Netflix announced on December 28 that more than 45 million accounts watched its Netflix original horror movie, Bird Box, in seven days, making it a record breaking debut for the streaming service — but considering Netflix rarely specifies what its data means, it was difficult to gauge what that number meant.

There are a lot of variables in Netflix’s statement. 45 million accounts doesn’t exactly translate to specific viewer counts, as an account could serve one person or an entire family. It’s also unclear from Netflix’s tweet how many people watched all of Bird Box (starring A-list actors like Sandra Bullock and John Malkovich) or even half of the movie, before switching to something else. Netflix famously doesn’t make its viewership numbers public, making it difficult to determine an accurate viewership number. This is different from Hollywood studios with theatrical releases, whose box office numbers are certified by authoritative box office tracking firms.

Some of that information is beginning to come to light, though. A spokesperson for Netflix tells The Verge that the company only counts an account as having watched Bird Box “once a view surpasses 70 percent of the total running time (including credits).” Furthermore, “each ‘account’ may include multiple views and viewers but is only counted once,” the spokesperson added.

By this logic, that means at least 45 million people have watched at least 70 percent of Bird Box. Considering that people may have watched Bird Box with friends or family, chances are that the total view count may be even higher than 45 million — especially given that Bird Box was released globally. To put that into context, Netflix boasted just over 137 million subscribers worldwide in October. Approximately 58 million of those subscribers are based in the United States, according to the company’s third quarter earnings report, with an additional 79 million subscribers worldwide. Netflix would not comment on where the majority of Bird Box’s viewers were geographically based.

There are still a number of questions Netflix wouldn’t address when asked by The Verge, including how 45 million account views in seven days compares to the last record holder. It’s also unclear if Netflix’s estimates will match Nielsen’s ratings, which are still seen as the golden standard for accurate ratings. Netflix and Nielsen’s numbers have differed in the past — something that industry reports have bemoaned Netflix for in the past.

“I’m fairly sure Bird Box is a phenomenon of some sort, but without verifiable data or comparative data for context, a Netflix-affiliated Twitter feed coming down from on-high with suspiciously specific (and yet entirely vague) data is the epitome of nonsense,” Daniel Feinberg, a critic at The Hollywood Reporter, tweeted.

Still, Netflix rarely provides insight into how it collects data. Knowing that a view only counts as a view if 70 percent of Bird Box has been watched is a little more information than we had previously. A Netflix spokesperson added that specific data collection method is only applicable to Bird Box, not the rest of its content.

For the first time ever, a police drone will keep a watchful eye on the New Year’s Eve ball drop in New York’s Times Square, as first reported by the Associated Press. The New York City Police Department deployed the gadget to keep the festivities safe, in addition to the 7,000 police officers it has on deck, bomb-sniffing dogs, and 200 blocker trucks filled with sand.

The quadcopter drone will be controlled remotely by trained police and will help give a bird’s-eye view of the massive crowds, although it will be fairly hard for passersby to spot, given its height in the air. While the police commissioner has said that there are no known threats to the New Year’s festivities, it’s pretty standard protocol for the police to come out in large numbers during big events.

The drone will also help detect any other unmanned vehicles in the air that aren’t authorized to fly, in addition to the cameras and police helicopters that usually keep watch. It will be tethered to a building and flown in an off-limits area so that in the event it crashes, nobody will get hurt from standing underneath, according to AP.

Drones are relatively new to the New York police force: the NYPD only announced it had acquired them for the first time earlier this month. At the time, Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill said in a statement that the police “must always be willing to leverage the benefits of new and always-improving technology.” Some of the drones have thermal-imaging and can map an area in 3D or zoom into an object using their camera lenses.

In recent years, the NYPD has made efforts to modernize. Last year, the force gave up its 36,000 Windows phones and began to make the transition to iPhones instead. And after years of preparation, cops started to wear body cameras in order to provide greater accountability for their actions and a means of keeping police safe. Although the police force hit a minor snag in October when one of the cameras caught on fire, the stated goal has been to provide one camera for every officer by the end of 2019. With the additional cameras however, both body cams and drones have become the topic of conversation among local advocacy groups who caution that not enough is being done to safeguard individuals’ rights to privacy.

What standard, exactly, am I supposed to be judging virtual and augmented reality against in 2018? Should I measure it against the sci-fi aspirations that VR and AR companies set years ago and have unsurprisingly failed to meet? Should I estimate how far it remains from mainstream adoption? Or should I stick to comparing 2018 with 2017, when I gave VR a middling C grade and didn’t even talk about AR? Since I just went through the trouble of listing those options, my predictable answer is “all of the above.”

2018 was partly a year of disillusionment. Some prominent AR and VR companies, including Meta, Jaunt, and Starbreeze, either massively downsized or shifted their focus. As the head of CCP Games put it in October, a year after leaving the VR business, “we expected VR to be two to three times as big as it was.”

