Anki’s adorable Vector smart robot has a rare 30% cut at Amazon today

Anki’s Vector isn’t your typical smart speaker. Yes, it can set a timer and tell you the weather, but it’s not tethered to a plug. It’s not even stationary. It’s a smart robot with a personality that sleeps, explores, and is afraid of heights. And today Amazon is selling Vector for the lowest price it’s ever been: $175, 30 percent off its $250 list priceRemove non-product link.

You might question whether a novelty toy is worth $175, let alone $250, but I’ve been playing with it for a couple weeks, and I think it is. Vector has become a true companion in my house, snoring when it’s tired, rolling around when it’s bored, and making excitable noises when it recognizes my son. And all the while, he’s ready to answer question and play games when it hears its wake command, “Hey Vector.”

Once its summoned, you can ask simple questions like you’d ask Google Assistant or Alexa, such as, “How many cups are in a gallon,” or “Who’s the president of the United States.” Vector has a HD camera behind his eyes that will recognize people, avoid objects and cliffs, and snap photos when prompted. It knows when its battery is low and will return to its charger for a power up. And if you pet it, Vector will make happy noises like a puppy.

Along with his cute eyes that convey a range of emotions, Vector is loaded with tech: a Qualcomm 200 series processor, capacitive touch sensor, beamforming 4-microphone array, ultra-wide HD camera, infrared laser scanner, six-axis inertial measurement unit, and a high-res color IPS display. And of course, it has Wi-Fi and Bluetooth built in. It also comes with a cube with he can use to play games and pop wheelies.

I’ll be writing a full review of Vector soon, but after a tricky setup due to my 5GHz home Wi-Fi connection, Vector has been a delight. My son’s friends are enamored with its playful personality, and it’s just fun to watch it roll around and explore. And Anki isn’t done developing Vector—it will have full integration with Amazon Alexa Skills coming in December. And an upcoming update will deliver “refinements to responsiveness of voice commands; more precise cliff detection; significant increase in animation; audio variations and polishes; and, more. The update is part of Anki’s continued efforts to refine Vector’s character to make him feel more alive, and ultimately enhance the Vector-owner relationship.”

Anki’s other smart toys are also on sale at Amazon, including the original Cozmo robot for $126Remove non-product link and Overdrive racing kit for $97.50Remove non-product link.

[Today’s deal: Anki Vector smart robot for $175 at AmazonRemove non-product link]

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Microsoft Bing's Black Friday research tools are hit-and-miss

With Black Friday just (gulp!) a week away, Microsoft’s Bing search engine is launching tools to help with your shopping: a searchable index of deals, phone comparisons, and shortcuts to roundups of the best products.

Unfortunately, Bing doesn’t currently seem to provide what you’re probably hoping for: a searchable list of Black Friday prices by item, together with the dates and times they’re available. It appears you’ll still have to do all the legwork yourself.

Like other Black Friday sites, Microsoft has compiled a list of Black Friday ads by retailer, which the company has separated out by deal. Each ad lists the date and time during which the ad is active, with links to coupon codes, too. With each item, Microsoft also lists “See other buying options” so you can compare prices as part of its Bing Shopping service. Microsoft also promises that you’ll be able to search Bing Shopping for “Black Friday” plus the name of the item, and receive a list of Black Friday deals.

bing black friday experience IDG

Like other Black Friday sites, Microsoft provides a digital archive of Black Friday circulars.

That promise isn’t reality, alas. Target plans to sell a Fitbit Versa smartwatch for $149 on Thanksgiving and Black Friday (regularly $199), for instance. You’d think you’d be able to find the deal reflected in the list of other buying options or while searching for ”Black Friday Fitbit Versa Smartwatch”. But the deal appears in neither search. Essentially, that means you’ll have to still keep notes of what deal is active on what product at what store, and when—pretty much the status quo.

bing black friday smartwatch IDG

Its shopping comparisons, though, list just the current prices. 

