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Games with Gold: Metal Slug 3 and Warface: Breakout are now free
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
Sticking to the schedule Microsoft announced last month, the first wave of the March Games with Gold has landed heralding a double drop of bonus games to Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game pass Ultimate members. The two games available now are the Xbox One title Warface: Breakout and the Xbox 360 title Metal Slug 3.
Warface: Breakout is available on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S, while Metal Slug 3 is up for grabs across the Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.
Use the store links below to add the titles to a Gold activated Microsoft account:
Warface: Breakout (Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S)
Metal Slug 3 (Xbox 360, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One)
Those who haven't yet managed to claim Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition from the previous Games with Gold promotion still have two weeks left before the game is replaced by the next Xbox One Gold game, Vicious Attack Llama Apocalypse.
As always, keep in mind that Xbox 360 games claimed via these promotions will continue being playable even if the Gold subscription is discontinued. However, claimed Xbox One games are only playable while the account has an active subscription to Gold.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft job listing hints at 5G and a better camera in the next Surface Duo
by Rich Woods
Microsoft first announced the Surface Duo in October 2019, showing a video where something in a bag rang, and immediately the crowd knew that the long-awaited Surface phone had arrived. While it was planned to launch in the holiday 2020 season, it arrived over the summer, but it definitely had some shortcomings.
It included a Snapdragon 855 chipset, which was last-gen even then. However, it's entirely possible that the reason was because a Snapdragon 865 would require 5G and reworked antennas. The camera also wasn't impressive, packing a low-end 11MP f/2.0 sensor, and being that the device itself is so thin, there's only so much z-depth that the camera can possibly offer.
According to a job listing that was spotted by Windows Latest, both 5G and a better camera should be coming in the next model. OF course, none of this is surprising, as the new Snapdragon 888 comes with an integrated 5G modem and a separate 5G modem is a requirement for the Snapdragon 865, 865+, and 870. The job listing calls for someone with experience with 3GPP standards and 5G radio technologies.
And then there are the camera improvements, where apparently, Microsoft will be using machine learning and artificial intelligence for better image processing. While this will certainly help with a camera that's mediocre even in broad daylight settings, there's only so much that image processing can do to overcome the barriers set by entry-level hardware.
Other than that, there's not much to say. Again, this stuff isn't surprising, but it's nice to see that Microsoft is working on solving the weaker points of the Surface Duo's hardware.
By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft quietly fixes weird Windows 10 drive corruption bug, but only in Insider build
by Usama Jawad
Last month, it was revealed that Windows 10 contains a weird bug in which the OS throws an error message that the drive is corrupted and that you should reboot the system, when a certain location is accessed via the Command Prompt or a browser. While Microsoft appears to have quietly fixed the issue in the latest Insider Preview build 21322, it still appears to be present in other versions of Windows 10.
Bleeping Computer reports that when you run the change directory "cd" command on the Command Prompt with a specific location, Windows warns that "The file or directory is corrupted and unreadable", recommending that you reboot the machine with chkdsk to fix the drive. This happens even when users with low privileges access the NTFS volume. Microsoft had previously stated that the corruption message is inaccurate and the drive isn't actually corrupted, but another report from OSR claims that in its testing, one instance of Windows 10 failed to reboot even after repeated chkdsk.
Microsoft has fixed the issue in its latest Windows 10 Insider Preview build 21322 pushed out a few days ago, and it does not allow users to access the problematic location as can be seen below:
Naturally, we tested accessing the location on our virtual machines powered by other, older versions of Windows too. On Windows Vista, the location in question is not accessible either:
However, when we tried to access the location via Command Prompt on an old machine with Windows 10 Pro version 1803 - which is an older version of the operating system that is no longer supported. True to reports, there is an error message that the "file or directory is corrupted and unreadable", and the system recommends that you close all apps, restart the PC, and repair drive errors to fix the issue:
In our case, Windows 10 fortunately did manage to reboot with chkdsk and did not get stuck in a loop. We expect other versions of Windows 10 prior to Insider build 21322 to behave in the same way, barring any serious anomalies:
It's a six-year-old PC! It is important to note that other vendors and companies are trying to block access to the problematic location from their end. Mozilla Firefox 85.0.1 has a check which disables access to locations with the ":$" symbol, while OSR has released an unofficial patch which disallows access to the path. That said, it is rather strange that Microsoft is not pushing out a hotfix for older versions of Windows 10. We have seen similar issues with other operating systems such as iOS in the past, and while they may not be dangerous in most cases, it is always worth fixing these issues to prevent viral pranks that can be a nuisance for PC owners who are not tech-savvy.
