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Minecraft Java Edition will soon require a Microsoft account
by João Carrasqueira
The original release of Minecraft, now called Minecraft: Java Edition, is soon going to require a Microsoft account to play. The announcement was made on the Minecraft blog, and it means that existing players will start to be moved to Microsoft accounts next year. The move will be mandatory, so you won't be able to play the game if you don't switch to the new account.
To justify the decision to move its player base, Minecraft developer Mojang said that Microsoft accounts offer a range of benefits compared to a regular account. These include additional security thanks to two-factor authentication, linking different games in the Minecraft universe to the same account, improved parental controls, and the ability to block chat messages and invitations.
Aside from using a Microsoft account, there won't be any big changes with the transition. Existing skins and mods will continue to work, and users get to keep their current username. In fact, Microsoft is giving players a small reward for going through the process - a special cape for your character. The company is also teasing that more rewards may be revealed later. You can learn more about the transition in this FAQ.
For new players, the Microsoft account requirement will come into place this fall, meaning you'll need one to create a new account. Because there are a lot of players on the Java Edition of Minecraft (in 2019, the company reported that 30 million copies of the game had been sold), existing players will be moved in batches starting next year. Users will receive emails with instructions on how to make the move when their turn comes.
Here's what's fixed, improved, and still broken in Windows 10 build 20241
by João Carrasqueira
As per Microsoft's Wednesday tradition, a new build of Windows 10 is rolling out Insiders in the Dev channel today, this time being build number 20241. As usual, the list of new features is small, but there are some visual changes and improvements to the Settings app.
However, the build also comes with the usual lists of improvements, fixes, and known issues, which might be useful to know before you rush to install it. Starting with the improvements, there are some for Narrator and the Japanese IME:
As for the fixes in this release, there's a pretty long list to take a look at:
Finally, there are still some known issues:
If you're not in the Insider program, Microsoft released a new Windows 10 feature update, version 20H2, just yesterday, and we've rounded up all the new features in it. There are also some known issues for it, but nothing new if you were already using Windows 10 version 2004. It'll likely be a few months before the features in these new Insider builds make their way to the general public.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft releases Windows 10 build 20241 to the Dev channel with theme-aware splash screens
by Rich Woods
It's Wednesday at 10am PT, and that can only mean one thing. There's a new Windows 10 Insider Preview build in the Dev channel. This week's build is 20241, and as usual, not much has changed, although there are a few things.
The Dev channel gets weekly builds from the rs_prerelease branch, so it's in a perpetual state of prerelease and it's not tied to a feature update. At some point, features get promoted to the Beta channel, which is actually a preview for the next feature update. Unfortunately, no one actually knows what the next feature update is, and Microsoft isn't talking about it. The most recent update, 20H2, was released this week, and 21H1 might be canceled entirely in favor of a Windows 10X release.
As for what's new in this build, we're now seeing theme-aware splash screens, so you'll see light and dark splash screens instead of accent-colored ones. Here's the full changelog:
It's unclear why only that small subset of apps supports the theme-aware splash screen, rather than anything with a transparent splash screen.
As always, you can grab today's build via Windows Update. If you're not on the Dev channel yet, you can enroll through the Windows Insider Program tab in Settings.
By Rich Woods
Acer TravelMate Spin P4 hands-on review: Intel Tiger Lake is here
by Rich Woods
About two weeks ago, Acer sent me its TravelMate Spin P4 for a sort of "hands on review", or that's what I'm calling it. The PC is being announced today at its next@acer event, and Acer was kind enough to send me a pre-production unit. The rules are that I can't run any benchmarks, or speculate what benchmark scores might be, so the format of this review will be slightly different from what you're used to.
Not running benchmarks was hard too, because the TravelMate Spin P4 is the first PC I've used that has Intel's 11th-generation 'Tiger Lake' processors. Tiger Lake is Intel's second generation that uses a 10nm process, and it has some seriously improved graphics power called Iris Xe. On top of that, it has support for Thunderbolt 4 and faster memory.
But even aside from that, the TravelMate Spin P4 is a pretty cool business laptop. It's got a built-in pen, an IR camera for Windows Hello, and most importantly, optional 4G LTE.
