The French government announced a new initiative today in order to promote gender equality in the tech ecosystem in France with the help of 15 organizations. Like in many other countries, there are less women working in French startups than men. This is a key issue when it comes to recruiting the best talent and addressing the right market. I’m glad to see that the French government… Read More
Slack, the business app that lets teams of users communicate, share files from other services, and work on them with each other, has taken off like wildfire since launching three years ago, with 5 million daily users, 1.5 million of them paying today. Now, Slack is embarking on the next step in its ambition to be the go-to platform for all workplace collaboration, no matter how big the… Read More
President Trump is expected to sign an executive order today on cybersecurity that will commission a review of the federal government’s capabilities and defenses, similar to reviews ordered by Obama when he took office and again last year. A draft of the order, obtained by the Washington Post, summarizes review measures Trump wants federal agencies to take and raises more questions… Read More
Facebook gave businesses the Like button connected to their Page, and now Snapchat is giving websites their own QR Snapcodes. With today’s iOS update, users can create a unique Snapcode for a website, which will open inside Snapchat when they scan it with the app’s camera. This could create a powerful way for businesses and other sites to promote themselves with photographable… Read More
Google Earth Enterprise, which originally launched over ten years ago, was Google’s tool for businesses that wanted to build and host private versions of Google Earth and Google Maps for their internal geospatial applications. In 2015, the company announced that it would shut the service down in March 2017 but in what is becoming a pretty standard move for deprecated products, Google… Read More
Update:We’ve overhauled this page with information on a series of new and updated tests that we run on laptops, desktops and other computing products going into 2017.
TechRadar believes evaluating laptops based on their value proposition. As such, we review computing devices, including laptops, convertibles and desktops of all sizes against their own price and other options available on the market. Our review process is also underpinned by rigorous tests to determine the quality, performance and battery life of each machine.
We begin by examining a laptop’s design and build quality to see how solid it feels to the touch and whether it fulfils the role it was designed for.
The overall build quality is important, so we go to great lengths to test the overall strength and durability of each system. We also assess the functionality of all ports, switches and latches. The quality of the screen is considered, with checks for brightness, evenness of tone, as well as any dead pixels identified.
The final part of our initial tests deals with the weight of the machine and its relative portability. Next, we assess the overall usability of the machine, including the quality of the keyboard, touchpad and overall user interface.
Updating and optimizing
Before we begin testing every laptop by updating the system with the latest patches, firmware updates and drivers. No device stays frozen in time and while this means benchmarking numbers are a constantly moving – and often, rising – target, it’s a part of our technological progress.
To give every machine the benefit of the doubt, we also turn on “high performance mode” before testing. This ensures the integrated graphics as well as any other components inside the laptop are operating at their maximum performance. Similarly, we switch laptops to “balanced mode” in the power options before battery tests to ensure they don’t run out of juice prematurely in a setting that isn’t intended for use on battery.
Performance benchmarks explained
As every device is tested using the same suite of benchmark tests, its performance can easily be compared against rival products. Each review is accompanied by the test results for that machine, as well comparisons to its closest competitors.
Before the hands-on part of our testing has been dealt with, the laptop will spend up to 72 hours being run through a series of benchmarks to check overall performance. Each machine is set at the same high performance level for all tests save for battery life. This way, we can judge how effectively it will run at its maximum potential.
We use a number of synthetic tests to measure a laptop’s components. The first,PCMark 8 battery life, tests the device’s battery endurance. We then follow up with an anecdotal battery test further simulating real life usage: video playback. (Both of these are detailed in sections following this one.)
The PCMark 8 performance is conducted as well at the highest performance settings, testing its CPU and ability to multitask as well as render complex files and graphical elements. Meanwhile, 3DMarkis specifically designed to test the strength of the laptop’s graphics processor(s) with various 3D modeling and game physics tests. Specifically, we run the Sky Diver (aimed at gaming laptops and low-power devices), Time Spy (DirectX 12-enabled) and Fire Strike (pushing the high-end) 3DMark tests on each gaming device.
We then evaluate the CPU’s multi-core performance throughCinebench., which measures various hyperthreading capabilities as well as CPU graphical performance. Geekbench 3 is also used to measure the CPU’s multi-core and single-core throughput.