By Rich Woods
Lenovo ThinkBook 14s Yoga unboxing and first impressions
by Rich Woods
Lenovo's ThinkBook 14s Yoga is the first convertible ThinkBook, so while ThinkBook is a modern take on the company's business PC efforts, it's worth remembering that the firm actually invented the convertible under the ThinkPad brand. But unlike most of the ThinkPad convertibles that we've seen, this one is all aluminum, and it doesn't come with legacy features like the TrackPoint.
It does come with one feature that we've seen from plenty of Lenovo convertibles: the pen garage. It has a pen built right into it, so the pen is always with you, and it's always charged. It also comes with a ThinkShutter privacy shutter.
Personally, I'm excited for the new Abyss Blue color, which is apparently limited edition. It's very pretty, and along with the two-tone look, it really stands apart from the crowd. Of course, you can also get it in the old Mineral Gray color if that's more your speed.
Naturally, the ThinkBook 14s Yoga comes with up to an Intel Core i7-1165G7, and this particular model comes with 16GB RAM and a 512GB SSD. The 14-inch screen is FHD. It also comes with Thunderbolt 4 connectivity, solving one of my pain points in a previous ThinkBook review.
Check out the unboxing video below:
By Rich Woods
Surface Pro 7+ review: Iris Xe graphics and 4G LTE make a big difference
by Rich Woods
Last month, Microsoft introduced the Surface Pro 7+, and there were a few surprises included. For example, we all expected it to be called the Surface Pro 8, and then when it wasn't, it wasn't really clear why, being that the Pro 7+ actually has more significant improvements than some other Surface Pro upgrades we've seen.
First of all, there's the spec bump, going from Intel's 10th-gen 'Ice Lake' processors to 11th-gen 'Tiger Lake', meaning that the integrated graphics goes from Iris Plus Graphics to Iris Xe. There's a lot more power there, especially on the graphics side of things. It's more significant of a spec bump than the one that we saw on the Surface Pro 6, and the Pro 6 was only a spec bump.
That's not the only thing that's new though. The Surface Pro 7+ also comes with 4G LTE and removable storage, both features that are found in the Surface Pro X. They're both features that are great for businesses though, offering better security in terms of data and connectivity.
And yes, this PC is aimed squarely at businesses. If you're a consumer buying a Surface Pro in the store, you're going to be getting the Surface Pro 7 with its 10th-gen processors.
CPU Intel Core i5-1135G7 Graphics Iris Xe Body 11.5x7.9x0.33in (292x201x8.5mm), 1.75lbs (796g) Display Screen: 12.3” PixelSense Display
Resolution: 2736 x 1824 (267 PPI)
Aspect ratio: 3:2
Touch: 10 point multi-touch
Memory 16GB LPDDR4x RAM Storage 256GB SSD Ports 1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C
1 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A
3.5mm headphone jack
1 x Surface Connect port (USB 3.2 Gen 2)
Surface Type Cover port
1 x nano SIM (LTE)
Compatible with Surface Dial off-screen interaction Cameras,
and audio Windows Hello face authentication camera (front-facing)
5MP front-facing camera with 1080p full HD video
8MP rear-facing autofocus camera with 1080p full HD video
Dual far-field Studio Mics
1.6W stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos Battery life Up to 13.5 hours of typical device usage Connectivity Wi-Fi 6: 802.11ax compatible
Bluetooth Wireless 5.0 technology
LTE Advanced with removable SIM and eSIM support
Qualcomm Snapdragon X20 LTE Modem
LTE bands supported: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 25, 26, 28, 29, 30, 38, 39, 40, 41, 66 OS Windows 10 Pro Material Magnesium Color Platinum Price $1,649.99
There are a few things to note with the specs here. For one thing, if you want 4G LTE, you have to get the Core i5, without LTE is also offered with a Core i3-1115G4 or Core i7-1165G7. That's also because the Core i7 model has a fan, and the LTE module is placed where the fan would be on the i5 model.
