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How to build a custom keyboard in 2023

Building your first custom mechanical keyboard can be intimidating. Between all the parts and terminology involved, it’s hard to know where to start. Thankfully, it’s also never been easier to jump into the hobby. For this guide, I interviewed two YouTube creators — Brian Philips of BadSeed Tech fame and Alexander ‘Alexotos’ Medeot. Between them, Philips and Medeot have built and reviewed hundreds of custom keyboards. Note that this guide isn’t meant to be exhaustive; instead, it’s designed to highlight features newbies should look for when shopping for their first custom keyboard.

The basics

At its most basic, building a custom keyboard involves buying a case, printed circuit board (PCB), plate, mechanical switches and keycaps, and then assembling all those parts together to make something you can type on. Depending on how ambitious you want to get, you can source all those components separately or purchase bundles that include almost everything you need. One of our recommendations even allows you to skip the entire build process and get right into experimentation.

This guide won’t go into the subject of modding too much, but that’s another way to further customize a new board to your liking. To make things as easy as possible, I’ve structured this article in order of the parts you need to buy, with relevant suggestions for each.

Pick a layout that works for you

Every keyboard build starts with a case. Your decision will determine the most important features of your future board, including its size, layout and mounting style. From a usability perspective, the layout of a keyboard is probably the most important decision one can make when buying a case.

“You have to find a layout that is serviceable for you,” says Philips. If your professional life depends on owning a keyboard with a set of function keys, then your search should start and end with a tenkeyless (TKL) or 75 percent model. Both layouts come with a set of function and navigation keys, making them practical for coding and other productivity tasks. If you need to frequently input numbers, a full-sized keyboard with a numpad will be the best option.

The point here is that keyboards are tools. They should reflect your needs, not what’s popular at the moment. This is something Philips returned to a few times in our conversation. “Don’t listen to public opinion,” he told me. “Public opinion is worthless in the pursuit of what is important to you and what you’re going to interact with on your desk every day.”

Aluminum keyboards aren’t necessarily better

Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

When most people start shopping for their first custom keyboard, they tend to gravitate to an aluminum chassis, equating the material – and its higher price point – with superior quality. So it might come as a surprise that the creators Engadget spoke to both say a plastic or polycarbonate case is often a better starting point.

There are two reasons for this. The first, and more obvious, reason is that plastic cases are usually much cheaper than their aluminum counterparts. As you will see below, the most affordable aluminum case on our recommendation list will set you back at least $150. By contrast, one of the best plastic kits costs a more modest $135. The price difference between plastic and aluminum cases becomes more dramatic when comparing larger TKL and full-sized keyboards since those designs require more complex milling if the case is made from aluminum.

The second reason is less obvious, but no less important: plastic cases are far more forgiving than aluminum ones. If you’re set on building a keyboard that produces a deep “thock” sound when you type on it, it’s easier to achieve that result with a plastic case and you won’t need to do much tinkering.

“I’ve had aluminum boards that required extensive modification to sound good, at price points that would shock you,” Philips says. “I think it’s easier to tune an aluminum case, but not all aluminum cases sound good,” Medeot adds. “If it’s not built well, an aluminum case can sound like a bell. It really resonates.”

The last thing to consider when buying a case is how it was designed to keep the other components that make up a keyboard in place. That’s because the ‘mounting style” of a case can make a dramatic difference in how a keyboard feels and sounds. Unfortunately, like most things in this hobby, the style that’s right for you will depend on personal preference. The one piece of advice I can give is to avoid keyboards that feature integrated plates like the Drop CTRL. Typing on them tends to feel stiff and it can be tricky to make them produce a consistent sound. For most beginners, a gasket-mounted keyboard is a good starting place. “Gasket I think is the most newcomer-friendly,” Medeot tells me. “They’re just soft and firm enough in most cases.”

Hot-swap PCBs are the ultimate beginner-friendly component

Once the case is sorted, the next component on the list is the PCB where you will install your switches (more on those in a moment). Thankfully, finding the right PCB for a new keyboard isn’t too complicated. Most boards can only fit circuit boards specifically designed to accommodate the quirks of their mounting style and layout. Most of the boards in our recommendations come with a PCB bundled.

The one complication to this is that some keyboards offer a choice of ‘hot-swap’ or ‘solder’ PCB. You may not know how to use a soldering iron, and even if you do, both Phillips and Medeot recommend beginners buy a hot-swap keyboard. It will make putting together your first keyboard a lot easier, and more importantly, it will let you try out new switches more easily.

Plate material is important, but don’t overcomplicate it

After the case and circuit board, you’ll have to make a decision about the plate that will sit between your keyboard’s PCB and whatever switches you decide to buy. Not all mounting styles incorporate plates, but the majority do. The amount of choice here can be intimidating, with different materials producing different sound profiles, some offering more or less flexibility and others changing how it feels to bottom out a switch.

To simplify things, Philips recommends going with an aluminum plate. It’s not the most exciting option, but aluminum plates tend to work well with most switches and they’re not too expensive. Another option is an FR4 plate. Since they’re made from a fiberglass material, FR4 plates tend to produce more high-pitched sounds and they’re more flexible.

One switch type will not work for everyone

Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

Switches are the defining component of any mechanical keyboard and will play a major role in how your keyboard will sound and feel. To overly simplify things, mechanical keyboard switches generally fall into one of three categories: linear, tactile or clicky. Linear variants are known for their smooth action. Tactiles, meanwhile, produce a smooth bump right before they bottom out. Clicky switches add an audible “click” to the tactile bump, making them great for irritating roommates and significant others.

