Mass Effect 3: Review


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Muhammad Farrukh

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Contains minor spoilers

It doesn't get any bigger than this. Arguably one of the best trilogy in the history of gaming has finally came to an end.

What started from a breakthrough, award-winning game in 2007, was greeted by an another great and worthy follow-up, in 2010, and now, after five years since the original, we finally have our hands on the story of a hero, none other than Commander Shepard.

I won't lie. It was the most hyped game, for me, this year. It always was, to be fair. When I saw the first trailer for this one, I screamed OMG at the top of my voice.

not literally, though

And the trailers that came afterwards only increased the hype.

So, lets cut to the chase, shall we?

First and foremost, of course, comes the single player. Original Mass Effect was all about the story. While the original was all about the story, and is still regarded as one of the best storylines from Bioware, the second was more about people and relationships.

In the first one, you explored the galaxy. You met some of the most memorable characters in the industry and fought alongside them. The second game was more about people, the new ones, mostly, but keeping some of the old ones intact. Mass Effect 2 greatly, and I mean, greatly improved the combat system. Some minor improvements here and there and you had a game that was ahead of the original, in almost every way. Mass Effect 3 tries to combine best of the both worlds and succeeds. For the most part.

Mass Effect 3 is about sacrifice. The Reapers have come to destroy the organic life. It was inevitable, but not everyone seemed to have much concerns about it, until now. Shepard knew it since the very beginning, and warned everyone, but they didn't seemed to care much.

Well, they will. Now.

As you might have seen from the trailer, the Earth is under the attack. The Reapers are here and they plan to wipe-out the race, while you, Shepard plans to stop them. This however, isn't just about you and the Reapers. The man that saved your life in the second game, Illusive Man has got some plans of his own. More often than not, you will find him in your way against the fight for Earth.

There are tons of minor improvements here and there. Some of which you might not even notice, but they are still there.

For example. the weapon modification. You can now modify your weapons, and add upto two attachments at a time.

You have access to even more weapons now. There are upgrades available for every weapon, which have minor effects on the gun, but nonetheless, the weapons can be modified and upgraded.

You can now choose to carry upto five weapons. Thats right. No longer do you need to scroll five times or hold Shift to bring up the menu and choose one from five. Mass Effect three allows you to take upto five of them, giving you the choice to dump the weapons you consider unnecessary.

However there is one factor to be noted here. Carrying enough weapons will increase the carrying weight and ultimately your powers, will take more time to reload.

The level design is, as usual, nothing short of amazing. Though now there are more vertical oriented levels than before. Stairs and vertical alleyways are common now.

There is a level, a rather earlier one, where you land on a planet when the Reapers are invading it, and it actually feels like you are in the game. The large scale battles, the close hallway assaults are all perfectly designed and the outdated Unreal Engine 3 doesn't really feel that dated. Rather, it looks and feels great.

It, however, isn't just about going in and taking the Galactic peace back. Humans alone cannot defeat the Reapers, and so you are assigned to get as much help as you can get.

Obviously the council comes first, and more obviously they refuse to help and tell you that they need to protect themselves and prepare for the attack on their own planet, only to complicate things.

So, you are left with no option but to go to other races, individually, and convince them to join you. This isn't easy, too. The Krogans, the race that Wrex and Grunt belong to and Solarians, the race of Professor Mordin Solus have got their own problems, which date back to centuries. The Turian, Garrus people, homeworld is also under attack.

There are problems with the Quarians too, the race that Tali'Zorah belong to.

In order to fight the Reapers, rather defeat the Reapers, you must gather all of them, regardless of their differences and histories and convince them to join you. Which isn't gonna be easy.

This is the heart of the game. Gone are the days, where you performed loyalty quests for your squadmates, and things like that. Now, its all about saving the galaxy.

There is one more thing, an addition, to me at least, and an elimination to others.

There are a lot of conversations, no doubt, but they have eliminated some of the most obvious choices you would made. As a result, Shepard talks more on his/her own than ever, and only lets you choose occasionally, where the decision matters.

A lot of people won't like, it but as for me, its a good thing, since the choices we would've made were too obvious, and the bigger reason is, there is no time. We are loosing the Earth. :D

Some things, however have been removed entirely. Scanning of planets, for instance. BioWare has done a rather excellent job in not wasting your time, where you had to read the fictional write-ups of the planets in every known system.

The combat system, we have all come to love and praise is still there. The one that was greatly enhance back in 2010 is even better now, thanks to the level designs and some minor tweaks, including jumping and diving sideways and forward and stuff like that.

The enemies, however, tend to be a little more intelligent this time around. Gone are the days when you saw a head popped from a cover and you killed it with the whole magazine with him being still. Some enemies are smart, and when they take fire, they'll move away from the place, dive sideways or leave the cover and start shooting at you.

The addition of the charged Melee system is awesome. You can now slide around corners while still in cover.

The game can get difficult to handle at time. The enemies become aggressive. One of them is Banshee. With her loud, ear-piercing shrieks, it can finish you in just one grab, if you let her get close to you. The vicious Brutes aren't as hard to kill, but will take your shields away in just one hit.

Then there are enemies with Snipers and Melee weapons. The former one, will take your shields off in one hit, while the later one is more aggressive, moves extremely fast and attacks in deadly ways.

Its not all about guns and ammo though. You could barely win a fight without using the powers. There are times, when you'll have to think about which upgrade to get, as it'll matter. It will matter in the fights against difficult enemies

This intense narrative is met with an equally intense presentation. Mass Effect 3 is a darker, more atmospheric, and ultimately more engaging game. There were times, I felt that I was a part of the game. As if I was Shepard. As if I was on the Battlefield fighting against Reapers.

