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The best Android phones for 2023

Unlike the iOS ecosystem, where Apple is the only game in town, one of the best things about the Android phone market is the wide range of different devices and manufacturers to choose from. That said, when it actually comes time to upgrade, that wealth of options can make it a bit more difficult to choose the right handset for you. If you’re looking for a new phone and don’t know where to start, we’ve got you covered with a selection of the best Android phones for every budget.

What to look for in a new Android phone


When it comes to picking our favorite Android phones, the main things we look for are pretty straightforward: good performance (both compute and AI), a nice display, solid design, sharp cameras, long battery life and a significant commitment to ongoing software support. For performance, not only do we look at benchmarks and other metrics, but we also evaluate phones based on responsiveness. Regardless of whether you’re reading, browsing social media or playing a game, no one wants a device that feels sluggish.


Sam Rutherford/Engadget

When it comes to displays, we generally prefer OLED panels that can produce rich, saturated colors with at least 600 nits of brightness, though many of our top mid-range and high-end phones can hit 1,000 nits or more. And more recently, most of our favorite devices also support screens with fast refresh rates of 90Hz or 120Hz, which adds an extra level of smoothness and fluidity.


Now we will admit there is a bit of subjectivity when deciding which phones look the best, but there are other design aspects like dust and water resistance or screen durability that can make a big difference to long-term survival. It’s also important to consider things like support for wireless charging, power sharing (aka reverse wireless charging) and UWB connectivity, which can have an impact on how your phone interacts with your other devices.


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Obviously, for photos we’re looking for sharp, colorful shots in both bright and low-light conditions. And we want video clips with high dynamic range, rich audio and smooth image stabilization. Extra cameras for ultra-wide and zoom lenses are a plus. It’s also important to consider features like dedicated night modes, support for various video recording resolutions, and additional photo modes like timelapse, slow motion and more.

Battery and software

Finally, in terms of battery life, we’re looking for all-day longevity on devices that also delivered great results on our local video rundown test (at least 16 hours on a charge, but more is obviously better). And with people holding onto their phones longer than ever, we like to see companies commit to at least three years of software support and regular security patches.

Best Android phone overall: Google Pixel 7 Pro

The Pixel 7 Pro and the standard Pixel 7 might not be the absolute fastest phones on the market, but what they lack in pure performance they make up for with thoughtful software. Thanks to Google’s Tensor G2 chip, the Pixel 7 series features powerful AI and machine learning capabilities that support things like on-device language recognition and real-time translation. You also get gorgeous OLED displays and the best overall camera quality of any smartphone available today. And with the standard Pixel 7 starting at just $600, Google’s latest flagship is an incredible value too. The main differences between the two are that the Pixel 7 Pro has a larger 6.7-inch screen and features a third rear camera with a 5x optical zoom. But regardless of whether you prefer a smaller or larger device, you can’t really go wrong with either the Pixel 7 or Pixel 7 Pro.

Best mid-range Android phone: OnePlus 11

For those who want a phone with a big screen, solid cameras and great performance, but for less than a traditional flagship, the OnePlus 11 strikes a good balance between budget phones and more premium devices. In a lot of ways, the OnePlus 11 is like a more affordable Galaxy S23+. Not only do you get a similar 6.7-inch 120Hz display, it also features a speedy Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip and a big 5,000 mAh battery. Meanwhile, thanks to OnePlus’ blazing 100-watt wired charging, it juices up faster than any phone from Google or Samsung. And on the camera side, the company’s ongoing partnership with Hasselblad has resulted in notable improvements in image quality.

The main shortcomings of the OP11 are that its IP64 rating for dust and water resistance falls short of what you get from competing devices, and the camera’s 2x optical zoom lens feels a bit on the short side. But with OnePlus adding wider carrier compatibility and committing four years of OS upgrades and five years of security patches, the OP11 is a well-equipped option that costs significantly less than its rivals.

Best budget Android phone: Google Pixel 6a

If you just want a simple phone for a good price, the Pixel 6a can’t be beat. Starting at just $449, you get a vibrant 6.1-inch OLED and Google’s Tensor chip along with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. But the thing that separates the Pixel 6a from other budget phones are its cameras which, thanks to Google’s superior image processing, produce pictures that are sharper and more accurate than competitors twice its price. Meanwhile, Google’s commitment to software updates means you should get at least three years of OS support and five years of security patches. And thanks to all of the Pixel-specific software features like Call Screener, Hold For Me and the Pixel Recorder app, you can get a very affordable device with a ton of smarts.

Best premium Android phone: Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra

Starting at $1,200, the Galaxy S23 Ultra is very expensive, but it has practically everything you could ever want or need in a smartphone. It has a huge 6.8-inch OLED display with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate, a total of five cameras (main, ultra-wide, 3x zoom, 10x zoom and a selfie shooter) and a built-in S Pen for drawing and note-taking. It also features a huge 5,000 mAh battery that delivers some of the longest runtime we’ve seen on any phone. And with Samsung’s renewed commitment to software support, you can expect a minimum of four major OS upgrades and five years of regular security patches.

Best foldable Android phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4

While the Galaxy Z Flip 4 is arguably the most stylish and compact phone on the market, the bigger and more expensive Z Fold 4 is like three devices in one, which makes it a unicorn among mobile devices. When you just need to respond to a text or look up an address quickly, its 6.2-inch exterior cover screen makes that a cinch. But when you want to sit down to watch a movie or play a game, you can open up the Fold to reveal a stunning 7.8-inch flexible display. It’s compact when you need it to be, while providing an immersive viewing experience when you don’t. And thanks to support for stylus input, you even can use one of Samsung’s S Pens designed specifically for the Fold to quickly draw or jot down a note. On top of all that, its OLED display makes the Z Fold 4 great for reading books and comics. And unlike practically any other non-Samsung foldable, the Fold also has an IP68 rating for dust and water resistance. In a lot of ways, this thing is the Swiss Army knife of phones. Sure, it’s a bit bulky, and at $1,800 it’s not what anyone would call affordable. But its ability to serve as a phone, a tablet, an e-reader and more depending on the situation puts the Z Fold 4 in a category of its own.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Razer Edge review: A new breed of gaming handheld

Thanks to the latest wave of handheld PCs like the Steam Deck and the Ayaneo 2, taking your games on the go has never been easier. That said, those devices are far from pocketable. But with the rise of cloud gaming, there's a newer breed of mobile machines like the Razer Edge that are trying to make things even more travel-friendly. Instead of relying solely on local performance, the Edge runs Android for lightweight apps while services like GeForce Now and Xbox Cloud gaming provide the computing power for more demanding titles. And for those who can't live without access to their games no matter where they are, there's even a model that supports 5G connectivity. But the question is: even with a relatively low starting price of $400, is a cloud gaming handheld something you really want or need?


Unlike Logitech's rival game streaming handheld – the G Cloud – the Razer Edge is based on a two-piece design. There's the Edge itself which is a somewhat plain matte black slab that houses a 6.8-inch 144Hz OLED display and combines with an included detachable controller.

Anyone familiar with Razer's other mobile gaming products will immediately notice that the Edge's gamepad looks a lot like the Kishi V2, and that's because it's basically the same thing with a couple of tweaks. Technically, the controller that comes with the Edge is called the Kishi V2 Pro, and it features an identical arrangement of buttons and triggers and joysticks. The two additional features are some added haptics and a 3.5mm audio jack, which is important because the only port on the Edge is a USB-C connector. That said, you do get a microSD card tray that's a very welcome inclusion in a world where expandable storage is becoming a rarity.

