list price, or a four-pack for $79, which is $20 off. The former is about $1 off the lowest price we've tracked; the latter is a deal we've seen for much of the past few weeks, but it still comes within $5 of its all-time low. Just be aware that you'll need an extra accessory or two if you want to attach an AirTag to a particular item, as it lacks any keyring holes or built-in adhesive. These deals are available at several retailers, including Amazon, Walmart and Best Buy.

Tile's trackers are among the better AirTag alternatives for Android users, and right now a four-pack that includes two Tile Mates, a Tile Slim and a Tile Sticker is down to a new low of $50. Normally, this bundle costs about $75. Tile's devices generally aren't as precise as AirTags, but its feature set is mostly similar and its crowd-finding network is still decently large. The varying designs here are more convenient, too — you can easily slip a Tile Slim into a wallet and attach a Tile Mate to a keyring without any third-party accessories. None of these devices have replaceable batteries, however, and Tile locks separation alerts (which let you know when you've travelled too far from a tracked item) behind a subscription fee.

The Xbox Series X is still $150 off and down to $350 at Best Buy, Walmart and Target, though the latter two may require in-store pickup. If those offers run dry, you can still get a bundle that pairs the console with the action-RPG Diablo IV for $50 more. While the console briefly dipped to $340 earlier this week, these are still nice entry points to Microsoft's highest-end game console, which can play many games at a steady 4K/60 fps. The hardware also includes a disc drive, unlike the lower-cost Xbox Series S. And while the Xbox library is a bit light on top-tier exclusives, it still includes a diverse range of games we like. There's a chance Microsoft launches an all-digital Series X refresh at some point in 2024, but the existing model is an easier buy at this price.

The Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3 is down to $60 at Amazon and Target, which is a little more than $20 off the compact portable speaker's typical street price. To sweeten the deal, both retailers are throwing in $10 of store credit alongside the purchase. That'll come in the form of an e-gift card at Target, while Amazon says it'll apply the credit to your account 30 days after shipment. We recommend the Wonderboom 3 in our guide to the best portable Bluetooth speakers, praising its rugged, waterproof design and punchy-for-the-size sound quality. Battery life should last between 14 and 20 hours depending on how much you crank the volume.

The Razer Basilisk V3 is on sale for $40 at Amazon, Target and Best Buy, a $10 discount that matches the deal price we saw on Black Friday. This is the top pick in our gaming mouse buying guide. It's not especially light at 100 grams, but it performs reliably, and its sturdy, contoured shape should be comfortable for any grip type. It comes with 11 customizable buttons, and its scroll wheel is impressively versatile, as it can tilt left or right and utilize a free spin mode for faster scrolling. Though the design looks "gamer-y," its RGB lighting isn't overly aggressive, either.

The Anker 735 Charger is down to $30 at Amazon, which is about $10 off its typical street price. This is a fairly compact wall charger with two USB-C ports and a USB-A port. It can supply up to 65W of power, which is enough to refill many smartphones at full speed and charge some smaller laptops. If you need more juice, the Anker 736 Charger is a bit larger but can deliver up to 100W; that one is $15 off and down to $45 with an on-page coupon.

The Bose QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds are back on sale for $249 at several retailers, which isn't an all-time low but still takes $50 off the pair's usual going rate. It also ties the deal we saw on Black Friday. The QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds earned a score of 88 in our review this past September, and they're currently the "best for noise cancellation" pick in our wireless earbuds buying guide. If you just want the strongest active noise cancellation (ANC) possible in a true wireless form factor, they're better at muting the outside world than any earbuds we've tested. Their default sound goes heavy on the bass, which should please fans of hip-hop and EDM, but you can customize the EQ curve if needed. The design is on the larger side, however, and their battery life and call quality are just OK. 

Sony's WF-1000XM5, the top pick in our guide, is currently available for a dollar less, though that discount has been available for most of the past two months. The WF-10000XM5 is still a more well-rounded option on the whole, but the QuietComfort Ultra Earbuds' ANC is more adept at muting low-end noises like the rumble of a plane or bus engine.