It however, isn't all about shooting. In Citadel, you'll meet some old friends and you can do little walkarounds the area, only to earn more reputation and Paragon/Renegade.

Then there is customization, which I almost forgot. You can now customize Shepard in more ways. Shepard has more casual outfits than before, and on the several missions, you can pick up different armor attachments that you can put together or equip seperately.

The Normandy is more or less the same. Though, its more like SR1 than the SR2. The Galaxy Map is the same as before, where you choose your destinations. One thing, you will have to take notice this time, is the presence of Reaper ships. Its slightly more annoying than than entertaining, if a Reaper ship finds you while you are busy exploring a planet.

To fight the final battle, you have to be ready. You have to do some side quests, for the readiness of galaxy. However, there is another way to do it.

Multiplayer.

Don't expect 16 vs 16 Shepard on Shepard here. It would've been awful. Instead what you get is a 'eliminate progressively stronger waves of enemies' type of mode and there is fun to be had here, especially if you can get some friends.

A small squad, with four players are pitted against 10 waves of increasingly difficult enemies can be fun if you are playing with friends. It can be fun, though it fails to reach the heights of some benchmarks in the industry.

There are six classes you can choose from, which obviously have their own ups and downs. You can level them up and earn credits as you play, which can be spent to unlock additional packages that contain a number of random items, which include special ammo, a weapon mods and so-on.

There are different difficulty levels, and different maps, but you can choose to choose random ones that'll pit you in a random type.

On the highest difficulty, Gold, the enemies become very aggressive and will attack you from various directions. Team-play is the key here. If a squad member is down, you can choose to let him stay down but reviving him ultimately benefits the mission. There are little objectives too, to be completed, during the missions.

Verdict:

Mass Effect 3 is an outstanding follow up to an outstanding trilogy. One, you cannot miss, if you want to call yourself a gamer. There are tons of improvements across the whole game. Though, only in my opinion, others might disagree, the ending is kind of disappointing.

My take on ending.

I'll be honest. I wanted Shepard to die. To sacrifice herself/himself for the Galaxy.

But the way they have done it. Its just ridiculous at best.

I mean come on. The thing was going perfect till Shepard reached the Citadel, near Anderson. Though I still think it could've done better, this level, but anyway.

The whole kid/superkid thing is just disappointing. Shepard would've just activated the console and died while the reapers swept out.

And this isn't just it. There is nothing shown to what happened to Asari' and Turian' and Krogan' and other races. And my teammates. After all, it wasn't just about the Earth or the humanity. It was about the galaxy.

I am glad they even bought Illusive Man in the ending, which I thought we'd would never see.

I get it. I get it that they had to keep Shepard alive for future DLCs and such, but in doing so they have ruined the ending to arguably one of the best trilogy's of all time.

The ending after that story telling of the man and the son, the note that appears and says, Shepard has became a legend and all.

It should've said,

Shepard has sacrificed his/her soul for the sake of galaxy.

However, you can still play the game with her/him, but to end the storyline of the MAIN trilogy, Shepard has sacrificed herself/himself.

That, and it would've been something better.

They came so close to perfection. So close. And when the time came to push towards it, they instead pushed away from it.

What could've been an excellent ending to the excellent trilogy, one that everyone would've remembered for the rest of their lives, has been let down by just a bad decision

If Mass Effect was about story and Mass Effect 2 was about combat, Mass Effect 3 is about both of them and much, much more. Though, it, as with the previous games, is a bit short, to my liking, at least. With side-quest, you are easily looking at healthy amount of time spent in the game. And the there is multiplayer, which can be fun to had, if you have some friends to play with.

It isn't without flaws, however, e.g. some bugs and glitches here and there. But they are easy to overlook.

It is a satisfying ending to a satisfying trilogy. One that will be remembered for times to come.

9.0 out of 10

From Ashes

Nothing really interesting about it, but it was a good mission.

You get a new weapon and a new teammate, a Prothean which I personally quite like.

But certainly not worth 20 USD.

There are some very interesting things that are revealed though.

I shouldn't spoil them for you, but some reveals were pretty interesting

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mokthraka

the "superkid" wasnt a kid at all, im assuming the AI just took a form that Shepard was familiar with.

the end really did make me mad though, I was really expecting like a decent 30 minute to an hour just talking about the outcome of everything. the ending really dropped the ball. I did like the whole reasoning behind the reapers attacking.

I am still hoping for a new game in the same universe.

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capr

It is a satisfying ending to a satisfying trilogy. One that will be remembered for times to come.

9.0 out of 10

I don't know what game you played... ME3 was in no way satisfying from the terrible terrible quest management to the awful rushed ending, it was just a painful experience. I had to force myself to sit down and play this not so fun game so I could see how the story goes. Of course that was ****ty too so MAJOR let down.

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mokthraka

I don't know what game you played... ME3 was in no way satisfying from the terrible terrible quest management to the awful rushed ending, it was just a painful experience. I had to force myself to sit down and play this not so fun game so I could see how the story goes. Of course that was ****ty too so MAJOR let down.

how was it not fun? there where parts of the game I was angry, hell I even shed a tear at a few points. it was an amazing game till the end
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Muhammad Farrukh

I don't know what game you played... ME3 was in no way satisfying from the terrible terrible quest management to the awful rushed ending, it was just a painful experience. I had to force myself to sit down and play this not so fun game so I could see how the story goes. Of course that was ****ty too so MAJOR let down.