As a general rule of thumb, linears are considered the best for gaming, while tactiles and clicky switches are thought to be better for typing. That said, since buying my first mechanical keyboard in 2020, I’ve exclusively used tactile switches, so don’t feel like you need to stick to those guidelines. If you’re completely new to the world of mechanical keyboards, your best bet is to buy a few dozen of each type to determine the kind you like the most. Once you’ve settled on a favorite switch type, you can then experiment with different models to find the one you enjoy the most.

Since most switches on the market today reference Cherry MX switches in one way or another, start with those. They’re relatively affordable and will provide you with a frame of reference for everything to follow. Companies like Drop and Keychron sell packs of 35 Cherry switches for about $22. Cherry Red, Brown and Blue switches will give you a good sense of what other linear, tactile and clicky switches offer.

After that, it’s all about experimentation. As you try new switches, pay attention to the materials they’re made from, as that will give you a sense of what to expect from models you have yet to try. “Believe it or not, a lot of switches are not full recolors of one another, but there's also not a huge amount of variance between some stuff," says Medeot. If in doubt, start small before you spend too much money on too many switches. “If you're not in a position where you can drop $70, $80 or $90 every time you want to buy a set of switches, buy a few,” Philips says.

One thing I would advise against is turning to YouTube in search of switch “reviews.” There are some creators who attempt to objectively test and compare different switches, but the reality is how a specific switch will sound and feel in your new keyboard will depend on all the other factors I outline above.

One last note on the subject of switches: the larger keys on a keyboard require stabilizers. These, too, come in a few different forms, but as a beginner, don’t worry about them too much. Some of our recommendations come with a set of stabs in the box. If not, and the PCB supports “screw-in” stabilizers, it’s hard to go wrong with Durock V2s. I’ve also had success with Zeal’s plate and screw-in stabilizers.

Keycaps should be fun

The final piece of kit every new keyboard build requires is a set of keycaps. The majority of keycaps sold online are made from either ABS or PBT plastic. According to Medeot, ABS keys tend to produce a higher-pitched sound, while PBT can come off as a bit duller. One disadvantage of ABS plastic is that it is prone to developing an unsightly shine over time. Another thing to look out for is if a set of keycaps are “double shot” or “dye-sublimated.” The former is preferable as the legends, the symbols etched onto the keycap, tend to be more durable and resistant to wear. Most newcomers will want to stick to “Cherry Profile” keycaps as they’re the most readily available and represent a good midpoint in terms of height.

Spend enough time on this hobby and you will eventually come across GMK keycaps. With their crisp legends and playful colorways, GMK keycaps are highly sought after, and a single set can easily cost upwards of $135 to $150 and involve group buys or lengthy wait times. I love the two GMK sets I own but don’t feel the need to push your budget to obtain one for yourself. In 2023, there are plenty of brands that offer fun, well-made PBT keycaps that will cost you $100 or less. Retailers like NovelKeys, KBDFans and Drop offer a lot of different, high-quality keycaps.

A final note

For most people, the best keyboard is sitting right in front of them. If you’re unhappy with your current setup, it’s not that difficult to make it sound and feel better. Out of the box, most mechanical keyboards suffer from squeaky stabilizers that rattle when you press the Space, Shift, Enter and Backspace keys. Online retailers like Kinetic Labs sell syringes of industrial lubricant that cost less than $10. It might seem weird to use a syringe to tweak a keyboard, but what it allows you to do is smooth out the action on the stabilizers without taking them or your entire keyboard apart.

Custom keyboard recommendations

A great polycarbonate case: KDBFans Tiger Lite

For one of the most affordable entryways into the custom keyboard hobby, look no further than the Tiger Lite from KBDFans. For just $25, you get a gasket-mount TKL case that sounds great with minimal modding. Best of all, KBDFans offers the Tiger Lite in a series of cheerful colorways that are reminiscent of the Nintendo 64’s classic “funtastic” lineup. Although KBDFans has stopped selling Tiger Lite kits, retailers like Kinetic Labs still have stock.

A great polycarbonate case: NovelKeys 87 Entry Edition

Two more affordable options are the NovelKeys 87 Entry Edition and its 65 percent sibling. Availability of those keyboards is limited at the moment, but NovelKeys is promising a major restock in the coming weeks. At $135 for almost everything you need to build your first keyboard, the NK87 is a great value. It also features RGB lighting, and it comes with a bundled carrying case. Both the Tiger Lite and NK87 came highly recommended by Philips and Medeot. Of the former, Medeot says the Tiger Lite is “absolutely amazing for its price point.”

An affordable aluminum case: CannonKeys Bakeneko65

If you’re set on an aluminum keyboard, consider the Bakeneko. CannonKeys sells three different versions of the Bakeneko: a 60 percent model, and two different 65 variants differentiated by their construction. The cast aluminum variant is the more affordable of the two 65 models (and comes in more colors), but can feature some visual blemishes. By contrast, the CNC aluminum model is more expensive at $195, but it feels more premium.

Either way, all three versions of the Bakeneko come bundled with a hot-swap PCB, FR4 plate and clip-in stabilizers. All you need to provide are the switches and keycaps. The Bakenekos also feature a nifty “o-ring” gasket mounting system that simplifies assembly and maintenance. However, one feature you won’t find on them is RGB lighting.

