Posts with «consumer discretionary» label

'NHL 22' adds women's teams for the first time

A week before the Winter Olympics get underway, EA has added women's teams to its NHL games for the first time. You can now select one of 10 women's International Ice Hockey Federation national squads in NHL 22: Canada, Czech Republic (Czechia), Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Russia, Switzerland and, of course, Team USA.

EA has also introduced IIHF Men's and World Juniors teams to NHL 22. Along with competing in IIHF World Championship tournaments, the Men's and Women's teams are playable in the Play Now, Online Versus, Threes Now and Offline/Online Shootouts modes. EA announced the additions last month.

NHL 12 (which was released in 2011) was the first game in the series in which players could take to the virtual ice as a woman, as long as they created one themselves. The following year, Canadian hockey pioneer Hayley Wickenheiser and American defense player Angela Ruggiero (who could join any team in NHL 13) became the first real playable women hockey players in the franchise, but it's taken almost another decade for EA to add full women's squads.

The NHL series is following other major sports games franchises in adding women's teams. EA brought them to its FIFA games for the first time in 2015, while 2K Games introduced the WNBA to NBA 2K in 2019.

Riding along in Ford’s F-150 Lightning

Ahead of being able to actually drive it, Ford offered us a chance to check out a prototype of the fleet version of the upcoming F-150 Lightning. While we don’t know what it’s like to be behind the wheel, we did have a chance to check out the truck, some of its features and experience the EV torque as it blasted up a hill.

The F-150 Lightning, whether it be for fleets or for customers, is a huge deal in the EV world. The F-Series truck has been the number one selling vehicle in the United States for three decades. Electrifying that sales juggernaut gives the automaker a leg up in the EV truck world since it has such a large established customer base. Check out the video above for the full story. 

Google Play Store's new 'Offers' tab highlights deals on apps, movies and more

Google has launched an Offers tab for the Play Store featuring deals on apps, games, movies, books and other purchases, Android Police has reported. It appears at the bottom of the Play screen, along with Games, Apps, Movies & TV and Books, separate from the existing "Offers and notifications" section. 

"[Offers is] a new tab in the Google Play Store app to help you discover deals in games and apps across travel, shopping, media & entertainment, fitness, and more," Google said in a blog post. When you tap on the tab, it displays multiple carousels with offers on movie rentals, apps, games and more. It includes sales on in-game items, in-app purchases and offers app trials, Android Police noted. 

Google used to have a separate Android app called "Offers," that let you find deals in your current location, but that was way back in 2011 with Android 2.1 "Eclair" when Google Play was called Android Market. Its current "Offers & notifications" section on Play is sparse and not that easy to find, while the new tab is front and center and covers a wide range of products. The Offers tab is already rolling out to the US, India and Indonesia and will arrive in other markets later this year. 

The Morning After: NVIDIA’s RTX 3050 GPU has landed

Graphics cards are fetching prices normally reserved for limited-run sneakers — even what you might have paid for the rest of your PC. Beyond gamers and power users, cryptocurrency mining has meant unprecedented demand. Coupled with a global chip shortage and supply chain issues, GPU scalpers and resellers are having field days every time a new card appears.

Enter NVIDIA’s $250 RTX 3050. With 2,560 CUDA cores, a boost speed of 1,777 MHz and 8GB of GDDR6 RAM, it's the company's cheapest GPU yet with ray tracing. However, as Devindra Hardawar notes, it's unclear if the 3050 will actually sell for $250 once it hits stores. It’s meant to come in less than the existing RTX 3060, which launched at $329 but now goes for around $1,000 if you shop around online. Yeesh.

Devindra puts the card through its paces right here.

— Mat Smith

 

The biggest news stories you might have missed

Amazon's 'pay-to-quit' program won't cover most US workers this year

It could be due to staff shortages caused by COVID-19.

According to The Information, Amazon has paused its “pay-to-quit” program for the majority of its workers for 2022, and it's unclear if it will be reinstated. The publication has obtained a copy of Amazon's message to its employees, which was then verified by a spokesperson from the company. Typically, Amazon pays its warehouse workers up to $5,000 to quit their jobs after peak seasons as a way to pare down its workforce in the slowdown that follows.

Continue reading.

Streamers can now get pedals to control their feed

Elgato strikes again.