To be fair, Bing’s other tools are still useful. If you search for “[phone] vs [phone]”, such as the “Apple iPhone X vs. Samsung Galaxy S9,” you’ll receive a capsule comparison of what makes each phone great. A drop-down caret reveals even more specs, along with prices.

Bing also pulls from roundups like PCWorld’s in more generic searches for “best laptops,” with cards showing some of the more popular laptops. Unfortunately, if you ask for a more granular search, such as “best 15-inch laptops,” it defaults to the traditional list of search results.

bing iphone vs samsung IDG

Bing’s phone comparisons provide a great deal of factual information as the basis for product comparisons.

What this means for you: Fortunately or not, search engines are still struggling to provide a comprehensive list of shopping deals. Some of this is tied to business deals that pay to bump listings higher in search rankings. But manufacturers often refresh products with faster components while leaving the name  unchanged—making it difficult for a search engine to discover what represents a good price on the latest product, versus a discounted older product that a retailer is trying to clear from its shelves. Fortunately, we’ve hand-picked some of the best Black Friday deals, and we’ll continue to do so as the holidays approach. 

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Get This Microsoft Excel Diploma Masterclass At Black Friday Pricing Today ($19)

If you step into an office or school, you’ll likely find Microsoft Excel installed on each computer. While it appears to be a simple spreadsheet program, Excel provides unparalleled bookkeeping and data analysis features; and mastering it can make you a major asset in any workspace. If you’re interested in harnessing Excel’s full potential, you can get started with this $19 Masterclass.

The Microsoft Excel Diploma Masterclass is a month-long course split into 8 lessons, providing you with 3 hours of CPD-certified coursework each week. These lessons begin with basic Excel functionality, such as how to perform simple calculations and format worksheets. As you progress, you’ll cover advanced topics, such as macro automation, data formatting, and working with tables. Make your way through the entire course, and you’ll emerge with a diploma to validate your skills.

Mastering Excel will not only help you succeed in your current workplace, but it can impress potential employers should you seek new opportunities. With the Microsoft Excel Diploma Masterclass, you can add this valuable tool to your skill set for only $19, or 95% off.

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This week in games: The mini "PC Classic" starts crowdfunding, Command & Conquer remasters

The best part about PC gaming is that so much of it is “backwards compatible,” to borrow the console term. Sit down at a modern PC and you can play 40-odd years of games, everything from Zork to Battlefield V. Where consoles need to trot out a miniature version of the hardware to capitalize on nostalgia, we can run the classics on any old machine.

…Wait, someone’s making a miniature “PC Classic”? Really? And it’s that ugly yellow-beige color from the ‘80s?

That news, plus Telltale starts liquidating, more Command & Conquer remaster details, Crackdown 3 gets one last release date, and more. This is gaming news for November 12 to 16.

Free fun-times

Lots of free games to be had this weekend, if you’re perhaps living in the Bay Area and trapped indoors from all the smoke. Or just bored. First and foremost, Rainbow Six Siege is free-to-try for the umpteenth weekend, coinciding with the Pro League Finals. It’s still the best shooter of this generation, so if you haven’t played it yet you absolutely should.

And if Rainbow Six Siege is somehow too fast-paced, you could always check out Rising Storm 2: Vietnam, Tripwire’s 60s-themed successor to Red Orchestra. Be warned, though: One weekend is probably not enough to get comfortable playing Rising Storm 2. Expect to die a lot.

Sunrise

Finally, a conclusion to this saga. After multiple weeks of leaks, Sunset Overdrive has finally landed on PC—and for only $20, too. Sounds like it works great with a controller, not as great with mouse-and-keyboard. Hopefully that gets fixed up soon, but otherwise? Go wild.

Out, demon

This is one of the most stressful trailers I’ve ever seen. Textorcist apparently blends bullet-hell with a typing game, a la Typing of the Dead. You have to simultaneously move your character out of harm’s way while spelling words to send out your own attacks. I’m excited to give it a shot, even if my palms already feel a bit sweaty from the video. Look for the full game in early 2019.