CPU Intel Core i7-1165G7 Graphics Intel Iris Xe Display 14” FHD IPS SlimBezel Touch Panel w/AES Body 12.7x9.2x0.7in, 3.3lbs Ports (2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A
(1) Thunderbolt 4
(1) 3.5mm audio
(1) nano-SIM Storage 1TB, PCIe Gen3 8 Gb/s up to 4 lanes, NVMe RAM 32GB DDR4 Battery 56Wh, up to 13.5 hours Connectivity 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5.0 OS Windows 10 Pro Color Slate Blue Price Starts at $999
To be clear, these are the specs of the unit that Acer sent me, and since this product wasn't announced yet, I haven't been able to get pricing on this configuration. The base model comes with a Core i3-1115G4 CPU, 128GB of storage, and 8GB RAM.
The color of this PC is called Slate Blue, and it's a pretty subtle shade of blue. At first glance, you might even think it's more of a gunmetal color. Personally, I like it. It's a nice way to add a bit of color to a business laptop, which typically wouldn't have any color at all.
As usual, it has the silver Acer badge embossed in the corner. This isn't uncommon for a TravelMate, whereas one of Acer's consumer PCs might have the Acer logo right in the middle of the lid.
Zero ports were harmed in making this convertible just 0.7 inches thick. On the left side, you'll notice that there's a full-size Ethernet port, which has a drop-jaw hinge. You'll also find HDMI, two USB Type-A ports, and a Thunderbolt 4 port.
Yes, that's a pin charger all the way to the left, and that's the kind of charger that it ships with. Of course, you can also charge through the USB Type-C port, so you have the choice. If your business is standardized on Acer chargers, you can use those. If you want to use a newer USB Type-C cable, you can do that too.
That Thunderbolt 4 port can also power up to two 4K monitors off of a single port, or you can use it to connect an external GPU. The minimum spec for Thunderbolt 4 was actually what some Thunderbolt 3 ports were capable of, but now it's standard, and it's pretty awesome.
On the right side, there are even more goodies. This is where you'll find the power button, which doubles as a one-touch fingerprint sensor. Yes, that means that you get the seamless log-in experience that comes when the PC reads your fingerprint before it boots up. There's also a nano-SIM card slot, because this PC does absolutely come with 4G LTE. That means that you don't have to worry about connecting to public Wi-Fi and the security implications, the hassle of using your phone as a hot spot, or asking your buddy for a Wi-Fi password. Also on that side are a microSD expansion slot and a 3.5mm audio jack.
That's also where you'll find the pen garage, an elegant solution for pen storage. That means that the AES pen is always charged when you need it, and it's always with you. Some companies like to use a magnetic attachment, but that can fall off in your bag. Some make you use AAAA batteries, but then you have to deal with it potentially not being charged when you do to use it.
To me, the pen garage is the best solution because it's always with you, always charged, and it doesn't get in the way. Of course, that means that you get a smaller pen, but the good news is that it's Wacom AES; there are plenty of options out there if you want to grab a third-party pen.
My only complaint about the design is that I wish it was a bit lighter. I've used so many Acer PCs that are made out of a magnesium alloy, and this one is aluminum, which is much heavier. It comes in at 3.3 pounds, and I feel like if it was magnesium, it could have been close to or under three pounds.
Display and audio
The TravelMate P4 comes with a 14-inch FHD display, and there's not much to say about it. I don't have a very detailed spec sheet, so I'm missing things like promised brightness. I didn't have any issues with outdoor usage though, although I did have to keep brightness at close to 75% instead of my usual 50% for indoor use.
The screen does seem to have a solid 160-degree viewing angle, letting you view it from any angle without any visible color distortions. And the colors in general seem to be accurate, speaking purely anecdotally.
Of course, there's pen support, which is great for use as a tablet. You can use it to take handwritten notes, write on photos, draw routes in Maps, and so on.
It has narrow bezels on the sides, although the top and bottom bezels are quite large. The top one has an IR camera and a webcam, along with a privacy shutter that can block the webcam. Obviously, having Windows Hello facial recognition is a plus. The bottom bezel just feels unnecessarily large, although perhaps that's due to the speaker placement above the keyboard.
Those speakers actually sound quite good, and that's a stark contrast to my previous experience with Acer laptops. Not only is it loud, but it's clear. I've used so many Acer laptops, especially commercial ones, where it sounds super-tinny. That's not the case here and I'm really pleased to say it.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard is backlit, and it's solid, but it's also nothing to write home about. It's not that this keyboard is bad in any way at all, but that companies like HP and Lenovo are doing frankly amazing things with keyboards in their business laptops.
This one definitely feels good though. The keys are sturdy, accurate, and comfortable with proper resistance. They're not particularly quiet, something that I look for in a premium keyboard.