Elgato has released a Stream Deck Pedal that provides three customizable foot pedals to steer your apps and other broadcasting tools hands-free. You can manage Twitch or YouTube, change cameras and start an OBS transition, all with your feet. The set sells for $115, meaning it’s probably not for beginners. But don’t let that stop you!

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You can shut up Google Assistant by saying ‘stop’

Shush.

You can now get Google Assistant to stop talking with just one word: "Stop." That's it — you don't even have to say "Hey, Google". The official Google Twitter account has announced the small but necessary quality-of-life improvement for the company's speakers and smart displays.

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The 'Legacy of Thieves Collection' is a no-brainer for Uncharted fans

For newbies, this collection is a good place to start.

Sony

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection arrives for the PS5 this Friday, almost five years after Naughty Dog last released a new game in the series. The $50 collection features a number of technical and visual enhancements, but the games themselves are identical to the PS4 versions. Visuals-wise, there are three modes, all of which improve over the original PS4 game. A fidelity setting keeps the frame rate at 30 fps but renders the games in full 4K resolution. Performance mode, on the other hand, runs the games at 60 fps with variable resolution. There’s also a Performance+ mode for people with 120Hz TVs — the games run at 120 fps, but locked at 1080p resolution.

Continue reading.

Android apps come to Windows 11 in 'preview' next month

The free upgrade period for Windows 11 is ending soon, however.

Microsoft's Panos Panay has teased the release of a Windows 11 public preview in February that will bring Android apps to the Microsoft Store. The company didn't say how many apps would be available in this test, but they'll be titles found in the Amazon Appstore.

The preview will also include taskbar upgrades that include call mute controls, simpler window sharing and weather. Microsoft has redesigned the Media Player and Notepad apps, too.

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Valve's Steam Deck goes on sale February 25th

Units will begin shipping February 28th.

Valve

After a two-month delay, Valve's Steam Deck will launch on February 25th. In a blog post, Valve said it would open orders to the first batch of reservation holders that day. They’ll have 72 hours to purchase the gaming handheld, and if they don't, Valve will release their spot to the next person in the reservation queue. Pricing for the Steam Deck starts at $399.

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Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance confirms plans to build 35 new EVs by 2030

The Renault Nissan Mitsubishi Alliance has announced plans to spend $25.8 billion (€23 billion) with the aim of having 35 EVs by 2030. As part of that, the group will develop five new platforms shared across brands with 80 percent common usage as part of a "smart differentiation" strategy. Nissan teased one of the first cars based on one those platforms, an all-electric compact that will be sold in Europe to replace the automaker's popular Micra. 

The Alliance is focusing on pure EVs and "intelligent & connected mobility." It aims to increase commonality between vehicles with a "smart differentiation" system that allows pooling for platforms, production plants, powertrains and vehicle segments. "For example, the common platform for the C and D segment will carry five models from three brands of the Alliance (Nissan Qashqai and X-Trail, Mitsubishi Outlander, Renault Austral and an upcoming seven-seater SUV)," Renault Group said in the press release.

To that end, it unveiled five separate platforms, including the affordable CMF-AEV that's the base for Renault's budget Dacia Spring model, the mini vehicle KEI-EV platform for ultra-compact EVs and the LCV for commercial vehicles like the Renault Kangoo and Nissan Town Star. Another is CMF-EV, currently used by the Alliance for crossovers like the Nissan Ariya and Renault Megane E-Tech. 

Finally, the CMF-BEV platform will be used for compact EVs but reduce costs by 33 percent and consumption by 10 percent compared to the current Renault Zoe. It'll be the base for 250,000 vehicles per year under the Renault, Nissan and Alpine brands, including the Renault R5 and Nissan's upcoming EV to replace the Micra.

Nissan teased that vehicle in a separate press release, showing it off in a shadowy photo and brief video (above). While it has no name, price or launch date, it'll be built at the Renault ElectriCity center in Northern France. "This all-new model will be designed by Nissan and engineered and manufactured by Renault using our new common platform, maximizing the use of our Alliance assets while maintaining its Nissan-ness," said Nissan CEO Ashwani Gupta. "This is a great example of the Alliance"s 'smart differentiation" approach."