The Beats Fit Pro is the "best for workouts" pick in our wireless earbuds guide, and it's now on sale for $160 at Amazon, Walmart and others. We've seen this deal several times in the past year, but it's a decent $20 less than the pair's typical street price. The Fit Pro packs many of the Apple-friendly conveniences of the AirPods Pro — hands-free Siri, easy pairing and audio switching, spatial audio, etc. — in a sportier and more stable design. It sounds nice, too, plus it uses physical buttons instead of touch controls. That said, it lacks wireless charging, it can't connect to multiple devices simultaneously and its ANC can't really touch the better options on the market. We gave the Fit Pro a score of 87 in our review. A few other Beats models are also on sale, including the more basic Studio Buds for $80.

The 55-inch version of Hisense's U6K TV is back down to $350 at Amazon and Best Buy, tying the all-time low we saw around Black Friday. Normally, it retails for $50 to $100 more. Though we don't review TVs at Engadget, the U6K has received positive reviews from other sites we trust for delivering better-than-usual picture quality for a budget-level TV. It's one of the few sets in this price range to use mini-LED backlighting, quantum dots and full-array local dimming, which collectively improve its color volume and contrast performance. Reviews say it can't get as bright as more expensive models, so it won't be great for HDR content, and its image will wash out when viewed from an angle. It's also not ideal for gaming, as it's stuck at a basic 60Hz refresh rate and lacks HDMI 2.1 ports. But if you don't have tons of cash to burn, it should provide strong value.

If you're willing to pay a little extra and don't mind dropping down to a 48-inch TV, the LG A2 is also worth noting at its current price of $550 at Best Buy. This is another deal we've seen numerous times, but it ties the best price we've tracked. The A2 is LG's entry-level OLED TV from 2022, but simply being an OLED set means it produces superior contrast, bolder colors, wider viewing angles and smoother motion than most options in this price range. It can't get especially bright, so it's best suited away from glare, and like the U6K it lacks HDMI 2.1 features for gaming like VRR. Still, it should be a nice step-up option for smaller or secondary rooms. 

The 8BitDo Ultimate Bluetooth Controller is on sale for $56 at Best Buy. That's a few bucks higher than the lowest price we've tracked but still $14 off the device's typical going rate. The Ultimate Bluetooth Controller is a comfortable and deeply customizable wireless gamepad for Switch and PC that we've highlighted before. The big advantage it has over most official controllers is its Hall effect joysticks, which use magnets to read inputs instead of contact-based potentiometers. That means it should be less susceptible to wear over time and avoid the dreaded “stick drift” we often see with traditional gamepads. An accurate d-pad, a nifty charging dock and a pair of customizable back buttons are all nice to have as well.

The latest Amazon Fire HD 10 tablet is on sale for $90, which is $10 more than the all-time low we saw on Black Friday but still $50 off its usual going rate. At this price, the Fire HD 10 is one of the better values for those who just want a cheap slate for media consumption. Its 10.1-inch 1080p display is decently sharp and bright, its battery lasts a solid 10-ish hours per charge and it performs fine for simple web browsing and video streaming. This model only comes with 32GB of storage, but you can expand that with a microSD card. Its matte plastic design is still a far cry from an iPad's build quality, and Amazon's Fire OS is still a bit of a mess, with lock-screen ads, a limited app store and a general tendency to push you toward the company's own services. But if you really can't spend more than $100 on a new tablet, the Fire HD 10 should be an acceptable compromise. 

The 32-inch Samsung Smart Monitor M80C is back down to $400 at Amazon, B&H and other retailers. That's a roughly $100 discount and the best price we've seen outside of education-related special offers. This is one of the more versatile monitors on the market, as it comes with the Tizen platform you'd find on Samsung's smart TVs built-in. This allows the device to access various streaming services without having to connect to a PC. It's a decent 4K monitor in its own right, with a VA panel that delivers high contrast, though it's limited to a 60Hz refresh rate and will look washed out from an angle. You'd buy it for the extra functionality first: Apart from the built-in app support, it can function as a smart home hub, it supports Apple AirPlay and it works with both Alexa and Bixby. There are built-in speakers and a dedicated webcam as well.