Meanwhile, the exterior of the Edge is rather plain. It's got a plastic body that's a bit bigger and thicker than a Galaxy S23 Ultra. Combine that with a boxy frame and some rather large bezels, and you're left with a chunky slate that's not quite a tablet but not quite smartphone-sized either. You also get stereo speakers on each side of the device along with a handful of vents in the back for the internal fans. The other departure compared to a standard handset is that, to better support livestreaming while gaming, there's a 5MP front-facing camera mounted on the long side of the Edge.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

All told, it's a rather understated device that's focused solely on function over form. Heck, there's not even any RGB lighting, which just seems a bit weird from Razer. That said, one thing I wish the company had included was some kind of fingerprint sensor, because without support for face unlock, being forced to enter a PIN, swipe or password all the time definitely gets a bit tedious. If this thing had an in-screen fingerprint sensor, it would be so easy to move your finger away from the right joystick real quick to unlock it. So how about it Razer, something to consider for the Edge 2?


When it's finally time to sit down and game, the Edge is rather easy to set up. The gamepad extends so you can easily fit the Edge inside, and then all you have to do is line up the USB-C port on the right before letting the controller snap back into place. Razer thoughtfully included some small cutouts so the Edge's stereo speakers don't sound muffled and, despite not being anchored in on the left side, the whole setup feels relatively secure. Yeah, there's a little wiggle room if you press hard enough, but I was never worried about things falling apart.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

After going through the initial setup, you're greeted by the Android 12 homescreen, which has been tweaked with some green accents and a colorful wallpaper by Razer. From here, you can launch games and services as you'd expect by tapping on their respective icons, but if you want to take full advantage of the Edge, you'll need to tap the button on the gamepad below the right joystick. This summons Razer's Nexus app, which serves as both a launcher for quickly booting into games and as a place to tweak settings for the Edge's controller remapping, livestreaming, and haptics features.

One of the nice things about the Edge is that when connected to the Kishi V2 Pro, it automatically detects games that feature controller support, so in titles like Diablo: Immortal or Streets of Rage 4, you can just jump right into the action. But perhaps more importantly, thanks to a recent update to the Nexus app, the Kishi V2 Pro can also remap touchscreen controls to the gamepad's physical buttons and joysticks. This makes playing games like Genshin Impact and others that don't have official controller support much more enjoyable, especially if you're like me and prefer physical buttons over virtual ones.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

However, activating the Edge’s touchscreen remapping can be a bit tricky at first That's because new owners will need to manually update the Nexus app in the Google Play Store before enabling the virtual controller feature by toggling on an accessibility setting. And even then, I still had to restart the device a couple times before everything started working. It's a good thing this is a one-time process, so after you get it set up, you won't have to do it again for every app.

When you launch a game, you’ll see a little semicircle icon at the top of the screen. Tap that and you can access a handy menu that allows you to map physical buttons to their respective virtual controls. It's pretty simple and only takes a minute or two depending on the game, and when you exit out, it'll even save your virtual layout so you don't have to redo it next time. However, it's important to mention that this only works when you launch a game via the Nexus launcher. If you tap an icon from the Android homescreen or the app tray, it won't activate.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

This can make some titles much more accessible, but it's not a cure-all. Not only is the virtual controller feature still in beta, it doesn't do much to address things like menu buttons that don't line up with a game's virtual controls, which is something I experienced while trying out Mega Man X Dive. That means you'll still need to stretch your fingers over to the screen from time to time. Furthermore, while the virtual controller feature can be very handy, it doesn't do much to enhance traditional mouse and keyboard games. So while technically you can stream Civ 6 to the Edge from a nearby computer using the Steam Link app, it's still not a great experience. In the end, I found this made me stick more to standard Android apps or console games from Xbox Game Pass instead of trying to play more complicated PC titles.

Thankfully, despite its petite dimensions, the Edge's gamepad feels solid. Buttons are nice and clicky while the joysticks are tight and responsive. You even get bonus controls on the shoulders for Mouse 1 and Mouse 2, along with additional buttons for taking screenshots, opening menus or accessing the general Android settings.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the Edge's screen, which sports big rounded bezels and an extra-wide 20:9 aspect ratio. The lack of additional vertical screen space can make the Edge feel cramped, especially when trying to use its hilariously squat keyboard. I've made way more typos trying to enter text on the Edge than I do on my phone, and that's saying something because my daily driver is a Z Fold 4 and the keyboard on its exterior Cover Screen is tiny. I really wish Razer had gone with a taller aspect ratio, because that would make pretty much every game look and play better. That is, aside from regular touchscreen apps like Marvel Snap, where the sheer width of the Edge makes it feel awkward in portrait mode. Granted, it’s hard to make both landscape and portrait games play well on a mobile device, but the balance feels off.

Also, while I appreciate that there's a version with cellular connectivity, the current state of 5G coverage means you don’t often have access to peak speeds. That's OK, because even on 4G, your connection is probably fast enough for most things unless you live way out in the sticks. But when you combine that with the fact that the 5G model costs $200 more and is a Verizon exclusive, I feel like the standard Wi-Fi-only model is the better option for most people.


Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now before we talk about performance, I think it's important to sort out the Edge's specs first because there's been a bit of confusion. Initially, both the standard Wi-Fi-only model and the 5G model were listed with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. However, Razer has since clarified that the Wi-Fi version only comes with 6GB of memory while the 5G version gets the full 8GB. Furthermore, while some also thought that the Edge’s Snapdragon G3x chip features an Adreno 730 GPU, it actually has Adreno 660 graphics. This means the Razer Edge may not be quite as powerful as you expected, which sort of carries over to real-world performance.

In tests like Geekbench 5, the Edge posted a multicore score of 3,410 compared to 4,921 for the new Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra. And in 3DMark's Wild Life Extreme test, that gap was even bigger with the Edge hitting 1,424 versus 3,809 for the Samsung. That means you're basically looking at a device with performance similar to a flagship phone from 2022, which isn't bad, but it isn't all that impressive either (though it's way more powerful than the Logitech G Cloud).

Of course, if you're streaming games from the cloud, local performance isn't nearly as important, and the Edge has more than enough horsepower to ensure titles on GeForce Now and Xbox Live run smoothly and stutter-free. And in Android games like Genshin Impact, I didn't run into any major hiccups either.

Battery life

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

As for longevity, the Edge definitely has an advantage compared to beefier handheld PCs. On our local video rundown test, it lasted over 15 hours (15:22). However, when you're gaming, you're looking at more like seven or eight hours depending on the title, and even less if you're using cellular data. But in most situations, that's still significantly more than what you'd get from a Steam Deck (which typically conks out after three or four hours).

The one quirk with the Edge is that while its controller features passthrough charging via USB-C, juicing it up that way is actually slower than plugging a cable into the slab itself. Using a USB power meter, I found that when connected directly to the Edge using its included 45-watt power brick, charging speeds top out at around 25 watts, but if you use the pass-through charging on the Kishi V2 Pro, things slow down to around 15 watts. Granted, this disparity might not make a huge difference if you're plugging the Edge in overnight, but it can be annoying to have to disassemble the Edge's components when you need to recharge it faster. And if that’s not speedy enough, Razer says the Edge can handle power adapters of up to 65 watts.


