Monthly Archives: November 2017

Stakeholders Condemn Nigerian Government Over Return Of Emirates To Abuja, Increased Frequencies To Lagos

Players in the Nigerian aviation industry have expressed concern over the return of the Middle East carrier, Emirates, to Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport in Abuja from its base in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

 

The airline is also set to increase its flight frequencies to Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos from one daily to twice a day, amounting to 14 frequencies per week.

The UAE-based carrier had suspended flights to Abuja in October 2016 in the wake of the Nigerian economic recession.

Speaking to our correspondent, General Secretary Olayinka Abioye of the National Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE) expressed worry over the dominance of foreign airlines in Nigerian routes.

Mr. Abioye explained that the designation of multiple routes to foreign carriers was affecting the progress of the local operators and therefore urged the government to change that policy in favor of Nigerian operators.

He said that rather than open all the major airports to international carriers, the government should have made the Lagos airport a hub where foreign carriers disembark their passengers while local airlines airlift them to their final destinations, but decried that the reverse was the case.

“My fear is the domination of foreign airlines even within the domestic routes. We are thinking that if the government is up and doing, Lagos will remain a hub while all passengers will disembark in Lagos and local airlines distribute them to various airports across the country.

“That would have been better for us. But, the operations of the local airlines are nothing to write home about with this policy of the government,” Mr. Abioye said.

John Ojikutu, the former Commandant of Murtala Muhammed International Airport, similarly decried that most of the foreign carriers have turned Nigeria into their domestic operations.

He explained that virtually all the foreign airlines coming into Nigeria operate into at least two points in Nigeria, stressing that Ethiopian Airlines alone flies into five points in Nigeria and numerous others.

Mr. Ojikutu decried that while Nigeria was busy opening up its airports to various foreign airlines, their counterparts elsewhere were restricting Nigerian carriers from flying into airports of their choice.

“Now, you have five international airports which foreign carriers are flying into. They have more or less taken over your domestic markets. If you have an Ethiopian Airlines that is flying into five of your airports, what has it done?

“In those days, when it landed your Enugu passengers in Lagos Airport, you now take them to Enugu. If it dropped your Kano, Kaduna and other cities’ passengers in Abuja, your own airline will go and pick them and drop them in their various cities. Now, what has it done? It has taken over your domestic markets. Those are the consequences and the danger in giving multiple landings to foreign airlines when you don’t have reciprocity,” he told SaharaReporters.

Olumide Ohunayo, the Director of Research at Zenith Travels, attributed the sordid situation to inconsistencies in the Nigerian government’s policies.

He bemoaned that in spite of the kick against the multiple entries policies by a majority of players in the sector, most state governments are enticing foreign carriers into their states.

Mr. Ohunayo expressed that with such a policy, the government was indirectly killing the domestic carriers and urged the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika to reverse the “unfriendly” policy.

“When you look at a country whereby you are not united in policy, industry and the growth of the sector, then, you begin to enter some of these little crises at the peril of the domestic carriers.

“Here we are saying that we don’t want multiple entries for foreign carriers, yet, some governors want every foreign carrier to operate into their states. With this, there is no way the domestic airlines will grow. We are killing our own carriers with our attitude.”

It would be recalled that Emirates had on Friday disclosed plans to return to the Abuja airport by December 15, adding that it would increase its weekly frequencies to Lagos from seven to 14.

The airline had suspended flight operations to Abuja in October 2016 while it reduced its weekly frequencies to Lagos by 50 percent in June 2016.

At least 11 foreign carriers are currently operating an  additional 30 frequencies to Nigeria weekly and are operating into different airports across the country.

Airlines with extra frequencies into Nigeria are British Airways, seven; Virgin Atlantic, seven; Air France, seven; Ethiopian Airlines, 14; Kenya Airways, three; Lufthansa, seven; Egyptair, seven; Air Cote D’Ivoire, seven; Africa World Airlines, three; Turkish Airlines, three; and Asky Airlines with another three extra frequencies to the Abuja airport.


The best Xbox One X games: what to play on the world’s most powerful console

What are its enhancements?

4K, HDR, 60FPS

We’ve had a chance to play Rise of the Tomb Raider at a recent preview event where we came away impressed by the work-in-progress patch.

The final version will support three modes, so you can tailor what exactly you want the console to prioritise with the game. High frame-rate has the game run at 1080p with enhanced textures, and upscaling to reach 4K. This mode is probably the worst looking of the three, but comes closest to maintaining a locked 60fps framerate.

Native 4K mode, as the name suggests, prioritises rendering a full 4K’s worth of pixels, even if this involves bigger hits to framerate, which can make the game judder in its more intense scenes, even though the game is targeting a more modest 30fps. However, since the version that’s been played so far isn’t final these performance problems may not be present in the final version of the patch.