This model is also a bit heavier than the 1.7lb Core i3 or i5 model, and even a tiny bit heavier than the 1.73lb Core i7 model with its fan added in. Another thing to note is that 4G models only go up to 16GB RAM and 256GB of storage, although you can get it with up to 32GB RAM and 1TB of storage if you go Wi-Fi only.
Finally, and this might be important to you, the LTE model ditches microSD expansion, something that's been a staple of the Surface Pro lineup since the beginning. It still comes in the Wi-Fi only model though.
On the surface (pun intended), the Surface Pro 7+ doesn't have any design changes. In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find any significant design changes since the Pro 4. The modern Surface Pro was introduced in 2014 with the Pro 3, and then the screen size was increased from 12 to 12.3 inches in the Pro 4, and the chassis was made a bit thinner. The Surface Pro 6 saw the return of the black color, and the Surface Pro 7 finally saw the addition of a USB Type-C port, replacing the old Mini DisplayPort.
Indeed, there's no real change there. Microsoft sent me the Platinum color again, and it's still got the chrome Microsoft logo on the back of the kickstand. But when you lift up the kickstand, that's where the actual change is.
This is the first Intel-powered Surface Pro to have removable storage, something that we've already seen in the Surface Pro X, Surface Laptop 3, and Surface Laptop Go. While you could technically use this to get around Microsoft's exorbitant prices for storage tiers, that's not recommended. This can be a way to replace defective storage, and in fact, Microsoft is now selling replacement SSD kits so IT can swap out the faulty drive right away.
The other key thing that this allows for is destroying sensitive data. Obviously, this PC won't be around forever, and there will come a time when your business recycles it, and you won't want some bad actor getting their hands on it and recovering any data that was stored on the device. Now, you don't have to worry about it.
The panel to access the SSD opens with a SIM tool, but the nano-SIM slot isn't under that panel like it is on the Surface Pro X. Instead, it's on the side, and as mentioned, there's no more microSD card slot. Personally, I'd take a nano-SIM slot any day.
Also on the right side are all of the ports that you need, including USB Type-C, USB Type-A, and Surface Connect. Unfortunately, the bad news is that they're all the 10Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2. While I appreciate that in the USB Type-A port, since so many premium PCs are still using the 5Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 1, I really do wish that Microsoft would start using Thunderbolt 4.
With Thunderbolt 4, you can connect dual 4K monitors or one 8K monitor to a single port, or you can connect an external GPU. When you look at the kind of performance that Intel's 11th-gen processors can deliver, this kind of expandability starts to sound more and more attractive.
On the left side at the top is the 3.5mm audio jack, and that means that it's time to talk a bit about port placement, because I'm not a fan. The same goes for the Surface Book. These things are clearly designed to be used as tablets, an odd choice when Windows 10 isn't. Putting ports like a headphone jack at the top means that you have wires dangling while you're trying to use it, and it's a pain point.
Frankly, the same goes for if you're charging via the USB Type-C port, which is the only one I'm willing to use. Naturally, it does ship with a Surface Connect charger, but like all review units that offer USB Type-C charging and ship with a proprietary charger, I just use USB Type-C.
On the top, there's just a power button and volume rocker. This is another design element that clearly comes from an age when Microsoft thought that people buying this would spend a lot of time holding it in portrait orientation, but it's fine.
Finally, on the bottom, we have our Type Cover port, and you can still use any Surface Pro Type Cover (or Touch Cover, for that matter) that's ever existed. If you use a Type Cover that was made for the 16:9 Surface Pro or Pro 2, it certainly won't cover the screen, but the keyboard will still work. Indeed, the Surface Pro 7+ has all of the legacy components that your business needs if it's standardized around Surface, including the same Type Cover port, Surface Connect, and more.