Sam Rutherford/Engagdet

OK, let's get back to my original question: Is the Razer Edge something you really need? Starting at $400 for the Wi-Fi model, you get a device with performance similar to one of last year's flagship phones and an included controller add-on, which is actually a pretty good deal. You also get active cooling to help keep thermals in check, while Razer's Nexus app helps you play both touchscreen-only apps and more intensive games from the cloud with ease. Not too bad so far.

But at the same time, the Edge is basically a chunky phone with an add-on that you can buy on its own for $100. And if you remove the slab from the equation, you even have the option of getting either Android or iOS versions of the Kishi V2. So if you've got a relatively recent phone with good performance, you're probably better off doing just that. This way, you get all the perks of having a dedicated gamepad but with the upside of having fewer devices to manage and carry around. Alternatively, you could spend the same $400 on a Steam Deck and get a device that's a bit bigger, but has the power to stream games from the cloud and play AAA games using local hardware.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

However, if you have an older phone and don't plan on upgrading for a while, the Razer Edge could be a decent device to hold you over until you do. And if you're the kind of person who's constantly on the go and can really take advantage of a speedy cellular connection, the Edge 5G might actually be a good fit for you. Or if you really want a dedicated gaming device that’s not your main phone, the Edge presents an interesting value proposition.

But as someone who is trying to reduce the number of gadgets in my life, it feels like these situations may be a bit niche. Sure, there are other tasks the Edge can handle pretty well like emulation, but that's sort of an off-label use. And honestly, the Steam Deck is better at that too. And while the popularity of cloud gaming continues to grow, I'm still not convinced that most people need a dedicated device for apps like GeForceNow or Xbox Game Pass Ultimate. One of the best things about cloud gaming is that it works on any modern gadget regardless of specs, so while the Edge is a more than passable first attempt, I think there's a fair bit of room for improvement as devices like this continue to evolve.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Sony 2023 Bravia XR TV hands-on: Bigger, brighter and even better looking

Back at CES, most of the big TV makers like LG and Samsung announced their upcoming high end TVs. But one major company was missing: Sony. Now it’s finally ready to show off its latest flagship sets, and after getting a chance to see them in person, I can say it was worth the wait.

Sony’s 2023 line of Bravia XR TVs, are all powered by the company’s Cognitive Processor XR. That means they share the same underlying tech and processing including support for stuff like Sony’s XR Clear Image tech, which allows for adaptive noise reduction, auto HDR tone mapping and more.

For 2023, Sony is trying to take as much of the guesswork out of setup as possible by making its TVs look great right out of the box in the standard video or cinematic modes. That means you shouldn’t have to fuss around with various settings or need to get your TV professionally calibrated. Granted calibration is still the way to go if you want to get the very best image quality, but for people who don’t have a colorimeter at home or don’t want to pay someone else to do it – which I think is pretty much everyone – this is a welcome upgrade.

Sony has also made a few design tweaks including new tweeters that are built into the frame of select models. While you can’t really see them, they help deliver richer and more expansive audio, particularly when paired with one of the company’s high-end soundbars with center sync audio. Sony is also introducing an updated stand for most of its new sets, which allows for a bit more flexibility when trying to accommodate external speakers and soundbars.

The new Eco dashboard in Sony's 2023 Bravia XR TVs makes it easy to turn on and adjust power-saving settings like brightness, idle power-off times and more.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Finally, Sony also added new Gaming and Eco dashboards, so it’s easier to find and adjust various settings. For gaming, you have options like VRR, motion blur reduction and more. And for FPS fanatics, there’s even a setting for adding a permanent crosshair to the middle of the screen, complete with various reticle choices. Alternatively, the Eco Dashboard includes a simple walkthrough to help you choose power-saving settings, including a happy little tree that grows when you do things like reduce the brightness or enable shorter idle power-off times.

While Sony hasn’t released exact pricing just yet, the X90L will likely be the most affordable of the bunch, as it’s positioned as the entry-level option in the Bravia XR family. It’s the replacement to last year’s X90K, and sports a full-array LED panel with improved Clear Image upscaling and significantly reduced blooming. And while Sony doesn’t publicly disclose the exact number of dimming zones, the company says the X90L has up to 60 percent more dimming zones while also being up to 30 percent brighter than before.

While it's a mid-range TV overall, the new X90L is poised to be the entry model in Sony's high-end Bravia XR TV family. And with the largest model going up to 98 inches, it's also the biggest.
Sam Rutherford

This model is also getting a new aluminum bezel instead of the plastic one on the X90K, and with the addition of a massive new 98-inch model, the X90L is the biggest TV in Sony’s 2023 Bravia XR lineup.

Next, when it comes to OLEDs, we have the A80L and A95L. Not only do both models boast improved contrast, when viewed side-by-side with rivals like the LG C2, I noticed Sony’s OLEDs definitely did a better job at preserving details in shadows. The A95L was particularly impressive thanks to its QD-OLED panel and Cognitive Processor, with Sony claiming brightness that's now two times higher than last year's model. This is big because for a long time, the brightness of OLED TVs has generally lagged behind that of more traditional LED sets. But now, Sony says the A95L is brighter than basically all but the most high-end LED rivals. And as someone who loves the super vibrant colors you get from OLED displays, the A95L might be my favorite of the entire line.

Thanks to a new QD-OLED panel, Sony claims the A95L is two times brighter than last year's model.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Speaking of high-end, Sony’s X93L and X95L are the company’s two super premium flagship options. Both sets feature Mini LED displays with the main difference being that the X93L doesn’t come with Sony’s XR Clear Image tech. Meanwhile, the X95L offers similar peak brightness with 30 percent more local dimming zones. The downside is that the X95L is only available as an 85-inch model, so if you need something smaller, you’ll have to go with the X93L.

That said, when I compared the X93L and X95L to one of Sony’s super expensive reference monitors in a room with typical lighting, both did a great job of preserving details while also delivering extremely accurate colors. In certain scenes, Sony’s TV’s almost made rivals like Samsung’s QN90B look washed out. Admittedly, things like film grain were a bit more noticeable on the X93L because it doesn’t have Clear Image tech, but for film aficionados who really care about watching movies that look as close as possible to what the director intended, these are the sets to get.

The X95L is the new flagship set for Sony's entire Bravia XR TV family.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

After seeing the new TVs, regardless of what type of panel you prefer, all of Sony’s upcoming Bravia XR sets look fantastic. You get way more local dimming zones on the X90L line, while the two times higher brightness on the A95L is absolutely stunning. And with Sony adding larger screen options to basically all of its models, it should be even easier to find the right-size display for your room.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 and Z16 Gen 2 hands-on: Slick updates for hybrid work

Back at CES, Lenovo showed off a huge portfolio of new devices including a true dual-screen laptop and a desk lamp that doubles as a webcam. But now, Lenovo is back at Mobile World Congress with a few more refreshed notebooks and tablets headlined by two interesting updates to the ThinkPad Z family.

Designed to be ideal companions for hybrid workers, the new ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 and Z16 Gen 2 feature an all-AMD setup. You’ll be able to choose from a range of Ryzen 7000 processors and even an optional Radeon 6650M graphics card on the larger Z16, along with up to 64GB of RAM and 2TB of SSD storage. However, for people who are constantly hopping on and off video calls, the ThinkPad Z13 and Z16’s new communication features might be the bigger draw.