Finally, the ‘Enriched 4K’ mode strikes a nice balance between the two. It features a more advanced form of upscaling, so even though it’s not native 4K, it’s close enough that it still looks decent.

In all three modes, the implementation of HDR was a treat. Light peeking into each tomb we explored had a fantastic brightness to it, while water had a fantastic level of glimmer and shine.

We won’t know for sure how well the game handles native 4K until the final version of the patch is released, but the amount of customizability on offer suggests there might just be something for everyone.

Amazon Echo 2 review

The first-gen Amazon Echo was the first smart speaker available in the UK, but a year on the choice is much broader. Google now has a range of Home speakers which covers just about all budgets (and matches the Echo Dot at £49) while Apple is about to launch the high-end HomePod.

The Echo 2 is essentially a shrunk-down version of the original with softer, less industrial styling at a lower price. It has interchangeable shells which allow you to change your mind about its colour or finish: there are fabric, metal-effect and wooden options. Sound familiar? That’s because it’s exactly what you can do with the Google Home.

What is the price of the Echo 2?

The original (now discontinued) cost £149.99, so £89.99 for the second-generation model seems like a very good deal indeed. You can buy an Echo 2 from Amazon, of course.

There are differences, and not all of them good, which we’ll get into in a moment.

Don’t forget there are other Echos to choose between, including the new Echo Plus (£139.99) and Echo Show (£199.99).

How is the Echo 2 different from the original?

Although similar in features, the second-gen Echo has been completely redesigned. It’s still a cylinder – a little bigger than a pint glass – but it’s a much nicer-looking gadget to put on a bedside table or shelf.

Gone is the volume ring at the top, replaced by volume buttons, a la Echo Dot. There are seven little holes at the top for the array of microphones, plus a mic-mute button and an action button, which can be used for silencing alarms among other things.

The mics have been improved for better voice recognition, and they work better when music is playing at higher volumes. Amazon says they’re better at beamforming (working out where your voice is coming from) and noise cancelling, to better hear what you’re saying when there’s other noise in the room.

Amazon Echo 2 review

Speakers are also new: there’s a 2.5in woofer as before, but a new, smaller tweeter. You can see these when you pop the shell off, a simple process of grasping the body and pushing in the centre underneath.

The power connector is on the side rather than underneath, but a bigger change is the addition of a 3.5mm minijack aux input. This means you can plug in an audio device which doesn’t have Bluetooth, for example.

Amazon Echo 2 review

The Echo 2 still works as a Bluetooth speaker like the original, too.

Alexa’s capabilities have improved somewhat since last year, and the Echo 2 benefits from these as well as all the features added throughout the year, such as multi-room audio and voice calling and messaging.

What this means is that the Echo 2 is no more or less capable than the original – or the £49.99 Echo Dot. They can all do the same things.

Other Echo models have extra features and you can read about them in our comparison of every Amazon Echo.

Performance

The good news first: the microphones do seem to work better than on the original Echo and Echo Dot, specifically when there are other people talking or the Echo 2 is already playing music loudly.

I couldn’t really notice any difference in how well it recognised the ‘Alexa’ wake word, although it could be that there are less ‘false positives’. First-gen devices often respond when they hear something that sounds like Alexa, but isn’t.

The bad news is that rather than improved sound quality as Amazon promises, it’s actually a step down. I use the first-gen Echo every day, so it was immediately obvious that the new model sounded worse.

The overall effect is that it’s not nearly as crisp (perhaps due to that smaller tweeter) and lacks the bass of the original.

It’s great if you’re listening to a podcast or your Flash Briefing, but when you start streaming music from your phone, Spotify or Amazon Music, the differences are all too obvious.

Relatively simple tracks, such as Diana Krall’s Peel me a grape, sound ok, although lacking in bass, but in much busier songs – Poets of the Fall’s Dreaming Wide Awake, say – instruments sound as though they’re tripping over each other, and vocals aren’t as defined.

Anything with a rhythmic bass kick – like trance and house music – lacks punch, which is kind of disappointing given that a £40 Bluetooth speaker such as the Aukey Eclipse can produce a much more rounded sound with more bass.

Blizzard’s Jeremy Feasel on how ‘Battle for Azeroth’ puts war back in ‘Warcraft’

The next World of Warcraft expansion, Battle for Azeroth, is all about the core conflict of the Warcraft universe. Senior game designer Jeremy Feasel tells us how the story, and new features like Warfronts, will make it more focused.

The post Blizzard’s Jeremy Feasel on how ‘Battle for Azeroth’ puts war back in ‘Warcraft’ appeared first on Digital Trends.

The best Argos Black Friday deals 2017

 

Look out – another discount-packed Black Friday is on the horizon, which means you’re going to need to know where the best deals are to be had. We’ve got your back with this list of the most tempting offers from Argos this year, so you can get a head start over all those other shoppers.