A high-end aluminum case: Mode Designs Sonnet

The Mode Sonnet is for those who want a statement piece on their desk. I’ve been testing one for a few months now, and it’s easily the best keyboard I’ve ever used. The construction of the Sonnet is unmatched, and it feels great to type on thanks to a top mount design that makes the keys bounce. The Sonnet’s 75 percent layout also lends itself to a keyboard that is functional without taking up too much space. That said, be prepared to spend a lot to own a Sonnet, with pricing starting at about $300 (and going up from there depending on how you decide to customize it). All of that is before you factor in the cost of switches, stabilizers and keycaps.

I’ll note here Mode also produces the excellent Envoy. It’s a smaller 65 percent keyboard with a unique “lattice block” mounting system Mode claims gives the Envoy a bouncy typing feel. I haven’t had a chance to test it yet, but the Envoy has enjoyed a lot of positive coverage, and it’s more affordable than the Sonnet.

A no-fuss option for gamers: Razer BlackWidow V4 75%

I know what you’re thinking: how did a Razer product make it on this list? Well, the recently announced BlackWidow V4 75% is here because it’s truly a great keyboard. It has all the features I suggest beginners should look for in their first custom board, including a hot-swap PCB and gasket mounting system. It also sounds and feels great out of the box. Best of all, it costs $190 and comes with keycaps and tactile switches.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best gaming monitors in 2023

Finding the best computer monitor for your needs is already hard enough, but as soon as you decide to go for one that’s suited for gaming, there are a ton of additional factors and features to consider. What are refresh rates? What’s the difference between NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync? Those are just some of the questions this guide aims to answer, and, in the process, help you find the best gaming monitor for your budget.


When shopping for a new gaming monitor, you first need to decide if you want to go with a screen that has an LCD or OLED panel. For most people, that choice will come down to price; OLED gaming monitors are significantly more expensive than their LCD counterparts. But even if money isn’t a concern, the choice might not be as straightforward as you think.

LCD monitors come in three different varieties: twisted nematic (TN), vertical alignment (VA) or in-plane switching (IPS). Without getting too technical, each panel type has its own set of quirks. For the most part, you want to avoid TN monitors unless you’re strapped for cash or want a monitor with the fastest possible refresh rate. TN screens feature the worst viewing angles, contrast ratios and colors of the bunch. After using an IPS monitor for many years and testing an OLED monitor for this guide, I can’t go back to a TN panel.

The differences between VA and IPS panels are more subtle. Historically, VA gaming monitors have featured slower pixel response times than their TN and IPS counterparts, leading to unsightly image smearing. However, that’s improved in recent years. VA panels also frequently sport better contrast ratios than both TN and IPS screens. They’re not dramatically better than their IPS siblings on that front, but when contrast ratios aren’t an inherent strength of LCDs, every bit helps.

On the other hand, IPS panels excel at color accuracy and many offer refresh rates and response times that are as fast as the fastest TN panels. The majority of LCD gaming monitors on the market today feature IPS panels, though you will frequently find VA screens on ultrawide monitors.

In many ways, OLED is the superior display tech. There’s something transformational about the ability of organic light-emitting diodes to produce true blacks. Simply put, every game looks better when there’s no backlight to wash out shadow details. Moreover, if you buy an OLED monitor, you can experience something PC gamers have been missing out on for a while: proper HDR gaming.

Unfortunately, OLED screens also come with a few noteworthy drawbacks. One big one is text legibility. Almost all OLEDs feature sub-pixel layouts that produce noticeable text fringing in Windows. It’s not an issue you will see when gaming, but it does mean they aren’t the best for productivity.

Another issue — and everyone’s favorite topic of conversation whenever OLEDs come up — is burn-in. Organic light-emitting diodes can get “stuck” if they display the same image for long periods of time. Every OLED gaming monitor you can buy in 2023 comes with features designed to prevent burn-in and other image retention issues, but those displays haven’t been on the market long enough for us to know how they handle all the static elements that come with Windows. When you consider those drawbacks, OLEDs are great for gaming but they’re less ideal for everyday PC use.

Screen size, resolution and aspect ratio

Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

After deciding where you fall on the LCD vs OLED debate, you can start thinking about the size of your future gaming monitor. Personal preference and the limitations of your gaming space will play a big part here, but there are also a few technical considerations. I recommend you think about size in conjunction with resolution and aspect ratio.

A 1440p monitor has 78 percent more pixels than a 1080p screen, and a 4K display has more than twice as many pixels as a QHD panel. As the size of a monitor increases, pixel density decreases unless you also increase resolution. For that reason, there tend to be sweet spots between size and resolution. For instance, I wouldn’t recommend buying a FHD monitor that is larger than 24-inches or a QHD one bigger than 27 inches. Conversely, text and interface elements on a 4K monitor can look tiny without scaling on panels smaller than 32 inches.

You also need to consider the performance costs of running games at higher resolutions. The latest entry-level GPUs can comfortably run most modern games at 1080p and 60 frames per second. They can even render some competitive titles at 120 frames per second and higher — but push them to run those same games at 1440p and beyond, and you’re bound to run into problems. And as you’ll see in a moment, a consistently high frame rate is vital to getting the most out of the latest gaming monitors.

If your budget allows for it, 1440p offers the best balance between visual clarity and gaming performance. As for 1080p and 4K, I would only consider the former if you’re on a tight budget or you exclusively play competitive shooters like Valorant and Overwatch 2. For most people, the user experience and productivity benefits of QHD far outweigh the performance gains you get from going with a lower resolution screen.