Even the year’s successes sometimes felt underwhelming, like Magic Leap, a ludicrously well-funded AR startup whose pitch was basically “we have recruited the greatest minds in modern culture to literally rewrite reality.” Magic Leap shipped a headset in mid-2018 after years of speculation, and when it turned out to be merely a decent Microsoft HoloLens competitor — which is a genuine achievement! — the disappointment was palpable.

Especially since this is the first year I’ve covered augmented reality, I’m also deducting points for the industry’s increasingly convoluted terminology. Is a given product augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, extended reality, a heads-up display, smart glasses, an immersive computing device, or possibly something else? Here. Have a chart.

The big VR players coasted through 2018 with minor hardware releases. Oculus released the well-executed but low-stakes Oculus Go mobile headset. HTC released an expensive higher-resolution Vive headset update, and Valve shipped development kits for its new “knuckles” VR controllers. Google and Lenovo released one mediocre VR headset, while Microsoft maintained its Windows Mixed Reality brand with updated partner headsets. But neither platform made a huge splash.

And unlike previous years, we don’t know a lot about the 2019 VR hardware lineup. Oculus announced a self-contained headset called the Oculus Quest, but even there, rumors suggest it scrapped a higher-end device — and its former CEO Brendan Iribe left the company for nebulous reasons.

Augmented reality hardware is overwhelmingly still focused in areas like industry and medicine, where it’s been used for decades. That’s not a bad thing, since it means companies can iterate on headsets in a market that actually exists, instead of trying to simultaneously solve hardware problems and sell users on a whole new kind of product. But it makes AR sort of abstract for most consumers, unless it’s phone-based AR, which is an extremely different experience. (You might want to go check the chart again at this point.)

Hearteningly, though, one of VR’s early long shots may have actually paid off. In 2016, location-based VR entertainment startup The Void seemed like an ambitious but risky project. After getting investment from Disney and launching a Star Wars-themed experience last year, though, it’s opened several new locations and is working with more Disney-owned franchises. It’s just one of many VR arcades and theme parks — although those aren’t all doing great either, since IMAX shut down its VR location-based entertainment experiment in 2018.

While Sony may not have released new VR hardware this year, it published a few PlayStation VR titles that got serious mainstream attention. Dark Souls studio From Software published a short adventure game called Déraciné for the platform, and Tetris Effect had a well-reviewed PSVR mode.

VR still isn’t remotely mainstream, but this was the first year I found myself consistently playing VR games for their own sake, rather than as experiments or ways to stay abreast of coverage. (Well, it was mostly just Beat Saber — which was incidentally my favorite game of the year in any medium.)

And at this point, VR and AR are two of the last major technologies that haven’t faced a huge scandal involving genocide, mass surveillance, election tampering, or the wholesale dissolution of truth. Are there problems? Sure — the VR startup Upload dissolved this year in the wake of a sexual misconduct lawsuit, after apparently losing investment from Oculus Rift inventor Palmer Luckey, who is now busy building controversial “virtual border wall” technology. Microsoft and Magic Leap competed to provide new AR headsets to the military. Meanwhile, the privacy fears around Facebook have raised concerns about how Oculus will surveil its users. But there’s still a potential for optimism that’s hard to find in other parts of the tech world.

It worries me that I’m not sure what’s happening next year in VR. I’ll be watching for a second generation of Microsoft HoloLens, the Oculus Quest, and potentially some products from China, which has a huge VR and AR industry. But we’re nearing the end of the first generation of headsets, and companies haven’t been publicly exhibiting many giant technological leaps that could sweep us into a second one. Meanwhile, AR probably won’t be on most people’s radar at all for years.

So against the longer arc of history, I’m not sure how the past year will look. But hey — at least we got Beat Saber out of it.

Final Grade: C

C
2018 Grade

The Verge 2018 report card: AR / VR

Gold Stars

  • A few very good VR experiences
  • Some good iterative hardware updates
  • Relatively nondestructive to civilization at this point

Needs Improvement

  • Too few very good VR experiences
  • AR hardware is far from mainstream readiness
  • No clear path toward unalloyed success

Amazon reportedly has plans to expand Whole Foods stores across the US into suburbs and other regions. It also wants to bring its two-hour delivery program Prime Now to all current Whole Foods stores, anonymous sources told the Wall Street Journal. The move would grow Whole Foods at a rapid pace that it hasn’t seen before.

Whole Foods employees have already reportedly ventured to parts of Idaho, Wyoming, and southern Utah for potential retail spaces they could set up shop in. One anonymous source told the WSJ that these spaces were sometimes around 45,000 square feet, meaning they were slightly larger than the average Whole Foods store by 2,000 square feet. The potential expansion likely isn’t limited to just the Rocky Mountain region, but includes other regions yet to be announced. We’ve reached out to Amazon and Whole Foods for comment.

Earlier this year, Whole Foods expanded by launching multiple 365-branded stores. These 365 stores tend to be smaller in size than Whole Foods’ typical brick-and-mortar presence, have a focus on locally made goods, and offer more affordably priced groceries. All of this growth happened as other supermarket chains shut down stores and let leases expire, which left plenty of retail spaces for Whole Foods and Amazon to snap up.

