7 Days is a weekly roundup of the Editors' picks of what's been happening in the world of technology - written with a dash of humor, a hint of exasperation, and an endless supply of (Irish) coffee.
It’s been a thrilling (and slightly exhausting) week, with a relentless barrage of juicy announcements, intriguing developments, and spicy rumors from across the tech world. 7 Days is here to whizz you through the week’s top tech news – and there’s a lot to get through…!
Kaspersky Lab's recent celebrations will surely have come to a screeching halt this week, after it emerged that the FBI has been advising large companies to avoid its products, claiming that the company is filled with Russian intelligence operatives.
A miner announcement
With the price of bitcoin reaching record highs, motherboard manufacturers have begun challenging the limits of what is possible, by squeezing as many GPU slots as they can onto mining motherboards. The latest example is the $130 B250 Mining Expert Motherboard from ASUS, which supports up to 19 (!!) graphics cards.
Tesla began rolling out the latest update to its Autopilot 2 self-driving system this week, delivering some substantial improvements based on its own 'Tesla Vision' development. But as we discovered, the system is still inferior in some ways to the first-generation Autopilot system, which used Mobileye technology.
The final frontier
While Tesla focuses on Earth-bound transportation, another of Elon Musk's companies continues to reach for the stars. On Wednesday, SpaceX showed off the design off its new spacesuit - and frankly, it looks pretty cool.
The next generation
On Monday, Intel announced the first wave of its 8th-generation Core processors, focusing initially on new laptop chips. It claims a massive 40% performance improvement over its 7th-gen Kaby Lake processors.
Following multiple price cuts by Oculus over the last year, HTC has now permanently reduced the cost of its Vive + Touch bundle by $200, to $599. It seems VR hasn't exactly been the runaway success that some people expected.
The thousand-dollar iPhone
Meanwhile, Apple is expected to price its new 'bezel-less' iPhone from around $999, pushing the cost of models with the most storage to well over a thousand bucks. The new handset will reportedly be unveiled on September 12 alongside two 'more affordable' - relatively speaking - iPhones, as well as a new Apple TV box that supports 4K and HDR.
And following recent rumors, Samsung confirmed that it too will be launching a smart speaker, which will almost certainly use its Bixby digital assistant. Samsung also announced that Bixby is now available in more than 200 markets worldwide - but its voice controls are still limited to US English and Korean. Spotify integration will be added to the assistant later this year.
The write stuff
One of the week's biggest stories was Samsung's announcement of its Galaxy Note8 flagship, which also includes Bixby support, and is priced at a hefty $950 in the US. Samsung made no attempt to gloss over the fiasco of the handset's predecessor during its launch event, saying: "None of us will ever forget what happened last year."
Indeed, with the Note8, Samsung is keen to right the wrongs of its previous fiery flagship, and at first glance, it certainly ticks all the right boxes, including the well-liked stylus support of earlier Note devices. Make sure you check out our hands-on first impression of the Galaxy Note8.
Samsung also offered an olive branch to owners of the Galaxy Note7 who had been burned - so to speak - by the problems that plagued that device, with discounts of up to $425 off the Note8.
To the surprise of no-one, Google announced Android 8.0 Oreo on Monday, in a rather lackluster event that ended almost as soon as it began. It also launched a new information site, detailing some of the update's features.
The final version of Oreo was immediately made available to those on the Android Beta Program, and the general rollout for various Pixel and Nexus devices will begin "over the next several weeks". Google also confirmed that Android 8.0 would be coming to new and/or existing devices from several major manufacturers this year, and HTC later confirmed some of its handsets that will be upgraded.
However, numerous problems with the update have already been reported by users.
Google will reportedly unveil its new Pixel and Pixel XL phones - the 'showcase' devices for Android 8.0 Oreo - on October 5, and they're believed to be equipped with a new Snapdragon 836 processor. At the same event, Google is expected to introduce two more devices: a new Chromebook Pixel laptop, and a smaller version of its Home smart speaker.
Meanwhile, Google has set its sights on big businesses with its announcement of Chrome Enterprise, which includes Microsoft Active Directory support.
Intel's announcement of its 8th-gen processors - which I mentioned earlier (I do hope you're paying attention) - came with a rather unusual surprise. Its promotional video featured an unannounced black version of Microsoft's Surface Book, leading to all sorts of questions and speculation...
Here's a few more Surface stories from the past week:
Over on the Windows Store
US banking giant Wells Fargo announced that it's ending its support for Windows phones - the latest in a long line of companies to do so.
In happier news, Microsoft is helping students prepare for their return to the classroom with big discounts on numerous apps on the Windows Store. And by the way, don't forget to check out our Back to School Shopping Guide, which includes some great products to suit students and families with a wide range of budgets.
Microsoft is now in the final stages of development of the upcoming Windows 10 Fall Creators Update. It told Windows Insiders this week that it would be delivering new builds "more quickly" to the Fast and Slow rings as it focuses on squashing bugs and adding polish to the OS.
On Wednesday, it released build 16273 to PCs in the Fast and Skip Ahead rings; it was the first preview for three weeks, and included a huge range of improvements and fixes. Credit where it's due: major kudos to the Windows dev team for their efforts on that front.