Finally, if we’re reviewing a gaming laptop or desktop, we use benchmark tools found within Grand Theft Auto V and The Division for PC, to truly tax those dedicated graphics chips. Both of those tests are run at their highest and lowest settings at 1080p resolution, to give an idea of where the device’s boundaries of power are at the most common pixel count.
Each of these performance tests are run at least twice to ensure an accurate result. If two results for a test vary by more than 100 points, then we run the test three times and record the average.
PCMark 8 battery life explained
This software tests mobile performance and battery life, simulating popular general tasks such as video chat, web browsing and document creation while the system is unplugged.
Firstly, all laptops are set to Balanced in the power options if possible. We also tweak some advanced settings, including telling the screen and hard drives to never sleep, we set the critical battery level to 5%. Most importantly, this test is conducted with the screen brightness and system volume set to 50%, with no radios active but Wi-Fi. Any additional lighting is disabled as well.
With the laptop’s battery fully charged, we disconnect the main power. PCMark 8 then simulates day-to-day use until the battery runs close to dry. Once it’s through, PCMark 8 provides an estimate of the battery’s total capacity in hours and minutes based on how quickly power drained during the test. Here is how we’ve come to interpret the scores based on past data:
2 hours: This either isn’t a very power-efficient machine, or wasn’t designed for endurance.
3 hours: Generally Ultrabooks come in at around the long end of this time, as well as high-resolution laptops.
4 hours: Only the longest-lasting laptops can achieve this level of endurance or longer, though the trend is starting to near 5 hours in 2017.
Anecdotal battery life explained
In addition to using PCMark8 to create a synthetic measurement of battery life, we also test how long laptops can last through a regular day of use through a common task: video playback. In this real life test, we run a 1080p video on a continuous loop through VLC Player and measure the time until the battery is completely drained in hours and minutes.
We run the laptop from a full charge until the machine ultimately shuts down after the battery is fully exhausted.
This test is also conducted with the screen brightness and system volume set to 50%, with no radios active but Wi-Fi. Any additional lighting is disabled as well, and the power setting is set to Balanced if possible.
LG’s UltraFine 5K Display might be a 27-inch monitor with a massive 5,120 x 2,880 resolution – and a honking price tag to match – but it’s suffering from a serious bugbear after going on sale last month. Namely, the fact that it doesn’t get along well with nearby Wi-Fi routers.
If the router happens to be within 2 meters distance of the display, then the monitor isn’t so “ultra-fine.” In fact, things aren’t remotely fine, and the peripheral becomes effectively “unusable”, as 9 to 5 Mac reports.
Apparently, users can experience nasty flickering which can turn into a black screen as the router is moved closer, with the tech site noting that the display would keep disconnecting itself from the MacBook Pro it was hooked up to – even causing the laptop to freeze up at times.
LG’s technical support acknowledged the problem, advising to check whether the monitor is near a router, and saying that this could affect the performance of the display. In further correspondence, the monitor manufacturer said it recommends that any Wi-Fi router is placed at least 2m away from the screen to avoid such interference.
LG also made it clear that this issue only affected its 5K monitors and not other models.
Reviews of the product on the Apple store also complain about this issue, with one buyer writing: “Connecting the MBP [MacBook Pro] to the display causes the MBP to freeze frequently, or not respond at all. Connected keyboards (with required USB adaptors, naturally) constantly need to be unplugged and plugged in again to work…”
We’ve contacted Apple to see if the company has any comment on this matter, and will update this story with any response we receive.
At any rate, if you’ve been tearing your hair out due to similar problems with your shiny new 5K display, and there’s a nearby Wi-Fi router, you’ll just have to shift the latter a bit further out of the way to resolve any issues (hopefully). But of course this does not reflect particularly well on the build quality of such an expensive display.
Photoshop’s built-in filters are superb, but you can expand your collection almost infinitely with third-party Photoshop Actions, which essentially ‘record’ a series of tasks conducted within the software and replay the steps automatically.
Third-party filters are an easy way to apply new and imaginative effects to your photographs, and their developers often offer some of their most popular creations to download and use free. If you love the freebies, you might then consider buying a package containing more.
Another good place to find free Photoshop filters is DeviantArt, where creatives and artists around the world share and critique each others’ work. Search the site for ‘Photoshop filter’ and ‘Photoshop action’ and you’ll find a ton of freebies (though you might have to email the creator for the file).
Here’s our pick of the best free Photoshop filters. What are your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.
