Microsoft can’t seem to get out of the spotlight nowadays, and with good reason. With the launch of the new Surface Book, Surface Book 4, Lumia 950, Lumia 950 XL and the fresh Microsoft Band, the company gained once again a boost in popularity for their devices department. Naturally, their software department working on Windows 10 is more interesting, as the new OS will be the definition of cross-platform integration and compatibility. The Microsoft Band is yet another statement towards this ideal of integration, feeding the cloud all the information about your body that you desire. The Microsoft Band 2 is the successor of the first edition of the wearable device, and while under the hood, its upgrades are limited, the change in design is a welcome one.
So how much of a difference is there between the original Microsoft Band launched last year and the Microsoft Band 2, launched a couple of week ago? In this short comparison, I’ll be detailing the differences in design, as well as performance and user experience so that we can decide whether the new version is worth the upgrade from the older one. Since their prices don’t differ, both wearables being priced at $250. Right off the bat, those who haven’t bought the previous edition and want to get in on the game should buy the newer model.
Both the first edition and the Microsoft Band 2 are not smart bands or smart watches. Microsoft tried to create a balance between those two distinct devices and made the Band 2 into a wearable that serves both as a smart watch and as a fitness tracker. That was the appeal in the first model and is still valid for the second generation of the device. Although there are many such hybrids among the Chinese portfolio of devices, none of them manage to merge the two worlds- that of notifications and that of accurate fitness tracking – in a balanced way and remain more in the smart watch category.
As such, Microsoft’s wearables are unique on the market and can be the perfect device for those who want the best of both worlds. The Microsoft Band 2 has certain improvements to both of its areas of expertise, but it is obviously the better choice in the face of the first model because of its much more pleasant design. The first Microsoft Band had design issues because it was blocky, rigid, a bit too big and cumbersome to use. Microsoft has listened to user feedback and has modified key areas of the Microsoft Band 2 design to cater to everyday preferences.
One of the biggest differences in design between the Microsoft Band 2 and its predecessor is the display, which is now a curved panel on the newer model. The curved AMOLED screen is larger and much easier to use than on its predecessor. The Corning Gorilla Glass 3 coating is a blessing on the wearable, as the first edition’s display tended to get scratched quite often and quite easily. The elastomer band of the Microsoft Band 2 comes with a redesigned latch that is easier to use and doesn’t unclasp randomly. The band is also adjustable, which is a small, but significant bonus.
The slightly larger home button and function button of the Microsoft Band 2 make navigation and use a bit easier and contribute to the positive user experience. Although the footprint of the device is still quite large compared to other fitness trackers, Microsoft radically improved the actual feel of the wearable and its bulkiness is no longer as bothersome. Fitting the Microsoft Band 2 into your shirt cuff won’t be easy though, but the improved design wouldn’t make you hide it anyway.
The Microsoft Band 2 comes with a larger 0.5”x1.26” touchscreen, compared to the 0.43”x1.3” display on the first model. The curved panel eases navigation by a mile and makes usage much more comfortable and seamless. Although the watch does remind of Gear devices from Samsung, it has its own unique feel and design accents. Resolution has not been given for the second generation of the Band, but most likely, it will be a bit higher than the original model.
One of the big advantages of the Microsoft Band 2 over its predecessor is software. The Redmond giant is equipping the Band with Windows 10 IoT and the updated Health app so that it can keep everything synced and organized without much interference from the user. The software experience of the first device was pretty good, but the new Windows 10 interface should improve things considerably. Cortana virtual assistant is going to be on board the Microsoft Band 2, which is another bonus that we have to consider. You will be able to set reminders, workouts, send emails and work with your device through Cortana, which will turn hands-free use into a breeze.