The only thing that shouldn't have been there was the ending, at least in my opinion. Everything else is fine and in-line with the series

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  • 3 weeks later...
Noveed

Aside from the ending Muhammad is proper spot on with 9/10 rating. The endings (all of them) sucked imo, I hope Bioware release an Epilogue to clear up the confusion and tie up loose ends. The endings though should be left untouched. What's done is done and should not be undone. I will be bitterly disappointed if they change the ending or alter it with DLC. What needs to be done is a POST ENDING DLC needs to be released and it needs to be free above anything else or there will be a massive backlash.

A part of me feels there is a conspiracy. The endings were made terribad on purpose so they could shove some DLC and fix them and charge for it.

But here is me hoping that is not the case and Bioware still give a damn about the fans, not just the profits.

Lastly Multi-player should never, ever, ever affect what happens in a single player game/scenario. The who galactic readiness was awful, abysmal and not well thought out. What are Xbox Live Silver Members supposed to do if they want to max resources/readiness? They are unable to play online in Multi-player.

I feel the game was delayed due to multi-player and this had an impact on the single player experience. The first 2 games felt so polished because they were only single player yet the 3rd one lacked that Single player experience the first 2 provided. I am not saying it was not good, just not as good as the first 2 games in the trilogy.

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Muhammad Farrukh

The Ending is being changed. Casey Hudson has officially said that they are aware of the situation and are looking for a solution

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Noveed

The Ending is being changed. Casey Hudson has officially said that they are aware of the situation and are looking for a solution

Well that sucks, Bioware's credibility just went out of the Window.

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      Universal Media Server 10.2.0
      by Razvan Serea



      Universal Media Server is a DLNA-compliant UPnP Media Server. UMS was started by SubJunk, an official developer of PMS, in order to ensure greater stability and file-compatibility. The program streams or transcodes many different media formats with little or no configuration. It is powered by MEncoder, FFmpeg, tsMuxeR, AviSynth, MediaInfo and more, which combine to offer support for a wide range of media formats. Because it is written in Java, Universal Media Server supports all major operating systems, with versions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.

      To see a comparison of popular media servers, click here.

      Universal Media Server 10.2.0 changelog:

      General

      Added option to skip the first-run wizard (thanks, Ahmed Adan!) Improved speed of API lookups by up to 3x Improved support for MusicBrainz (thanks, ik666!) Fixed support for some languages, e.g. Arabic Fixed and secured some URLs in the code and docs Translation updates via Crowdin

      Arabic (100%) (thanks, خليل مراطلة !) Catalan (100%) (thanks, nikodeimos!) French (100%) (thanks, Archaos!) Hungarian (100%) (thanks, Viktor Kozma!) Slovak (99%) (thanks, Dušan!) Swedish (100%) (thanks, Erik Karlsson!) Dependency updates

      Bump CheckStyle to 8.40 Renderers

      Added support for MediaPlayer by PeteManchester Added support for nextCP/2 Fix auto loading for Sony UBP-X800 Download: Universal Media Server 10.2.0 | 160.0 MB (Open Source)
      Download: Other operating systems
      View: Universal Media Server Website

      Get alerted to all of our Software updates on Twitter at @NeowinSoftware

    • By indospot
      Samsung Galaxy S21 review: A flagship that has learned the right lessons
      by João Carrasqueira

      I got to review a few Samsung phones throughout 2020, and it has definitely taken some time for the company's hardware to really resonate with me. I was very underwhelmed by the Galaxy A51 mid-ranger about a year ago, and when I finally got to review a flagship - the Galaxy Note20 Ultra - the issues it presented were far too significant for it to be worth its massive asking price.

      But then came the Galaxy S20 FE, a much cheaper phone that kept the essentials of a 2020 flagship while cutting corners in a few small ways to attain its price point. For what it set out to do, the S20 FE was a fantastic device, and it left me hoping that Samsung would take away some lessons from it and make future Galaxy S phones more appealing.

      Samsung announced the Galaxy S21 lineup last month with a significant reduction to its starting price - now just $799, instead of the S20's $999 - as well as some of the sacrifices we saw on the Galaxy S20 FE. After a couple of weeks with the S21, I think it's safe to say that Samsung learned the lessons I was hoping it would and created a fantastic baseline for its flagships in 2021.

      Specs
      CPU Exynos 2100 (Octa-core) - one Cortex-X1 at 2.9GHz, three Cortex-A78 at 2.8GHz, four Cortex-A55 at 2.2GHz GPU Mali-G78 MP14 Display 6.2 inches, 1080x2400, 421ppi, 120Hz, Dynamic AMOLED 2X Body 151.7x71.2x7.9mm (5.97x2.80x0.31in), 169g (5.96oz) Camera 12MP main + 12MP ultra-wide + 64MP telephoto, Front - 10MP Video 8K - 24fps or 4K - 60fps, HDR10+, Front - 4K - 60fps Aperture f/1.8 + f/2.2 + f/2.0, Front - F/2.2 Storage 128GB UFS 3.1; non-expandable RAM 8GB Battery 4,000mAh Color Phantom White (as reviewed), Phantom Gray, Phantom Pink, Phantom Violet

      OS Android 11 with OneUI 3.1 Price €849-€879/$799 Of course, this is the European variant of the Galaxy S21, which means it comes with an Exynos processor, but you'll be getting a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 if you buy this phone in the U.S. I can't personally compare the two variants directly, but I will say that I don't think having an Exynos model is as much of a problem this year as it was last year. I'll get into that more later on.