Renault Group said it would use a common battery strategy as well, aiming for 220 GWh of production capacity by 2030. It plans to reduce battery costs by 50 percent in 2026 and 65 percent by 2028. It's aiming to develop all-solid-state batteries (ASSB) by 2028, with Nissan in charge of that project "based on its deep expertise and unique experience as a pioneer in battery technology." 

The Alliance also said it aimed to have 25 million vehicles connected to its cloud system by 2026 that would allow for Tesla-like OTA (over the air) updates. "The Alliance will also be the first global, mass-market OEM to introduce the Google ecosystem in its cars," Renault Group said. 

The news follows Renault's announcement that it would electrify two thirds of its cars by 2025, with about 90 percent EVs in its lineup by 2030. Renault and Nissan ruled out a closer partnership last year, with Renault saying the companies "don't need a merger to be efficient." With the new platforms and cooperation announcement, it appears that the common platforms with "smart differentiation" will be key to that. 

Samsung posts record revenue but reveals profit decline for Q4 2021

Samsung's consolidated revenue for the fourth quarter of 2021 reached 76.57 trillion Korean won (US$63.7 billion), the tech giant has revealed in its latest earnings report. That's a quarterly record high for the company, which says that its revenue growth for the period was driven mainly by the expanded sales of its smartphones, TVs and home appliances. 

Its operating profit of KRW 13.87 trillion (US$11.5 billion) in the quarter ending December 31st, 2021 was lower than the previous quarter's, however, due to the bonuses that it doled out to employees for the season. The company has also reported a new historic revenue high of KRW 279.6 trillion (U$232.5 billion) for all of 2021, along with KRW 51.63 trillion (US$42.9 billion) in operating profits. 

Samsung's memory business, which is typically its biggest moneymaker, has experienced a decline in revenue from the previous quarter due to the global supply chain crisis and a slight drop in prices. Further, while demand for memory products remained strong, the company says it didn't push for sales as aggressively as it usually does after considering its inventory levels and the market outlook. The memory division posted a consolidated revenue of KRW 26.01 trillion (US$21.6 billion) and an operating profit of KRW 8.84 trillion (US$7.35 billion) for the fourth quarter of 2021. In the third quarter, it posted KRW 26.41 trillion (US$21.96 billion) in consolidated revenue and KRW 10.06 trillion (US$8.36 billion) in operating profit. 

Samsung's combined mobile and consumer electronics business, now called Mobile eXperience or MX, has posted KRW 28.95 trillion (US$24 billion) in consolidated revenue and KRW 2.66 trillion (US$2.2 billion) in operating profit. The slight increase in revenue was mainly due to the strong sales of its premium smartphones, namely its foldables and its Galaxy S series devices, as well as its PCs, tablets and wearables during the holiday season. Like in the previous quarter, though, the division's profitability was impacted by Samsung's marketing efforts for its foldables and for the launch of its upcoming models this year. 

Meanwhile, the company's mobile panel business saw an increase in earnings due to solid demand for new smartphones. Losses became larger for Samsung's large panel business, though, due to a decline in pricing for LCDs and the initial costs related to its Quantum Dot displays. Samsung also saw strong sales for its premium and lifestyle TVs, but its visual display business recorded a lower operating profit quarter-on-quarter because of rising material and logistics costs.

For 2022, Samsung expects growth in its memory business from higher server demand and in its display panel business from new smartphone releases. However, the company made it clear in its report that it also expects COVID-related supply issues and other problems to persist and affect its operations. Despite those constraints, it believes its MX business will still deliver revenue and profit growth led by its new flagships and by higher sales of its mass market 5G smartphones. Samsung has an Unpacked event scheduled on February 9th, where it will unveil the next S-series flagship to succeed the Galaxy S21 lineup.

Valve's Steam Deck will go on sale February 25th

Following a two-month delay, Valve's Steam Deck will launch on February 25th. In a blog post the company published on Monday, Valve said it would open orders to the first batch of reservation holders that day. Those customers will have 72 hours to purchase the handheld. If they don't use the opportunity, Valve will release their spot to the next person in the reservation queue. The first orders will then ship on February 28th. Moving forward, Valve says it plans open orders to more customers on a weekly basis.    