Argos always goes all-in for Black Friday, which we like, and it looks like this year’s extravaganza isn’t going to be any different. Of course Argos has a bewildering number of categories and departments to sift through, but we’re going to focus on all the best tech and gadget deals you can pick up, as well as a few extra surprises.

Save yourself some frantic clicking and scrolling by browsing through the selections below, which we’ll update before, during and after Black Friday 2017. If there’s an electronics deal that you need to know about, then you’re going to find it here – whether it’s a cut-price gaming console or a significant saving on a smartphone.

Don’t waste any more time reading this introduction – check out the best of Argos Black Friday 2017 below!

Argos Black Friday deals

To get you more in the mood for Black Friday 2017 here are some of the best deals that Argos announced during the shopping craziness that was Black Friday 2016.

Gaming Black Friday deals – Black Friday is usually the perfect time to pick up that games console you’ve had your eye on, and Argos made the purchase of a PS4 Slim that little bit more appealing by reducing its Call of Duty Infinite Warfare bundle down to £199.99.

More recently the price of a limited edition gold PS4 Slim, with a 500GB hard drive, was down to £249.99 – so you can see that if gaming is what you’re interested in, Argos is often the best place to go.

TV Black Friday deals – Argos usually comes up with the goods when it comes to deals on TVs, and Black Friday 2016 was no different, with the 43-inch LG 43LH570V Full HD Smart LED TV (complete with USB recording and playback capabilities) down to £295 on the day.

Gadgets Black Friday deals – as we’ve mentioned, one of the reasons we pay special attention to Argos on Black Friday is because it has so many gadgets on offer, including the full-sized Amazon Echo, which last year could be yours for the bargain price of £119.99.

Or what about £140 off the Dyson Light Ball Bagless Upright Vacuum Cleaner, another deal we’ve spotted at Argos lately? It went down to just £199.99.

Smartphone Black Friday deals – Black Friday is also the perfect time to get that smartphone upgrade you’ve been promising yourself as there are so many decent deals around, such as £50 off the LG G4 at Argos last year, putting the price down to just £249.95.

Another great smartphone deal we’ve seen on Argos recently is a SIM-free Sony Xperia E5, yours for a mere £129.95.

Tablet Black Friday deals – if you were more interested in tablets than smartphones during Black Friday 2016, then Argos had you covered in this department too. The 32GB Wi-Fi iPad Air 2, for example, could be picked up for a mere £209 in silver or space grey.

Another Argos offer that caught out eye recently was the £30 you could get off the Samsung Tab S2, an 8-inch slate with 32GB of storage, yours for £299 – that’s £30 off the regular RRP.

Audio Black Friday deals – audiophiles really were spoilt for choice at Argos during Black Friday 2016, with a pile of offers available. One of the best was the Bose SoundSport audio-only in-ear headphones on offer at half price, just £39.99 of your hard-earned cash.

More recently the Google Home speaker has been knocked down to £99, which is £30 off the regular retail price.

Toy Black Friday deals – Argos is also a great choice for toys of all descriptions. One of the Black Friday deals that particularly caught our eye last year was the Disney Star Wars AT-AT U Command Figure for only £79.99, offering plenty of Star Wars fun for fans of all ages.

As well as that we’ve spotted Argos’ lowest prices ever on the colourful Furby Connect dolls, down to £34.99 online recently.

Argos on Black Friday 2017: what you need to know

The speedy ordering system, the wealth of categories, and the option to pick up your goods – all the stuff you’re used to from Argos – still apply on Black Friday, so it’s worth making it a priority for your holiday shopping.

You can do some preparation before Black Friday 2017 by making sure you already have an Argos account, so you’re all set to go when the big day arrives. Signing up for email updates is another way of getting to the best deals first, plus you have the option to spread the cost of purchases with an Argos Card (more details on the Argos website).

Deals go live right on the stroke of midnight as Thursday night turns into Friday morning – Argos says the quietest time on its website on Black Friday 2016 was from 3am to 4am, so if you want to beat everyone else to the bargains, you might consider a very early start. In stores, meanwhile, Argos says it’ll be putting on extra staff to give you a hand in your bargain hunt.

The top 5 Argos Black Friday deals last year

1. HP 15-ay020na laptop bundle

Black Friday is always a good opportunity to pick up a cheap laptop: last year Argos was selling the HP 15-ay020na laptop with a bag, mouse and a copy of McAfee for just £269.99.

2. Amazon Fire tablet

The Amazon Fire tablets are some of the best value slates around, especially on Black Friday – last year you could pick up an Amazon Fire 7 tablet with Alexa for only £29.99.

3. Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

The S6 Edge still holds up pretty well against the flagship smartphones of 2017, and last Black Friday at Argos the price of one of these handsets was discounted down to £419.95.