      Day one
      Design
      When you look at it broadly, the Galaxy S21 is a fairly generic smartphone slab. It has a plastic back, one of the compromises it borrows from the Galaxy S20 FE, but it keeps the metal frame and overall feels more solidly built than that phone. It's also a very compact phone by today's standards, thanks to its relatively small 6.2-inch display and the minimal bezels all around. It's actually refreshing to have a phone that's this easy to handle nowadays.



      The thing that really makes me swoon over this phone's design is the camera module. I realize that's probably a weird thing to say, but the way it's made of metal and melts into the frame of the phone is just so nice and gives it such a distinct look that I can't help but love it. If you look closely, there is a bit of a ridge between the actual frame and the camera module, but it's barely noticeable and doesn't ruin the look at all. Samsung sent me the Phantom White model, and while I wish I had the Phantom Purple with its golden accents, this look really grew on me. It's classy without being too boring, and I'll definitely say I'm glad I didn't get the gray model.



      Moving on from the back and going around the phone, it's all pretty standard. The left side of the frame has no buttons, but there are some antenna bands.



      Over on the right side, there's the power/Bixby button along with the volume rocker, with all of the buttons feeling having a nice clicky feel to them.



      The top edge is also fairly empty, featuring two microphones very close to each other, only separated by an antenna band.



      Finally, the bottom edge has everything else you'd expect to find - a USB Type-C port for charging, a SIM card slot, and the bottom-firing speaker grill. There's one more microphone next to the SIM card slot, and if it's not obvious, you want to push the SIM ejection tool into the hole inside the SIM card tray cutout. You could damage the microphone by poking it with the tool.



      Display and sound
      Over on the front, of course, is the display. It's a 6.2-inch panel with Full HD+ resolution and a 120Hz refresh rate - another smart move by Samsung to cut costs, which we saw on the Galaxy S20 FE. Samsung phones have had Quad HD+ displays for a while, but I think it's the most obvious way companies can save money without hurting the user experience nearly as much. With the Galaxy S20, you'd have to choose between Quad HD+ resolution or the 120Hz refresh rate, and I would always have recommended the latter either way, so I endorse this change.



      The panel is also using Samsung's Dynamic AMOLED 2X technology and it continues to be oh-so-great. Samsung's displays have long been known for looking great, and suffice it to say, that hasn't changed. The colors look absolutely fantastic, the color temperature is great, and of course, because it's AMOLED, blacks are truly black since pixels can be turned off on demand.

      The display is only interrupted by a small punch-hole cutout in the middle of the top edge of the display, which houses the selfie camera. Bezels are getting smaller all the time, and they're very minimal here, even smaller than those of the Galaxy S20 FE. Samsung also seems to keep shrinking the grill for the earpiece more and more, to the point where I initially thought there was some kind of under-display sound system here.



      But there isn't, and the sound from this phone is actually great. The stereo setup enabled by the bottom-firing speaker and amplified earpiece sounds crisp and clear, and it can get pretty loud without any significant distortion. The Galaxy S21 is truly a great phone if you want a good media experience.

      Camera
      The camera setup on the Galaxy S21 is one of the things that's changed the least from last year. There's still a 12MP main camera, another 12MP ultra-wide lens, and a 64MP telephoto camera with 3x optical zoom, with support for up to 30x zoom. It's not just the resolution either - the pixel size and aperture are all the same as last year's cameras, too.

      The video features are also pretty similar here, with support for up to 8K video recording at 24 frames per second or 4K at 60 frames per second. You can record HDR10+ video as an experimental feature, but only at 4K 30fps or lower.

      As for the actual results when using the camera, it really depends on the situation. In daylight, all of the cameras do pretty well in my opinion. Shots are bright and vivid, there's good contrast, and they're generally very clear, each object in the frame pops and looks great. There is a bit of oversaturation, per Samsung's tradition, but in general, I didn't mind it.

      Gallery: Galaxy S21 samples
      Things start to fall apart a bit when it comes to nighttime. Night mode kicks in automatically when it's deemed appropriate, but it's not that great, and the ultra-wide camera especially is evidently not as good as the others. Sometimes night mode doesn't activate for the ultra-wide camera automatically, so you can see major differences in the final shot, though you can always manually use night mode. Pictures, in general, degrade quite a bit in less than optimal lighting conditions, and that's even more true for videos, and while that can be said for all cameras, it seems especially not great here.

      I do like the ability to switch between different zoom levels, though, and while the maximum 30x zoom Samsung advertises is pretty bad, 3x zoom is actually really nice, though not comparable to the 10X you can get with a periscope lens.

      The phone also comes with the most recent version of Samsung's One UI, so there are some new features in the Camera and Gallery apps that I do find cool. The Camera app has a couple of new video features including multi-mic recording, which lets you record video with audio simultaneously coming from the phone's microphones and a Bluetooth microphone or earbuds. Of course, the quality of the audio will depend on the microphone you're using, but testing with LG's Tone Free HBS-FN6 earbuds, I did find it picked up my voice better while walking down the street compared to just using the microphone on the phone itself. There's also a Director's View mode, which lets you see video feeds from all four cameras on the phone at once and switch between the three rear cameras at will.



      The Gallery app, for its part, has an interesting feature for photos called Object Eraser, which does exactly what you think. It does require a consistent background to look convincing, but if you had the perfect shot that got ruined by someone in the background, this can definitely help.