Although the company has not revealed the make and model of the processor in the Microsoft Band 2, we are told to expect an upgraded ARM Cortex CPU, with about 128 MB memory to back it up. The improvements to hardware lay more in sensors than they do processing power, as the company outfitted the wearable with 10 different sensors: barometer to measure altitude, microphone, GPS, optical heart rate sensor, 3-axis accelerometer, gyrometer, ambient light sensor, skin temperature sensor, UV sensor, capacitive sensor and galvanic skin response. The Microsoft Band 2 is the perfect fitness tracking device, although not a professional one.
One of the features that are still missing from the Microsoft Band 2 is waterproof certification. If one could use the device under water to track swimming, the new golf tracking features of the device would be outdone. Even if the Microsoft Band 2 has extra tracking features, not including waterproof certification is a mistake in my opinion. Nonetheless, as far as commercially available fitness trackers go, the Microsoft Band 2 is pretty much the best you can get – and yes, that includes the Apple Watch.
The Microsoft band 2 battery life is one of the other unchanged aspects. The previous model has an autonomy of about two days, and the newer model keeps itself in that time frame. It is unfortunate that the company did not place a bigger battery in the device for at least a three-day autonomy. Hopefully, the third generation of the wearable ill improve upon this aspect as well. Disregarding the few similarities, the Microsoft Band 2 is very much an upgrade compared to its predecessor.
The Microsoft Band 2 release date is set for October 30, when people will be able to start ordering the new wearable. The price of the device is going to be $250, which is a bit expensive for a smart band. Considering that the Microsoft Band 2 uses Bluetooth 4.0 and Windows 10 to serve users notifications as well as interact with their smartphones without having to fiddle with their smartphones. With Windows 10 supporting updates like it does, the Microsoft Band 2 might not even need a successor, rather a waterproof case. Ultimately, the Microsoft Band 2 price is a bit hefty, but considering what the device can do, it’s worth it.
4 Most Interesting Crossovers in Gaming
Gaming crossovers are a great way to bring in new people and drive up interest in a title. With that being said, crossovers aren’t as rare as they once were. More and more gaming companies are now embracing crossovers, to the point that some may say that it has lost its appeal. And while this is true to some degree, there are still crossovers that are really effective when it comes to adding a whole new dimension to a game. To prove our point, we’ve put together a list of five of the most interesting crossovers.
Forza Horizon 4: Halo
Forza Horizon 4 is the eleventh installment in the Forza series. The Forza series is known for its ability to emulate realistic racing conditions and offer accurate representations of real-world cars. And while they’ve partnered with car manufacturers before, Forza Horizon 4 features one of the most interesting collaborations in the entire series.
For a series that prides itself on realistic racing, Forza also knows when to cut loose and have a little fun. Nothing exemplifies this more than the Halo crossover that features Master Chief and the iconic Warthog.
Fortnite: Travis Scott
Fortnite is no stranger to crossovers. But if we had to pick one as the most interesting it would have to be the Travis Scott concert. Not only did this crossover include custom skins and emotes but it also paved the way for one of the most unique digital experiences of 2020.
The Verge’s article on the Travis Scott crossover details that the crossover included an interactive digital concert that turned the Fortnite island into a music stage. What’s great about this crossover is that it hints towards a future wherein music and video games will be working hand in hand to deliver immersive musical experiences to millions of people from all over the world.
Merge Dragons: Rick and Morty
When you think of the popular TV show Rick and Morty, a fantasy puzzle game isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. This is what makes this Rick and Morty crossover so interesting. The sheer absurdity of this crossover shows what gaming collaborations can achieve when one thinks outside the box. The game features original dialogue spoken by the characters that matches their characteristics from the show. It is a fun addition to the puzzle game.
However, this crossover shouldn’t be too surprising as Rick and Morty have appeared in other games, demonstrating how they have become pop culture icons. The comic nature of the duo makes them perfect for every type of genre, including slot games. Foxy Bingo’s pop cultured-themed slots include an official Rick and Morty game that features the iconic imagery and characters from the show. The show has also produced its own game in the form of the Pokémon-clone Pocket Mortys. One thing that all of these games have in common is that they maintain the show’s penchant for fun and wacky adventures. This is seen in Merge Dragons with the exclusive cow-dragon hybrid featured in the crossover event.