I've spent a lot of time wondering why this is a business PC. Sure, I get that the new business features are awesome, such as removable storage and 4G LTE, which is way more secure than public Wi-Fi. But why not sell it to consumers too, even if it's just the Wi-Fi only model? This is entirely speculation, but it's possible that there's an actual Surface Pro 8 planned that doesn't have some of the legacy components that I described above; it could be a properly redesigned Surface Pro, and it would also explain the off Pro 7+ naming.
Display and audio
As far as this and the keyboard section go, everything is identical to the Surface Pro 7, so if you're familiar with the product, you can skip to the performance section. If not, read on.
Once again, the Surface Pro 7+ has a 12.3-inch 2736x1824 PixelSense display. PixelSense is sort of Microsoft's version of what Apple calls Retina. It has a 267ppi pixel density, which is pretty great, as there's no visible pixelation. In fact, considering how small the screen is, it's pretty high resolution in the world of FHD laptops.
Also, Microsoft is very good at making displays. It's one thing that it always pulls off pretty well. That means that you're getting accurate colors here, something that really comes in handy in photo and video editing work. It's incredibly glossy though, and that actually applies to the entire lineup.
It's also got a full 178-degree viewing angle, as any premium laptop display should. That means that no matter where you're looking at it from, there's no visible color distortion.
But also, it's got massive bezels. Indeed, those bezels really haven't changed at all since the Surface Pro 4's introduction in 2015, so if they make the PC look dated, it's because the design is dated. In fact, it's worth noting that much of the Surface lineup has dated designs. The Surface Book was introduced in 2015 alongside the Pro 4, and that hasn't changed either.
Other companies are improving their designs on a yearly basis, often finding new and innovative ways to chop down the bezels a bit more and make the footprint just that little bit smaller.
The top bezel does include both a webcam and an IR camera for Windows Hello. In fact, the new Surface Laptop Go has the smallest top bezel of any Surface, and Microsoft said it had to ditch the IR camera to do it. Also, the webcam is 1080p, something that's still a rarity in portable PCs.
As for audio quality, it's as good as it can get for a tablet like this one. Microsoft puts two speakers in the bezels on both sides of the display, and while they're not particularly loud for media consumption, they do sound good for calls. Naturally, the latter is pretty important these days while people are working from home.
Like I said earlier, the port for the Type Cover is one of very few things that haven't changed over the years, so you can use (almost) any Type Cover or Touch Cover that's existed, unless it was made for the Surface Go or Surface Pro X, which were the only times Microsoft changed the port. I actually threw in the "almost" because the very rare Music Kit doesn't work anymore.
Microsoft sent me the black Type Cover, which is the only one that doesn't come with Alcantara fabric, so it's not considered to be a Signature Type Cover. Of course, black is a more subtle cover for businesses.
The keyboard itself is pretty good, and it's improved a lot over the years. In my experience, connectivity used to be a big issue for Surfaces. For example, the keyboard magnetically props up against the bottom bezel, and typing would cause a vibration that temporarily disconnects the keyboard. It was a pain point, and I haven't had that issue at all with this model.
But to be clear, this isn't a laptop keyboard, and doesn't feel like one. You should absolutely take note of this when you purchase this product for your business. If you're going to hand this machine to an employee that's going to just place it on a desk and type on it like it's a laptop, then you should probably be looking at the Surface Laptop. If it's going to be used as a tablet rarely, then you should look at the Surface Book. The Type Cover is meant to be removed so the Surface Pro 7+ can be used as a tablet.
I'd like to give a shout-out to Brydge, even though I don't always give call-outs to third-party peripherals in reviews. Brydge is known for making keyboards for tablets and making them feel more like laptops, and the Brydge 12.3 Pro+ is actually the first third-party keyboard that's Designed for Surface.
As you can see in the image, it slides into two clamps on the keyboard and they have a tight hinge. It feels like a proper laptop to use. It does connect via Bluetooth though, so you're giving up that direct connection that you get with the Type Cover.
Of course, a Surface Pro doesn't actually come with a keyboard, so you can buy Microsoft's, Brydge's, or someone else's. You can choose any keyboard that you want.