Steam Deck launches on February 25th, 2022! 🎉https://t.co/6WKynbibkvpic.twitter.com/Un54Jwdq1H

— Steam (@Steam) January 26, 2022

Valve had planned to release the Steam Deck at the end of 2021, but due to parts shortages, the company pushed that date back. "We’re sorry about this — we did our best to work around the global supply chain issues," Valve said at the time. "Components aren’t reaching our manufacturing facilities in time for us to meet our initial launch dates."

Pricing for the Steam Deck starts at $399. That gets you a device with 64GB of eMMC internal storage and a carrying case. Valve will also offer models with 256GB and 512GB of NVMe storage. Those cost $529 and $649, respectively. The most expensive version also comes with a premium anti-glare screen. The Steam Deck's custom chipset features a 2.4GHz processor and a GPU with eight RDNA 2 computer units. It also comes with 16GB of LPDDR5 RAM. All of that creates a handheld PC Valve claims can run the latest games at a "very efficient" power envelope. Look to Engadget for a review of the Steam Deck come February 25th.  

The 'Legacy of Thieves Collection' is a no-brainer for Uncharted fans

Uncharted has been a tentpole franchise for Sony ever since the first game arrived back in 2007, so it’s not surprising that the games have been remastered for newer consoles over the years. Developer Naughty Dog first brought the original PS3 trilogy to the PS4 in 2015 as The Nathan Drake Collection, improving visual fidelity and frame rates. Now, the company is pulling the same trick with the two PS4 games in the series: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End and Uncharted: The Lost Legacy.

Uncharted: Legacy of Thieves Collection arrives for the PS5 this Friday, almost five years after Naughty Dog last released a new game in the series. The $50 collection features a number of technical and visual enhancements, but the games themselves are identical to the PS4 versions. I’ve spent the last week or so playing both games in the Legacy of Thieves Collection to see how they hold up and determine who this package is for.

Sony / Naughty Dog

There are three visual modes here, all of which improve over the original PS4 game. A “fidelity” setting keeps the frame rate at 30 fps but renders the games in full 4K resolution. Performance mode, on the other hand, runs the games at 60 fps while making no promises about the exact resolution. Finally, there’s a “Performance+” mode for people with 120Hz TVs — the games run at 120 fps with a locked 1080p resolution.

I don’t have a 120Hz TV, so I can’t say how that mode looked, but both the Fidelity and Performance modes looked simply spectacular. Uncharted 4 was beautiful enough when I played it in 1080p back in 2016; the cold snowy vistas of Scotland and the wild landscapes of Madagascar look even better in 4K with HDR. The improved resolution is also appreciated in the dark, shadowy opening of The Lost Legacy, as well.

Sony / Naughty Dog

Despite how great things looked on Fidelity mode, I spent almost all my time playing the game on Performance, as the improved frame rates simply offer a better gaming experience. I don’t have the most discerning eye, it seems, because I couldn’t notice the resolution difference between Fidelity and Performance, so sticking with the 60 fps mode was a no-brainer. Of course, your mileage and TV will vary. If I was playing on a TV larger than my humble 43-inch model, or through a projection system, I might have found Fidelity mode more valuable.

There are a number of other improvements that make these games feel native to the PS5, as well. First off, the games support the adaptive triggers on the PS5 controller, which adds resistance and a different feel when you’re firing your weapons (something you do frequently in both games). Combined with the improved haptics in the PS5 controller, the two games in Legacy of Thieves feel more immersive than they did on the PS4.

Load times are also blissfully short, thanks to the PS5’s SSD and more powerful hardware. If the game wasn’t already running, it still took less than a minute to load my progress and get back into the adventure. I never really thought about the load times when playing on the PS4, but I went back and confirmed the unsurprising fact that the PS5 is much faster.

As for the games themselves, both A Thief’s End and The Lost Legacy hold up well. They look gorgeous, the stories are engaging and more intricate than the earlier games, and the gameplay is more varied than the original trilogy as well. On the other hand, it remains extremely difficult to reconcile the lighthearted tone of Nathan Drake, the protagonist in A Thief’s End, with the massive body count he racks up throughout the game.

Sony / Naughty Dog

The stakes are high, but Drake is a charming and charismatic adventurer — despite the fact that he’s put in a tough situation, needing to pull off a huge heist to save his brother’s skin, he’s not a deadly serious lead hero. But he is deadly, killing dozens throughout his quest. It’s easy enough to just go where the game takes you and not overthink it, but it’s worth mentioning that six years on, the two sides of Drake still don’t sit particularly well next to each other.