Mortal Kombat 11: Rambo
While crossovers in fighting games aren’t exactly new, Mortal Kombat has always had a knack for creating interesting crossovers for their iconic fighting game. One way that they’ve done this is with the inclusion of popular film characters. The franchise has had everyone from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to Jason of the Friday the 13th franchise appear in their games.
However, the latest iteration of the game may have topped all of the previous crossovers. This is because Mortal Kombat 11 features John Rambo of the legendary Rambo franchise as one of its available fighters. To add to this, CNet’s article on Mortal Kombat 11 details that Sylvester Stallone voiced the digital John Rambo. This is certainly a treat for fans of the popular action film franchise, as they can finally play as one of the most influential action heroes of all time.
Loot Crate vs. The Curiosity Box: A Beginner’s Guide to Subscription Mystery Boxes
With all the loot box shenanigans we’ve witnessed this year, you might have, while searching for more information, accidentally stumbled across something by the name of Loot Crate. Unlike the reviled loot boxes, Loot Crate isn’t a digital gambling scam. Instead, Loot Crate is a physical, subscription-based mystery box you receive in the mail that contains a bevy of geek-related material. Moreover, Loot Crate isn’t the only available service. Alongside the vanilla Loot Crate Classic, the Loot Crate company supplies geeks with anime-themed items with Loot Anime, gaming swag with Loot Gaming (Loot Crate also sells Halo, Minecraft, Fallout, Call of Duty, and Destiny 2 themed boxes), and film/TV merchandise with Harry Potter, Firefly, Marvel, and Star Trek themed boxes. Loot Crate also has a rival in the form of Geek Fuel, which is more expensive than Loot Crate Classic but contains more (and more expensive) merchandise. While I don’t have a Geek Fuel box to compare to a Loot Crate, I received a different subscription box for Christmas, The Curiosity Box. This mystery box is a joint venture between the company behind Geek Fuel and the YouTube Channel VSauce, which is admittedly cool. So, without further ado, let’s get into what sets apart a Loot Crate from a Curiosity Box and determine which is right for you.
WHAT’S THE SAME
On the surface, Loot Crate and The Curiosity Box seem similar. They arrive in big cardboard boxes and contain random items. Well, not precisely random; each box focuses on a different theme, and the items provided center around that theme. While a lot of geeks subscribe to these boxes for various bits of swag, perhaps the biggest draw is the exclusives. The companies behind these subscription services make deals with other firms to create unique pieces of merchandise that are literally impossible to find anywhere else, aftermarket/marked up eBay sales notwithstanding. Some of these exclusives are just color variants of readily available products, such as a glow in the dark Funko POP Groot figure and orange Quantum Mechanix Tribble.
Most exclusives, however, aren’t available elsewhere in any other form and include items like the The Walking Dead art print, the Yeti temporary tattoo, the tower of magnetic rings, and “collectible” pins.
Furthermore, while most exclusives are decorative, some are practical items, such as a pen shaped like the Sledge Saw from Dead Rising 3 and light-up beverage coasters with periodic symbols.
Finally, these subscription boxes have some of the most awesome, exclusive, geeky shirts this side of ThinkGeek or Hot Topic.
The exclusive items tend to be the best pieces of merchandise in each box and are usually worth the price of the subscription alone. Usually.
Let’s get this out of the way: the most obvious differences are the prices and subscription models. Loot Crate Classic is about $20 per box and comes once a month, while The Curiosity Box is well over $50 and arrives once every three months. More importantly, these boxes are designed for two completely different audiences. The Loot Crate (and likely by extension Geek Fuel) is aimed primarily at adults or older teenagers and provides geek-related decorations and practical items, such as the Dead Rising 3 pen, Star Wars and Deadpool fridge magnets, and a Mega Man car air freshener.