4. Sony KD55XD7005 4K TV

4K TVs have never been cheaper – for just £769 you could have bagged a Sony KD55XD7005 55-inch model running Android TV last year, more than £200 off the model’s original price.

5. The Force Awakens Interactive Darth Vader

Star Wars fans were spoilt last Black Friday at Argos, with this interactive Darth Vader toy figure reduced from £119.99 to just £24.99, a bargain whatever side of the Force you’re on.

Stay fit without leaving the house, with this creative workout gear

 

Can’t get to the gym? Fitness pros have come up with effective and transportable at-home exercise equipment that will counter just about every excuse.

Although Erika Rayman was an avid runner, it wasn’t until she regularly performed a series of intense squats with a trainer that she noticed a difference in her body — specifically her posterior. So she set out to develop a device that would help people nail the perfect squat.

“I learned so much about form working out with a trainer, and wanted to make that available to anyone of any level,” she said. (The maximum user weight on the device is 215 pounds.)

Earlier this year, she launched the DB Method, which works out the lower body; sit on the tilted seat built onto a resistance system, grab the handrails and start squatting.

“It’s a high-intensity, low-impact workout,” Rayman said of the tool, which can be assembled in about 15 minutes. It collapses to fold under a bed or to stack against a wall.

The DB Method, $189; thedbmethod.com

Unable to work out after hip surgery, Gorgi Nikkaran developed Gravocore, a portable pulley-and-harness system designed for all ages and levels that can be slung over a door, onto a tree or attached to a bar or pole.

“I’d been fit all my life, but there were many exercises I couldn’t do after my surgery, and I needed to find another way to get back in shape,” Nikkaran said.

Gravocore works by exercising muscles without compromising the joints, helping to burn fat and build muscle. The regimens used in conjunction with the system work the core, abs, legs and — depending on a user’s fitness goals — may replace a gym full of equipment.

“It’s about what you want out of your workout,” Nikkaran said. “Some people want to be physically stronger. Others want a visual transformation.”

Gravocore, $349; gravocore.com

In designing the ActivMotion Bar, Derek Mikulski’s aim was to “put resistance that’s active or alive into someone’s hands.”

“It will make them use their brains more, as opposed to using static — or dead — weight,” he says of the pole, which enhances squats, lunges and crunches and takes the place of hand weights or a medicine ball.

The ball bearings inside the pole shift when it is held, forcing users to focus on keeping it stable. In addition to encouraging concentration during a workout, more muscles are activated, said Mikulski.

The poles are available in a variety of weights, starting at 3 pounds. Purchases include a digital workout regimen.

ActivMotion Bar, $99 and up, activmotionbar.com

The Pilates Wheel is specifically for those who want to obtain the long, lean look synonymous with the form of exercise but find the cost of classes prohibitive.

Pilates instructor Kristin Anderson and trainer Brian Abercrombie earlier this year launched the wheel, which takes the fundamentals of bulky and expensive Pilates equipment like the Reformer and distills them into a compact, at-home product.

“The machines provide resistance, moving from the core, stabilizing muscles,” Anderson said. “When you strip away the metal parts and pieces, those are the main Pilates principles.”

Abercrombie said the device — essentially, wheels attached to each end of a rod, with resistance bands, handles and foot loops — is for strength, stretching and cardio and can be used by those who have never taken a Pilates class. The duo runs classes on Facebook Live several times a week.

The Pilates Wheel, starting at $199, which includes instructional DVDs and an eating plan; thepilateswheel.com

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Xbox One X review

Microsoft officially unveiled the Xbox One X at E3 2017, calling it “the most powerful console ever”. That may be – you’d expect it be better than everything before it – but is it actually be any good? We’ve some time playing 4K games on the Xbox One X before release next week, and here’s what we think about the console.

Separately, we’ve compared the Xbox One X to the PS4 Pro, and also the Xbox One S, so we won’t spend too much time mentioning those comparisons here.

In summary:

Xbox One X
Release date 7 November 2017 – pre-order now
Price £449.99 / US$499.99
CPU 2.3GHz custom octacore processor
GPU AMD chip with 12GB GDDR5 RAM and 6 Teraflops of performance
Storage 1TB
Wireless Bluetooth + Wi-Fi
Wired 3x USB 3.0, optical audio out,
Optical drive 4K Blu-ray drive
HDR support Yes
Dimensions 300 x 239 x 61mm

Xbox One X: Pricing and availability

Microsoft announced the launch of pre-orders during its Gamescom live stream, but only for the limited edition ‘Project Scorpio Edition’ of the console, which includes an exclusive vertical stand and has ‘Project Scorpio’ inscribed on both the console and the included controller. Unsurprisingly, it sold out almost immediately.