Make your photo look like a frozen still from a broken video tape
This retro look will be familiar to both lovers of horror movies like The Ring, or anyone who’s watched their parents’ worn-out 80s wedding video. Glitch is a free Photoshop filter from from Creativetacos that you can use to give a normal photo the look of a glitchy VHS picture from decades past.
A sophisticated monochrome filter for upmarket portrait shots
Graded with five colours and sensitive to skin tones, this Photoshop filter gives a sleek, classic monochrome look to your photos. It works best on portraits, including wedding, studio and children’s portraits. It’s only compatible with the latest versions of Photoshop, though, so you’ll need either CS6 or the Creative Cloud. This Photoshop action was created by DeviantArt veteran Realgrow, aka Serge, from Russia.
Apply a comic-style effect reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein
Want to make your image look like a page from a comic book? Use this free Photoshop filter from Creativetacos to create a stylish halftone effect. It works best with colorful photos, and it’s compatible with Photoshop CS3-CS6 and Photoshop CC.
A stylish texture that lends pictures an old-school print look
Some Photoshop filters are quite subtle, others very dramatic. This one fits firmly into the latter category, using Photoshop’s built-in geometric shapes to create a stylish effect reminiscent of old print.
Inspired by the era of film, this free Photoshop filter from Shutter Pulse will transform a modern photo to give it the vintage feel of a bygone age. You can either download this Photoshop action by itself, or get it as part of a free bundle that includes 20 Lightroom presets and 20 Photoshop actions (provided you’re happy to give the developer your email address).
Add an icy look to your images with this high-contrast filter
Exposure School is a popular blog providing tips and tricks on how to improve your photography. Its creators are giving away this eerie Photoshop filter free, enabling you to add an unsettling look to your stranger snaps. It’s compatible with Photoshop CS3-CS6 and Photoshop CC.
Transform colour photos with a beautiful monochrome sheen
Silver applies a sophisticated monochrome look that can really add a touch of class to otherwise ordinary images. There are versions of this free Photoshop Action for both Photoshop (CS4-CS6 and CC) and Photoshop Elements (11 and upwards).
This free Photoshop filter from Photography Planet applies a fun, toy camera effect to your photos that’s inspired by the much-loved Lomo LC-A camera from the old Soviet Union.
There are two versions of the action included in the download: the low res one, which works best with photos less than 1500px in height or width, and the regular one, which works better with larger photos – the difference being the amount of edge blur. Compatible with Photoshop CS4-CS6 and Photoshop CC.
In the days of film photography, light leaks (where light gets into a camera, exposing the film or sensor) were seen as a problem that could ruin a picture. Nowadays, there’s fond nostalgia for the unintended yet dramatic visual effects that light leaks caused, so this free Photoshop filter from Photography Planet allows you to apply the look to a modern digital image. It’s compatible with Photoshop CS4-CS6 and CC.
Anyone who’s watched Breaking Bad will know that there’s an eerie, dusty glow to any desert scene. Give your pictures a desert makeover with this free Photoshop filter from Vandelay Design, which summons up a hazy vista of desert dirt and dust.
Give your photo a dramatic blue cast with this evocative Photoshop filter from Photography Planet. Blue Evening works in Photoshop CS4-CS6 and CC, and there’s also a version compatible with Photoshop Elements 11 and above.
This free Photoshop filter from Photography Planet simulates the look of warm late afternoon sunshine. It’s best used on outdoor photos – especially portraits taken in natural light – and is compatible with Photoshop CS4-CS6 and Photoshop CC.
A brilliant toolkit of professional-quality filters
Google Nik Collection is a set of seven top quality filters for creating stunning monochrome conversions, adjusting colors, applying retro film effects, sharpening, creating HDR images, reducing noise, and manipulating exposure. Each filter includes presets that will transform photos in a couple of clicks, as well as sliders to customize the results.
Walmart has just issued its strongest response to the growing Amazon threat, since its acquisition of e-commerce newcomer Jet.com last summer. Starting today, Walmart will begin offering free, two-day shipping on over 2 million items, with no need for a membership fee. The range of items will include “everyday essentials,” like household products, baby needs, pet supplies… Read More
Tech execs are matching donations to the ACLU, Starbucks unveils a virtual assistant, Dropbox touts a $1 billion revenue run rate, robots are making coffee and Fitbit cuts six percent of its workforce. All this on Crunch Report. Read More
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