Command & Conquer again

A few weeks ago EA’s Jim Vessella mentioned the possibility of Command & Conquer remasters, timed with the series’s 25 th anniversary in 2020. Now we’ve got a few more details. EA revealed that Tiberian Dawn and Red Alert will be the first games to get the remaster treatment, and that the work’s being done by Petroglyph Games, the studio behind Grey Goo. More importantly, Petroglyph was founded by ex-Westwood employees, a.k.a. people who worked on old Command & Conquer.

Sounds like a best case scenario, honestly.

Fortune favors the bold

We covered the biggest news out of last week’s X018 event: Microsoft acquired Obsidian and InXile, a stunning double-play that should make next generation pretty damn interesting. But there were a few other trailers at the event as well, chief among them the reveal of Forza Horizon 4’s first expansion, Fortune Island. It arrives December 13, bringing lightning storms and a wrecked Viking ship from the looks of it.

Crackdown, eh?

Oh yeah, and Crackdown 3 still exists. It even has a release date this time: February 15. I mean, unless it gets delayed again, which—you know what, I’m not going to put it past Microsoft at this point. X018 also debuted some sort of multiplayer mode, Wrecking Zone. You can catch a glimpse of that in the video below.

PC Classic

After the success of the NES Mini and SNES Classic and the announcement of the upcoming PlayStation Classic, you knew a DOS version was coming. This week a company called Unit-e announced the “PC Classic,” an ugly beige box that runs DOS games from the ‘80s and ‘90s—though as this project’s crowdfunded, we’ll see whether it actually becomes reality or not. For now, there’s the announcement video below.

Nuke ‘em again

Call of Duty’s Nuketown map is a Black Ops tradition at this point, so no surprise it’s coming to this year’s Black Ops 4. Actually it’s arguably coming to Black Ops 4 a second time, as there’s a portion of the “Blackout” battle royale map designed to resemble Nuketown already. This latest addition is a proper deathmatch map though, the same one you’ve been playing since the original Black Ops but dressed up in faux-Soviet imagery. It’s PS4-exclusive for the moment, but look for it on PC soon.

R.I.P.

This is it: The last Telltale update. Why? Because this week it seems Telltale officially shuttered whatever was left of the company to shutter. GameDaily.biz reported Wednesday that Telltale is being liquidated by one “Sherwood Partners,” a sign that the remaining 25 employee skeleton crew has probably been laid off as well. Presumably Telltale’s back catalog will be sold off to the highest bidder—maybe THQ Nordic? They’ve been on a buying spree.

And in the meantime, it appears certain games will be yanked from sale. GameDaily.biz points out that Back to the Future and Tales of Monkey Island have both disappeared from Steam. We’ll keep an eye out for any further removals—but if you want any of Telltale’s games, it might be best to grab them now.

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11-11: Memories Retold review: All's finally quiet on the Western Front

In 2014 Ubisoft commemorated the hundredth anniversary of World War I with a game called Valiant Hearts. Though hand-animated, it nevertheless told a grisly and often tragic story about the Great War, and it’s an experience that’s stuck with me for years now.

Thus I was excited to hear the co-director of Valiant Hearts, Yoan Fanise, had founded a new studio to make a spiritual successor of sorts. As Valiant Hearts commemorated the start of the conflict, 11-11: Memories Retold marks the end, the hundredth anniversary of the Armistice.

Like Valiant Hearts, 11-11 is a flawed experience—a sometimes-clumsy adventure game with light puzzle elements. I’m hard-pressed to call it “good” or “sophisticated.” But also like its predecessor, it’s well-written enough to mostly overcome its flaws, and I recommend playing it anyway.

Johnny got his camera

Valiant Hearts stood out because it was about people, not war. Video games have a habit of dehumanizing conflicts—not just the “enemy” in its many forms, but the ostensible heroes as well. The few that succeed in creating rich characters always stand out, be it Brothers in Arms or Battlefield 1.