      On a final note, while I rarely take selfies on any phone, I did give it a shot here and the front-facing camera is actually among the sharpest I've tried. Overall, the camera experience has some highs and some lows, but you probably already know what you're getting into if you've had a Samsung phone before.

      Performance, battery life, and software
      Battery life was one of my biggest complaints with the Galaxy Note20 Ultra, and that was almost certainly due to the poor efficiency of the Exynos 990 chipset. That phone struggled to last me through the day with a 4,5000mAh battery, but I'm happy to report that Samsung made great progress with Exynos this year. The Galaxy S21 has the new Exynos 2100 and even with a smaller 4,000mAh battery, it holds up much better. It's not fantastic, and when I push it with longer YouTube sessions or playing games, it doesn't quite last me until bedtime, but for my general use, it's been much more reliable. I have yet to review any phone with the new Snapdragon 888, but general impressions from other reviewers indicate that Qualcomm is still ahead here. Still, if you're in an Exynos market, this is a huge improvement.

      I should note that, following in Apple's footsteps, Samsung did remove the charging brick from the box, and you only get a cable now. The idea companies are taking with this is that it's "environmentally friendly", and while I think that's true, it's no secret that companies are always trying to squeeze more money out of their consumers. I do think most users will already have a charger they can use at home, but this step highlights a major need for standardization in USB power delivery. The Galaxy S21 supports fast charging up to 25W, but my 65W charger from OPPO can't activate fast charging for it. Companies would usually ship the most adequate charger for their own phones, and we're going to be losing that. The Galaxy S21 also supports fast wireless charging at 15W and reverse wireless charging.

      Moving on to benchmarks, the Exynos 2100 in the Galaxy S21 is overall a pretty solid upgrade over Exynos 990-powered phones. Let's start with AnTuTu, which is a general-purpose benchmark covering CPU, GPU, memory/storage, and overall user experience.



      The Galaxy S21's score of 609,292 is a pretty big jump from the Note20 Ultra's 548,110, with improvements across the board. The biggest leap here is in the GPU tests, and to be fair, the Galaxy S21 ran games like Asphalt 9 beautifully. Compared to the Galaxy S20 FE 5G, which had a Snapdragon 865, the difference is less noticeable, but it's still an improvement on almost every front.

      Moving on to GeekBench 5, which tests the CPU. The Galaxy S21 manages a 1,079 score for the single-core performance and 3,370 for multi-core.



      As expected, the Galaxy S21 has a decent lead on both the Exynos 990 and the Snapdragon 865, especially in multi-core performance.

      Finally, there's GFXBench, a series of tests focused on the GPU.



      Results here are a bit mixed, with the Galaxy S21 pulling some punches on the Note20 Ultra, but also falling behind in some of the tests.

      Overall, though, the performance on this phone is great and there's really not much to complain about. The phone does have a tendency to get warm more easily than others, but it's not a huge deal.

      Not a whole lot has changed on the software side with OneUI 3.1, but there are some tweaks with the experience. You can now control smart home devices using the Devices button in the notification shade, assuming you have a smart home app like Google Home installed. Stock Android 11 brought smart home controls to the power menu, but Samsung didn't do that, which is a bummer to me. Some UI tweaks have also been made to the volume flyout and the long-press UI in the One UI launcher.



      I will point out that I've been trying to use Dex more in my Samsung reviews, and it's a really cool feature to have. Like I've said before, it's pointless if you have a PC on you, but if you don't, it can turn your phone into a PC easily, though you won't be doing certain things like advanced photo or video editing on it. You need to relearn some shortcuts if you're used to Windows, but it's otherwise an effective productivity tool - I even used it to write a good chunk of this review. Also, if you're wondering, you can't use the Windows 10 Your Phone app (or the Link to Windows feature) while running in DeX, though I don't see why you would want to.

      Conclusion
      I have to conclude this review in the same way that I started it - by saying that Samsung has learned the right lessons with its phones this year. What stands out the most to me is the inspiration Samsung drew from the Galaxy S20 FE to make its flagship phone way easier to justify. Removing the Quad HD display and swapping the glass plate for plastic are the perfect sacrifices to make, and the $200 you save compared to last year's Galaxy S20 make this so much easier to recommend.



      I also love the design, specifically thanks to the meta camera bump Samsung has used, and also because it's one of the most compact phones I've had the chance to try out. And for users outside of North America, the Exynos 2100 is a huge improvement in both battery life and performance. You're truly getting a lot more phone for your money this year.

      Of course, there are downsides, battery life still isn't as great as it could potentially be, and the camera experience isn't consistently amazing, especially in situations with less than optimal lighting. And the lack of a charger, while not a huge deal to me personally, might be a problem for some people.



      Still, those are relatively small blemishes on a phone that otherwise improved so much on its predecessor. If you haven't upgraded in a while, or if you're simply looking to upgrade and you're already familiar with Samsung, the Galaxy S21 is definitely worth a look. You can buy the Snapdragon variant in the U.S. on Amazon, where it's currently discounted to $699.99, making it an even better deal. In the UK, the Exynos variant (the one we tested), is available starting at £735.80 depending on your color of choice.

    • By Rich Woods
      MacBook Pro 13 (M1) review: A heck of a start for Apple, but not very pro
      by Rich Woods

      This is the seventh part of our Intel Evo vs Apple Silicon series, where we're taking a look at what each side can do better than the other. The MacBook Pro 13, Razer Book 13, Razer Core X, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti, Samsung T7 Touch SSD, and CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 dock were provided by Intel. All opinions expressed are a result of our own testing and experience.