Before the end of last year, I would have said 4K was not a viable resolution for PC gaming, but then NVIDIA came out with its 40 series GPUs. With those video cards offering the company’s DLSS 3 frame generation technology, there’s a case to be made that the technology is finally there to play 4K games at a reasonable frame rate, particularly if you exclusively play big, AAA single-player games like Control and Cyberpunk 2077 or enjoy strategy games like the Total War series. However, even with frame generation, you will need a GPU like the $1,099 RTX 4080 or $1,599 RTX 4090 to drive a 4K display. Plus, 4K gaming monitors tend to cost more than their 1440p counterparts.

If you want an OLED monitor, your choices are more limited. It was only at the end of last year that LG began producing 27-inch OLED panels. What’s more, the first batch of 32-inch 4K OLED gaming monitors won’t arrive until next year. A few companies have released ultrawide monitors with Samsung QD-OLED panels, but expect to pay a hefty premium for one of those.

Speaking of ultrawides, note that not every game supports the 21:9 aspect ratio and fewer still support 32:9. When shopping for a curved monitor, a lower Radius, or ‘R’ number, indicates a more aggressive curve. So, a 1000R monitor is more curved than an 1800R one.

Refresh rates and response times

And now finally for the fun stuff. The entire reason to buy a gaming monitor is for their ability to draw more images than a traditional PC display. As you shop for a new screen, you will see models advertising refresh rates like 120Hz, 240Hz and 360Hz. The higher the refresh rate of a monitor, the more times it can update the image it displays on screen every second, thereby producing a smoother moving image. When it comes to games like Overwatch, Valorant and League of Legends, a faster refresh rate can give you a competitive edge, but even immersive single-player games can benefit.

A monitor with a 360Hz refresh rate will look better in motion than one with a 240Hz or 120Hz refresh rate, but there are diminishing returns. At 60Hz, the image you see on your monitor is updated every 16.67ms. At 120Hz, 240Hz and 360Hz, the gap between new frames shortens to 8.33ms, 4.17ms and 2.78ms, respectively. Put another way, although a 360Hz monitor can display 50 percent more frames than a 240Hz screen in a given time period, you will only see a speedup of 1.14ms between frame intervals. And all that depends on your GPU’s ability to render a consistent 360 frames per second.

Ultimately, a fast monitor will do you no good if you don't have a graphics card that can keep up. For example, with a 1440p 360Hz monitor, you realistically need a GPU like the RTX 4070 or RTX 4080 to saturate that display while playing competitive games like Overwatch 2 and Valorant.

There’s also more to motion clarity than refresh rates alone. Just as important are response times, or the amount of time it takes for pixels to transition from one color to another and then back again. Monitors with slow response times tend to produce smearing that is distracting no matter what kind of game you’re playing. Unfortunately, response times are also one of the more opaque aspects of picking the best gaming monitor for your needs.

Many manufacturers claim their products feature 1ms gray-to-gray (GtG) response times, yet they don’t handle motion blur to the same standard. One of the reasons for that is that many companies tend to cherry pick GtG results that make their monitors look better on paper. The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) recently created a new certification program to address that problem, but the grading system is unwieldy and, as far as I can tell, hasn’t had a lot of pickup from manufacturers.

For now, your best bet is to turn to resources like Rtings and Monitors Unboxed when shopping for a new gaming monitor. Both outlets conduct extensive testing of every screen they review, and present their findings and recommendations in a way that’s easy to understand.

FreeSync vs G-Sync

Photo by Igor Bonifacic / Engadget

No matter how powerful your system, it will sometimes fail to maintain a consistent framerate. In fact, you should expect frame rate fluctuations when playing graphically-intensive games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Control. For those moments, you want a gaming display with adaptive sync. Otherwise, you can run into screen tearing.

Adaptive sync technologies come in a few flavors. The two you’re most likely to encounter are AMD FreeSync and NVIDIA G-Sync, and each has its own set of performance tiers. With G-Sync, for instance, they are – from lowest to highest – G-Sync Compatible, G-Sync and G-Sync Ultimate.

The good news is that you don’t need to think too much about which adaptive sync technology a display supports. In the early days of the tech, it was rare to see a gaming monitor that offered both FreeSync and G-Sync, since including the latter meant a manufacturer had to equip their display with a dedicated processor from NVIDIA. That changed in 2019 when the company introduced its G-Sync Compatible certification. In 2023, if a monitor supports FreeSync, it is almost certainly G-Sync Compatible too, meaning you can enjoy tear-free gaming whether you’re using an AMD or NVIDIA GPU.

In fact, I would go so far as to say you shouldn’t make your purchasing decision based on the level of adaptive sync performance a monitor offers. As of the writing of this guide, the list of G-Sync Ultimate-certified displays is less than two dozen models long, and some are a few years old now.


Almost every gaming display on the market right now comes with at least one DisplayPort 1.4 connection, and that’s the port you will want to use to connect your new monitor to your graphics card. If you own a PS5 or Xbox Series X/S, it’s also worth looking out for monitors that come with HDMI 2.1 ports, as those will allow you to get the most out of your current generation console.

A word about HDR

As fast and responsive gaming monitors have become in recent years, there’s one area where progress has been frustratingly slow: HDR performance. The majority of gaming monitors currently on sale, including most high-end models, only meet VESA’s DisplayHDR 400 certification. As someone who owns one such monitor, let me tell you right now it’s not even worth turning on HDR on those screens. You will only be disappointed.

