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Review: PS5 is big and pricey, but boasts impressive speed and visual upgrades – The Battlefords News-Optimist



Seven years after the release of the highly successful PlayStation 4, Sony has fired its latest salvo in the war to capture the hearts and minds of big-spending video game enthusiasts.

The PlayStation 5 launched Nov. 12, two days after archrival Microsoft debuted its new Xbox Series X and Series S units. The latest round of the console wars started with a bang, as both systems quickly sold out.

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Sony, however, is coming off a decisive victory in the last round of the battle. According to sales figures from Sony Interactive Entertainment, all versions of the PS4 combined have sold more than 113.5 millionunits as of Sept. 30, making it the second-highest selling home console behind the PlayStation 2.

In an effort to keep its edge in the video game arms race, Sony has released an expensive but powerful platform with a bold esthetic that breaks from past conservative design choices. While upgrading to Sony’s latest console will come at a cost — a unit that includes an Ultra-HD Blu-Ray drive has a recommended retail price of $629.99 while a digital-only version costs $499.99 — the improved experience will be difficult for dedicated gamers to pass up.

The increased processing power of the PS5 is seen through the quality of the graphics. Titles that have built from the ground up for the console, like the punishing action role-playing game “Demon’s Souls,” look stunning. The difference in visual quality will be more striking from gamers upgrading from a base PS4, which did not support 4K resolution, rather than the more recent PS4 Pro.

A notable part of the visual upgrade comes from the PS5’s use of ray tracing, an advanced rendering technique to realistically depict light and shadow. Until recently, ray tracing was considered too resource-intensive to use effectively in video-game development.

Games available at launch that support ray tracing include “Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” and “Demon’s Souls.” Spider-Man’s bio-electrical powers provide a nice example of what the technology can do — and seem to come without a performance cost.

As impressive as the eye candy is, the speed of the PS5 is arguably a more noteworthy improvement over its predecessor. Load times are markedly faster for PS5 games; even games with massive maps and environments to handle like “Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla” have little downtime.

As a result of this extra processing power, the PS5 is a bit more unwieldy than its sleek precursor. The version of the PS5 with the Blu-Ray drive is 39 centimetres wide, 26 cm deep and 10.4 centimetres high, making it Sony’s largest console. The digital-only version is about a cenitmetre shorter. The units can be set horizontally or vertically to give some options, but it will take up a good chunk of your entertainment centre.

Sony is pivoting from the traditional all-black colour scheme to a two-toned black-and-white look. The PS5 also has a contoured design that sets it apart from the clean lines of the PS4. Whether the new look works or not is, of course, an exercise in subjectivity, but the PS5 is certainly bolder in appearance than its clinical counterpart.

The design choice is mirrored in the accessories available at launch, which include the DualSense wireless controller, a wireless headset, an HD camera, a controller charging station and a media remote control, for those who wish to use the PS5 as a launch point for their favourite streaming services.

The DualSense controller is a significant change from Sony’s long-running DualShock design. The controller has more heft to it and features cleaner lines in its construction. It features haptic feedback, which is intended to make instances in a game that cause the controller to vibrate feel more realistic. A nice feature is that the controller’s touchpad is now covered and resistant to the possibility of getting smudged with greasy fingerprints.

Most PS4 games are playable on the PS5, and are easily ported over with a USB drive. Saved games will have to be expressly moved over, either by removable drive or through the cloud service provided by the PS Plus service, which comes at an added cost.

PlayStation 4 controllers can be used, but only to play PS4 games. Those wanting to enjoy local multiplayer on a PS5 game will have to shell out for another DualSense controller, which costs about $90.

Staying on the leading edge of console gaming will always tax an entertainment budget, and upgrading to a PS5 is no different.

A PlayStation 5 console was provided for review purposes.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 30, 2020.

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Apple’s ‘Time To Walk’ Reveals Monopoly Power – Forbes



It was harder to start a workout on my Apple Watch this morning. Not much harder, maybe just 5% or so, but harder. And a bit more annoying.

Today Apple launched Time to Walk, a podcast series with famous people about walking. It’s included with Apple Fitness+, a subscription service that costs $80/year, and I learned that it launched by not being able to start a walking “workout” the ordinary way on my Apple Watch. Instead of a list of possible workouts in the Apple Watch workout app, there’s now a big “Time to Walk” image with musician Shawn Mendes at the top of the list. The Apple Fitness+ video podcast series will include episodes with Golden State Warriors player Draymond Green, country music legend Dolly Parton, and Emmy award-winning actor Uzo Aduba.

Somewhat disconcerting, when you don’t expect it.

To select the workout you want, of course, you simply have to scroll past it. As I did again at lunchtime for my strength training workout. And as I’ll have to do again this afternoon for another walk. And 10 or 12 more times this week.

Hopefully, if I don’t use it, Time to Walk will go away. But I have no idea if it will or won’t: there’s no option to remove it or delete it.

Big deal? Not really, to be honest.

Unless you’re a podcaster doing fitness-oriented episodes. Or a fitness app competitive to Apple’s Fitness+. Now you’re not only competing with the owner of the platform that you’re delivering your services to (which is hard enough) you are also competing with some aspects of that platform owner’s service mixed in with potential customers’ everyday experience of that service in places most wouldn’t expect.