      I've been using Apple's new MacBook Pro for a while now, and I've been writing about my findings as I go. There's a lot that's good about it, and there's a lot that's bad. One thing that I learned rather quickly was that Apple Silicon isn't the home run that the Cupertino firm would have you believe.

      In general day-to-day usage, I don't think that I'd have noticed a performance difference if no one had told me. It certainly doesn't feel any faster than a Windows 10 PC with an 11th-generation Intel processor, although there are certainly some tasks that it performs faster, such as video rendering. But as far as launching apps and general tasks go, I wouldn't have noticed a difference.

      Don't get me wrong. What Apple did here is certainly an incredible feat of engineering, and it shines a bright light on what the future of the Mac can look like. But personally, I think that this is a first-gen product that you'll want to skip.

      Specs
      CPU Apple M1, octa-core with four performance and four efficiency cores, octa-core GPU, 16-core neural engine Body 304.1x212.4x15.6mm (11.97x8.36x0.61in), 1.4kg (3lbs) Display 13.3-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit display with IPS technology; 2560-by-1600 native resolution at 227 pixels per inch with support for millions of colors
      500-nit brightness
      Wide color (P3)
      True Tone technology

      Battery Up to 17 hours wireless web
      Up to 20 hours Apple TV app movie playback
      Built-in 58.2-watt-hour lithium-polymer battery
      61W USB-C Power Adapter

      Memory 8GB unified memory

      Storage 256GB SSD

      Ports (2) Thunderbolt / USB 4 ports with support for charging, DisplayPort, Thunderbolt 3 (40Gbps), USB 4 (40Gbps), USB 3.1 Gen 2 (up to 10Gbps)
      (1) 3.5mm audio jack Input 65 (U.S.) or 66 (ISO) keys including 4 arrow keys in an inverted‑T arrangement
      Touch Bar
      Touch ID sensor
      Ambient light sensor
      Force Touch trackpad for precise cursor control and pressure‑sensing capabilities; enables Force clicks, accelerators, pressure‑sensitive drawing, and Multi‑Touch gestures

      Connectivity 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 wireless networking
      Bluetooth 5.0 wireless technology

      Webcam 720p FaceTime HD camera Video support Simultaneously supports full native resolution on the built-in display at millions of colors and:
      One external display with up to 6K resolution at 60Hz

      Thunderbolt 3 digital video output
      Native DisplayPort output over USB-C
      VGA, HDMI, DVI, and Thunderbolt 2 output supported using adapters (sold separately)

      Audio Stereo speakers with high dynamic range
      Wide stereo sound
      Support for Dolby Atmos playback
      Studio-quality three-mic array with high signal-to-noise ratio and directional beamforming
      3.5 mm headphone jack

      Operating requirements Line voltage: 100V to 240V AC
      Frequency: 50Hz to 60Hz
      Operating temperature: 50° to 95° F (10° to 35° C)
      Storage temperature: −13° to 113° F (−25° to 45° C)
      Relative humidity: 0% to 90% noncondensing
      Operating altitude: tested up to 10,000 feet
      Maximum storage altitude: 15,000 feet
      Maximum shipping altitude: 35,000 feet

      OS macOS 11 Big Sur Material Aluminum Color Silver Price $1,299
      Day one
      Design
      You can certainly feel the build quality when you hold a MacBook Pro, but one thing I'll definitely say about the design is that it feels dated. Apple certainly could have redesigned the chassis to make it thinner and lighter given the new ARM processor, but it didn't. This thing weighs three pounds, which isn't exactly light in the world of clamshell laptops anymore. It's also got huge bezels when compared with the rest of the market.



      When we see a silver Windows laptop that's made out of aluminum, we call it a MacBook clone. Well, here's the original, and it makes me wonder if it makes it any more exciting to be the original. Either way, that's what it is, a silver laptop with an Apple logo stamped in the lid; it comes in Space Gray as well.



      Apple isn't one for including a lot of ports on its laptops, although rumor has it that it may add some back in the future. For now, this laptop comes with two Thunderbolt ports on the left side, and that's it when it comes to USB connectivity. According to Apple, these ports support USB 4.0, USB 3.2 Gen 2, and Thunderbolt 3, getting data transfer speeds of up to 40Gbps.

      The only problem is that they're missing a key feature of Thunderbolt, which is the ability to connect dual 4K monitors on a single port. A major drawback of Apple Silicon is that you can't use dual external monitors with this laptop, no matter what the resolution. The only Apple Silicon Mac that supports dual external monitors is the Mac mini, which lets you do it if you connect one via the HDMI port.

      There are, apparently, some workarounds for this, such as special accessories that you can buy or using an iPad with the Sidecar feature. I wasn't able to use any of my Thunderbolt docks to get dual monitors to work, and according to Apple's own documentation, it shouldn't work.



      On the right side, there's just a 3.5mm audio jack. Indeed, while the port is long gone on iPhones and now even some iPads, it's survived the port exoduses of the Mac.

      On a side note, I do wonder what Apple could have planned if it's bringing back ports on its MacBook Pro machines. USB Type-A feels like a big step backward; after all, it's been years since we've been switching to USB Type-C. HDMI is a likely candidate, but that to me seems unnecessary.

      Display and audio
      The 13-inch MacBook Pro has a 13.3-inch 16:10 display; indeed, while we've been seeing the 16:10 trend across the PC industry for the past six months or so, Apple was doing it before it was cool. The taller aspect ratio makes for a larger surface area, being that the screen is measured diagonally.