Performance and battery life
The Surface Pro 7+ comes with Intel's new 11th-generation processors, and that means that it comes with Iris Xe graphics. It's actually pretty phenomenal. With 10th-gen, Intel finally started to get serious about its integrated graphics with Iris Plus, and then it doubled down with Iris Xe.
When you look at a tablet that's a third of an inch thick and weighs in at 1.75 pounds, you probably wouldn't expect it to pack much of a punch, and indeed, it sure didn't back in 2015. But today, I'm truly amazed when I see these PCs in tiny form factors that can do things that I'd have needed dedicated graphics for just a couple of years ago. Intel wasn't lying when it said that you can do FHD gaming on Iris Xe.
Intel's naming is a bit different than it was with Ice Lake though. The G number is for graphics power, but it meant something different. With 10th-gen and Iris Plus, G7 meant it has Iris Plus with 64 execution units (EUs), G4 meant it had 48 EUs, and G1 meant it had UHD Graphics with 32 EUs. In other words, the Core i7-1065G7 and Core i5-1035G7 had the same graphics, which was great news for products like the Surface Laptop 3 where the only difference was CPU power.
With 11th-gen and Iris Xe, the Core i7-1165G7 and Core i5-1135G7 both have Iris Xe, but despite both being called 'G7', the former has 96 EUs while the latter has 80 EUs. It's just something to be aware of when choosing between the two options.
Battery life isn't particularly impressive, which isn't surprising for a Surface like this. I found that it gets around five hours of real-world use, and that really just includes working through the browser while having various apps open like Slack, Skype, and OneNote. This was with the brightness around 30% and the power slider at one notch above battery saver. You might be able to stretch it to six hours, but anything beyond that, you'll have to be doing something that really doesn't use much battery like local video playback.
But let's talk about cellular connectivity, which is awesome. The nice thing is that if you pull this thing out of your bag and fire it up, it's connected to the internet right away. You don't have to worry about handing over your email address to use the Wi-Fi in Starbucks and ending up on their mailing list, and you don't have to hunt down the Wi-Fi password in the airport lounge. You're just connected, and it's a delightful feature.
It's also a security feature. You don't have to worry about connecting to public Wi-Fi networks that are often insecure; moreover, you don't have to worry about your employees doing it.
For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8, PCMark 10, Geekbench, and Cinebench.
Surface Pro 7+
Core i5-1135G7 Surface Pro 7
Core i5-1035G4 Razer Book 13
Core i7-1165G7 PCMark 8: Home 3,521 3,376 4,370 PCMark 8: Creative 4,192 3,749 4,796 PCMark 8: Work 3,403 3,339 4,047 PCMark 10 3,963 4,030 4,897 Geekbench 5 1,358 / 5,246 1,425 / 4,143 Cinebench 1,235 / 2,854 1,426 / 3,837
As you can see, there are some big improvements coming from the Core i5 in the Pro 7 to the one in the Pro 7+. Honestly, it doesn't make sense to me that consumers still have to get the Ice Lake processor if they want a Surface Pro.
One of my biggest issues with the Surface Pro is that it still hangs onto all of that legacy stuff. It's still got the massive bezels, and it still has the Surface Connect port instead of going all-in on USB Type-C. But of course, these things are exactly what businesses want. They want the old chargers they have lying around to work in the new model, and they want their Type Covers to work so they don't have to buy new ones. It all makes sense for a business audience.
Of course, there's no excuse for not having Thunderbolt 4, something that you'll find in any other premium portable PC. If you wanted to connect dual 4K displays to this, you'd probably have to use the USB Type-C port for one and the Surface Connect port with a dock for the other. And just imagine being able to connect an external GPU; after taking this to work, you'd be able to bring it home and with a single cable, connect it to a ton of power that turns it into a gaming rig.
But at least you do get Iris Xe graphics with this, which is quite nice. Indeed, the boost in power from the previous generation is pretty awesome. Intel is seeing some competition these days, and it's absolutely leading to us getting better products.
I also love cellular connectivity, as it's one of my favorite features in any device. Frankly, in 2021, I just think all things should be able to connect to the internet at all times. Removable storage is excellent too, as it's yet another security feature for businesses.
If you want to check it out, you can find it on Microsoft.com here.