That’s because in addition to new full HD webcams, you’ll also get support for Wi-Fi 6E and Dolby Voice-enabled microphones, so you should look and sound good on Zoom meetings. But my favorite new feature is the TrackPoint Quick Menu that can be summoned by simply double-tapping the company’s signature red nub. This opens a window that lets you quickly adjust things like camera settings, mic volume, voice dictation, noise suppression and more. You can even customize which settings you want to see so you have fast access to the things you tend to change most often and I think it’s a great way of adding new functionality to a classic component like the TrackPoint.

Other specs include up to a 13.3-inch 2.8K OLED display on the Z13 Gen 2 or a larger and higher resolution 16-inch 4K OLED panel on the Z16 Gen 2. Lenovo has also retained handy features like an electronic shutter for the webcam, in addition to dual speakers with Dolby Atmos, two or three USB ports depending on the system, and a dedicated SD card reader on the Z16.

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Meanwhile, to help improve your mousing experience, both the Z13 and Z16 Gen 2 feature a Fusion FX touchpad from Sensel, which adds more sophisticated haptics, better palm rejection and more. On top of being physically larger (120mm across), long-time Trackpoint fans will also appreciate that Sensel’s touchpad supports three virtual haptic buttons that run across the top of the touchpad, so you’ll still have easy access to left and right mouse clicks without having to reach too far.

Finally, the last big change for the Z13 is that alongside the default aluminum finish, as part of its commitment to sustainability, Lenovo is also introducing a new flax fiber lid which is made from waste material collected during the harvesting process. This material is something we’ve seen before on a handful of concept cars from companies like Porsche and Polestar, but Lenovo says this is the first time this reinforced flax fiber material will be available on a consumer electronic device.

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Admittedly, this isn’t for everyone, but I kind of like it because it looks almost like a futuristic take on wood paneling. Not only does this add a bit of warmth to the laptop’s appearance, just like a nice piece of furniture, each flax fiber lid features a unique grain, which gives the whole system a bit of added personality. On top of that, Lenovo says the lid is bonded to a top cover made from 75 percent recycled aluminum.

While their designs aren’t changing a ton (aside from that new lid option on Z13), the addition of speedier components, larger touchpads and better conferencing features should make the second-gen ThinkPad Z-series laptops even better at getting work done – both at home or in the office. And thanks to its optional flax fiber lid, the Z13 Gen 2 might be the most stylish and sustainable ThinkPad yet.

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The ThinkPad Z13 Gen 2 is expected to go on sale sometime in July starting at $1,249, with the ThinkPad Z16 Gen arriving a bit later in August starting at $1,749.

PlayStation DualSense Edge review: Sony's pricey but powerful sidekick for the PS5

The original Xbox Elite controller came out way back in 2015, so it's a wonder why Sony took so long to release its own take on a premium gamepad. But now that the PlayStation 5 is more widely available (kind of), the company is finally ready to show the world what it can do. While the $200 DualSense Edge costs a bit more than its rival, it offers a few nifty features you don't get on Microsoft's controller, combined with one potentially major shortcoming.


For the Edge, Sony didn't stray much from its default template. From the top, the Edge looks almost exactly the same aside from a black D-pad and face buttons and a black touchpad adorned with a subtle pattern featuring the company's signature ▲ ■ ● and ✖ icons. Where things get interesting is when you notice the two little nubs that stick out below the analog sticks, which are function buttons reserved for changing your controller's button assignments.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

In back, there are two switches on either side next to the shoulder triggers for adjusting their pull length, along with slots to accommodate the gamepad's removable rear paddles. The controller comes with two sets of rear paddles: longer, more traditional levers and short stubby half-domes, the latter of which ended up being my favorite. You also get a total of three different joystick nubs (standard, short-stemmed convex and long-stemmed convex) that can be swapped out on the fly, and a cable lock which can prevent the included USB-C cord from getting pulled out by accident.

Both the thumbsticks and the rear paddles attach magnetically, which makes it super simple to test out different layouts before finding a combo you like. The long-stemmed domed thumbstick can be helpful for snipers in shooting games, especially if you prefer playing at lower sensitivities. But I was less concerned with trying to get an edge than I was with making the controller as comfortable as possible.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

One of the Edge's highlight features are those fully replaceable analog sticks. By sliding the release toggle in back, the shroud around the analog sticks lifts off, revealing removable modules that attach via USB-A and can be changed out in seconds. This means when you start to experience some controller drift (which you will, given enough wear and tear), you can simply buy replacement thumbstick modules that cost $20 each. For hardcore gamers that put in hundreds or thousands of hours into their consoles, this can represent huge savings over time. If one joystick starts to get a bit wonky, just switch it out, or replace both sticks at the same time and get almost a brand-new gamepad.

Finally, to round everything out, the Edge comes with a hardshell carrying case that looks and feels like an extra-large space egg. It has a lightly padded interior and a small mesh pocket for any additional accessories you might need (like the included charging cable). There's also a nifty velcro pass-through flap in back that allows you to route a cord inside so you can charge the controller while it remains tucked safely inside the case.

Software and features

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Another big advantage the Edge has over rivals (especially third-party offerings like Scuf's Reflex) is the ability to set custom button configurations. The PS5 supports four quickset options and has the ability to save even more in settings. Switching layouts takes less than a second and is as simple as pressing either one of the function buttons and one face button at the same time. I also appreciate that the PS5 pops up a simple walkthrough on how to set everything the first time you connect the controller. And whenever you want to revisit your button presets, all you have to do is open the console's settings menu.

Other handy features include the ability to customize your joystick sensitivity, adjust their deadzone and even set the actuation point for the triggers. So depending on your preferences, you can tell the controller to ignore shallow pulls to avoid inadvertent presses. This also works in conjunction with the slider on the back of the controller which can change the physical travel distance of the triggers to three distances (short, medium and long), which is nice when switching from a racing game, where you want the full analog feedback, and an FPS, when you want a real hair trigger setup.


Sam Rutherford/Engadget

When you get around to actually using the Edge, gaming with it almost feels like having a Swiss Army Knife. Sure, it looks and feels like a standard DualSense, but when you run into an awkward situation, the gamepad always seems to have a solution. For example: Some of my first console shooters were Turok: Dinosaur Hunter and Goldeneye on the N64, so I've always preferred what gamers often call a Southpaw joystick setup, which means aiming with the left joystick and moving with the right. Unfortunately, not every shooter supports this layout. But with the DualSense I can use it in whatever game I want.

Additionally, while the DualSense's deep triggers are great for racing games, that long pull is kind of annoying in fighters or beat 'em ups like Streets of Rage 4. But simply by moving the toggles in back, I can significantly shorten the pull, making things feel snappier and more responsive.

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Now I should mention that some other premium controllers like the Xbox Elite Series 2 offer multiple D-pad options, but in my opinion, both of them are worse than Sony's arrow-shaped version. And while I'll probably never use the cable lock, I can see it being useful in tournament settings where you want the confidence of a wired connection but don't want to worry about your USB cable getting yanked out by accident.

My one small complaint is that I wish you could assign custom actions to the little function nubs. Right now they're dedicated to switching button presets and there's no way to change that, which seems like a bit of a waste. There are two nubs, at least let me use one of them as an extra button, especially since I feel like they're in the perfect location for launching grenades in shooters.

Battery Life

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The DualSense Edge's biggest weakness is its battery life, which is somehow worse than the standard PS5 controller. On average I was getting around five to six hours of use on a single charge, compared to six or seven for the regular DualSense. And that's just frustrating because not only does the Edge cost more than twice as much, the type of people that would pay big money for a premium controller are also quite likely to engage in marathon gaming sessions. And there are few things more annoying than having to scramble for a USB cord when your controller dies in the middle of the firefight. Thankfully, the Edge comes with a lengthy 10-foot USB cable, so even if it runs out of juice, you'll probably still be able to plug it in and have the cable reach your couch.