11-11: Memories Retold IDG / Hayden Dingman

But Valiant Hearts took an even broader view, depicting soldiers on both sides of No Man’s Land as well as the impact the Great War had on those back home.

11-11 takes a similar tack. Neither of our main characters are traditional soldiers, even. They’re ordinary people with ordinary pursuits, swept up in a conflict they can’t really grasp the import of. On one side is Harry, a young Canadian photographer who enlists to take war photos, become famous, and win the affection of a woman back home. Our other protagonist, Kurt, is the polar opposite. He’s a German engineer and a father who enlists when his son’s unit goes missing, searching the trenches for information.

The war is everything to Kurt and Harry. It dictates where and when they sleep, their daily responsibilities, and often puts them in harm’s way. Both are involved in the fighting at Vimy Ridge. Both see the gas attacks at Passchendaele. These are some of the best sequences in 11-11, the horrors of the Great War’s fiercest fighting stylized in the game’s painterly art style.

11-11: Memories Retold IDG / Hayden Dingman

The war is also nothing, though. Harry and Kurt are more concerned with personal pursuits. For Harry, it’s earning respect, both from people back home and from his bloodthirsty commanding officer Major Barrett. And for Kurt, his family takes precedence—his wife and daughter in rural Germany, and the pursuit of his son out in the field.

Obviously these goals are part and parcel with the war. Harry is a combat photographer, Kurt a radio operator. Both take part in the fighting, and both have friends and loved ones die in the process—or, perhaps worse, changed into hard and unfeeling automatons, the “perfect soldiers.”

But their reasons for being at the front extend beyond hyper-patriotic killing sprees. Harry enjoys the quiet moments, photographing new friends in the trenches. He plays music. He tames a pigeon. A significant portion of your time with Kurt is spent fixing equipment, wiring radios back together.

You can, and probably should, go the entire game without once firing a weapon.

11-11: Memories Retold IDG / Hayden Dingman

That depends on your choices, of course. 11-11 features a lightly branching narrative, with a handful of obvious inflection points—shoot or not, save this person or not, et cetera. There are apparently six endings in total, though I got the “Peace” ending on my first run and that seemed like the appropriate, canonical ending. I don’t have much desire to watch the rest.

There are also hints of subtler pivot points. Harry can send photographs home to Julia for instance, affecting the correspondence she sends back. Kurt can also write letters home to his daughter Lucy, and it’s implied this affects her character to some extent, though it’s hard to tell how in a single playthrough.

It’s surprisingly ambitious though, especially from a small indie studio on its first major project—which makes the missteps all the more painful.

First up, collectibles. I actually loved the collectibles in Valiant Hearts, as they added a pseudo-documentary companion to the game’s more stylized portrayal of events. 11-11 tries to achieve the same, but there are far too many collectibles and the placement can be terrible at times.

11-11: Memories Retold IDG / Hayden Dingman

Tension dissipates completely when Harry’s sent stumbling through the battlefield at Vimy Ridge, avoiding barbed wire and machine gun fire, only to have the player double back because it looks like there might be a collectible hidden behind some burning debris. In the slower-paced levels it’s not as annoying or illusion-breaking, but even so I think the number could’ve been cut by half and it would be a stronger game and a stronger teaching tool.

That’s an additional annoyance, I guess. 11-11’s collectibles contain valuable historical context about World War I, but it often feels like the game doesn’t want you to find them, they’re so hidden. Obscure collectibles are fine for a game like Uncharted where it’s achievement fluff, less so in 11-11 where they’re a significant part of the experience.

And part of the reason they’re so hidden is the art style. I hate to knock 11-11’s brush stroke style actually, because in certain scenes it looks absolutely stunning. It’s also a fantastic way to portray the horrors of World War I without being, you know, too horrific.

11-11: Memories Retold IDG / Hayden Dingman

It’s hit-or-miss though. Detail work suffers a lot, with rough and messy edges all around. Objects also blur together in the distance, which makes navigating a headache. It’s a gorgeous style for large-scale vignette work, for perfectly-posed cinematics and such, but when you get up close and take control it’s not as enticing.