The Lost Legacy puts you in control of another antihero, treasure hunter Chloe Frazer who appeared in Uncharted 2 and 3. It’s the first Uncharted game where Nathan Drake isn’t the main character, and it overall has a bit of a darker tone — Frazer and her companion Nadine Ross are just as lethal as Drake, but it fits their personalities and the story a bit better. While we’re discussing The Lost Legacy, it’s worth pointing out that the game originally sold for $40 and wasn’t intended to have the same scope as Uncharted 4; as such, it’s much shorter (a standard playthrough takes about seven or eight hours).

Sony / Naughty Dog

Putting aside any misgivings about the ludonarrative dissonance in these games (something that’s come up a lot with Naughty Dog’s games), they are fun, beautiful, sprawling adventures. If you haven’t played any Uncharted games before, you could pick up the Legacy of Thieves Collection and get a lot of gaming value for your $50. Sure, you won’t know Drake’s entire backstory, but A Thief’s End fills in the blanks well enough even if you don’t know every detail of his past adventures.

I’m a completionist, so I have slight misgivings about telling someone to jump right into it with the fourth game in a four-part series. I might recommend spending $20 on Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection, which is a remaster of the three PS3 games in the series — but Uncharted 4 holds up well enough on its own. As for The Lost Legacy, its protagonists are taking center stage for the first time, so their roles in past games aren’t terribly crucial to the story at hand.

If you enjoyed the original Uncharted trilogy, but somehow missed these games on the PS4, the Legacy of Thieves Collection is a no-brainer. If you’ve played them before, though, it’s a little less clear-cut. Improved frame rates and visual quality are solid updates to bring the games into the PS5 era, but they don’t fundamentally change the experience. That said, Sony is offering the Legacy of Thieves Collection for only $10 if you previously purchased A Thief’s End or The Lost Legacy. For the many people who love the series, that’s $10 well-spent, as these games hold up well — and look and play better than ever on the PS5.

Samsung's first Unpacked of 2022 will take place February 9th

After its president TM Roh teased "the most noteworthy S series device we've ever created", Samsung is announcing today when we can learn more. The next Galaxy Unpacked event, which is the company's first this year, will happen virtually on Wednesday, February 9th at 10am ET (7am PT). You'll be able to watch the event on Samsung's website, though Engadget will also have our own livestream with a pre- and post-show Q&A to discuss the news. 

Samsung is expected to unveil the next S-series flagship then, and if it doesn't drastically change the naming standard it's been using for the last few years, we should be seeing the Galaxy S22. Based on the rumor mill, there might not be many huge upgrades in the next-gen product. The most significant improvement could be an onboard slot for the S Pen and a blockier design, which would spell the death of the Note line. 

Other reports suggest the new Ultra variant might start out with less RAM than last year's model, offering 8GB at the base level compared to the S21 Ultra's 12GB. There could also be a 50-megapixel camera on the regular S22s, up from the S21's 12-megapixel sensors. 

We won't know the full details until Samsung officially confirms them come February 9th. You can tune in to the company's stream directly, but if you want to chat and react live with us before and after the show, come join us on the Engadget YouTube channel instead. It should be an illuminating time. 

Sony's HT-S400 soundbar offers virtual surround for $300

Sony's recent soundbars have been tailored to high-end users, but the company now has something aimed more at those who just want an upgrade from their TV's built-in speakers. The company has unveiled an HT-S400 soundbar that offers a few tricks while keeping the price down to $300. While it's a 2.1-channel system, it offers virtual surround sound (S-Force Pro Front Surround, in Sony-speak) to provide more immersive audio for your movies and shows. It's a fairly powerful system for the class, too, with a rather large 130W wireless subwoofer contributing to a total 330W of output.

The bar unsurprisingly offers tight integration with recent Sony TVs thanks to settings integration and wireless audio support. You can stream other Bluetooth audio, too. And while it's not clear how well Sony's clarity- and voice-optimized speaker designs work in practice, you may appreciate the options for both HDMI ARC and optical audio.

The HT-S400 will be available in April 2022. That's a long time to wait for a soundbar like this, but it might be justifiable if you either live in the Sony ecosystem or just want an alternative to lower-end soundbars from companies like Samsung and Vizio.