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This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/apples-macbook-air-m2-is-up-to-300-off-plus-the-rest-of-the-weeks-best-tech-deals-165034046.html?src=rss

The best gaming handhelds for 2024

Fri, 2023-12-22 10:00

Handheld gaming systems are having a moment. While gaming on the go has been a thing since the Game Boy, the success of the Nintendo Switch and a string of ever-improving processors have brought an eruption of devices that let you play all sorts of games anywhere you want. Because new models seem to arrive every week, however, figuring out the best gaming handheld for you can be complicated. You already know that the Switch is great, but depending on what else you want to play, the right handheld could range from a $100 emulation machine to a $700 portable PC. To help you narrow things down, we’ve researched the best handheld gaming consoles, tested the major contenders and laid out a few top picks.

What to know about the gaming handheld market A collection of gaming handhelds rest on a wooden tabletop. The handhelds include the Nintendo Switch - OLED Model, Valve Steam Deck and the Retroid Pocket 3, as well as an iPhone 12 mini hooked up to a Backbone One mobile game controller.Jeff Dunn / Engadget

You can break down the gaming handheld market into three broad tiers. At the top, you have x86-based portable gaming PCs like the Steam Deck or ASUS ROG Ally. These are the most powerful handhelds you can buy, as they seek to replicate the experience of a moderately specced gaming desktop. The Steam Deck runs on the Linux operating system, but most others use Windows. If you want to play modern, recently released PC games on the go (and need something stronger than a Switch), this is the type of device you’d get. They can also emulate the widest range of retro consoles. They’re typically the largest and most cumbersome devices to hold, however, and their battery life can be short. Naturally, they’re also the most expensive, costing anywhere from $400 to more than $1,000.

Further down on the price spectrum are "mobile handhelds" like the Logitech G Cloud or Retroid Pocket. These devices often run Android or Linux and can range from under $50 to $400-ish. They aren’t equipped to play modern console or PC titles, but they’re usually more compact than a portable PC, and you can still use them for mobile games and cloud streaming. While most are marketed toward those ends, many gamers actually buy them to emulate classic games through software like RetroArch. Getting emulators to work can be complicated, and accessing the BIOS and ROM files required to play games this way is legally murky. (Engadget does not condone piracy.) Backing up files of games you already own for personal use only is considered more defensible, though, so for that a mobile handheld can be a more user- and wallet-friendly way to play the classics anywhere. The best mobile handhelds can generally emulate games into the sixth generation of consoles, though newer systems like the Nintendo 3DS and even the Switch are also playable to an extent.

We’ll call the last tier “handhelds that do their own thing.” This is a catch-all for things like the Switch or Playdate: portable devices that run heavily customized software and aim to provide a unique gaming experience. They aren’t necessarily ideal for emulation or playing the latest multiplatform titles; instead, they often have distinct game libraries. They might not have the widest appeal as a result (Switch excluded), but they’re often easier for less tech-literate folks to just pick up and use.

Best handheld gaming PC for most: Valve Steam Deck

Thanks to a recent refresh, Valve’s Steam Deck continues to offer the best balance of price, performance and usability in the gaming handheld market. And the new Steam Deck OLED is a thorough upgrade over the original. Starting at $549 for 512GB of storage, this variant features a 7.4-inch OLED display that’s brighter, faster, slightly bigger and more vivid than the 7-inch IPS panel on the now entry-level model. The higher contrast and richer colors of an OLED screen makes every game look better by default, but this display also supports HDR, with significantly brighter highlights at its peak. The maximum refresh rate has jumped from 60Hz to 90Hz as well, which can help many games look smoother.

Due to the less power-hungry display, a more efficient AMD APU and a larger battery, the Steam Deck OLED also lasts longer than before. No handheld can play resource-intensive "AAA" games for too long, but Valve says the new model can run for three to 12 hours depending on the game, whereas the LCD model lasts between two and eight. A larger fan keeps things cooler and quieter, and the chassis feels lighter. Performance is roughly the same, though the OLED model’s increased memory bandwidth can help it gain a couple extra frames in certain games.