A few more miscellaneous complaints: The game defaulted to, I think, an AZERTY keyboard layout when I first opened it up. It also kept resetting my vertical mouse sensitivity to zero every time I reopened the game. There are some bugs to work out, for sure.

Bottom line

But none of that matters much, at least to me. 11-11 isn’t perfect, neither the story nor the mechanics. It’s a touching companion piece to Valiant Hearts though, a look not just at the horrors of war this time but at the promise of peace—and where that promise sometimes fell short for the people involved.

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The best smart thermostat you can buy, the Alexa-enabled Ecobee4, is $50 off

Smart thermostats help keep your home a comfortable temperature with little effort on your end—and help you save money in the process. But the Ecobee4, our favorite smart thermostat, does a whole lot more than just that. Its built-in Alexa capabilities turn the Ecobee4 into a bona fide smart hub, and today, you can save $50 off its list price on Amazon, bringing it down to $199

This smart thermostat relies on a remote sensor system to keep on top of your HVAC system and your home’s temperature at large. With these sensors, the Ecobee4 can tell the conditions in different areas of your house and fine-tune temperature controls as needed. This also makes it so that, although the Ecobee system makes setting new schedules a little complicated, you probably won’t need to often. The connected app means you can control your thermostat from anywhere, and if you want to do it in person its touch screen is easy to use.

Now, about that Alexa support. Although it’s not totally necessary for a smart thermostat, it is cool to be able to play music and use voice control without an external hub. And on that note, if you do have a Google Home you want to connect, the Ecobee4 is now compatible with the Google Assistant as well.

We gave the Ecobee4 smart thermostat 4.5 out of 5 stars and an Editors’ Choice award in our review, praising for its sensors, intuitive setup, and convenient touchscreen. It’s the best smart thermostat you can buy.

[Today’s deal: Ecobee4 smart thermostat for $199 at Amazon.]

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The Full Nerd ep. 74: Radeon RX 590 review, RTX on in Battlefield V, GeForce RTX 2080 Ti FE failures

In this episode of the Full Nerd, Gordon Mah UngBrad ChacosAdam Patrick Murray, and a very special guest delve deep into graphics card news.

First up: A recap of our XFX Radeon RX 590 Fatboy review. AMD’s first 12nm GPU is a GTX 1060 killer, but how does it compare against the existing Radeon RX 580? It depends on the sales you can find. We dive into the RX 590’s tech specs, value proposition, and more.

After that, we turn our attention towards Nvidia, which had a momentous week of its own. Battlefield V officially turned RTX on, making it the first-ever DXR ray traced game, and thus the first game able to leverage the dedicated RT core hardware inside of Nvidia’s GeForce RTX GPUs. The very next day, though, Nvidia confirmed reports of RTX 2080 Ti Founders Edition failures, blaming the issues on a batch of bad units that wasn’t caught in quality testing.

Finally, as usual, we field questions from the live viewers. If you tune in live you can pick our brains!

You can witness it all in the video embedded above. You can also watch The Full Nerd episode 74 on YouTube (subscribe to the channel while you’re there!) or listen to it on Soundcloud if you prefer the audio alone.

Speaking of audio, you can subscribe to the Full Nerd in iTunes (please leave a review if you enjoy the show). We’re also on StitcherGoogle Play, or you can point your favorite podcast-savvy RSS reader to: http://feeds.soundcloud.com/users/soundcloud:users:226190044/sounds.rss 

Have a PC- or gaming-related question? Email thefullnerd@pcworld.com and we’ll try to answer it in the next episode. Be sure to follow PCWorld on FacebookYouTube, and Twitch to watch future episodes live and pick our brains in real time! 