Sam Rutherford/Engadget

While the idea of paying $200 for a fancy controller might seem like a bit much (and it kind of is), after using the DualSense Edge I can see the appeal. It offers a familiar design with a handful of extra features including easy button remapping, multiple joystick nubs, customizable rear paddles and more. And the Edge is actually a tiny bit cheaper than some third-party options like those from Scuf, which doesn’t have replaceable joystick modules. Its short battery life is definitely a downer and I would have liked to see Sony include support for a second pair of paddles in back, like you get on of other premium gamepads. But if I had to choose just one controller to use with my PS5 until it dies, the DualSense Edge would be it.

Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review: Photo and video take center stage

Samsung's Ultra branding is typically reserved for devices that pack as many high-end features as you can fit in a single gadget. The Galaxy S23 Ultra starts at $1,200 and has a big, beautiful OLED screen, a new chip with even better performance, improved cameras and some revamped software. And, of course, there’s a built-in S Pen for all your drawing and notetaking needs. So while that sentiment still generally rings true for the new S23 Ultra, the company's latest flagship phone doesn't look or function all that differently from last year's.

Display and design: You'll need to squint to spot the changes

While the standard S23 and S23+ got a facelift this year, the Ultra appears to be a carbon copy of its predecessor — unless you look real close. You get a big 6.8-inch AMOLED display with a 120Hz adaptive refresh rate and a 3,088 x 1,440 resolution. And it looks awesome, even if those specs haven't changed much from the previous model. Colors are dazzling and brightness tops out a stunning 1,750 nits, with a typical max brightness of around 1,000 nits in my testing.

The rest of the phone is a nice combo of Gorilla Glass Victus 2 and Samsung's durable Armor Aluminum. There are a few minor tweaks to the chassis, including slightly less curved edges on the screen to help prevent accidental touches. That said, I never really had an issue with that on last year's phone. The S23 Ultra's frame is also a bit flatter, which makes the whole thing feel boxier. And thanks to Samsung's continued focus on sustainability, small elements of the phone like the lock button are made from ocean-bound plastic. But that's about it. So, unless you're already familiar with the S23 Ultra's new color options (which include cream, lavender, green and black), even when you look at the S22 Ultra and S23 Ultra side-by-side, it's almost impossible to tell them apart.

Performance: New chip means more speed

The S23 Ultra is one of the first phones on the market to feature a Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 chip. However, Samsung didn't stop there. It worked with Qualcomm to create a custom version of the processor just for Galaxy phones. So what does that get you? Simply, a wealth of speed. In tests, the S23 Ultra posted multi-core scores in Geekbench 5 that were 40% higher than what we got from last year's phone. That's a huge jump, so it probably isn't a surprise when I tell you that everything feels smooth – apps, games, you name it.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now I should mention that the custom Snapdragon 8 Gen 2 for Galaxy platform that Samsung uses has a clock speed that's only around 150 MHz higher than the standard chip, which honestly, isn't a difference most people (including me) can discern in normal use. However, one of the biggest changes for 2023 is that every version of this year's Ultra will feature a Snapdragon chip, so people outside North America won't be saddled with a less powerful Exynos processor like in previous years. The base model features 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage, but if you jump to the 512GB or 1TB storage options you get 12GB of memory.

Software: One UI 5.1 is nice, but not essential

Alongside the debut of the Galaxy S23 line, Samsung is also introducing One UI 5.1 which features some handy tweaks and customizations. That said, a number of additions like the new personalization options on the lock screen or a wider palette for the UI's accent colors are sort of things we've seen before in iOS 16 or Android 13's Material You. You can even do things like add info to the lock screen so it's easier for people to return your device to you if you lose it. However, out of the box, our review unit came with a message that said "Hi help me" which seems more like a cry for attention than an attempt to provide assistance.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Samsung is also making it easier to create custom stickers from your photos, which you can do by simply long pressing on an object and then dragging it to another app for easy sharing. Unfortunately, some subjects are easier to clip than others. Faces and animals tend to work relatively well, but other things like flowers can often end up looking a bit off, so your results may vary. There's also a new Modes and Routines section in the menu that lets the phone adjust multiple settings for specific activities like exercising or relaxing. But aside from the Sleep mode option, I didn't find this new functionality all that useful. When I work out, all I need to do is find some good music and I'm ready to go.

Unfortunately, while the S23 Ultra comes with an S Pen and a handy storage slot, there aren't really any new notetaking or drawing features, which is kind of a shame. Samsung's top-end handset is still unmatched when it comes to stylus support on phones, so I wish there was something, anything new to mess around with. But I must admit even I'm struggling to think of a major feature I'd really like to see added.

Cameras: More pixels better?

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The biggest upgrade on the S23 Ultra is its new 200MP main sensor, which features twice as many pixels as before. At Samsung Unpacked, the company showed off snippets of short films from not one, but two, big-name directors to really drive home the phone's new cinematic capabilities. It sounds impressive, but in practice, it takes a bit of effort to really make the most of that new sensor.

In normal use, the S23 Ultra uses 16-to-1 pixel-binning to help gather more light and produce sharp, colorful images without the need for extra-large file sizes. And in most situations, it produces better-looking pics too. When I used the S23 Ultra to shoot photos of some pizza (which was extremely tasty might I add), images taken using the default 12MP mode featured more accurate colors and better details than those captured with the sensor's full 200 megapixels. In the right conditions activating the sensor’s full resolution may allow you to capture finer textures on some subjects, but you’ll need to zoom in to see them.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now part of this is because it seems Samsung's object detection and optimizer doesn't work in 200MP mode, but there were also noticeable differences in white balance and sharpness. On one hand that makes sense because pro photographers often prefer images with flatter color profiles which makes post-processing a bit easier. But that also means unless you're editing everything you shoot in an app like Lightroom or Photoshop, you're better off sticking with the regular 12MP setting. This is what I mean when I say you need to work to get the most out of the S23's new camera, and it applies to other stuff like Samsung's Expert Raw app too.

Designed for more advanced photographers, Expert Raw has a much wider array of settings and tools to tweak every aspect of your shot, from shutter speed, to exposure compensation and more. You also get a new astrophotography mode so you can take better pics of the night sky, that is unless you live in the city like I do. That's because between light pollution and cloudy skies, I couldn't get a single photo with the astrophotography mode that I was really proud of. And I even used a tripod to make sure things were super stable.

It's a similar story when it comes to video, where the S23 Ultra's improved OIS is a welcome addition for reducing shakes and vibrations while recording. But then there's the new 8K/30 fps mode (up from 8K/24 fps last year) which is nice because there's no more 2X crop like you got on the S22 Ultra. But at the same time, who records home movies in 8K, let alone has the proper display to watch those clips at full resolution? Sure, it's nice to be able to crop in when you want some extra detail. But this feels like overkill, especially when you consider that the file size for a two-minute 8K/30 FPS video is over one gigabyte, which means you're gonna run out of storage real fast.

At least when it comes to selfies, the phone has a new 12MP camera with dual pixel autofocus, and its pics look great despite a sensor that actually features a lower resolution than on the previous model. The 12 MP ultrawide cam and the two telephoto lenses (3x and 10x) are largely the same, which feels like a missed opportunity because that 10x optical zoom is still my favorite lens on the phone.