Fortunately, you can now pre-order the Xbox One X regular edition. If you’re in the UK, head to GAME, Amazon and the official store; in the US check out GameStop, Best Buy, Amazon, and the Microsoft store. Act fast though – we don’t know how much stock Microsoft will have ready for launch.

Xbox One X: Features and design

Looking at the hardware to begin with, this is the smallest console Microsoft has ever made. And even though it’s only a little smaller than the One S, it’s remarkable considering it’s by far the most powerful console on the market. Compared to Sony’s bulky PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X looks sleek.

That grunt comes from an AMD APU, which is basically a CPU and GPU on one chip. The custom-built eight-core CPU is like that used in the PS4 Pro, but at a higher clock rate (2.3GHz vs 2.1GHz). It may not be ground-breaking, but it’s required to power the biggest change in hardware – the GPU.

The custom AMD GPU boasts 40 compute units, each running at 1172MHz. This is a considerable bump in speed, especially when compared to the PS4 Pro’s 911MHz across 36 units, and confirms Microsoft’s claim of six teraflops of GPU power. The custom GPU is backed up by a whopping 12GB of GDDR5 RAM (vs 8GB in PS4 Pro), 9GB of which is dedicated purely to gaming – the other 3GB is dedicated to the system.

But what does that mean to us at home? Essentially, the graphical power should be a bit better than the new Radeon RX 580, which costs between £250 and £300.

And like any decent PC GPU, the Xbox One X needs a decent cooling system to keep everything performing optimally – especially when powering 4K gameplay. To that end, the Xbox One X features a vapour chamber heat sink with a custom fan, helping to keep the console cool, even with it’s incredibly small dimensions.

The aim of including all that tech is to deliver superb 4K graphics at 60fps (but not in all games), and that’s really the main selling point of the One X. 4K gaming on the console is nothing short of phenomenal, and it’s something we come to in a little more detail below.

4K gaming also goes a long way to justifying that £449 price. And don’t forget there’s a 4K Blu-ray drive as well – the PS4 Pro doesn’t have one of those. And for those without super-fast internet connections that support top-quality 4K streaming (which, let’s face it, is most people) this could actually be useful.

Plus, the relatively slim dimensions mean you should be able to pop the console in your TV bench without it being particularly noticeable. And, as you’re probably spotted, it’s black rather than the more conspicuous white finish of the Xbox One S.

There’s no real change to the design of the controller, which too, is now black.

Unlike the PS4, the Xbox One X doesn’t appear to support VR. Microsoft hasn’t mentioned anything VR-related at the moment, but it’s the perfect console to provide high-end VR experiences. Could we see an Xbox VR headset, or support for existing VR headsets like the Oculus Rift in future? We can only hope.

We do know, though, that the One X supports AMD FreeSync 2 and 1440p resolutions, which could be appealing if you were planning to buy a new monitor and game on that rather than a big TV.

Xbox One X: Performance

Let’s get down to the reason why the Xbox One X is so popular: the performance is phenomenal. We’ve used the 4K-enabled PS4 Pro since it was released at the back-end of 2016 and it simply cannot compare to what the Xbox One X offers, especially with graphically demanding games like Assassin’s Creed Origins.

We’ve played a handful of games on the Xbox One X, including the likes of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Forza Motorsport 7, Middle-earth: Shadow of War and Gears of War 4, and we were hypnotised by the gorgeously detailed environments and smooth [email protected] playback. It’s true 4K too, and doesn’t rely on many of the upscaling tricks that Sony uses to provide 4K gaming on the PS4 Pro.

Whether it’s exploring dusty ruins as Lara Croft or tearing up Brands Hatch in Forza 7, the difference between what’s offered by the Xbox One X and existing consoles is night-and-day. It really is an impressive feat when you consider the size (and price!) of the PC or laptop required to provide that kind of performance!

It enhances the overall gaming experience, bringing it in line with what high-end PC gamers experience when playing the latest titles. And much like your PC brethren, Xbox One X-supported games can offer multiple graphical options to give you the experience you desire.

Xbox One X: Do I need a 4K TV?

Microsoft has marketed the One X as a console for 4K gamers so, unsurprisingly, if you don’t have a 4K TV, you won’t get the full experience.

That’s not to say you won’t notice improvements in your gameplay, though: those with standard 1080p HDTVs are granted other enhancements like faster frame rates, quicker loading times and even the possibility of supersampling the 4K output down to 1080p for higher quality textures.

But as is the case with 4K owners, the focus may vary between games and developers – some may prioritise visual quality while others will enhance framerate.

The One S also has Dolby Atmos sound and a 4K Blu-ray drive, so they’re not new or unique to the One X. But if you do have a 4K TV and you’re still on an Xbox 360 or Xbox One, the One X should be very tempting indeed – so long as you’re excited by the launch titles, and don’t mind paying a little extra for the premium gaming experience.