All that said, $549 is a big investment. The entry-level Steam Deck, which uses a more basic IPS LCD display but now comes with a 256GB SSD as standard, is still an unmatched value at $399. Newer AAA games are certainly pushing their limits, but both Decks can run tons of games that just aren’t possible on a Nintendo Switch, from Elden Ring to Final Fantasy VII Remake to the Resident Evil 4 remake. While official game support is limited to a subset of the Steam library, the list of officially verified and still-playable titles is massive, diverse and constantly growing. (There are workarounds to access other storefronts as well.)

A near-constant stream of updates has turned Valve’s SteamOS into a flexible yet user-friendly platform. You’ll still need to make tweaks every now and then to get a game to run optimally, but the process is usually straightforward. That power, combined with third-party tools like EmuDeck, makes the Deck superb for emulation as well. Some PS3 and original Xbox games can be tricky, but just about everything else works beautifully. You can also cloud stream Xbox games with a little setup.

The Steam Deck’s biggest issue is its size: At two inches thick and nearly a foot long, it stretches the definition of a “handheld” device, even if the OLED model is lighter by comparison. The LCD Deck can get warm and noisy fairly quickly, too, and the d-pad on each device is somewhat mushy. But the contoured grips on the back help offset the bulk, and both versions feel sturdy, with responsive face buttons and triggers, smooth joysticks and useful dual touchpads.

Best Windows alternative: ASUS ROG Ally

If you’re willing to spend extra for more power, you can skip the Steam Deck and buy a Windows-based handheld instead. The ASUS ROG Ally is the one that should work for most people, and it’s a decent alternative if you’re willing to trade ease of use for a higher performance ceiling. Think of it like a more portable gaming laptop.

Note that we’re specifically recommending the model with an AMD Ryzen Z1 Extreme APU, which costs $700. ASUS sells another version with a weaker Ryzen Z1 chip for $100 less, but the power drop-off there is too great. With the Z1 Extreme, the ROG Ally can play more demanding games at higher frame rates and resolutions than the Steam Deck. In our review, we saw fps gains of 15 to 25 percent in AAA fare like Cyberpunk 2077 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. While the Steam Deck officially tops out at a TDP of 15W, the ROG Ally’s Turbo mode boosts its power draw to 25W (or 30W when plugged in), letting it eke out more frames. It’s not the absolute fastest handheld, and the Steam Deck can actually outperform it on occasion at the same TDP, resolution and graphics settings. But the ROG Ally has more overhead going forward, which is important if you mostly play graphically demanding games.

The ROG Ally’s 7-inch LCD display isn’t as bright or color-rich as the Steam Deck OLED, but it has a sharper 1080p resolution and a faster 120Hz refresh rate. Most importantly, it supports variable refresh rates (VRR), which helps keep the image smooth even as a game’s frame rate fluctuates. Despite having a similar-size screen, the ROG Ally is also shorter, lighter and thinner than the Steam Deck OLED. That said, it doesn’t come with a case. And though the hardware isn’t as much of a brick as the Steam Deck, Valve’s handheld has more pronounced grips around its back, which could still make it easier to hold for those with large hands.

The ROG Ally’s upgraded performance and sharper display come at the expense of battery life, however. That usually sits in the two- to four-hour range, but it can be even less with certain games and higher performance modes, somewhat defeating the point of a “portable” device.

Because it runs on Windows 11, the ROG Ally can play games from any gaming client, not just a selection of Steam games. If you've built up libraries on stores like Epic, GOG, Itch.io or the Xbox app, you can access them here as you would on any other Windows PC, no special workarounds required. For those who want to play Epic exclusives like Alan Wake 2 or Xbox Game Pass titles, this is a real advantage.

But the biggest issue with all Windows handhelds is the operating system itself. ASUS has made more strides than most by turning its Armoury Crate software into a centralized settings hub and game library, but it’s still slapping a bandage on an OS that simply isn’t designed for this device class.