      The resolution is 2560x1600, which is QHD+, and it's frankly excellent. The colors are accurate, it's bright, it has a full 178-degree viewing angle, and there's no visible pixelation, hence why it's called Retina. It's a fantastic display. Obviously, there's no touch support, something that Apple has been against for some time, although you can use the Sidecar feature on an iPad for that.



      One thing that seems clear as day to me is that this thing has massive bezels, at least when compared to modern laptops. Microsoft isn't any better on its Surface lineup, but the rest of the industry is. Companies like Dell and HP are working out ways to have tiny bezels while still including an IR camera above the display, and all Apple fits in that massive top bezel is a webcam. Even the side bezels are larger than the competition.

      But Apple doesn't redesign its products much, so that just continues to make me feel like this is an antiquated design. With the newer ARM processor, it's a perfect opportunity to make the chassis smaller and thinner, while chopping down the bezels to reduce the footprint. That's simply not happening in this generation though.



      Apple puts the stereo speakers on either side of the keyboard, and they sound great. Honestly, all of the things that have to do with overall quality really hit the nail on the head. It has a pretty screen, clear speakers, a great keyboard, and more. It's clearly designed for creative work where an accurate display and clear speakers are necessary, and Apple's done a great job with that.

      Keyboard, touchpad, and Touch Bar
      Like I said, the keyboard is fantastic. I never had a Mac in the days of the infamous butterfly keyboard, although it seems like it would have been insane to buy one of those when it was so clear that they were so bad. The new 1mm scissor switches are phenomenal, and they have the proper resistance to feel like they're not so shallow.



      While the keys are accurate and comfortable, there's one other thing I want to point out. If you accidentally hit the caps lock key, it doesn't turn on. In fact, it's slightly challenging to hit it on purpose. I noticed this back in 2013 when I bought the only Mac I've ever owned, the Haswell MacBook Air, so it's not a one-time thing. I really wish more PC vendors would focus on this one little thing, because we've all hit that button accidentally before, and it's super annoying.



      The top-right button on the keyboard is a power button, which doubles as a fingerprint sensor for Touch ID. However, unlike on Windows, you can't use Touch ID when you boot up the PC, which is probably the time that you want to use it the most. It's similar behavior to what we've seen on iOS for some time.



      And then there's the Touch Bar, another infamous feature that Apple is rumored to be getting rid of when it brings back old ports. Personally, I think it's a good idea in theory. It gets rid of function keys which are antiquated, and replaces them with buttons that can be customized by each app. For example, in the Edge browser, I can tap an icon to go to a certain tab.

      It's smart. Instead of having to know shortcuts, or for example, that F5 refreshes the page in a browser, there's actually a refresh button in the Touch Bar. The only problem is that I've not touched the Touch Bar in the entire time that I've reviewed this product. Perhaps I'm just not used to it, or perhaps it's because my hand is already on the touchpad.



      Speaking of the touchpad, it's big, which is always nice. Indeed, Apple took advantage of the available real estate for this. It's also completely haptic. You'd probably never notice it just by using it, as clicking feels natural, but when you power down the PC, you'll notice that it no longer clicks.

      It also has a sort of hard click function, which is more annoying than anything else. This is another thing that I didn't use, unless it happened accidentally. It takes a little bit of getting used to.

      Hardware compatibility
      I wrote about this already, and it was a much deeper dive, but I wanted to give it its own section here. Hardware compatibility is already an issue on macOS, but it's especially an issue with the new ARM processor. As I already mentioned, you can't connect dual external displays, and that's probably the biggest issue for something that's branded as Pro.



      Another key thing that won't work is an external GPU. Intel sent me an Nvidia GeForce RTX 2080 Ti for this project, and it doesn't work with the MacBook Pro. It does, however, work with Intel-powered Macs.

      Other items that I used were Xbox controllers, the Samsung Touch T7 SSD, and the Logitech Brio. For the most part, these things worked as expected, although the newer Xbox Series X controller didn't work; support for that's going to be added soon though. You won't be able to use the IR camera on the Logitech Brio, as biometric authentication is reserved for Apple's own Touch ID.

      Software
      The MacBook Pro can run two kinds of apps. It can run native ARM64 apps, and it can run Intel apps through Rosetta 2. In fact, Intel apps are surprisingly good, and you'll need them since so many apps aren't updated for M1 yet.

      Adobe Creative Cloud is the biggest example. You'll find that apps like Photoshop, Premiere Pro, Media Encoder, Premiere Rush, After Effects, Character Animator, and Audition all have betas, and Lightroom isn't in beta but supports the M1 now. If the beta doesn't work for you, you can always run the Intel app side-by-side, taking a bit of a hit in performance.

      When I first ran the Photoshop beta, it crashed if I tried to crop an image. Luckily, these things are getting updated pretty frequently. Premiere Pro actually still doesn't have support for MP3 files, so you can't import them into your project. You'll have to convert audio files to WAV before using them.



      Now, let's talk about Windows 10, because Boot Camp is gone now, even though there's still a Boot Camp Assistant app that will just tell you there's no Boot Camp if you launch it. You can run Windows in virtualization using Parallels, and frankly, you shouldn't, at least not right now.