The good news is that things are getting better, albeit slowly. The release of Windows 11 did a lot to improve the state of HDR on PC, and more games are shipping with competent HDR modes, not just ones that increase the brightness of highlights. Unfortunately, if you want a proper HDR experience on PC, you will need to shell out for an OLED monitor.

Gaming monitor accessories

If you plan to spend a lot on a gaming monitor, I would recommend picking up an affordable colorimeter like the Spyder X Pro alongside your new purchase. A lot of gaming monitors come uncalibrated out of the box, so their colors won’t look quite right. It’s possible to get a decent image with the help of online recommendations and ICC profiles you can download from websites like Rtings, but every panel is different and needs its own set of adjustments to look its best.

I would also recommend a monitor arm if you want to improve the ergonomics of your setup. Many gaming monitors come with subpar stands that don’t offer the full range of adjustments people need to avoid bad posture. A monitor arm can help by offering a wider range of height, tilt and swivel options. Most 16:9 gaming monitors will work with VESA 100-compatible monitor arms. Vivo makes some great affordable options.

The best gaming monitor for most people: LG 27GP850-B

For most people, the LG 27GP850-B is all the gaming monitor they need. It features an excellent 27-inch, 1440p Nano IPS panel with a native 165Hz refresh rate, and the option to overclock to 180Hz. In addition to excellent pixel response times (1m GtG, according to LG), the 27GP850-B comes with a backlight strobing feature that can further improve motion clarity for GPUs that can maintain a frame rate above 120fps. It’s also FreeSync Premium and G-Sync Compatible certified.

If you can’t find the 27GP850-B at your local retailers, another good option is the LG 27GL83A-B. It’s a few years old now, but offers a 144Hz refresh rate, speedy response times and it’s at least $100 less than the 27GP850-B. I’ve been using the Dell version of this display since mid-2021 (sadly no longer available), and can’t imagine replacing it until OLED monitors become more affordable.

A compelling budget option: ViewSonic XG2431

For a more affordable option than either LG displays mentioned above, consider the ViewSonic XG2431. While its price has fluctuated in recent months, you can frequently find the XG2431 for less than $300. Coming in at 24-inches, it’s on the smaller side and only features a 1080p panel. However, it offers a 240Hz refresh rate. When you combine that with its lower resolution, the XG2431 is a great option for competitive gamers on a budget.

The best gaming monitor regardless of price: LG 27GR95QE-B

If money is no object and you enjoy a mix of immersive and competitive gaming, the LG 27GR95QE-B is the monitor to beat right now. It features a 27-inch 1440p OLED panel with a 240Hz refresh rate and sub-1ms pixel response times. In motion, the 27GR95QE-B performs a shade worse than the ASUS PG27AQM highlighted below, but, among dedicated gaming monitors, it is unmatched when it comes to HDR performance.

The 27GR95QE-B comes with all the usual issues associated with OLEDs, including the text legibility and burn-in concerns I mentioned above. It also doesn’t get very bright, maxing out at about 200 nits.

A few other companies produce 27-inch OLED monitors using the same panel as the 27GR95QE-B. Most notably, there’s ASUS with the PG27AQDM. It can get a fair bit brighter than the 27GR95QE-B, though it hasn’t been out long enough for people to carry out long-term testing to determine how that affects the longevity of the panel.

A high-end LCD option: ASUS PG27AQM

If the thought of spending $1,000 on an OLED monitor that could one day suffer from burn-in gives you pause, the ASUS PG27AQN is a safer high-end option. It’s one of the fastest gaming monitors on the market right now, offering an impressive 360Hz refresh rate, 1ms response times and a 27-inch QHD panel. It also comes with NVIDIA’s Reflex module, which you can use to see how your mouse, internal hardware and display contribute to your system's overall latency. However, it is expensive, coming in at $1,049, but for that price, you get one of the gaming monitors on the market right now.

A high-end ultrawide option: Alienware AW3423DWF

For those set on an ultrawide monitor, one of the best options available right now is the AW3423DWF. I haven’t had a chance to test it, but Engadget Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar gave Alienware’s QD-OLED display a score of 92 when he reviewed it last May. At $1,299, the AW3423DWF is easily the most expensive screen on this list, but for that price you get a 21:9 gaming monitor with an up-to 175Hz refresh rate, 0.1ms response rate and HDR True Black 400 performance. The only thing it’s missing is an HDMI 2.1 port.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

A glow-in-the-dark Analogue Pocket will be available in September

We thought the Analogue Pocket was "the best way to relive the golden era of handheld gaming" when we reviewed it. But we'll bet our 10-year-old selves would love the special edition version coming out next month even more. The company is launching a glow-in-the-dark handheld called Pocket Glow, which the company says will be available in "highly limited quantities" for $250 each. It will be available for sale starting on September 1st, 8AM PDT/11AM EDT, and it will be in stock and begin shipping on September 5th. 

The console uses a type of material that absorbs, and then re-emits light. That means those who want to see it glow will need to put it under direct sunlight, incandescent lighting or blacklight. It can glow for up to eight hours, though it's unclear how long users have to "charge" the console for it to be able to light up that whole time. Like the original Pocket, it can natively play cartridges from any of the Game Boy variants and can play other handheld consoles' cartridges with the help of an adapter.