As you'd expect, it has a clickable Microsoft Precision trackpad, meaning that it's fast, responsive, and supports all of the gestures that you're used to. I do wish it was a bit bigger though. There's something about it when there's a lot of space around the trackpad where I wonder why the company didn't make more use of the available real estate. After all, the display does have a huge chin and a large top bezel, giving it a larger footprint. Either way, it's a very minor complaint.
As I mentioned right from the beginning, I couldn't run benchmarks on here, and I can't even speculate what benchmark scores would be. All I can tell you is what my experience was like, and I have to say, it was pretty great. This machine has an Intel Core i7-1165G7 processor and 32GB of RAM, so it's legit.
Intel's Tiger Lake processors bring things to a new level. Last year's Ice Lake was a massive improvement with Iris Plus Graphics, and now with Iris Xe, it's really interesting. I call it interesting because it makes this machine particularly versatile.
You can play games on here, albeit not with top-end settings, and you can edit FHD video on here without issue. At the same time, this is a productivity machine, which can also be used as a tablet. The use cases for this PC seem to be endless, thanks to how good Intel's U-series processors are getting.
I won't get too deep into performance because not only am I not allowed to run benchmarks, but it would also be irresponsible. This is a pre-production unit, and your mileage will definitely vary from mine. I'm also not going to talk about battery life, because that wouldn't be fair either.
The Acer TravelMate Spin P4 is a fantastic PC, and I hope I get to spend more time with it when production units are available. It's almost a cliche to say this, but it just checks the right boxes.
For one thing, Acer is putting 4G LTE in these things, and that's awesome. This is 2020, and everything should easily connect to the Internet. I give the company a lot of credit for including LTE in all three of the TravelMates that it announced today.
I do wish it was a bit lighter, and I'd love to see this exact same PC but made out of a magnesium alloy. Also, I'd like that dream machine to have a larger trackpad.
But then of course, Intel's Tiger Lake processors are great, but fitting them into a form factor like this just makes it a winner. The pen garage makes pen storage optimal, so it's always with you, always charged, and doesn't get in your way, so tablet mode is a breeze. And at the same time, I spent some time playing Halo: The Master Chief Collection. This is just an incredibly versatile machine.
The Acer TravelMate P4 is set to arrive in North America in December, and it's coming to EMEA in November.
By Rich Woods
Acer's new consumer laptops all have Intel Iris MAX dedicated graphics
by Rich Woods
Swift 3x Today at its next@acer event, Acer unveiled all-new consumer laptops, and a broad range of them. Perhaps the most interesting of the bunch is the Swift 3x, a clamshell with Intel 11th-generation processors.
Weighing in at 3.02 pounds and promising up to 17.5 hours of batter life, the Swift 3x will have Intel's Xe MAX dedicated graphics, which we really don't know anything about aside from the brand. It also has Thunderbolt 4, and a 14-inch FHD screen with an 84% screen-to-body ratio.
"The Swift series has always been about pushing the envelope, trying to fit as much power into as portable a package as possible," said Jerry Kao, Co-COO, Acer Inc. "The new Swift 3x continues that mindset, with discrete graphics in a sleek chassis for those who need style and performance on the go."
The Swift 3x is coming to North America in December starting at $899.99, and EMEA in November starting at €849.
Spin 5 There are two new convertibles, the Spin 5 and the Spin 3. The Spin 5 weighs in at 1.2kg and it's 14.9mm thin, and it has a somewhat unique design. When you open the lid, it elevates the device for better thermals. While this is often found in clamshells, it's not as often seen in convertibles like a Spin.
It's also got Intel Tiger Lake processors, up to a Core i7-1165G7, but it has Iris Xe integrated graphics. It has an 80% screen-to-body ratio with a 3:2 display, and the PC has a built-in Wacom AES pen.
The Spin 3 also has Tiger Lake chips with Iris Xe graphics, although this one has a 16:10 display with up to a 2560x1600 resolution. It also has the built-in pen.
The Spin 5 is coming to North America in February starting at $999.99 and EMEA in December starting at €1,099. The Spin 3 is coming to North America in March starting at $849.99 and EMEA in December starting at €899.
Aspire 5 Finally, there's the Aspire 5. This is more of the mainstream lineup. There are several models, and they come with 11th-gen processors. Some of them come with Nvidia's GeForce MX450 GPUs, and they also come in various colors and such.
The Aspire 5 models are coming to North America in December and EMEA in November. The Aspire (A514-54 14") starts at $499.99 in North America and €599 in EMEA. The Aspire (A515-56 15.6") starts at $499.99 in North America and €599 in EMEA. Finally, the Aspire (A517-52 17.3") starts at $549.99 in North America, and €599 in EMEA.