Whether a game works smoothly right away can feel like a crapshoot on a Windows handheld. Sometimes the UI won’t scale properly, sometimes you’ll have to spend several minutes fiddling with graphics settings and key bindings, sometimes you’ll have to alternate between navigating the OS with buttons and with your fingers. I once had to hard-reset the ROG Ally after a driver issue kept the screen from turning on.

ASUS shows a helpful seven-minute tutorial on how to update and use the ROG Ally upon first launching Armoury Crate, but the fact that it needs a seven-minute intro video in the first place is telling. Nobody will confuse the Steam Deck with a Switch, but it’s much simpler to just pick up and use than any Windows alternative.

The ROG Ally has also had some troubles with quality control. Most notably, several users have reported problems with the device ejecting or outright killing their microSD cards, an issue ASUS has since confirmed. The device’s SSD is replaceable with a little legwork, however, so we recommend taking that route if you need more than 512GB of storage.

Best budget handheld gaming system (for now): Retroid Pocket 3+

The $149 Retroid Pocket 3+ is an Android device with far less power than the Steam Deck or ROG Ally, so it can only play modern games via cloud streaming. It also comes from a lesser-known Chinese company. But if you mainly want a handheld to emulate older games, this is a comfortable and reasonably affordable way to do so.

A word of warning, though: Retroid announced two successors to the Pocket 3+, the $149 Pocket 4 and $199 Pocket 4 Pro, right as we finished the latest update to this guide. Neither device should be a huge leap forward, but they'll feature more powerful chipsets, analog triggers, Hall effect joysticks and more conveniently-placed menu buttons. The Pocket 4 Pro could be a particularly great value, as its MediaTek Dimensity 1100 chip and 8GB of RAM should let it emulate nearly all games from demanding machines like the PlayStation 2 and GameCube. The Pocket 4 and 4 Pro went up for pre-order this week and will begin shipping in mid- to late-January, so the vast majority of people should hold off on buying the Pocket 3+ now. We’ll update this guide once we test the new devices.

If you absolutely cannot wait, however, the Pocket 3+ is effectively the same as its predecessor (the Pocket 3, which we praised in late 2022) but adds a faster chip (the Unisoc T618) and more RAM (4GB). It’s built like a smaller Nintendo Switch Lite: mostly flat, but slim, light (235g) and not fatiguing to hold for long stretches. The 4.7-inch touch display isn’t huge, but it’s bright and saturated, with a sharp-enough 750 x 1,334 resolution and a 16:9 aspect ratio that’s nice for cloud streaming and emulating systems like the PSP. (You’ll get borders with some older consoles, though.)

The hardware still has some quirks: The face buttons are a little beady, the start and select buttons are oddly placed on the left-hand side and the triggers aren’t pressure-sensitive. The joysticks are on the shallower side, too, but they’re smooth and accurate. Overall, though, the Pocket 3+ is easy to carry and built well for the money.

The Pocket 3+ can emulate consoles up to the Dreamcast and PSP range comfortably, and you’ll have few issues if you’re mainly looking to play older games from the SNES, PS1 and earlier. After firmware updates, the device’s performance has also improved to the point where some PS2 and GameCube games are at least playable. That’s impressive for the price point — but again, the Pocket 4 and especially 4 Pro should bring a noticeable upgrade. You can still play most native Android titles and stream games from a PC, Xbox or PS5, too. Battery life will depend on what you’re playing but typically lasts a decent five to seven hours.

Retroid makes another handheld called the Pocket Flip that’s essentially the Pocket 3+ with a clamshell design. That one costs $10 more and uses sliders instead of joysticks. Retroid hasn’t announced a follow-up yet, so it’s still worth considering if you’ll stick to lighter emulation and want a form factor that’s closer to a Nintendo DS than a Switch Lite.

Best mobile gaming handheld: AYN Odin 2

If you have more cash to burn on an emulation-focused machine, the AYN Odin 2 is the absolute best retro gaming handheld you can buy right now. This Android device runs on a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chipset, the same processor you’d find in recent flagship Android phones. It starts at $300 for 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, which is expensive when the entry-level Steam Deck lets you play PC games for just $99 more. 