Battery life: Just great

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While the S23 Ultra's smaller siblings both got upgrades in battery capacity, Samsung's flagship stayed pat at 5,000 mAh. But that's ok because there's plenty of juice to go around. On our video rundown test, the S23 Ultra lasted an impressive 19 hours and 26 minutes, which is similar to the OnePlus 11 (19:45), though not quite as good as the iPhone 14 Plus' 21:17. And that was with the phone's adaptive refresh rate turned on.

In the real world, you're looking at more than all-day battery life. Even on a day when I was doing heavy benchmarking and playing NBA All-World (which really gulps electrons due to constant use of GPS), I still had 25% battery left at the end of the day. And on days with more moderate usage, I often had 40% or more in the tank when midnight rolled around.

All this means you don't really need to worry about the phone dying during the day, which is a good thing because that gives the S23 Ultra leeway to donate some charge to other devices via Samsung's Power Share feature (aka reverse wireless charging). And with 45-watt wired charging, you can refuel the phone in a jiffy too.


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The tricky thing about recommending the S23 Ultra is that it's everything a super premium phone should be. It's got a gorgeous display, a great build and more power than you know what to do with. However, starting at $1,200, it's also really expensive and it's not that much better than last year's offering. I have no doubt you can film Hollywood-grade movies using its new 200MP sensor. But it's important to remember that even in Samsung's promos, we're talking about a crew with decades of experience, not to mention additional equipment like external mics, camera cages, gimbals and more. The S23 Ultra's camera has tons of potential, but it takes more than just a casual familiarity to make those features glow.

For those wondering if they should trade in their current handset after only a year: No, it's just not worth it. If you're simply looking for a premium device and don't care about taking notes with a stylus, I'd argue that the Pixel 7 Pro is a better value. But if you have an older phone and are looking for a major upgrade, the S23 Ultra is unlike any other Android phone on sale today. And with its fancy new sensor, Samsung's latest flagship might be the closest thing you can get to a pro-grade camera in a phone, just as long as you're willing to polish your content in post.

Bayonetta Origins hands-on: A charming tale of a witch and her demon cat

Even though Bayonetta 3 just came out last fall, there’s already another entry in the franchise due out in March starring everyone’s favorite gun-toting witch. However, for its next release – Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon – instead of a continuation of the story, PlatinumGames has created a prequel featuring a charming new art style and gameplay twists that shed light on a younger version of Cereza, before she became the over-the-top enchantress we know today.

After a short explanation of Bayonetta’s lineage, the game introduces its first major twist when it asks you to control both Cereza and her stuffed cat Cheshire, who serves as a vessel for a recently summoned demon. That’s because instead of switching between each character independently, you’re meant to control both at the same time, with the left Joy-Con responsible for maneuvering Cereza while the right Joy-Con is dedicated to directing her cat. (Don’t worry, you can also play the game with the Switch’s Pro Controller if you prefer.) So on top of the game throwing various puzzles or hack-and-slash encounters your way, you often have to do battle with your own mind as you try to get both sides of your brain on the same page.


For me, this setup drew immediate parallels to one of my favorite games from 2013, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. (Sorry youngins for the somewhat dated reference, but if you haven’t played Brothers, you should really give it a go.) Granted, Brothers is much more of a true puzzle platformer, but even after playing it for less than an hour, Bayonetta Origins delivered the same sort of deeply satisfying solo co-op vibes. Also, while Nintendo claims the title is meant to be a single-player experience, I get the sense that this might be just as fun/frustrating (maybe even more so) when played with a friend, with each person getting a single Joy-con.

Additionally, while the game’s controls are relatively simple and straightforward (due in part to its split controller layout), there’s a surprising amount of depth when it comes to combat and traversing obstacles. Typically, Cheshire serves as the muscle when battling forest spirits or other monsters, while Bayonetta relies on her witch powers to lock down and control enemies. That said, the two can work together, with Cheshire able to shrink down and serve as a grappling hook, allowing the pair to jump gaps and chasms. So despite the game’s slower pace compared to previous entries, getting your left and right hands to work together is still very rewarding. I also have to admit it’s just really cute seeing Cereza snuggle up with a demonic patchwork plushy, who despite its hatred of cuddling, needs to be close to the witch in order to survive.


Another departure from other Bayonetta titles is the game’s art style, which has ditched its anime-inspired origins for a more storybook aesthetic – and it looks absolutely fantastic. When combined with a younger version of Cereza that’s still figuring out her place in the world, the game feels more like a new-age fairy tale than the eccentric action-packed circus we’ve seen in earlier games.

And while I only had a short time with Bayonetta Origins, perhaps my biggest surprise was how quickly I became engrossed in the game. That’s because while the bombastic nature of previous entries in the franchise is more my style, Cereza’s latest adventure offers a very charming and downright wholesome take on the series. So for all of the Bayonetta fans who might have been put off by this installment’s design or visuals, you might want to rethink that stance and give Cereza and the Demon a chance when it officially comes out on March 17th.


Ayaneo 2 review: A more premium (and pricier) take on the Steam Deck

Handheld PCs have been around for years, but the arrival of the Steam Deck brought renewed interest and demand to the category — much like what the Nintendo Switch did for consoles back in 2017. And while the amount of engineering and tech that went into the Steam Deck is certainly impressive, Valve's mission to make a portable and affordable PC for gaming on the go means there's plenty of room in the handheld space for something with a bit more giddyup — which brings us to the Ayaneo 2.

Design: Like a Steam Deck, but fancier

While the Ayaneo 2 doesn’t deviate too much from the Steam Deck's basic blueprint, right from the get-go it's also apparent that this thing isn't some cheap knock-off either. It features a big 7-inch 1920 x 1200 LCD display with strong brightness (just under 400 nits in our testing) that's flanked by an Xbox-style controller layout. There are also handy buttons on each side for opening menus or functioning as shortcuts, along with some more customizable controls crammed in on top that by default serve as left and right mouse clicks. Even the power button has a built-in fingerprint sensor, which is a welcome bonus not available on the Steam Deck.

One of the things that impresses me the most is Ayaneo's attention to detail. The whole setup feels well-built. The PC's case is smooth and sturdy and has a very reassuring heft. In front, there's a single sheet of glass that goes across the face of the system (with cutouts for the joysticks and buttons), which gives it a slick, streamlined appearance. The company even went out of its way to ensure that there aren't any visible screws. Though if you do want to get inside, there's an included pick you can use to pry off the little covers on each side. Just be careful so you don't mess up the finish like I did.

Among other premium upgrades compared to the Steam Deck, the Ayaneo 2 sports magnetic hall sensor joysticks and shoulder triggers that feel crisp and snappy. There’s basically no dead zone, unlike what you get with Valve’s handheld. But my favorite thing about the Ayaneo 2’s design is that its touchscreen doesn't have any bezels, and almost looks elegant.

Finally, while I don't think either machine is truly pocketable, the Ayaneo 2 is definitely the more compact of the two. The Steam Deck measures nearly a foot across (11.7-inches) versus a more manageable 10.4-inches for the Ayaneo 2.

Ports and accessories: So many options

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Another quality that elevates the Ayaneo above its rivals is a wealth of ports. Not only do you have a 3.5mm audio jack and a microSD card slot for expandable storage, you also get three USB-C ports, two of which can be used for charging. That flexibility came in handy more often than I expected, because it gave me the freedom to plug in a power cable to either the top or bottom, which makes it easier to keep the cord out of the way no matter how you're holding the system.