In addition to launching Pocket Glow, Analogue has also announced that 100 percent of all pre-orders for the handheld will ship by today. The original Analogue Pocket came out in December 2021 after several delays, and pre-purchases shipped out to buyers in batches since then. Those looking to get accessories for their consoles may want to check out Analogue's store for a huge restock coming in today, as well, especially since the company is adding a new shipping option for domestic shipments within the US. Users have been complaining about "outrageous" shipping fees upon purchasing from Analogue's website, and the new option will apparently reduce those amounts between 30 and 50 percent. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft may have discovered what powers solar winds

We know the sun belches out solar winds, but the origin of these streams of charged particles remain a mystery and has been the subject of numerous studies over the past decades. The images captured last year by the Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (EUI) instrument aboard ESA's and NASA's Solar Orbiter, however, may have finally given us the knowledge needed to explain what powers these winds. In a paper published in Science, a team of researchers described observing large numbers of jets coming out of a dark region of the sun called a "coronal hole" in the images taken by the spacecraft. 

The team called them "picoflare jets," because they contain around one-trillionth the energy of what the largest solar flares can generate. These picoflare jets measure a few hundred kilometers in length, reach speeds of around 100 kilometers per second and only last between 20 and 100 seconds. Still, the researchers believe they have the power to emit enough high-temperature plasma to be considered a substantial source of our system's solar winds. While Coronal holes have long been known as source regions for the phenomenon, scientists are still trying to figure out the mechanism of how plasma streams emerge from them exactly. This discovery could finally be the answer they'd been seeking for years. 

Lakshmi Pradeep Chitta, the study's primary author from the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, told Space: "The picoflare jets that we observed are the smallest, and energetically the weakest, type of jets in the solar corona that were not observed before...Still, the energy content of a single picoflare jet that lives for about 1 minute is equal to the average power consumed by about 10,000 households in the UK over an entire year."

Chitta's team will continue monitoring coronal holes and other potential sources of solar winds using the Solar Orbiter going forward. In addition to gathering data that may finally give us answers about the plasma flows responsible for producing auroras here on our planet, their observations could also shed light on why the sun's corona or atmosphere is much, much hotter than its surface. 

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Google adds first-gen indoor Nest cameras to its Home app

During its I/O annual developer conference earlier this year, Google said it was giving users the ability to transition their first-generation Nest Cam Indoor and Nest Cam Outdoor devices from the old Nest app to its new Home application. Well, the time has come — for the indoor camera, at least. Google has just started rolling out the ability to manage the camera model through the public preview version of its Home app, and it will take a few weeks before it's done making its way to all users. 

Nest cameras used to have their own application before the company was acquired by Google. Over time, Google added support for all its smart home products to its Home app, but users of the the oldest Nest cameras had to stick to the original application to be able to manage their devices. With this update, and as long as the user is on public preview, people will be able to access their first-gen Nest Cam Indoor device through the Home app and enjoy its updated camera history experience. They'll also be able to add the camera to their Favorites tab, so that its feed shows up as soon as they open the app. 

When Google first announced the ability to add the old Nest cam models to the Home app, it said the transfer would take users around 10 minutes. After that, they'll no longer need the old application to see the camera's data and footage, enabling a single app experience for a lot of users. 

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Trump's first post since he was reinstated on X is his mug shot

Former President Donald Trump is back on Twitter (now X) more than two years after he was banned from the platform in the aftermath of the January 6th Capitol riot. On August 24th, 2023, Trump tweeted for the first time since the website reinstated his account on November 19th, 2022. His first post? An image with the mug shot taken when he was booked at the Fulton County jail in Georgia on charges that he conspired to overturn the results of 2020 Presidential elections. 

The image also says "Election Interference" and "Never Surrender!," along with a URL of his website. Trump linked to his website in the tweet, as well, where his mug shot is also prominently featured with a lengthy note that starts with: "Today, at the notoriously violent jail in Fulton County, Georgia, I was ARRESTED despite having committed NO CRIME."

In November last year, Musk appeared to make the decision to reinstate Trump’s account based on the results of a Twitter poll. He asked people to vote on whether Trump should have access to his account returned. At the end of 24 hours, the option to reinstate the former president won with 51.8 percent of a decision that saw more than 15 million votes. Musk admitted at the time that some of the action on the poll came from “bot and troll armies.” Prior to the poll, Musk also said the decision on whether to reinstate Trump would come from a newly formed moderation council, but he never followed through on that pledge.

The website then known as Twitter banned Trump in early 2021 after he broke the company’s rules against inciting violence. The initial suspension saw Trump lose access to his account for 12 hours, but days later, the company made the decision permanent. At first, Trump tried to skirt the ban, even going so far as to file a lawsuit against Twitter that ultimately failed. Following his de-platforming from Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites, Trump went on to create Truth Social. Following his reinstatement, Trump said he didn’t “see any reason” to return to the platform. That said, the promise of reaching a huge audience with something as dramatic as a mug shot was obviously too good for Trump to pass up, particularly with what is likely to be a messy Republican primary on the horizon.

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Armored Core VI review: FromSoftware's latest challenge is surprisingly approachable

In 2004, a young Hidetaka Miyazaki joined FromSoftware. Before becoming a household name in gaming circles, he cut his teeth working on the studio’s long-running Armored Core series, serving as a planner on 2005’s Armored Core: Last Raven and then as director on Armored Core IV and Armored Core:For Answer.