(At least, I didn’t.)

I think I have Fitness+ for three months free due to purchasing a new Apple Watch. Or I’m on a free one-month trial. Or maybe I bought it. I honestly don’t really remember: I must have hit “Yes” somewhere. (That alone, of course, is another competitive challenge for anyone offering a non-Apple fitness subscription, app, or experience on iPhone: the ability for Apple to just start a service on an iPhone as a result of a hardware purchase, or offer it with a single-click assent.)

Apple says that Time to Walk is “an inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers, created to encourage users to walk more often and reap the benefits from one of the healthiest activities.”

That’s great. It really is. I absolutely 100% agree with Apple that walking is therapeutic and healthy. As my mother never fails to remind me, it’s “good for your body and good for your soul.”

For once, Apple agrees with mom.

“Walking is the most popular physical activity in the world, and one of the healthiest things we can do for our bodies,” Jay Blahnik, Apple’s senior director of Fitness Technologies, said in a statement. “A walk can often be more than just exercise: It can help clear the mind, solve a problem, or welcome a new perspective.”

But I’d much rather experience it intentionally as the result of a choice.

The way to launch a new service like this is simple: a notification on my phone or watch that Apple has a new service, with details about what it does and where it lives, insight into why Apple is sending this to me (example: “you’re getting this notification because you have the Apple Fitness+ one month free trial”), and how I can ignore it, opt out, or delete it after trying it.

It should not just show up, unannounced, undeletable, unskippable, on my device.

Small detail? OK: you’re not wrong if you think so.

But sometimes the small details are important, especially when you want to maintain a level playing field on your platform, silence the growing monopoly chorus, and simply be user-focused rather than push-all-the-subscriptions focused.

Apple competes with Amazon Halo, Google’s Fitbit premium memberships, Peloton, and dozens if not hundreds of other fitness, wellness, and health services. All of them should compete, as much as possible, on a level playing field. That’s not always 100% possible, but in an ideal world, an Apple service on an iPhone should be as easy to access and use as an Apple service on an Android.

And vice versa.

Again, not totally realistic for plenty of software, hardware, and ecosystem reasons. But certainly an ideal to aim for.

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Apple launches 'Time to Walk' feature for Apple Watch and Fitness+ – MobileSyrup



Apple has revealed a new ‘Time to Walk’ feature for the Apple Watch and Apple Fitness+ subscribers.

According to the company, Time To Walk offers “an inspiring new audio walking experience on Apple Watch for Fitness+ subscribers” that aims to encourage subscribers to get out and walk more often.

With Time To Walk, notable celebrities like country music star Dolly Parton, NBA player Draymond Green, Canadian musician Shawn Mendes and Emmy Award-winning actor Uzo Aduba, share what Apple calls “life-shaping moments” that were recorded while walking outside or at locations that mean something to them.

New episodes of Time To Walk will appear in Apple’s Workout app on the Apple Watch each Monday until the end of April. Episodes will run between 25 and 40 minutes. To use Time to Walk, you need to have AirPods or other Bluetooth headphones paired with an Apple Watch, though a Wi-Fi or cellular connection isn’t required as long as you’ve downloaded the episode ahead of time.

At least at the outset, Time To Walk sounds similar to a standard podcast. That said, the location the recording was made in could potentially make at least some episodes a little more interesting than they may initially sound.

Apple Fitness+ launched back in mid-December for $12.99 per month or $99 a year. Apple is currently offering a 3-month free trial of Fitness+

The fitness service features nine different categories of workouts, including cycling, treadmill, rowing, HIIT, strength, Yoga, Dance, Core and Mindful Cooldown. Each workout includes music and is curated by trainers, similar to competing fitness services from companies like Peleton and Echelon.

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Huawei denies reports about possible sale of P and Mate brands – IT World Canada



Huawei is denying reports claiming that it’s looking to sell its premium smartphone brands.

Reuters today said that two insiders are claiming that Huawei is in early talks to sell its P and Mate premium smartphone series. Those sources said Huawei has been talking with government-backed Shanghai investment firms from early as September 2020 but has not yet agreed on a deal.


Huawei sells Honor smartphone brand amid ‘tremendous pressure’

The move seemed plausible given that Huawei sold its value-oriented Honor smartphone brand to Shenzhen Zhixin New Information Technology in November 2020. “Huawei said that the sale was made “by Honor’s industry to ensure its own survival.”

The Huawei Mate 30 Pro

Huawei selling its P and Mate series would essentially signal its exit from the smartphone business. Huawei sold 55.8 million devices worldwide in Q1 2020, outpacing both Samsung and Apple in units shipped. It lost the top spot to Samsung in Q3 2020 amid technology restrictions due to the U.S. entity list.

Huawei told Reuters that it has no plans to sell its premium smartphone brands, calling the reports meritless and unsubstantiated. The company prepared the following statement in response to IT World Canada’s request for comment:

“Huawei has learned there are unsubstantiated rumours circulating regarding the possible sale of our flagship smartphone brands. There is no merit to these rumours whatsoever. Huawei has no such plan. We remain fully committed to our smartphone business, and will continue to deliver world-leading products and experiences for consumers around the world.”

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