On top of that, while Ayaneo makes a dock for its handhelds, because there are three USB-C ports along with two USB-A adapters in the box, you don't really need to buy one at all. Even without any additional dongles or hubs, you still have enough connectivity to plug in a mouse, keyboard and an external display, so it's really easy to use this thing as a standard PC in a pinch. And if that wasn't enough, Ayaneo even includes a charging brick, a couple of international power adapters, a USB-C cable and an extra set of screw covers.

Performance: Zen3 makes a big difference

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

The other major advantage the Ayaneo 2 holds over the Steam Deck is raw performance. While Valve worked with AMD to create a custom chip based on the company's Zen2 architecture, the Ayaneo 2 sports a newer Ryzen 7 6800U chip built on the Zen3+ platform. That's a jump in processing power that you can really feel.

In benchmarks, the Ayaneo 2 scored 4,282 on 3DMark's Wild Life Extreme test, which is comparable or slightly better than what we've seen from similarly-priced laptops like the Surface Laptop 5 (3,848) or the XPS 13 Plus (3,505). And when gaming, the Ayaneo 2 is between 25% to 40% faster than the Steam Deck depending on the title. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider on high settings at 800p, the Ayaneo 2 averaged 54 fps versus 40 fps for the Steam Deck. And when I increased the game’s resolution to take advantage of the Ayaneo 2's full HD+ screen, it still managed to pump out a playable 35 fps at 1920 x 1200 ( in SotTR), despite pushing nearly twice as many pixels. It's a similar story in Elden Ring, where the Ayaneo 2 hovered around 55 fps in 800p at medium settings, compared to 48 fps for the Steam Deck, or at 40 fps at 1200p.

In use: A more luxurious way to game on the go

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Ok ok, enough about the design and specs, what is this thing actually like to use? Well, in short, the Ayaneo 2 addresses some of my biggest complaints about the Steam Deck, but in a smaller, more compact and better-performing chassis. Its screen is way brighter, more colorful and higher-res making everything look sharper too. And thanks to its Ryzen 7 6800U CPU, you can get similar framerates with the Ayaneo 2 at 1920 x 1200 versus 800p for the Steam Deck. I should also mention that, while the Valve's portable PC tops out with just 512GB of onboard storage, the Ayaneo 2 can be specced with up to a 2TB SSD, while still having a microsD card slot (with a neat protective cover) for extra room if you want it.

The Ayaneo 2's control setup is excellent too. That's because even without built-in touchpads, like you get on the Steam Deck, you can still easily navigate Windows 11 using the left stick, which doubles as a way to move your mouse cursor. Sure, that means you're probably not going to want to play Civilization 6 or an RTS on the Ayaneo 2, but even with more optimized controls, those games still feel clunky on the Steam Deck. Ayaneo's magnetic hall sensors in the analog sticks and shoulder triggers also deliver an incredibly responsive experience. And while I wouldn't call it a quiet system, when its fans spin up the whir isn't nearly as loud or annoying as what I get from my Steam Deck. (Note: For what it's worth, my Deck has the slightly whinier sounding Huaying fan.)

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

That said, there are still more than a few awkward aspects about the Ayaneo 2. The first is that Windows 11 is kind of annoying to use with touch controls, though simply booting into Steam's Big Picture mode lets you sidestep much of that. Second, while I appreciate the included Ayaspace app, which serves as the company's consolidated game launcher and performance monitoring tool, the user experience feels a bit unpolished.

Changing the system's resolution from the AyaQuickTool window was often hit-or-miss. On top of that, when I installed an update to the AyaSpace app, its language setting reverted back to Chinese. That’s not a huge pain to fix, but I'd rather be playing games than diving through menus repairing something that shouldn't have changed. Then there are other little quirks like its weak rumble motors and not knowing what makes the lights underneath the joysticks change colors. That’s because aside from a couple of short quick-start manuals, Ayaneo doesn’t provide much documentation for the device, so you’re kind of on your own when it comes to figuring out the system’s more hidden features. (There’s a link to a FAQ doc in the AyaSpace app, but the whole thing is in Chinese, so it's not much help for many of us in the west.)

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now I should note that the company says it’s already working on a second version of the AyaSpace app, and in the month I've had the system, there have been multiple patches, so it's clear the company is committed to improving the situation. Still, while the Ayaneo 2's specs are top-notch, some of its software still feels like a work in progress.

However, a lot of the Ayaneo 2's weak points are made up for by the fact that it runs Windows, which means almost every game just kind of works. Don't get me wrong, I have a huge appreciation for what Valve is trying to do with SteamOS and for Linux gaming as a whole, but even with thousands of games that have been verified to run on the Steam Deck, there are thousands more that aren't (and in some cases, may never run right). With the Ayaneo 2, you simply have a lot more confidence that the next game you buy won't have issues when you boot it up.

And now let me turn things over to my colleague James, who has been testing out the Ayaneo 2’s emulation capabilities.

James' retro corner

James Trew

It would be decadent to recommend buying something like the Ayaneo 2 as an emulation-first device. But, it's worth talking about its performance here as it really does expand the potential library of games. Of course, if you want to rip ROMs from games you already own, you'll need to figure that side out yourself.

Obviously, with the power to run some fairly demanding PC games, the Ayaneo 2 will be more than capable of running everything up to the 5th or 6th generation of consoles without too much trouble. You'll be able to go beyond this, but with mixed results. Skate 3 on the PS3, for example, runs on the Ayaneo 2 at 60fps with almost no special configuration. The Last of Us, on the other hand, was only able to muster between 13-23fps, with the odd flicker above and below that.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Theoretically, you can almost come right up to the present day, with some industrious YouTubers getting Nintendo Switch games to run with varying levels of success. Of course, for now at least, this is the limit but if you had a library of old games and were hoping they might have a second life on the Ayaneo 2, the answer is that, unsurprisingly, it's a very capable emulator that benefits from built-in controls (which saves a surprising amount of meddling around).

Battery life: Could be better

One of the few shortcomings of the Ayaneo 2 is its battery life. That's because when compared to the Steam Deck which typically lasts three to four hours on a charge (depending on the title), the Ayaneo 2's longevity is closer to two or three. That said, you can adjust the power draw of the system if you want to improve energy efficiency, but in the end, this is the price you pay for increased performance.


Sam Rutherford/Engadget

As I look back, I still think the Steam Deck was one of the most important gadgets of 2022. Putting premium laptop specs with great controls and surprisingly good battery life in a handheld PC that starts at just $400 is an unbeatable deal. But for people who want something a bit more premium, the Ayaneo 2 has a lot to like. It's got a cleaner, more compact design with a way better screen. Its joysticks and buttons also feel tighter and more luxurious. And on the inside, it's got a significantly more powerful chip that not only delivers solid performance at FHD+, [the decision to go] with Windows instead of Steam OS also means much wider game compatibility. Unfortunately, with the cheapest version of the Ayaneo 2 starting at around $850, you're also paying a premium for all those fancy upgrades. But if you've been searching for something that is essentially a Steam Deck Pro, the Ayaneo 2 is it.

NBA All-World hands-on: Taking basketball video games back to the streets

Niantic has created some of the most popular augmented reality games like Ingress and Pokémon Go. But this week the company is launching a new title called NBA All-World that might be the best application of its location-based tech to date.

