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Xbox April update brings achievements to phones, Game Pass improvements
by João Carrasqueira
Microsoft has released the April update for Xbox consoles, including the Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One, as well as for the Xbox app on smartphones. As usual, this update brings a few new features, starting with the mobile app, which is finally getting widespread support for achievements. Microsoft announced it was rolling out this feature gradually last month, and everyone should have it by the end of April. You'll also be able to compare you achievements with your friends and see monthly leaderboards to compare against them.
Over on Xbox consoles, this update brings some improvements for Game Pass subscribers. For starters, you'll now see a section called Play with Friends, which lists Game Pass games that are being played by your friends and lets you jump in and join them. Game Pass is also getting new game recommendations, for those times when you can't decide what to play next. These recommendations are based on games you've played before, so it could make it easier to find something you like.
Microsoft is also making improvements to game downloads. If you're downloading a game and playing something else at the same time, your console can now let you know if that game is impacting your download speed, and give you the option to suspend it so you can download faster.
As for known issues with this release, not a whole lot has changed, though Microsoft has removed issues related to the Xbox Series X|S controller and FPS Boost from the list, so presumably, those things are working fine now. You should be able to download the update now, but it will also install automatically sooner or later.
Microsoft announces Visual Studio 2022, now in a 64-bit flavor
by João Carrasqueira
Today, Microsoft announced Visual Studio 2022 along with its first public preview coming this summer. The next major release of Microsoft's flagship development toolkit will be "faster, more approachable, and more lightweight", according to Amanda Silver, who made the announcement on Microsoft's DevBlogs.
One of the big news with Visual Studio 2022 is going to be the transition to a 64-bit app. Indeed, Microsoft has been making a push towards 64-bit across the board, and now Visual Studio is joining the fray. A major advantage of 64-bit apps is that they're not limited to 4GB of memory, so this new release will have unrestricted access to all the memory on your PC. That should result in much better performance across the board and fewer out-of-memory errors.
The new version of Visual Studio will also come with updated icons that should be easier to identify and understand at a glance, support for the new Cascadia Code font that Microsoft introduced with Windows Terminal, new product themes, and integration with Accessibility Insights to help developers spot any accessibility barriers quicker. Microsoft is also making it easier to customize your experience with Visual Studio, with settings for the IDE and the ability to sync (or not) settings across devices.
As for what types of apps you can build with it, Visual Studio 2022 will be compatible with Azure resources, .NET 6, and C++ 20. That includes full support for the unified framework in .NET 6 and things like the Multi-platform App UI (MAUI) that can be used to create apps for Windows, Android, macOS, and iOS.
Other improvements include better performance for the core debugger, support for text chat during Live Share sessions, more capabilities for the IntelliCode engine, improvements to code search, and better asynchronous collaboration, with new logic related to making commits and reviewing pull requests from platforms like GitHub.
IntelliCode suggestions in Visual Studio Microsoft also says it's "refreshing" Visual Studio for Mac, switching to a native macOS UI to offer better performance and reliability. It will also integrate with macOS accessibility features, and Microsoft is updating the terminology across the IDE so it's more consistent between Mac and Windows versions.
As mentioned above, the first preview of Visual Studio 2022 will be available this summer, and Microsoft will likely iterate on it a few times leading up to the stable release.
Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming is finally coming to PC and iOS through the web
by João Carrasqueira
It's been a long time coming, but Microsoft has finally announced that it's going to start beta testing Xbox Game Pass cloud gaming for PC and iOS devices on the web starting tomorrow. The service launched for Android phones last September, and for a few months, you could test Microsoft's Project xCloud - the precursor to the full service - on iOS, but that ended up being scrapped due to Apple's App Store policies.
Initially, the Xbox Cloud Gaming will only be available via invitation for select Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscribers. Microsoft will begin sending out the invites tomorrow, and more people will be getting invites over time. Players from any of the 22 countries supported by Xbox Cloud Gaming will be eligible to be invited, so you may want to keep an eye out on your email if you want to participate.
Microsoft announced in December of last year that it would make the service available on both iOS and PCs this spring, and sure enough, it's happening, albeit not via a dedicated app as had been spotted in the past. Instead, players will use a web browser to visit xbox.com/play and get started. To play, you can use a Bluetooth or USB controller, or touch-based controls in supported games, and you'll be ready to go. There seems to be no mention of keyboard and mouse support, however.
Microsoft is a bit behind some of its competitors in terms of platform support, since both Stadia and GeForce Now already support PCs. Nvidia's service also runs on iOS, as does Amazon's Luna, which is also in preview. On the other hand, Microsoft includes a large library of games directly in Xbox Game Pass, making its service more compelling, especially after today's news.
