The Best Ways to Play PC Games in the Living Room

Solutions for living room PC gaming are tricky, but worth it.

In many ways, PC gaming is just objectively better than gaming on a console. But getting a full Windows machine to play nice with your living room setup can be less than elegant. Let’s break down your best options for playing PC games on your big living room TV.

We’ve broken our selections down into the best overall, easiest, and cheapest methods of getting full-power PC gaming connected to a TV.

The Best Option: A Dedicated Living Room PC

If you want the full experience of PC gaming, there’s no way around it: you need to connect a gaming PC directly to your TV. That might sound obvious, but there are some hurdles to achieving this. Your average gaming PC doesn’t fit well into a living room: it won’t fit in an entertainment center or mount to a wall. Also note that the preferred connection for high-end PC gaming is DisplayPort, while most TVs only use HDMI for their primary input.

The Corsair One is a tiny PC with full desktop gaming power.

There are a couple of ways you can go about this for a more elegant setup. You can build a dedicated PC for your living room—Mini-ITX cases and motherboards are popular for this purpose. There are pre-made PCs sold in this niche as well, sometimes sold under the “HTPC” (Home Theater Personal Computer) designation.

These generally have all the features of a normal PC, though the smaller size might mean a few compromises, like a low-profile graphics card. On the plus side, and unlike consoles, they can be upgraded more or less indefinitely. Some examples of pre-made Mini-ITX and home theater PCs include the ORIGIN Chronos, Corsair One, and the Falcon Northwest Tiki.

Depending on what you play, you might not need a full-sized gaming PC. You can always plug in a laptop to your TV’s HDMI port, or go with a lower-power desktop with integrated graphics. Even low-end PCs can handle games like Fortnite or Overwatch on the integrated graphics built into the motherboard. AMD’s Ryzen-Vega platform is especially good for a small, inexpensive build, in laptop or desktop form.

The Easiest Option: Streaming Game Services

Not ready to build or buy a full PC? Then your easiest means of getting PC gaming on your desktop is streaming it from a dedicated service. You’ll still need some hardware on your end, but it turns PC games into more of a service than a managed device.

NVIDIA's GeForce NOW service streams PC games over the Internet.

At the time of writing, the best option for this for most users is NVIDIA’s GeForce NOW. The service is in beta, but it streams full-power PC games to any PC, Mac, or the NIVIDA SHIELD (which is the best streaming box around anyway). Right now hundreds of games are supported, and if you don’t have them connected to your libraries in Steam or other publisher systems, you can buy some directly from NVIDIA. As of now, GeForce NOW is in free beta testing—when (if?) it fully launches, it might come with a monthly charge.

If you want something with a theoretically unlimited library of PC games, check out Shadow. The service can stream to any PC, macOS, or Android device, or you can pick up the company’s dedicated Shadow Ghost hardware for easy setup. It costs $35 a month, but you get unlimited access to a virtual PC with GTX 1080-level graphics that can install any game you own. Within the next year or two, streaming game options from Google and Microsoft may also be available.

The Shadow Ghost gives you access to a remote full-power PC.

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The Corsair K83 Looks like a Perfect Living Room Keyboard, but Initial Reviews Are Mixed

Corsair's K83 includes a touchpad and a few controller layout features.

We’ve been waiting for a perfect way to control a PC from the couch: controllers are tricky on a desktop UI, and a mouse and keyboard are clunky without a desk. Corsair’s K83 wants to combine them both.

This interesting wireless keyboard includes a few things we’ve seen before in “media” boards, like a touchpad mouse on the right side with left and right buttons and media controls. But it’s hiding a few secrets, too: on the top corner of either side there are large “L and “R” buttons, very much like a Super Nintendo controller, and the right side has a full thumbstick. Wireless, as is becoming standard for these designs, is offered via a 2.4GHz USB dongle or Bluetooth. It’s available on Amazon today for $110.