Following the success of Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls, FromSoftware went on to release two more Armored Core games, though Miyazaki wasn’t directly involved in those projects. Since then, the studio has been busy building on the Souls series, culminating with the runaway success of Elden Ring. Now, for the first time in nearly a decade, From is revisiting its mech franchise. Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon also marks the directorial debut of one of the studio’s most promising up-and-coming talents — Masaru Yamamura the lead game designer on Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and a designer on Bloodborne. Armored Core VI is not a Soulslike, but a lot of its best ideas feel informed by Sekiro and Bloodborne. And if it’s any indication of what’s to come, Yamamura has a long career ahead of him as one of the studio’s premier directors.

If you’re reading this review, there’s a good chance that, like me, you haven’t played an Armored Core game before. Even at its peak, the series never enjoyed the kind of global popularity Dark Souls achieved in the span of five years. But if you’re curious if there’s something here for you, the short answer is a resounding yes. However, as with almost all of From’s games, a little — okay, a lot — of patience goes a long way.

Here’s the thing you need to know about Armored Core VI: It is uncompromising. Like Sekiro before it, prepare to be frustrated until you wrap your head around how Yamamura wants you to approach combat. I’ll admit, I died about a dozen times to Armored Core VI’s first boss, which appears at the start of the game before I managed to eke out a victory. Even then, it took me several more hours before I felt like I had a narrow grasp of AC 6’s interlocking weapon, piloting and mech assembly systems.

Part of what makes From’s latest so intimidating is that there’s so much going on all at once. To give you a sense of the complexity involved, the game's mechs — called Armored Cores — can carry up to four weapons, and fire them independently of one another. Moreover, there are dozens of different weapons archetypes, each with its own set of tactical considerations. Missile pods, for instance, fire a salvo of rockets either at a single target or multiple enemies simultaneously. Since most feature a lengthy reload or cooldown animation, you can’t rely on any one weapon alone to win an encounter. Each requires thoughtful consideration and use, all while keeping a hulking robot skillfully evading fire.

Movement is everything in AC6. Armored Cores have three different boosts available: one to increase their regular traversal speed, one to dash away from attacks and one that allows them to catapult themselves at enemies and quickly cover a lot of ground. They can also jump, and ignite their boosters to fly.

All of an AC’s more advanced movement abilities consume energy, which is represented by a bar along the bottom of the interface. Landing on the ground will begin to quickly replenish that resource. Most enemies don’t have anywhere near the mobility of the player’s mech, but some can hit hard if they’re allowed to land a shot. There’s also a stagger mechanic within the game that applies to both the player and opponents. One difference between AC6 and From’s Soulsborne games is that dashing doesn’t give invincibility frames. As a newbie to the series, the need to consider spacing on top of reacting quickly added to the game’s learning curve.

Since you’re not tied to the ground like you would be in Dark Souls or Bloodborne, combat is far more vertical than in any of From’s other recent games. A lot of enemies have access to wide, horizontal sweeping attacks that you can’t avoid through lateral movement. Conversely, gaining the high ground on opponents is often the most effective way to dispatch them. Knowing when to take to the air is probably the most important skill to grasp in AC6, and, if you’re a Soulsborne veteran, likely the most difficult to learn as well.

How nimble an Armored Core is depends on the parts it’s built from, and with hundreds of options to choose from, there’s a lot of room for creativity. Some offer simple stat boosts while others change how a mech travels across the battlefield. For example, a set of quadruped legs allow an AC to hover in the air without consuming energy, a feature that’s useful for missions that require a lot of aerial combat. By contrast, a mech with tank treads isn’t great at getting off the ground, but it can drift after dashing and charge up a weapon without stopping.

Like I said, there’s a lot to learn and unpack. Thankfully, Armored Core VI is also one of FromSoftware’s more accessible games. After the initial hurdle of the first boss, the first few missions that follow are smaller in scale, and feature less formidable enemies. At the same time, the game offers training missions that are there to illuminate the finer points of Armored Core VI’s mechanics. At most, these take a few minutes to complete, and provide useful mech parts as rewards. It’s a structure I felt eased me into the game before throwing harder challenges my way.

Yamamura and company have also wisely done away with some of the series’ more hardcore elements. Past games featured a system that allowed the player to go into debt if they didn’t play well. That’s not something that’s present in AC6. I found I always had spare funds to modify my mech, thanks to the amount of credits the game doled out for completing missions and the ability to replay them for even more money. It also helps that every component available to purchase can be sold for the same price it costs to buy it. As a result, I found I was free to experiment with different loadouts to find the combination that suited my playstyle without having to consider a punishing in-game economy.

AC6’s mission structure also does a lot of heavy lifting to make the game more approachable. The inclusion of a checkpoint system meant I never lost much, if any, progress when I died (and I died a lot in my early hours). It’s also possible to modify a mech between deaths without restarting a mission. Unless I was chasing an ‘S’ ranking when replaying a mission, that meant I was free to use one mech to reach a boss and another to defeat it. In fact, the game encouraged me to do exactly that after dying multiple times in a row to one boss I encountered midway through chapter one.

Still, there were some frustrations. Boss battles felt overly difficult relative to every other enemy, perhaps to balance the game’s checkpoint system. Most opponents — including opposing Armored Cores — have a limited pool of attacks. Bosses throw out that script. To give you one example, Balteus, the final boss of the game’s first chapter, starts with a moveset that consists of about a dozen attacks, a few of which flood the arena with homing missiles. When the battle enters its second phase, Balteus’s moveset doubles and the boss becomes even more aggressive. It’s a punishing encounter and a brick wall of an early-game skill check.

Sometimes the controls also don’t feel up to the task of what AC6 is asking you to pull off. It’s especially noticeable if you go with what’s known in-game as a “double trigger” build, which involves equipping an Armored Core with a pair of weapons that ideally should be fired in unison.