For people who have played one of Niantic’s previous titles, NBA All-World features a very familiar formula. After installing the free app (available on Android and iOS), you are given a starter player and from there you can use the in-game map to navigate to real-world locations in order to collect items, earn cash or battle other players. The big twist for NBA All-World is that, instead of visiting random points of interest to battle others, you’ll need to visit real-world basketball courts to earn your spot on local leaderboards. And, of course, there’s a roster of big-name ballers like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George to collect.

That might not sound like a major change, but it results in some very notable differences in how you play the game. The first is that instead of hanging out on random street corners like you often do while raiding in Pokémon Go, the need to go to local courts makes NBA All-World feel more grounded in reality. That’s important because Niantic says there’s actually very little overlap between people who play its other titles and more traditional sports gamers (just 10 percent according to Niantic senior producer Marcus Matthews). And after years of people playing basketball game series like NBA2K (or my personal favorite NBA Street) at home, Niantic sees All-World as one of the first games that encourages players to get off the couch and go back outside.

Because you have to physically go to real courts to take part in battles, NBA All-World feels better connected to the basketball community at large. While I didn’t get to try this out myself prior to launch, it’s not a stretch to imagine people going to a park to play All-World only to hop into a real pickup game. Then, when you sub out, you can go back to challenging leaderboards or playing minigames in NBA All-World on your phone while you catch your breath.


As for the game itself, Niantic has also worked to integrate basketball culture into every aspect of the app. This includes partnering with companies like Adidas and Puma (but not Nike just yet) so you can buy virtual clothing or footwear that matches what star ballers wear IRL. Players in game are also modeled after their real-life counterparts, so centers like Domantas Sabonis are better at blocking while smaller guards are faster and better at stealing the ball. And while Niantic is keeping many elements of NBA All-World’s gameplay pretty simplistic (like defense, which is mostly automatic), the ability to move and juke in various directions, step back for a jumper or drive to the basket provides a surprising amount of depth.

I also really appreciate that because Niantic already has tons of info provided by users from its other AR games, NBA All-World is populated with tons of in-game locations and hot spots, from courts to places like banks and stores where you can grab items, energy and more. And when the game goes live this week on January 24th, gameplay won’t just be restricted to the US as NBA All-World is getting a full global launch, which really speaks to the international nature of the sport.

However, at this point it’s important to mention that while I think this might be the best use of Niantic’s location-based gaming tech so far, building a new community and playerbase of gamers is a challenge for any developer. This includes some of the company’s previous stumbles, like its ill-fated Harry Potter AR game which is slated to go dark later this month, or its Catan spinoff, which was discontinued in 2021 before ever seeing an official release. But for those looking to dive deeper into the basketball community, NBA All-World looks to offer the best blend of real life and AR integration yet.

NVIDIA GeForce Now Ultimate hands-on: The enthusiast's choice for cloud gaming

This week, as the lights go out for good at one major game streaming service, NVIDIA is upgrading GeForce Now with a bunch of features thanks to the addition of new SuperPODs equipped with RTX 4080 GPUs. And after testing out some of the service’s improved capabilities, the addition of expanded support for high refresh rates and ultrawide resolutions is really turning GeForce Now into a truly high-end cloud gaming app.

For those that missed the initial announcement back at CES, GeForce Now’s recently renamed Ultimate plan (formerly the RTX 3080 tier) is getting a number of new features including support for refresh rates of up to 240Hz at full HD or 4K at 120 fps and an expanded set of usable wide-screen resolutions (3840x1600, 3440x1440 and 2560x1080). On top of that NVIDIA is also adding better support for HDR on both Macs and PCs along with the ability to use full ray tracing with DLSS3 in supported games. Right away, this elevates GeForce Now above rivals like Xbox Cloud Gaming, which is capped at 1080p/60fps. But in practice, the service’s new features have an even bigger impact as they make it easier to get the most out of a wider range of games and gaming setups.

Take for example my current gaming PC, which is centered around an aging RTX 2080 card (GPUs ain’t cheap y’all) and a 4K/120Hz display. In more recent AAA games, my graphics card simply doesn’t have enough oomph to hit 120 fps at higher graphics settings, which means I always have to fiddle around a bit before I get a game’s performance dialed in just right. But with the new resolution support in GeForce Now Ultimate, suddenly I can play a game with all the bells and whistles turned on while still taking full advantage of my monitor’s specs.

With this much stuff happening on screen, you need all the performance you can get.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

This effect was most evident when I played the demo Ghostrunner, which is a fast-paced first-person slasher set in a dystopian future. It’s exactly the kind of game where you need fast reactions to dodge bullets while slicing apart your enemies. Unfortunately, at least on my desktop, in order to hit 120 fps, I had lower things like texture settings and anti-aliasing, which meant I couldn’t fully enjoy the game’s gorgeous cyberpunk aesthetic. But that wasn’t an issue in GeForce Now, where I was able to max out the graphics and still hit 120 fps. And even though I ignored NVIDIA’s directions and was connected to the internet over Wi-Fi, gameplay was so crisp and responsive that after just a few minutes, I completely forgot I was relying on servers in the cloud instead of the PC next to my feet.

While I don’t have the equipment at home to test it out properly, the addition of NVIDIA’s Competitive Mode toggle in GeForce Now gives you more freedom to hit really high refresh rates (up to 240Hz at 1080p) regardless of how fast (or slow) your PC might be. And while I was only able to go up to 120 fps on my monitor while playing League of Legends and Apex Legends, I only encountered a single stutter over the course of multiple matches, which would be impressive even if I was relying on local hardware, let alone a server hundreds of miles away. And when you factor in that the service also works with the company’s Reflex tech to reduce latency, the whole experience was shockingly smooth.

Hitting CTRL + N in the GeForce Now app lets you see what type of server is powering your game along with stats like network info and streaming settings.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Now there are some important caveats. The first is that you need a speedy internet connection. NVIDIA’s recommended minimum bandwidth for gaming at 1080p at 240 fps is 35 Mbps. If you’re like me and you want to max out at 4K/120 fps, you’ll need at least a 45 Mbps connection, not to mention additional overhead to handle anyone else who might be using the internet at your home. This also means that while the idea of gaming at 4K on the road sounds awesome, you’ll still be at the whims of your hotel or Airbnb’s network, which typically aren’t very speedy or reliable.

The other main thing to think about is that after the new Ultimate tier goes live today (January 19th), at least initially, the availability of the new SuperPODs may be limited. At launch, new servers with 4080 GPUs will be located in four places: San Jose, Los Angeles, Dallas and Frankfurt Germany. That means only people in the U.S. and Central Europe will have access to GeForce Now’s Ultimate tier, and even then, if there are too many people online, you may get downgraded to a server still equipped with 3080 cards. (Tip: if you are using GeForce Now and want to see what hardware your cloud games are running on, you can hit CTRL + N to see stats including your server type, network specs and more).


The final hurdle is that at $20 a month compared to $12 for Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (which includes cloud streaming), GeForce Now UItimate is a bit on the pricey side. But as the old saying goes: you get what you pay for. And for an extra $8 a month, NVIDIA’s latest update to its game streaming services delivers better performance, more control over your resolution and refresh rate, and support for fancy features like ray tracing and Reflex. Granted, it’s a bit weird to think about specs for hardware you don’t really own, but for people who want their games to look as good as possible regardless of what hardware they’re playing, GeForce Now’s new Ultimate tier is positioning itself as the enthusiast’s choice for cloud gaming.