Microsoft has realised that gamers want backwards compatibility, and you’ll be able to play older titles on the One X (as you can on the One and One S). Indeed, for 360 games it’s as simple as inserting the disc.

But it’s the new games, and those existing titles getting the Enhanced treatment, which will be the real reason to splash out on the One X.

Xbox One X: Launch titles

Forza Motorsport 7 is one of the 4K launch titles, and it does look fantastic running on the console. In fact, we mention the Xbox One X performance in our Forza 7 review. Assassin’s Creed Origins and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War will also launch with the console and support 4K.

In fact, there will be free 4K updates for Halo Wars 2, Forza Horizon 3, Minecraft and Gears of War 4, with more than 130 games in total receiving the ‘Xbox One X Enhanced’ treatment – you can see the full list on Microsoft’s site.

Microsoft to end free Windows 10 upgrades – this time for good

Why it matters to you

The free upgrade to Windows 10 program is officially over on December 31, even for folks who have a need for assistive technologies.

As part of its goal to get Windows 10 onto people’s computers, Microsoft offered free upgrades to the new version of its operating system for years. To be specific, it was the company’s goal to hit the billion-device milestone in a few years after the launch of the new operating system. Giving free upgrades was Microsoft’s golden ticket to hit that number.

In other words, the free Windows 10 upgrades program always had an expiration date — and now Microsoft is ending the program without reservation. The program officially closed for most people in July but included an exception for those who have needs requiring “assistive technologies.” The exception was for those who used accessories such as Braille screens, screen readers, or magnifiers.

Microsoft’s messaging concerning the issue has been unclear, but it looks like it is finally been settled. As noticed by ZDnet, the assistive technologies loophole will be closed on December 31. The news was quietly tweeted by the Microsoft Accessibility Twitter account in October:

How well has Microsoft done at getting people to upgrade to Windows 10? The numbers change depending on who you ask, but StatCounter reports that Windows 10 still has not eclipsed Windows 7 in terms of percentages. Unlike other companies, Microsoft is known for having a massive base of legacy users who are perfectly happy using Windows 7 or Windows 8. As hard as it is to believe, StatCounter says that 3.89 percent of Windows users still have Windows XP installed on their machines.

Microsoft executives admitted last year that the ambitious Windows 10 goal wasn’t going to be met: “We’re pleased with our progress to date, but due to the focusing of our phone hardware business, it will take longer than FY18 for us to reach our goal of 1 billion monthly active devices.”

The program’s closure marks the end of Microsoft’s active campaign to get people upgraded from Windows 7 and Windows 8. From here on out, Microsoft will have to rely on new device purchases to increase that number.

 

The best stereo speakers in 2017

 

As technology continues to progress, we audiophiles haven’t changed a bit: At the end of the day, we want our sound clear, full, and true to the original source. Finding a set of speakers that checks our laundry list of requirements, however, is much easier said than done.

To find the best stereo speakers on the market, we reached out to some of the best audio companies on Earth to review and test a wide variety of stereo speaker setups, ranging from compact bookshelf speakers to room-dominating towers with built-in subs. We will be reviewing more units in the future and adding them to this list, so keep your eyes (and ears) peeled for that.

The testing process

In testing these speakers, we compared each stereo set at a comparable power level and tested the same tunes, plucked a variety of music genres.

Our test songs spanned the dynamic range of music and artists, from John Mayer to Tom Petty, and from U.K. prog-metal band TesseracT to the likes of John Williams and Hans Zimmer. Each song was chosen to test the dynamics offered by each set of speakers with some speakers reacting better to certain genre’s than others, depending on their design.

Of course, not all speakers are created equal in function. The Definitive Technology BP9080x towers, for example, are obviously made to cover a more broad frequency range than say the Edifier bookshelf speakers with a 4 inch woofer. We used to our best judgement in testing these speakers according to their individual purpose and affordability, and graded them with that in mind.

Since comparing bookshelf speakers to high performance towers is an obvious case of apples and oranges, we’ll at least try to make it clear which speaker is an apple and which is an orange. Sound good? Good.

Without further ado, these are the best stereo speakers we have tested so far.

1. Definitive Technology BP9080x

Incredible towers that earn their hefty price tag

Dimensions: 7” x 50.5” x 16” (W x H x D) | Weight: 62 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: Yes | Active or Passive: Active sub, otherwise passive | Subwoofer: 12 inch powered | Frequency response: 16 Hz – 40 kHz

These sound perfect

Dolby Atmos / DTS:X ready

Incredible bass that can be dialed in

Sleek low profile design

Pricy, but they back up the price tag

In life, money isn’t everything. In sound, however, it’s pretty important.

Case in point: the Definitive Technology BP9080x speakers. Right off the bat we want to make it clear that this stereo pair is a luxury item that is made only for the most avid audiophile on the market.