      Microsoft only publishes VHDX images of Windows on ARM for Insider Previews, because they're made for Hyper-V, and Hyper-V for ARM is something that's in preview as well. And also, apps like the Microsoft Store, Photos, and a lot more don't work in Parallels on the M1 MacBook Pro. The reason is because the chipset actually doesn't support 32-bit ARM apps, which is no surprise because there hasn't been a 32-bit app in the Apple ecosystem in ages. There hasn't been a Windows device with a 32-bit ARM processor either since phones were supported, so it's unclear why those apps haven't been updated.



      Parallels has some great integration with macOS though. You can access the macOS file system from Windows, and you can even set Safari as the default browser. Unfortunately, you still can't access an NTFS storage device from inside of Windows 10.

      One other thing I just want to draw attention to is that I've been living in the Apple ecosystem this whole time and it's quite nice. Ever since the iPhone 12 series came out, I've been using the iPhone 12 Pro Max as my daily driver along with my Apple Watch, and using all of these things together is quite nice, even if part of the reason for that is because Apple doesn't build out support for other platforms.

      Just having a Messages app is super handy. Also, AirDrop lets me send images and videos to the MacBook quickly, a real pain point on Windows 10. And when I use Android, all of that stuff still works too.

      Performance and battery life
      The model that Intel sent me includes 8GB RAM and a 256GB SSD, so it's the base model. Note that higher-end models of the 13-inch MacBook Pro still come with 10th-gen Intel processors, and there's a reason for that. While what Apple has done here is great, it's just not very pro.

      Apple has been designing custom processors for ages, and that's what goes into iPhones and iPads. Indeed, the A7 in the iPhone 5s was the first mainstream 64-bit ARM processor, something that Qualcomm had to respond to with the Snapdragon 810. At the time, many thought 64-bit processors in phones were a gimmick, and that turned out to be untrue.



      The Cupertino firm continued to build out its ARM processors, but it was still Qualcomm that first got into the PC market. The bad news is that Apple blew away Qualcomm's accomplishments on its first try. The latest Snapdragon Compute chipset is the 8cx Gen 2, and it was announced in September, after Apple announced the transition to Apple Silicon. And as you're about to see in benchmarks, Apple Silicon really does a lot better.

      Unfortunately, the only two benchmarks I could run were Geekbench and Cinebench, since those were the only ones supported. Those only test the CPU though.

      MacBook Pro 13
      M1, macOS MacBook Pro 13
      M1, Windows 10 (Parallels) Surface Pro X
      SQ2 Razer Book 13
      Core i7-1165G7 Geekbench 1,720 / 7,668 1,398 / 2,697 794 / 3,036 1,536 / 5,405 Cinebench 1,495 / 7,771 1,210 / 3,711
      Real-world performance feels like a mixed bag to me. General tasks don't feel particularly fast, and when it comes to things like launching apps and boot time, it even feels sluggish. Video rendering times are quick though, as I've been able to render 4K 60fps videos that are 15 minutes long in under 20 minutes.

      Battery life is pretty wild too. You're looking at a solid 12 hours of real-world usage here. One thing that's always impressed me with Apple is that it's pretty good at quoting real-world battery life. When a Windows OEM says 12 hours, that means that you're actually going to max out at around eight hours in real life.

      Conclusion
      The 13-inch MacBook Pro with Apple Silicon is an impressive product for a variety of reasons. It's just not pro. The M1 processor is fine for the MacBook Air, but if you feel like you need a step up from the Air to the Pro, I feel like that's not what you're getting here.



      The fact that this can't support dual external monitors should be a deal-breaker. I really don't think that that's a niche use case. Boot Camp would be nice as well, given that it's clearly possible to run Windows on this thing, even if it is limited. And also, the design just feels so old. Coming from reviewing a variety of Windows 10 PCs, the bezels feel so massive on the MacBook Pro.

      The build quality feels solid though, and like I said, Apple really nails down the core components of PC usage, such as the screen and the keyboard. It's also super impressive that the Cupertino company was able to build the custom chipset that it did.

      I just think it's worth waiting for the second generation of the product, or getting a Windows laptop for that matter. And if you need a 13-inch MacBook Pro right now, I'd get the Intel one. While the M1 is fantastic and has a bright future, it still leaves a bit to be desired.

      Check out the rest of the series:

      Part one: Unboxing the MacBook Pro 13 Part two: Unboxing the Razer Book 13 Part three: Setting up the peripherals Part four: Hardware compatibility Part five: Software Part six: Razer Book 13 review

    • By Usama Jawad96
      The PlayStation Network is down for certain games
      by Usama Jawad

      Microsoft's Xbox Live service had an outage yesterday, resulting in gamers facing problems in connecting to it. This caused failed purchases, inability to sign in for some users, issues in launching certain games, and unavailability of xCloud gaming. While Microsoft was able to resolve the problem in six hours, it did admit that the fix took longer than anticipated to apply.

      Today, it's the PlayStation Network's turn which appears to be down for several games.

      According to Sony's dedicated network service status page, the PlayStation Network is facing issues in the "gaming and social" category. This affects the PlayStation Vita, 3, 4, and 5. The company cautions that:

      It's unclear exactly how widespread the problem is, but the status appears to be the same across most regions including the US, UK, and Canada. Engadget reports that while some games like Fortnite and Fall Guys work just fine, players are having issues connecting to others such as Call of Duty: Warzone, Minecraft, Destruction AllStars, and Don't Starve Together.

      The issue was officially confirmed by Sony on 6:33PM ET, but earlier reports point to it appearing on 1PM ET, which essentially means that it's been almost 12 hours since the partial outage began. It's currently unclear when a fix will be rolled out, but you can keep an eye on the network service status page for updates in the meantime.