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AMD's Radeon RX 570 and RX 580 are dirt-cheap after the Radeon RX 590's launch

AMD’s much rumored and recently released $280 Radeon RX 590 blows away Nvidia’s GTX 1060, but steep sale prices for the Radeon RX 570 and RX 580 make these graphics cards even more enticing for 1080p gaming. The cherry on top? You can still choose from two of the three free games that AMD’s offering with the Radeon RX 590 when you opt for one of these other Radeon cards, instead.

First up, Newegg is selling the 4GB PowerColor Red Dragon RX 570 for $140Remove non-product link, or half the price of the Radeon RX 590. This is a fantastic card for consistent 60 frames per second gaming performance at 1080p resolution—one of the most common monitor configurations—though you might need to dial a graphics setting or two back in the most strenuous modern games to hit that goal. 

If you want to take the next step up in gaming satisfaction, grab the Asus Radeon RX 580 4GB for $160Remove non-product link. That extra $20 gets you much better performance and eradicates the need to fiddle with graphics settings on a 1080p display. We like to call it no-compromises 1080p gaming. You can also use this card for entry-level 1440p gaming, but if 1440p is your thing, then we’d strongly advise taking a step up to the Radeon RX 590, or at least a pricier 8GB Radeon RX 580

On top of all that 1080p gaming goodness, you can choose two of the three free games AMD is offering with the RX 590, including The Division 2, Devil May Cry 5, and Resident Evil 2. The three games launch in 2019 so you can’t play them just yet, but all promise to be awesome sequels in their respective series.

[Today’s deal: PowerColor 4GB RX 570 for $140Remove non-product link and Asus 4GB RX 580 for $160Remove non-product link at Newegg.]

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Wi-Charge harnesses light to free Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini smart speakers from power cords

There’s nothing new about battery docks for smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini. A battery dock allows you to place the speaker anywhere in a room, not just in the proximity of an AC outlet. But those batteries will need recharging eventually, so most people who use them—myself included—end up leaving battery-docked smart speakers in the same places they’d be if they were AC-powered.

A company called Wi-Charge claims it has a better solution: It has developed a battery-charging technology that harnesses the power of light. The power transmitter in this solution must be plugged into a wall, but the power receiver trickle-charges the battery in whatever device it’s plugged into, keeping the battery forever topped off.

Today, Wi-Charge announced new kits that work with Amazon Echo Dot and Google Home Mini smart speakers, so that the speakers can be placed anywhere in a room and operate without power cords.

The kits are essentially a proof of concept right now, meant to draw attention to the company’s “Powered by Wi-Charge” initiative. This program aims to convince OEMs to integrate Wi-Charge’s technology into their own new products—and no doubt to also persuade skeptical journalists like me that this technology is closer to market than we might otherwise think.

Interested manufacturers can get wireless charger and power receiver modules, detailed documentation and design schematics, and engineering support when they join the program. The company is already working with three partners, but the products those firms are developing are aimed at commercial applications, not consumer electronics.

wi charge transmitter Wi-Charge

One Wi-Charge transmitter, mounted on the ceiling or on a wall, can service multiple Wi-Charge receivers. The will have a dock for the third-generation Echo Dot soon.

Wi-Charge says its technology can be used with any battery-powered device, including smartphones, tablets, security cameras, Bluetooth speakers, smart door locks, thermostats, and a host of other smart home devices. Existing devices, meanwhile, can be made Wi-Charge compatible with a small USB dongle or—as with the smart speakers—a docking cradle.

Motion and door/window sensors are also candidates, although the cost to integrate the technology into such low-cost devices will likely be prohibitive in the beginning. Wi-Charge chief marketing officer Yuval Boger said in an interview Tuesday that the technology will add less than $10 to a product’s bill of materials once it enters mass production. But today’s door/window sensors typically cost $20 to $30, and motion sensors are only a little more expensive. 

How it works

Replacing disposable batteries is a drag. Recharging the ones that can be is no fun either. Sending electricity through the air—without frying anyone who happens to be in between the transmitter and receiver—sounds magical, but the concept is deceptively simple. (And to be accurate, the system isn’t actually transmitting electricity.)