If that’s you, then let us tell you just how amazing these speakers are.

From beginning to end of the covered frequency range, the BP9080x speakers are crystal clear, articulate, and genuinely moving. The passive design is aided by an active subwoofer, giving the user independent control of the subwoofer volume on each tower, meaning it can be adjusted to fit any room with any standing waves.

The midrange is as full and clear as any speakers we’ve ever heard, never getting overworked or muddy no matter what songs and sounds we threw at it. The pitch-perfect mid range blends perfectly into the gorgeous treble frequencies that never got harsh, even when the windows were shaking from the volume. The clarity from the top of the frequency range to the bottom can’t be overstated.

On top of it all (literally) there are two “height channel” speakers that make this a perfect centerpiece in your Dolby Atmos or DTS:X home theater.

All of this audio goodness is wrapped in a tall and slender package made from premium materials that is impossibly discreet, especially considering the amount of volume it can pump out. All we can say is that if you’re looking to spend the money (and it is a lot of money), we can’t recommend Definitive Technology’s BP9080x speakers enough.

2. Klipsch Forte III

Powerful towers with impressive flexibility

Dimensions: 16.5” x 36” x 13” (W x H x D) | Weight: 72 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: Yes | Active or Passive: Passive, bi-amp or bridge | Subwoofer: 12 inch | Frequency response: 38 Hz – 20 kHz

Crisp mids with rounded highs

No noticeable distortion

Well built and designed

Expensive

Since 1985, the Forte floorstanding speakers from Klipsch have been the gold standard for home entertainment. Now, the Forte III speakers are on the market and hope to build on the success of their forebearers.

Of course, as you might expect, these speakers sound fantastic. Klipsch’s attention to detail on the fine tuning of the speakers is second to none, making way for a clear and intricate mid-high range. They’re also phenomenally designed and built, making a great addition to basically any living room. They are also very heavy, which can be a blessing and a curse. Once you figure out their place in the living room, these speakers aren’t going anywhere.

These speakers are built for bass, with a 12 inch subwoofer and a massive 15 inch passive radiator in the back of the speaker to help disperse the low frequencies. To get the most out of the bass speakers on these towers, you need to run two separate amps, or a single amp with multiple outs that is strong enough to get the subwoofer moving. Having separated or bi-amp control allows the user to control the power sent to the high and low channels, allowing them to get the exact balance they want.

The downside to these speakers is that they are even more expensive than the Definitive Technology BP9080x speakers and don’t have the powered subs or high-firing speakers that our number one pick has. Part of that premium is paying for the Klipsch name, but there is quality to back it up – just not enough value or pure sound power to topple the Definitive Technology BP9080x.

3. Klipsch RP-150M

Amazingly clear reference monitors

Dimensions: 7.67” x 14.57” x 10.67” (W x H x D) | Weight: 14.7 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Passive | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: 48 Hz – 25 kHz

Clear and crisp high frequencies

Rich midrange articulation

Lightweight design

Good price

Lacking bass

If you’re not in the market for full-on entertainment behemoths like the Definitive Technology towers, the Klipsch RP-150M speakers are a surprisingly affordable bookshelf speaker option with a mid-range and high frequency clarity that rivals our top pick.

These light and passive reference speakers are beautifully designed and are a continuation of what Klipsch does best: honest and clear replication without over-coloring the sound. While the 5-inch woofer doesn’t do much in the way of bass, not coming audibly close to the 48 Hz promise on the frequency response, these speakers have a surprising amount of low-mid thump.

The mid range in these Klipsch speakers is completely clear and open, allowing for subtle articulation to come through that would be lost on lesser systems. The upper range never gets shrill and has a natural air under it that seems to be a signature in Klipsch products.

Overall, if you’re looking for a solid pair of stereo speakers for casual listening, studio work, or piecing together an entertainment system, these Klipsch RP-150M speakers are just about as good as they come, especially for the price.

4. Q Acoustics Concept 20

Clear and well-rounded bookshelf speakers

Dimensions: 6.69” x 10.43” x 11.10” (W x H x D) | Weight: 12 kg | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Passive | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: 64 Hz – 22 kHz

Even and rich sound

Solid midrange

Low-profile design

Not much bass

If you’re an audiophile who’s in the market for compact bookshelf speakers but doesn’t want to sacrifice on sound quality, it’s time to look at the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers.

These extremely low-profile bookshelf speakers are rich in sound from the low-mids to the crispy highs. Even with the amplifier cranked (to safe power levels) the sound never broke up into distortion and remained clear, not shrill. Of course, with any speakers this size, there wasn’t much bass below the low-mid range to speak of, but what was there was full without being muddy.

What could be seen as a pro for some and a con for others, the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers are passive and require an external amplifier.