Still, among more compact mobile handhelds, there’s really nothing else that can offer this much performance in this price range. The Odin 2 easily played all PS2 and GameCube games we tested at two to three times their native resolution, while other systems like the PS1, N64, 3DS and Dreamcast were typically playable at a 3-4x upscale. It’s smoother than most with the notoriously tricky Sega Saturn, and it can even play many Switch games (though Switch emulators on Android are still maturing).

It’s not just raw performance, though — the Odin 2 is also a refined piece of hardware. It’s not pocketable, but it’s much less chunky than a portable PC and the ergonomic grips on its back make it easy to hold. Its d-pad, face buttons, triggers and joysticks all feel great. Because the sticks use Hall effect sensors, they should avoid drifting issues over time. Other touches like a fingerprint scanner, a dedicated return button, a micro-HDMI out port and two customizable back buttons are nice perks, too.

The 6-inch, 1080p touchscreen is solid and well-sized (though it can stay a bit too bright in darker settings). Battery life is superb: We got more than eight hours of juice emulating systems like the PS2, but that jumped over 20 hours with lighter tasks. The device supports 65W fast charging as well. Cloud streaming and native Android games work just fine, and since the whole thing runs on a lightly modded version of Google’s OS, its stock interface should feel familiar to most.

The base Odin 2 has been in and out of stock, and we’ll keep an eye on how close the Retroid Pocket 4 Pro can get to it performance-wise for $100 less. But for playing the classics or streaming modern games without a hitch, the Odin 2 is tough to top right now.

A premium device for vintage portable games: Analogue Pocket

The Analogue Pocket is the ultimate Game Boy. Its vertical design is built like a modernized, premium version of Nintendo’s classic handheld, and it can even work with accessories like the Game Boy Camera. Compared to the original, though, the Pocket adds two extra face buttons, a pair of rear triggers, a microSD slot, a USB-C port and a rechargeable battery rated for six to 10 hours of playtime. Most significantly, it has a gorgeous 3.5-inch display that’s both backlit and incredibly sharp (615 ppi) but can be set to look like an old Game Boy panel with different filter modes. The device can also output to a TV with an optional dock.

Unlike the retro handhelds mentioned above, the Pocket is designed to play actual cartridges, not just ROM files. It works with Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance games through its cartridge slot, while games from the Sega Game Gear are playable through an optional adapter. (Eventually, one day, adapters for other systems like the TurboGrafx-16 and Atari Lynx will arrive as well.)

Like past Analogue devices, the Pocket uses field-programmable gate array (FPGA) motherboards to mimic its target systems on a hardware level. In practice, this means the Pocket’s “emulation” of older titles is near-perfect, with a level of responsiveness and visual faithfulness that software-based emulation can’t match. Pop in a Game Boy or GBA cartridge and you can essentially play it as intended. That said, thanks to a big post-launch update and an active user community, the Pocket can also run ROMs off a microSD card and thus play systems like the SNES and Sega Genesis.

The Pocket isn’t cheap at $220, and its shoulder buttons aren’t as crisp to press as the excellent d-pad or face buttons. Still, if you have a collection of Game Boy, Game Gear or GBA games, the Pocket is the most elegant way to play them, and it’s only become more versatile over time. Its biggest flaw is that it’s hard to buy — expect to wait a few months for new orders to ship.

Honorable mentions The Legion Go's 8.8-inch OLED display is the biggest screen available on pretty much any gaming handheld available today. The Lenovo Legion Go.Photo by Sam Rutherford/Engadget Lenovo Legion Go

The Lenovo Legion Go is a capable alternative to the ASUS ROG Ally if you want a Windows handheld with a larger display. It also costs $700, runs on the same Ryzen Z1 Extreme chip and offers a similar set of performance modes, but it has a mondo-sized 8.8-inch panel with a sharper 2,560 x 1,600 resolution and a higher 144Hz refresh rate. It also borrows some ideas from the Switch, including detachable controllers and a built-in kickstand for playing games in a “tabletop” mode. Those controllers have touchpads to make navigating Windows a little easier, something the ROG Ally lacks. Battery life is a little better than ASUS’ machine as well.