A Wi-Charge transmitter mounted on a wall or ceiling sends a focused beam of infrared light to a tiny photovoltaic cell on a Wi-Charge receiver. As you’ve probably guessed, the system depends on the transmitter and receiver being in line of sight of each other. But to avoid requiring the transmitter and receiver to also be perpendicular to each other, a tiny mirror mounted on the transmitter focuses the beam of light onto the receiver’s photovoltaic. The photovoltaic cell then produces electricity by using the photons in that beam of light to knock electrons off atoms. The resulting flow of electricity is then pumped into a battery connected to the device.

Happily enough, the mirror also enables one transmitter to service multiple receivers. You will, however, need a transmitter in every room you want the technology to work in—the light can’t go around corners or penetrate walls. Boger said Wi-Charge’s transmitter has a range of about 5 meters (15 feet), which should be plenty for the rooms in most homes.

Each receiver, meanwhile, can send messages back to the transmitter, informing it not only as to what type of device it is (a smartphone, a smart speaker, a security camera, etc.), but also of its battery level, its power requirements, and more. The transmitter can even prioritize charging, so that the devices with the lowest battery levels are serviced first. Boger also described a coffee-shop scenario in which the charging system could identify customers who’ve signed up for the shop owner’s loyalty program and charge their phones while ignoring the phones belonging to other customers who haven’t.

Wi-Charge will be exhibiting in CES in January and has already bagged its second CES Innovation Award. The company expects the first Wi-Charge-powered products to come to market in 2019. 

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Logitech G502 Hero review: A slight improvement on an old standard

Rarely does a piece of hardware have the sticking power of Logitech’s G502 mouse. We originally reviewed the G502 back in 2014 in its first iteration, the Proteus Core, and both it and the later RGB-equipped Proteus Spectrum revision have been top mouse picks ever since. 

Now Logitech’s back with its third refresh, the G502 Hero. No, it’s not the long-awaited wireless version, but it does pack Logitech’s new and proprietary Hero sensor. Hence the name. And given that Hero was originally designed as an efficient wireless sensor…maybe it’s a sign of things to come?

This review is part of our roundup of best gaming mice. Go there for details on competing products and how we tested them.

If it ain’t broke

Okay, don’t get your hopes up too high yet. Let’s focus on what we have.

Surface-level, not much has changed from the G502 Spectrum to the G502 Hero. The old Logitech logo’s been swapped out for the new one and…that’s it, really. And that’s okay! The G502 is a beloved design as-is, a supremely comfortable right-hand mouse with a plethora of buttons and a generous thumb rest.

Logitech G502 Hero IDG / Hayden Dingman

Even now, four years on from my initial review, it’s the most comfortable mouse I’ve ever used. Does that mean it’s going to be the most comfortable mouse you’ve ever used? Of course not! Mice are subjective, and shape is one of the most subjective aspects. Just because the G502 fits my hand perfectly doesn’t mean it’ll feel the same in yours.

That said, the G502 was supposedly (according to Logitech anyway) the best-selling mouse on the planet for a number of years. It’s very popular, and those who love it generally seem to love it a lot. Make of that what you will.

In any case, the G502 is an elongated, almost pill-shaped mouse with a relatively high scoop. The oval form factor makes it ideal for palm grippers, but it’s also narrow enough to accommodate claw and fingertip grippers no problem.

Logitech G502 Hero IDG / Hayden Dingman

A few buttons might be harder to hit with claw/fingertip grips, but it’s not a huge deal because the G502 is covered in them. Covered, with 11 buttons in total. That includes left-, right-, and middle-click of course, and the two standard thumb buttons—but also a third thumb button arrayed towards the front, plus two more along the edge of the left mouse button, another in the dead center of the mouse, and a tilt wheel.

Speaking of, the G502 Hero still bears the dual-mode tilt wheel of its predecessors. There’s a dedicated hardware button that switches between a smooth scroll and a notched scroll wheel. I prefer notched personally, but smooth can be great for browsing webpages and such.