By default, Armored Core VI maps all of a mech’s weapons to left and right triggers, alongside the bumper buttons. The right analog stick, meanwhile, controls the camera and the square or X button is for dashing. The game includes a target assist mode that locks the camera to a single target, but it’s not ideal to use when fighting more than one enemy. When I felt I struggled the most, it was because I had to give up control of the camera to boost away from an attack. It’s possible to remap the controls, but I didn’t find a configuration that worked as well as the default setup.

Those frustrations aside, I never felt like Armored Core VI was anything short of compelling. Even in its most challenging moments, the game gave me little victories to celebrate. It is an incredible achievement in game design and thematic cohesion, and, I think, a promise of what we can expect from FromSoftware’s next generation of talent.

Armored Core VI: Fires of Rubicon arrives on PlayStation, Xbox and PC on August 25th.

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Meta’s Threads sent another app named Threads to the top of the App Store charts

When Instagram launched Threads on July 5th, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to Twitter for the first time in 11 years. The tweet, which did not include any text, saw Zuckerberg reference the Spider-Man pointing meme to take a jab at Elon Musk. It turns out the use of that meme was more apt than the Facebook founder could have imagined.

As highlighted by TechCrunch, the release of Instagram’s Threads translated into a boon for another app of the same name. Threads, a Slack alternative that has been around since 2019, saw more than 880,000 downloads on iOS between July 6th and July 12th, according to an estimate shared with the outlet. Where previously it had “few downloads” before that period, Threads became the 52nd most downloaded App Store program globally. In a handful of European Union countries, including Germany, Spain and Italy, it even managed to crack the top 10. That might have something to do with the fact Instagram’s Threads isn’t available in the EU, and Meta has since started blocking people who try to access the service through a VPN.

In addition, owing to the fact it owns, Threads (the Slack alternative) has enjoyed a “significant” increase in traffic to its website. In fact, the company has since added a badge to its frontpage that declares it’s “not associated with Instagram.” Over on Twitter, you’ll find a similar disclaimer. “We have no affiliation with Meta. But you’re welcome to stick around!” the company’s profile states.

Of course, Meta and Threads aren’t the first companies to employ the same branding. As TechCrunch notes, there are more than a few companies called Lightyear, including a solar electric vehicle startup, an online course platform and two separate fintech firms. Still, it’s funny a coincidence when you consider Threads, the workplace chat app, was co-founded by Rousseau Kazi, a former Facebook product manager. Oh, and Meta used to operate an Instagram companion app also confusingly named Threads. I suppose there’s no originality left in Silicon Valley.

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Russia bans state officials from using Apple devices over US spying concerns

Russian authorities have begun to ban government employees from using Apple devices for official state use, according to the Financial Times. As of Monday, the country’s trade ministry will prohibit the use of iPhones for all “work purposes.” Other agencies, including Russia’s telecommunications and mass media ministry, either have similar mandates already in place or plan to begin enforcing ones soon. The Times reports the ban covers all Apple products. In some cases, however, officials can continue using those devices for personal use, provided they don’t open work correspondence on them.

Apple did not immediately respond to Engadget’s comment request. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February, the company cut off access to Apple Pay. It later halted all product sales in Russia. At the time, Apple made clear the decision was in response to the invasion, noting it stood “with all of the people” hurt by the incursion.

The ban comes after Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) claimed at the start of June that it had uncovered a “spying operation by US intelligence agencies” involving Apple devices. The FSB said thousands of iPhones, including those in use by the country’s diplomatic missions in NATO countries, had been “infected” with monitoring software. The FSB went on to claim — without showing evidence — that Apple had worked closely with US signal intelligence to provide agents “with a wide range of control tools.” The tech giant denied those allegations, stating it had “never worked with any government to build a backdoor into any Apple product, and never will.”

More broadly, the move is reflective of a desire by Russia’s government to lessen its dependence on foreign-made technology. As The Times notes, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree last year ordering institutions involved in “critical information infrastructure” to migrate to domestically developed software by 2025. 

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Apple’s first M3 Macs could arrive in October

The first batch of Apple’s M3-equipped Macs could arrive as early October, according to Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman. Writing in his latest Power On newsletter, Gurman reports there “should be another launch” after the company’s annual iPhone event in September, with a new slate of Macs likely the focus of whatever Apple has planned. “October is too early for new high-end MacBook Pros or desktops, so the first beneficiaries of the new chip should be the next iMac, 13-inch MacBook Air and 13-inch MacBook Pro,” he notes.

At the start of March, Gurman reported that Apple was at “a late stage” of development on two new iMac models that would feature its next-generation M3 silicon. The new chipset likely won’t feature many more CPU and GPU cores than Apple’s current M2 SoCs, but it is expected to offer significant performance and power efficiency gains thanks to TSMC’s 3nm process. At the time, Gurman predicted the new iMac could arrive as early as the second half of 2023, and that it would feature the same colorful design of the 2021 model. Last week, he wrote that Apple is also working on a new 32-inch iMac, but warned that model won’t arrive until late 2024 at the earliest.

In the past, Apple has typically announced new iPad models alongside its latest Macs, but it sounds like that won’t be the case this time around. “I wouldn’t expect any major upgrades until the M3 iPad Pros with OLED screens arrive next year,” Gurman writes. However, he notes Apple is working on a new iPad Air with refreshed internals. The current model features the company’s aging M1 chipset.

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