Microsoft Edge Canary gets a performance mode for some users
by João Carrasqueira
Image credit: HotCakeX (Microsoft Tech Community Forums) Microsoft's Edge browser is getting a new performance mode, and it's already available for testing if you happen to be running the Canary version of the browser. Spotted by user HotCakeX on the Microsoft Tech Community Forums (via WinCentral), there's a new toggle under the System section of the browser's settings page where users can enable performance mode.
According to the description, enabling performance mode "helps you optimize speed, responsiveness, CPU, memory, and battery usage" for the browser, though it doesn't specify at what cost those improvements might come. However, it is worth noting that enabling the option disables the timer for sleeping tabs, which likely means it's set to one of the lowest values automatically. Putting tabs to sleep can help save resources and improve performance, so it makes sense that this is one of the settings that's enabled with performance mode.
Microsoft does note that the performance improvements enabled by this toggle will vary depending on your system configuration and your browsing habits. Users with more tabs may notice a bigger difference, for instance, if those tabs are put to sleep quickly.
Performance mode began rolling out with version 91.0.586.0, but it's a hidden feature. You'll need to use a launch parameter to enable it, similar to the Workspaces feature spotted last week. In this case, the launch parameter is as follows:
The same user on the Tech Community Forums also noted the recent addition of the ability to add text to a PDF file in Edge Canary. This also appears to be a controlled rollout, as the feature isn't available on our end yet.
On the topic of performance, Microsoft recently released a Canary version of Edge for Android, featuring a series of improvements over the stable release. You can check out our comparison between the two versions here.
By Namerah S
DOOGEE S59 Pro Review: Battery life so good, charging becomes a weekly chore
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
The DOOGEE S59 Pro was initially launched by its maker on December 15. Eventually, the rugged smartphone made its way to the U.S., arriving on Amazon in mid-January. Born in Spain, the Chinese brand focuses on creating durable phones and selling them at affordable prices.
One of the unique features of the S59 Pro, apart from the military standard IP rating, is the giant battery it comes with. The DOOGEE smartphone has an enormous 10,050mAh battery paired with 24W fast-charging support and is priced at $239.99 in the U.S.
We received the international version for the purposes of this review in the Army Green shade. Continue reading for a detailed evaluation of the rugged device.
Display 5.71 inches, IPC LCD, HD+, 720 x 1520, 295ppi, 90Hz, Corning Gorilla Glass Weight 340g CPU Mediatek Helio P22 2.0GHz 12nm GPU IMG PowerVR GE8320
4GB Storage 128GB, expandable up to 256GB via microSD Camera Main: 16MP f/2.0 130° ultra-wide + 8MP wide-angle + 8MP macro + 2MP depth
Front: 16MP Dimensions 6.41 x 3.19 x 0.63 inches Battery and charging 10,050mAh, 24W fast-charging via USB Type-C Connectivity Dual-SIM, WiFi 6, NFC, Durability IP68, IP69K, United States Military MIL-STD-810G Security Face unlock, side-mounted fingerprint sensor Material Metal and hard plastic blend Colour Army Green Price $239.99 Day One
One of the first things that I noticed immediately about the S59 Pro was its chunky size. Since it is a rugged smartphone, it's normal for the device to be built in such a manner but that doesn't make it easy to carry. As it has many protective layers and is made of metal and hard plastic, the phone is extremely heavy at 340g. It looks like a miniature tank or a brick, almost like a regular smartphone on steroids.
On the right side, you'll find the volume buttons, the power button and a dedicated fingerprint reader. Meanwhile, the left side houses the dual-SIM tray and a fully customizable extra button called the smart key. It can be programmed to trigger an SOS message, open any app, record audio and more. The top of the phone has a 3.5mm headphone port covered with a tab to maintain the waterproof nature of the phone. The USB Type-C port can be found at the bottom of the phone, also hidden away underneath a tab.
DOOGEE has fitted a powerful 2W speaker on the back of the S59 Pro. While it is really loud, the location makes it prone to being covered up and muffled when the phone is set down or held in hand. This was very problematic as the phone is so thick and heavy, I couldn't really hold it up in a way that didn't block the speaker for very long. The speaker placement essentially made it functionally useless most of the time.
Speaking of the display quality, I was very happy with it despite some shortcomings. The DOOGEE S59 Pro has a 5,71-inch HD+ LCD display with a 720 x 1520 resolution, 90Hz screen refresh rate, and Corning Gorilla Glass protection. It has an LED notification light on the top left, a waterdrop notch and extremely thick bezels. The forehead and chin are especially chunky and decrease the actual screen size by quite a bit.
The colours were crisp, bright and very accurate, and I could see content even in bright sunlight. Thanks to the 90Hz refresh rate, it responded very well and displayed smooth transitions and animations. The quality of the screen reminded me of the earlier iPhones, like the iPhone 5 or 6 (but better). Bottom line is, I think this was one of the best budget displays I've seen, despite the thick bezels.