Flip over the mouse and you can pry off the bottom panel. Underneath is the G502’s customizable weight system, a series of grooves designed to house up to five 3.6 gram weights. That makes the G502 a hefty 121 grams unweighted or 139 grams fully loaded. I tend to opt for the latter, preferring a heavier mouse, but it’s a flexible design. You can even skew the weight side-to-side or front-to-back if you’d like.

Logitech G502 Hero IDG / Hayden Dingman

The G502 nails the fundamentals, then adds just enough end-user options so you can make it your own. There are other mice that come close these days. I like Logitech’s own G703 and G903, Razer’s Mamba Wireless, and the Mionix Castor, to name a few. But I’d still take a G502 over the rest, and coming back to it after about a year felt weirdly nostalgic. The G502 slipped right back into my hand like an old friend.

I need a Hero

So what did change? I mean, aside from the logo?

It’s subtle. The switches are now rated for 50 million clicks instead of 20 million, bringing them up to par with the rest of Logitech’s mice and indeed the competition. They’re Omron switches, the standard nowadays, and feel a bit clickier than the previous generation—though my Proteus Spectrum model got a lot of use, so that could also be the culprit. In any case, the G502 Hero should be more durable.

The cable’s also been redesigned. It’s thinner and lighter than the old G502 cable, and less prone to kinks. That’s a relief, as my old G502 cable often snagged on the edge of my desk—I used to do the lift-flick-settle move a lot to try and sort it out, but haven’t had to do that once with the G502 Hero. The new cable also seems less prone to picking up dust, which is another small but welcome benefit.

Logitech G502 Hero IDG / Hayden Dingman

And one miniscule change: You can store five profiles to the G502 Hero, as opposed to three on the G502 Proteus Spectrum.

The Hero sensor is the big overhaul though, as evidenced by the name. The bad news? You probably won’t notice a difference if you’re coming from any mouse released in the last five years or so. The old G502 used the PWM3366, which when it released marked a huge shift in mouse sensor tech. Most mice released since have used a PWM3366 variant, like the PWM3360, PWM3389, etc.

It’s a fantastic sensor.

Hero’s a great sensor too, and marks a huge leap forward for wireless mice. It’s why the G603 can run up to 600 hours on two AA batteries, all while matching the performance of the PWM3366.

But for wired mice? Hero is specifically designed to mimic the performance of the PWM3366, because that was Logitech’s flagship. The numbers have risen slightly, so Hero is pixel-accurate up to 16,000 DPI instead of 12,000 like the PWM3366. Those numbers are largely meaningless though, because the average person is using a DPI somewhere between 400 and 3,500. The PWM3366 and Hero should feel pretty much the same in that DPI range, so there’s not much reason to upgrade from the old G502 to the new model, or really from any PWM3360 variant to Hero. At least, not for performance reasons.

Logitech G502 Hero IDG / Hayden Dingman

Hero is Logitech’s new flagship, and we were told that all Logitech mice would be converting over. Thus it’s no surprise to see a Hero-equipped G502. It’s just not a huge selling point.

Now, if the G502 Hero is the first step on the way to a G502 Wireless? Again, don’t get your hopes up, but it does seem like a natural next step.

Bottom line

Logitech didn’t change much with the G502 Hero, but it didn’t have to. For three years I kept some variation of the G502 on my desk, swapping it out for reviews but always returning to it afterward. These days I use a G903, mainly because Logitech hooked me on its unique Powerplay mousepad last summer. But a few weeks with the G502 Hero made me want to go back again. It’s a phenomenal design, with smart button placements and a great scroll wheel. I’ve reviewed a lot of mice since 2014, but I’ve yet to find one I love more.

If you already have a G502, there’s not much reason to upgrade to the new version—it’s basically identical. But if you’re looking for a new gaming mouse, or maybe your first gaming mouse? The G502 Hero is a top-tier option. Time hasn’t dampened its appeal one bit.

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