Also, Loot Crate tends to include non-exclusive products that are part of a series. Case in point, during my brief stint with Loot Crate, I received (among other things) a Kidrobot Glow in the Dark Ooze Action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle vinyl figure and a Funko ReAction Alien figure. I got Donatello and the titular Alien, respectively, but I easily could have found Leonardo or Ripley in my Loot Crate subscriptions instead. However, since The Curiosity Box is almost exclusively made up of exclusive items, there is no element of randomness and everyone receives the same merchandise.
While Loot Crate caters to the video game, movies, comics, television, and everything pop-culture side of geekdom, The Curiosity Box is more science oriented and is designed for the family. For example, parents who bought the Summer 2017 Curiosity Box got to enjoy a t-shirt, a set of periodic table beverage coasters, a magnetic ring tower, a t-shirt, and a Nikola Tesla (as a sloth) enamel pin, while children will have fun with a temporary tattoo, a unique embroidered sticker patch, a solar system wall decal and poster set, a mobile microscope, and a castle cross-sections book. Finally, the Summer 2017 Curiosity Box came with the Universe Sandbox 2 Steam game, which is fun for all ages.
Since each Loot Crate and Curiosity Box contains new themes and items, you might find the contents of one particular box more to your liking than another. For example, one Curiosity Box contained a “grow your own glow in the dark crystals” kit, while another included a plush of The Curiosity Box’s mascot, the orange octopus Inq. Meanwhile, past Loot Crates have contained a Batman mug, a Doom Marine Funko POP figure, and the One-Punch Man manga.
While I only have personal experience with Loot Crate and The Curiosity Box, they are not your only options for subscription boxes. Geek Fuel is another decent mystery box, and it has come with its fair share of good products, including a South Park: The Fractured But Whole shirt, a Loony Toons Kidrobot blind box vinyl figure, and an exclusive Legend of Zelda pixel sword power bank. While I cannot recommend the Loot Crate, Curiosity Box, or Geek Fuel (or other) subscription boxes enough, you should research each to know what you should expect from these services. Sure, you technically can’t know what to expect since each box is supposed to be a mystery, but look into each specific subscription and figure out which one is right for you. Which do you think tends to have the best exclusives? Which box caters to your interests? These questions are important and will severely impact your enjoyment. Of course, luck also plays a big role, but that’s also part of the fun.
Google Drive will Shut Down in 2018
It seems like yesterday when Google introduced Google Drive 5 years ago. Back then, people didn’t have a good grasp about what Cloud Storage did. Nowadays, there are many Cloud Storage services that it’s only a matter of preference to choose one for your file keeping needs. However, what struck me as an oddity was how Google Drive will pull their Google Drive service come 2018.
That’s right, Google Drive will completely shut down on March 12, 2018. With the software no longer being supported on December 11, 2017. People will have several warnings about this, for now, so they will have plenty of chance to switch to the new version of Drive, Backup and Sync.
This new program is basically a combination of the features between Google Drive and Photos. It’s readily available now for Windows and OSX systems and will be the new host for the Cloud storage. Alternatively, users can get a hold of Drive File Stream, which will become available on September 26, 2017.
The core differences between DFS and BaS come when you compare how they help customers. As shown in the image below:
A day without Google Drive.
It seems like users will have their first experience without Drive today though. Because as of this morning, the service was down for many users who constantly used the GSuit app. According to the independent site Downdetector, more than 7,000 users are experiencing issues with the service. This has been going on since 10:04 AM EDT, but the number of reports has been lowering afterward. You can check the stats here.
It’s a shame to see Google Drive go. To be frank, it was my preferred Cloud Storage option besides MEGA. However, it’s not a huge inconvenience considering they are not shutting down a Cloud Storage service altogether. So we at least have that.
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