For audiophiles, this is a great excuse to drop even more coin on a high fidelity amplifier to get the best possible sound out these already great speakers. For casual listeners, however, it can be an inconvenience to worry about amplification with what should be small and discreet bookshelf speakers.

After testing songs of every conceivable genre, it’s clear that the Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers are up to just about any challenge. For those looking to fill out the living room with clear, crisp, hi-fi sound, these bookshelf speakers from Q Acoustics are a no-brainer.

5. Polk Signature S60

A cheaper and worthwhile alternative to Definitive Technology

Dimensions: 11.67” x 44.5” x 15.7” (W x H x D) | Weight: 52 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Passive | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: 26 Hz – 40 kHz

Good looking, discreet design

Clear and cutting mids

Plenty of treble…

…maybe too much treble

Pricy for the sound quality

The beauty of Polk Audio is in its ability to make quality speakers that compete with the biggest name brands while keeping a lower price tag. Do these beautiful full range Polk Signature S60 towers stand up to the prowess of the Definite Technology BP9060x towers? Well, not exactly, but these are stellar speakers in their own right.

Polk’s passive signature series speakers for home entertainment are designed to provide full and immersive sound, and for the most part, they hit the mark. The mid-range, which is the easiest to muddy up, is crystal clear and articulate no matter what sound is blasting through these almost four-foot tall towers.

The high frequency range is certainly lively, occasionally to the point of shrillness when the volume is really pushed, but never gets too harsh for comfort. As for bass frequencies, the packaging advertises a unique porting system that allows more low frequencies to travel more easily. However, to hear the bass really cutting through, the volume needs to be cranked quite a bit. Still, overall the sound quality is excellent in these Polk Audio speakers, the frequencies might could just use a little tweak with an external equaliser.

If you’re looking for a more affordable alternative to the Definite Technology towers, the Polk Audio Signature S60 speakers are a solid option that will likely outshine just about any other run-of-the-mill home entertainment system you’ll encounter. While they don’t handle the highs or the lows as well as our premium pick, we have no doubts that even the most critical ears will be happy with the signal these bad boys pump out.

6. Q Acoustics BT3

Surprisingly full Bluetooth speakers

Dimensions: 5.82” x 9.45” x 8.89” (W x H x D) | Weight: N/A | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Active | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: N/A

Full frequency range

Bluetooth and Digital Optical audio

Stylish design

Occasionally on the shrill side

These stylish and compact Q Acoustic BT3 speakers are the most digitally integrated speakers on our list, featuring Bluetooth capability, a remote control, a 3.5mm input, a digital optical input, and active speakers. But how does the sound quality compare to the rest?

The sound that came out of these little speakers was shockingly full.

Q Acoustics designed these speakers primarily as a convenient bookshelf speaker, but also as a stereo alternative to the soundbar, and it was clear why. The BT3 speakers covered virtually the entire frequency range very evenly, with the exception of the sub bass. Still, the bass that was produced was thick and full and didn’t cause the signal to overly distort. The high range was also surprisingly manageable, though a bit more shrill than the pricier Concept 20 speakers or the Klipsch RP-150Ms.

While the BT3 speakers from Q Acoustics won’t replace your favorite reference monitors any time soon, they weren’t really designed to. These speakers have a lot of technological integrations that make them a perfect replacement to a traditional soundbar or a simple solution to bookshelf speakers. With Bluetooth integration and remote control, the BT3 speakers are perfect in the corner of the living room when you want to quickly blast your song through the house, and sound good doing it.

7. Edifier R1280T

Warm and compact desk speakers

Dimensions: 5.75” x 9.5” x 7” (W x H x D) | Weight: 12.45 lbs | Dolby Atmos / DTS:X enabled: No | Active or Passive: Active | Subwoofer: N/A | Frequency response: 75 Hz – 18 kHz

Affordable and lightweight option

Surprisingly well-balanced

No harsh frequencies

Highs and upper mids are muddy

The Edifier R1280T speakers are a popular choice on Amazon, and for good reason. These compact desk/bookshelf style speakers back an impressive sonic punch and look good doing it, all while keeping the price tag under $100 for the pair. Ok, it’s $99.99, but that penny really does count!

The standout features here include its active design, rich mid-range response, and surprisingly competent bass. Because of the small woofer size, these guys obviously don’t push much low-end, and because of the tweeter design, the highs aren’t as clear as the competition we tested. But other than that, the frequency response and clarity holds its own pretty well.

While they don’t compare to the encompassing power of the Definitive Technology BP9080x or even the clarity of the Klipsch RT-150Ms, these compact speakers certainly serve a purpose. If you’re looking for an affordable set of computer speakers, or better yet a warm stereo set up for your turntable, the Edifier R1280T speakers are a fantastic option for the money.

  • Check out our list of the best MP3 players.
  • These speakers are just one part of a great stereo experience, be sure to check out our list of the best turntables.