But it’s still a Windows handheld, and Lenovo’s software tweaks aren’t as mature (yet) as what ASUS has done with Armoury Crate, so the UX often feels half-baked. The jumbo design is bulkier and a half-pound heavier than the ROG Ally, so some will find it too fatiguing to hold. Its fans are louder, too, and the display lacks VRR. Still, it's not a bad choice if you’re dead-set on Windows.

Miyoo Mini Plus

The Miyoo Mini Plus is much more affordable than the Retroid Pocket 3+ and comes with a well-built, Game Boy-style form factor that fits nicely with older games. Its 3.5-inch display really pops for something in the $60 to $80 range, its battery lasts as long as it needs to and it can emulate consoles up to the original PlayStation without much issue. It runs Linux, so it’s extensively customizable, though it can require a bit of tinkering to get it working optimally. Since it’s from a smaller Chinese firm and isn’t available at major retailers, however, it can be difficult to actually buy.

PlaydateThe Playdate.Engadget Playdate

The Playdate, from app developer and Untitled Goose Game publisher Panic, is a tiny yellow box with a 2.7-inch monochrome display, two face buttons, a d-pad and a physical crank built into its side. We called it a “cross between a Game Boy and a business card” in our review, and it is indeed incredibly small at roughly three inches tall and 0.18 pounds. It has a dedicated game library that largely consists of oddball indies, most of which focus on one or two core ideas instead of trying to stuff in as many mechanics as possible. A couple dozen of those games are bundled with the device, while others are available via a built-in store or sideloading from shops like Itch.io. It’s generally well-built, and its battery life is decent at six to eight hours per charge.

At $200, it’s hard to call the Playdate a great value when it’s only designed to play a selection of niche games. Its display isn’t backlit, either. But in a sea of devices that try to be everything for everyone, the Playdate is admirably focused and low-key. If you’re into smaller-scale fare and have some money to play with, it’ll be a fun toy. It may take a few weeks to ship, though.

Anbernic RG405M

The Anbernic RG405M is a good Android handheld if you like the idea of the Retroid Pocket 3+ but want something more compact. This device runs on the same chipset but has a 4-inch display and a more substantial metal frame. Its 4:3 aspect ratio means you won’t have to deal with black bars as much for retro games, though it can feel crunched with newer systems and cloud streaming. It’s more expensive than the Pocket 3+ and upcoming Pocket 4, however, with prices starting around $160.

We’ll also note the Retroid Pocket 2S, another 4:3 handheld that starts at $99. It’s a nice compromise if you’re on a tighter budget, but that lower cost brings a smaller 3.5-inch display, a slightly slower chip and less premium build quality than the RG405M.

Other notable gaming handhelds we tested The Ayaneo Kun is pictured on a coffee table with the Death Stranding launch screen showing.The Ayaneo Kun.Photo by James Trew / Engadget

The Ayaneo Kun is the most decadent Windows handheld we’ve tested. With a sharp 8.4-inch display, a powerful Ryzen 7 7840U chip, up to 64GB of RAM, up to 4TB of storage, a huge 75Wh battery and a whopping 54W max TDP, it’s both a gaming beast and a feasible replacement for a desktop PC. But it starts at $1,000, with a top-end config priced at an eye-watering $1,700. It’s also huge, and it suffers from the usual Windows-related issues. It’s a super device if money is truly no object, one without much genuine competition, but it’s more handheld than most need.

The Ayaneo 2S is another high-power Windows handheld with a sharper display, larger battery and more configuration options than the ROG Ally. It uses the same chip as the Kun as well. But it’s limited to a 60Hz refresh rate and costs a few hundred dollars more.