Quad-cameras have become a bit of a fashion statement in the industry and the S59 Pro has embraced the trend as well. On the back, it has a square camera unit that houses a 16MP Samsung AI f/2.0 130° ultra-wide camera, an 8MP wide-angle camera, an 8MP macro camera and a 2MP depth sensor. As for the front camera, it sports a 16MP lens that supports face unlock.
Honestly speaking, I went into the process of reviewing this phone with minimal expectations but the cameras surprised me. As seen in the sample images below, the pictures came out really nice with clear details and vivid colours. The bokeh mode, or portrait mode as it's generally called, was a bit too artificial for my liking but the effect can be customized to the user's tastes so I was fine with it overall.
There is also an underwater mode and a dedicated monochrome mode in the camera which captures some aesthetically pleasing images in black and white. The cameras did struggle a lot with low lighting though, especially when the lighting was warmer. Under soft yellow lights, the pictures came out blurry and lacked detail and clarity. There is no night mode so it goes without saying that taking photos at night was hopeless.
As for the front camera, the 16MP selfie snapper took good shots but only in bright settings. Overall, I would say that the S59 Pro is capable of capturing some nice pictures but only with a lot of proper lighting. From an affordable rugged phone such as this, it is to be expected but I was hoping there would be a night mode.
Gallery: DOOGEE S59 Pro samples
DOOGEE touts that the S59 Pro is designed to withstand various forces of nature such as extreme weather conditions, shocks, falls and water. It has several durability certifications, including IP68 and IP69K water and dust resistance as well as the MIL-STD-810G military-grade rating.
I tested out its durability by dropping it face forward on tiled floors and there were no visible scratches or any damage. Dipping it in water did absolutely nothing, and even after a rough day of playing with my dog, the S59 Pro was completely unharmed. It got dirty with mud and I simply washed it under the tap afterwards. It felt a little unnerving to be washing a phone at first, but seeing the positive results made me relaxed.
Performance and battery life
Under the hood, the DOOGEE smartphone has the entry-level Mediatek Helio P22 chipset, 4GB RAM, 128GB storage and runs stock Android 10 out of the box. To test out the performance of the rugged phone, I tried playing various games that are heavy on the system such as The Elder Scrolls: Blades and Warhammer: Odyssey. It could handle the first game but the second one was abysmal, I couldn't even play for ten minutes because the app was so slow and kept getting stuck.
Running normal apps such as WhatsApp, Zoom, Google Docs or YouTube wasn't any hassle for the phone. I never faced glitches with any other application apart from the bigger, heavy-duty mobile games. Even smaller games like Gardenscapes and SimCity BuildIt played alright.
For proper benchmarks, I started off by running GFXBench which tests the GPU.
Next, I ran Geekbench 5 which tests the CPU.
Last on the list, I ran AnTuTu which tests everything. I used the Blackview BV4900 Pro's benchmarks for comparison as it is a rugged smartphone with the same CPU, GPU and similar storage options. According to the BV4900 Pro's scores on Unite4Buy, the Blackview phone got a total score of 94,288 whereas the DOOGEE S59 Pro got a significantly better overall AnTuTu score of 103,448.
Moving on to the battery life, DOOGEE touts the S59 Pro's gigantic 10,050mAh battery can last for two days on a single charge and can juice up to 100% in three hours. I put this to the test as well, and let me tell you, that was quite a task. The battery just would not die! I was astonished because the results were unbelievable. I went a whole seven days without having to charge the phone. That is, without a doubt, the longest any phone or wireless device I have ever owned lasted without losing power.
Followed by such heroic battery life, I had to deal with the daunting process of charging the S59 Pro back up. My goodness did that take a while - exactly four hours on the dot. Bear in mind that the phone comes with a 24W fast charger.
In the end, I would say that with the DOOGEE S59 Pro, nothing went as I was expecting. The overweight device was full of surprises but in the best sense. That being said, it had plenty of downsides as well. The bulky, heavy nature of the phone makes it really hard to carry it around. You can forget about putting the device in your pant pockets. If you do, however, the ever-present risk of being pantsed by your own phone will haunt you.
The speaker placement is extremely foolish and defeats the purpose of fitting such a loud one in the first place. Performance-wise, mobile gamers should definitely give this phone a pass because it can't handle demanding apps such as process-heavy games that well.
The rugged DOOGEE phone is meant for someone who prioritizes battery life over everything else and needs a decent, functioning smartphone. Aside from the excellent battery life, the device is extremely durable, it has good cameras and a great display. Though it needs to be charged for four long hours, that only needs to be done once a week so I believe it balances out.
Then there's the customizable smart key which is fantastic because you can assign different functions to it for one click, two clicks and a long press. That's really handy for emergency situations, you could use it as an SOS button and automatically alert contacts of your safety issue. You could also choose to take screenshots with the button or open any app.
All things considered, I believe that the S59 Pro is appropriate for a very specific segment of the market. If you're an adrenaline junkie, construction worker, army personnel, or simply a very clumsy human, I would definitely recommend you this phone.
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