The K83 includes left and right shoulder buttons and a controller-style thumbstick.

But don’t rush out to spend your hard-earned dollars on this thing right away. Initial hands-on reactions from sites like Tom’s Guide and Engadget are mixed, pointing out that the K83 doesn’t have gaming-style programmable layouts, and its backlighting is a simple two-layer white LED. It’s also using membrane keys, instead of low-profile mechanical keys that have been available for quite some time. The gaming-style shoulder buttons and joystick aren’t particularly helpful while using the keyboard and mouse as, well, a keyboard and mouse, and can’t replicate the feel of even a basic controller, either.

Note the gripping portions of the bottom plastic case.

The K83 might be a pretty decent media keyboard, but there are cheaper options available that stick to typing and mouse duties well enough. For extremely simple games it may be desirable, but $100 for a convergence input device is a lot to ask when dedicated controllers are now available for every platform.

Source: The Verge

August’s New ‘View’ Doorbell Camera Installs with No Wires

August's latest product is a battery-powered smart doorbell.

If you’re looking to upgrade your smarthome with a video doorbell, you’ve probably been dreading the re-wiring that’s necessary for power and AV cables. August has a solution: its new View doorbell cam, available on March 28th for $230.

Most smarthome tech of this kind assumes a semi-permanent installation, but the August View uses a swappable 6500 mAh battery to power its Wi-Fi connection and camera. The company makes no claims as to battery life, but assuming it’s only drawing full power when the camera detects motion or a ring, that should last a few weeks at least. And that wireless setup allows it to mount to a standard base plate.

The View works with August’s existing smart locks, which can similarly mount to a basic internal lock. Naturally, the connected app can open an August lock right from the video view. The system works with both Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant smarthome platforms, but Apple Homekit support is notably absent.

The View can stream video anywhere at up to 1920 x 1440 resolution, with night vision and digital zoom supported as well. Interchangeable brass faceplates let you match your door’s existing fixtures, and IPX5 water resistance should keep it safe even in heavy rain or an extended freeze.

Source: August

The Best Web-Based Live TV Service for You

There are lots of options for watching live network TV online.

Things are getting exciting for cord-cutters, especially in the United States. There’s never been more competition, or more options, for users who want to get their live TV over the web. That includes live sports and local TV channels in most markets.

But with all that competition, it can be hard to know which service is the best for you. That’s where we come in. We’ve tested all of the major offerings: YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, DirecTV NOW, PlayStation Vue, and Sling, and broken down which ones excel in which areas.

We should note that, of course, everyone’s tastes will differ. These services cover a lot of the same channels, but if one offers a channel you can’t live without and the other doesn’t, obviously you shouldn’t take our recommendation and miss out on the shows you want to watch.

Also, be aware that some services don’t have contracts with every local ABC, CBS, Fox, and/or NBC affiliate, and so may not have access to all of your local broadcast channels. The links above all go to the master channel list for each service: use them as a quick aid to your choices.

Luckily the nature of these services is much more consumer-friendly than conventional cable or satellite TV. All of the services in this guide offer free trials for a week or more, and can be cancelled anytime with no punishing contracts or expensive hardware. It’s easy to switch to a different service if you’re unhappy with your first choice—you can even sign up for all of them at the same time, compare them during the free trial period, and cancel all but the one you settle on. And if you’re looking something specifically for a family with kids, be sure to check out our guide to kid-friendly TV services.

But enough preamble: let’s get to the show. Here are our selections for the best live TV services on the web.

The Best Overall Live TV Service: YouTube TV

YouTube TV is the best live TV service option at the moment.

At just $40 a month for its single primary package, which includes live local channels and unlimited cloud DVR recording (yes, really unlimited), YouTube TV snags our pick for the best overall card-cutting service. While Sling beats it on price, it’s not nearly so flexible, and its oddball splitting of the low $25 tier will confuse and alienate a lot of users. It helps that YouTube TV also has one of the better user interfaces around, and is available on pretty much every platform you could want it, including Google’s ostensible competitors like Roku, Apple TV, and iPhones.