A small gaming handheld that looks reminiscent to the original Nintendo Game Boy called the Anbernic RG35XX Plus rests at an angle on a light brown wooden table. The display is turned on and showcases the start screen from the Game Boy game Metal Gear Solid.The Anbernic RG35XX Plus.Photo by Jeff Dunn / Engadget

The Anbernic RG35XX Plus is another wallet-friendly vertical handheld worth keeping an eye on. For about the same price as the Miyoo Mini Plus, it offers a faster chipset, more RAM and a bigger battery alongside a similarly impressive design. It could easily supplant Miyoo’s handheld in the future, but it’s new, so it doesn’t have the same helpful firmware customizations right now, and its stock OS is pretty rough. Also, while its stronger processor is nice, its small screen and lack of analog sticks means you won’t want to emulate much beyond the PS1 anyway.

The Logitech G Cloud would be a great Android pick if it cost about $150 less. Its 7-inch 1080p display is bright, vibrant and more pleasing to look at than the panels on the Retroid Pocket 3+ or AYN Odin 2, its battery lasts a good 10 to 12 hours per charge and its design is comfy to hold for hours at a time. Alas, the G Cloud sells for $300, which is just too much when the Odin 2 offers far more power for the same price.

PlayStation PortalThe PlayStation Portal.Photo by Devindra Hardawar/Engadget

The PlayStation Portal is a baffling device that can only stream games from a PlayStation 5. It lacks built-in apps, so emulation isn’t possible, and it can’t tap into the cloud streaming service available with a PlayStation Plus Premium subscription. Because it’s entirely dependent on the quality of your home Wi-Fi, we can’t guarantee how well it’ll actually perform for you. It doesn’t work with Bluetooth earbuds, either. Its 8-inch display is fine and the DualSense-style controls are great, so Sony diehards who want a second screen for local PS5 streaming may see the appeal. But there’s nothing here that you can’t do with a smartphone and a mobile game controller, so most people are better off saving their $200.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/best-handheld-gaming-system-140018863.html?src=rss

Engadget Podcast: Diving into the Apple Watch sales ban

Fri, 2023-12-22 10:00

Right as we’re heading into Christmas, Apple has been forced to stop sales of the Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 in the US, due to an ongoing patent dispute with Masimo over pulse oximeters. To break down what’s going on, Devindra and Ben chat with Christina Farr, a health tech investor at OMERS Ventures and author of the newsletter Second Opinion. It turns out Apple has made a habit of tempting people away from competing companies, and that includes Masimo’s former chief medical officer. Did Apple really steal trade secrets? Or does it just look very guilty since it had the means and motive to copy Masimo’s technology?

Listen below or subscribe on your podcast app of choice. If you've got suggestions or topics you'd like covered on the show, be sure to email us or drop a note in the comments! And be sure to check out our other podcast, Engadget News!

  • Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 sales ban chat with Chrissy Farr – 1:49

  • Generative image model LAION-5B has over 1000 CSAM images in its dataset – 20:07

  • PS5 outsold Xbox 3 to 1 in 2023, lifetime PS5 sales hit 50 million – 24:00

  • Hackers release footage from Insomniac’s Wolverine after 1.67TB data breach – 34:35

  • Working on – 37:24

  • Pop culture picks – 38:07


Hosts: Devindra Hardawar and Ben Ellman
Guest: Christina Farr
Producer: Ben Ellman
Music: Dale North and Terrence O'Brien

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/engadget-podcast-apple-watch-sales-ban-150001698.html?src=rss

First American discloses a 'cybersecurity incident,' a few years after its major leak

Fri, 2023-12-22 09:51

First American, a real estate and mortgage financial firm, experienced a "cybersecurity incident" impacting operations, the company posted on its website on Thursday. The company has not released any details about what happened, but as of the time of publication, its website remained down. 

"First American has experienced a cybersecurity incident," says a statement on its website. "In response, we have taken certain systems offline and are working to return to normal business operations as soon as possible." First American did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In 2019, First American came under fire for its handling of sensitive information. It paid a $1 million fine to the New York State Department of Financial Services after a vulnerability in its proprietary "EaglePro" application left data like social security numbers and bank information exposed.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/first-american-discloses-a-cybersecurity-incident-a-few-years-after-its-major-leak-145141277.html?src=rss