In other Insider news:
- Build 16275 arrived with further fixes to PCs in the Fast ring on Friday
- Windows 10 Mobile build 15245 brought a handful of improvements
- Mobile build 15240 reached the Slow ring
- Windows Server Insider Preview build 16267 is now available
- SDK Preview build 16267 and Mobile Emulator build 15240 were released
It was also revealed that Microsoft will be removing support for ReFS (Resilient File System) from Windows 10 Pro in the Fall Creators Update, following the recent announcement of the new Windows 10 Pro for Workstations edition.
And four months after the Creators Update started rolling out, it's now reached around two-thirds of Windows 10 PCs, according to the latest data from AdDuplex. That may sound impressive, but it's actually a worse rollout rate than the Anniversary Update achieved.
Microsoft has a Brainwave
Microsoft announced its new deep learning acceleration platform on Wednesday, codenamed Project Brainwave. Designed to facilitate real-time artificial intelligence, it combines specialized hardware with support for a wide range of cognitive frameworks, and the company says it "achieves a major leap forward in both performance and flexibility for cloud-based serving of deep learning models."
Microsoft is also experimenting with cloud-based technologies to explore how they could be used to help reduce the 'footprint' of game installations on consoles.
The company made a series of exciting announcements at the gamescom 2017 expo in Germany this week, including:
- A new light theme is coming to the Xbox One Dashboard
- Xbox Game Pass is launching in 8 new countries, and adding 7 new titles
- Xbox Design Lab controllers are now available in 20 more European markets
- Special edition Minecraft Xbox One S revealed, launching on October 3
- Middle-earth: Shadow of War gets an Xbox One S bundle
And on Friday, Microsoft stopped selling the original Xbox One in the US, making way for a new addition to the family...
X hits the spot
Also at gamescom, Microsoft unveiled the new Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition, a limited edition variant of its mighty new console that it said was "designed for our biggest fans".
It opened pre-orders for that model on the same day, and they sold out in many markets pretty quickly. Despite some naysayers predicting low interest in the console due to its $499 price tag, it appears that many gamers are excited to get their hands on the "most powerful console ever". Indeed, Microsoft said it was the "fastest-selling Xbox pre-order ever" - although, notably, it didn't provide any actual numbers to substantiate that claim - adding that it will offer pre-orders for the 'standard edition' console in the coming weeks.
Microsoft also published a full list of all Xbox One X Enhanced titles that have been confirmed so far.
Razer revealed a new controller designed for Xbox One and PC gamers on Thursday. It said the Wolverine Ultimate "was designed to adapt itself to any gamer", with interchangeable controls, Chroma lighting effects, and a Quick Control Panel of additional buttons.
It also unveiled the Atheris, which it referred to as "the ultimate wireless notebook mouse" with "gaming-grade features".
More gaming goodness
That Razer Atheris mouse might go well with the monstrous new OMEN X Laptop, which HP says is "a force to be reckoned with", offering overclockable Intel CPUs, an overclocked Nvidia GTX 1080 GPU, and other beefy features for gamers on the go.
Lenovo revealed its new Legion gaming desktops, which will be available in a wide range of configurations to suit budget-conscious buyers, and hardcore gamers with deep pockets.
And Acer announced the Nitro 5 Spin, a Windows 10 convertible with 8th-gen Intel Core processors, designed for casual gamers.
There was HUGE news for Age of Empires fans at gamescom: not only is the entire series being remastered, but a new game is also on the way. Woohoo!
Final Fantasy XV: Windows Edition made its first appearance in an 'official reveal trailer' too, ahead of its launch next year.
Rare confirmed that the long-awaited Sea of Thieves will include cross-platform play between PC and Xbox One consoles - and that announcement also gave us the glorious opportunity to use the phrase "weaponized vomit" in our headline. Thanks, Rare! 😂
Unfortunately, Sony is persisting with its joyless, insular policy of preventing cross-play with rival platforms. Indeed, the developer of Ark: Survival Evolved confirmed that "Sony won't allow it", even though there seem to be no technical reasons for such a gamer-hostile limitation. Microsoft's Aaron Greenberg said this week that the company is "talking to Sony" to see if it will permit cross-play between the PS4, Xbox and PC.
In more sad news, BioWare said last weekend that it won't make any more single-player updates to Mass Effect: Andromeda - just five months after its release.
Plenty of people in the US were disappointed - and probably a bit angry - when they woke up to find that two major retailers had opened pre-orders for the new SNES Classic Edition in the middle of the night, with all of their stock allocated long before sunrise.
But for those who have placed their pre-orders for the retrofabulous console, some great news arrived on Tuesday. The console will be able to record gameplay, and includes fast-forward and rewind functionality. Neat!
If you didn't manage to get your order in, Nintendo is hoping you'll buy its New 3DS XL that's been made to look like a SNES.
Don't forget to follow our dedicated @NeowinGaming account on Twitter, to stay up to date with all the latest gaming news and reviews!
And if Samsung bricked your smart TV with its latest firmware update, it's really sorry.
Before we wrap things up for another week, let me first highlight a few extra bits around the site that I hope you’ll enjoy reading.
And Dreyer Smit published his review of >Observer_, a thoughtfully designed and beautifully immersive game that combines science fiction and horror in a "strange mind-bending experience". It looks pretty awesome... if you like that kind of thing!
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