There are a couple of downsides to YouTube TV. It’s not yet available in every market in the US (and not at all internationally), though it covers the country for something like 90% of prospective users. Google’s original programming is also very lackluster—it tosses in YouTube Red, but that exclusive lineup doesn’t hold a candle to the likes of Hulu. YouTube TV doesn’t include an HBO add-on (though it does have Showtime and Starz), but that content is fairly simple to get on its own.

Even so, for most users who can access it and want a straight-up replacement for cable TV that’s simple and relatively cheap, YouTube TV should be the first place they look.

The Best Live TV Library: Hulu + Live TV

Hulu + Live TV offers the best selection of original programming and on-demand streaming.

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The Best Replacement Shower Heads for Your Bathroom

These are the best replacement shower heads on the market.

Many people rely on an invigorating shower to start their day… but you might be let down by that 20-year-old shower head. Upgrading to a new one is one of the quickest, easiest, and rental-friendly ways to improve your bathroom. Here are the best choices, depending on your needs.

Note that fixture suppliers made dozens or even hundreds of different models of shower head, based on features, metal finish, flow rate (expressed in GPM, gallons per minute), and attachment style. If the choice below doesn’t fit your shower or your décor, use the brand and the model name to do a quick search—-odds are excellent you can find something similar to fit your specific needs.

The Best Overall Shower Head: Kohler Bancroft 3-Spray Multifunction ($78)

This Kohler model will cover most buyers' needs.

For most buyers, this Kohler model will cover all the features they want and fit easily within a home improvement budget. The Kohler Bancroft 3-Spray Multifunction model does what it says on the box, with a fixed installation point and three spray settings easily chosen with a turn of the head.

It can handle plumbing pressure of up to 2.5 gallons per minute and comes in four different finishes to match the rest of your fixtures. A stainless finished and specialized spray face will keep corrosion and hard water buildup to a minimum.

Best Handheld Shower Head: Delta SureDock 7-Spray ($98)

Delta's SureDock series gives you a great conventional shower that easily goes handheld.

If you prefer a shower that you can direct precisely, the Delta SureDock is an excellent choice. It docks at the head instead of the base, allowing for a conventional shower setup with no unwieldy aiming.

When you’re ready to go handheld, pop it off the head and use the generous 72-inch hose to clean everywhere. The adjustable head includes six different spray modes (with two dedicated to deep shampoo washes), plus a “pause” button if you need to take a quick break for shaving or nailing that Meatloaf solo.

Best Budget Shower Head: Delta Faucet 2-spray Shower Head ($22)

This Delta shower head covers the basics for just a bit over twenty bucks.

For home improvement projects that need to be fast and cheap, this Delta design handles both. For just twenty-two dollars you get a no-nonsense design that still manages to have two spray settings and polymer nozzle points for low buildup and easy cleaning.

If you’re renovating, most homes can replace every shower in the place with this design in under an hour and under a hundred bucks, and it comes with the same lifetime warranty you’d get on more expensive models.

Best Waterfall Shower Head: Moen Velocity Two-Function 8-inch Rainshower ($189)

Moen's Rainfal shower head gives you wide coverage with pressure options.

“Waterfall” showers are a bit of a trend in newer homes. This Moen model gives you the low-pressure, wide-angle coverage that you’re looking for, with a simple design and silicone nozzles for easy cleaning. Though many waterfall head designs aren’t adjustable, this one is, allowing for more pressure than similarly trendy designs. The head comes in four different finishes to match other fixtures, which is probably important to you if you’re looking to modernize your bathroom.

Best High-Pressure Shower Head: Speakman Icon Ansystream Signature Brass Icon S-2252 ($68)

This shower head will practically stick you to the wall.

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