It’s all a great opportunity for Amazon, which saw a boost to North American sales to the tune of $34.3 billion over the late summer and fall, an unknown fraction of which can be attributed to Whole Foods stores. Amazon never shares total sales numbers broken down over product categories, but it did say that this year “more customers than ever” had turkeys delivered through AmazonFresh and Prime Now during Thanksgiving, while Whole Foods broke its record for selling the most turkeys.

Big Mouth Billy Bass with Alexa isn’t necessary the product of the year, but it’s one that symbolizes all the novelty trends that we saw in gadgets in 2018. In one item, the talking, singing fish represents nostalgia, DIY hackery, and corporations taking independent developer ideas and turning it to profit. These themes highlight the trends that led the world of gadgets this year, as nostalgia continues to influence products while simultaneously being a reflection of our bleak times.

In 2018, more classic products were re-released, we opted for gadgets that do less than before, and companies are determined to make us shop in person because experiential pop-ups are in now. This resurgence in nostalgic gadgets seems to be because technology companies have innovated on their products to the point where they now have to set self-imposed limits and boundaries for those same products. Social networks like Instagram have added activity dashboards to monitor use time, and tools like iOS Screen Time and Android Pie’s digital wellbeing tools were built in response to people reporting the negative effects of technology on their mental health. Gadget trends like Punkt’s LTE version of its minimalist phone and the tiny Palm phone for your big phone are meant to offer a reprieve from our hectic lives and take breaks. We’re at a point where we’re purposely making things harder for ourselves just so we can pause for a minute.

 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Amazon, which until recent years has billed itself as a one-stop marketplace that sells everything so you never have to walk into a store again, launched its first cashier-less Go stores outside of Seattle this year. It’s part of the plan to make physical stores happen again, with more 4-star stores across the country and 3,000 Go stores by 2021. Facebook has crossed over into the real world as well, with its holiday retail pop-up shops that sell some of the “most-loved brands” on Instagram and Facebook in Macy’s stores. (The company also released its own Portal video chat device this year, but given its tumultuous year filled with privacy scandals, it knows enough about its own brand to come with a camera cover.)

Meanwhile, Brookstone, the original gadget store, closed the last of its US mall stores this year after filing bankruptcy. While there’s a vast difference in the quality of products sold between Brookstone and Amazon (namely that Brookstone mostly sold ‘As seen on TV’ junk and Amazon’s physical stores are stocked with items rated 4-stars or higher,) it’s still another example of bigger corporations just perfecting ideas introduced by smaller, independent companies, and profiting from it.

Which brings us back to Big Mouth Billy Bass. In 2016, a developer named Brian Kane hacked his Alexa device to speak through the animatronic singing fish, and now the product is real, official, and available for pre-order. Had Kane tried to sell this via Kickstarter two years ago, he might have had some success. Today, crowdfunded products aren’t met with as much enthusiasm as they once did. A store dedicated to crowdfunded products called We The People opened in the US this year, but how it’ll do compared to tried-and-true, vetted products in Amazon 4-star stores remains to be seen.

Instead, Big Mouth Billy Bass lives on as an Alexa Gadget – a line of random objects that seemingly has Alexa support for no particular reason. For example, the AmazonBasics microwave with Alexa may be novel, but it’s no better or more convenient at cooking food than your average, dumb appliance.

 Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

If nothing else, the spirit of DIY and hacking remains alive and well for people to make up their own solutions for the shortcomings of big tech companies. Artists have tweaked Alexa devices in various ways to make them less creepy, like this antique Alexaphone that only listens when you pick up the receiver. Raspberry Pi released a cheaper $25 version of its most powerful PC this year, aiming to make computing accessible to all.

And for those too young to hack, there’s the original retro toy, cardboard. Nintendo Labo was released in April, and it’s one of the best innovations of the year. It’s open-ended enough to be tinkered with in endless ways, and its educational possibilities have made it a great learning tool to be used in schools.

Over in music and gaming gadgets, cassette tape sales had their best year since 2012, and audio companies are responding by bringing back retro cassette tape players. Sony released its Playstation Classic console loaded with early 3D games, and Sega is set to release its Mega Drive Mini next year. The Playstation Classic has already been hacked to run games off a USB drive. Even without so-called innovations from tech companies, the world of gadgets will be alright – as long as consumers continue to take matters into their own hands.

Final Grade: B

B
2018 Grade

The Verge 2018 report card: Gadgets

Gold Stars

  • In-store experiences are becoming more popular
  • Nostalgic gadgets make people happy
  • Customization is now more accessible than ever

Needs Improvement

  • Tech companies still need to give credit to their inspirations
  • Privacy issues continue to be rampant
  • Some retro gadgets are cheaply made and unnecessary
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Our behaviors are becoming part of a vast digital ecosystem in which the most valuable product is YOU! Dog Against Machine iRobot was one of the earliest plays in the connected home market. Having developed robots for defense and space applications for 13 years prior to its introduction of the Roomba robotic home vacuum in …

When you’re trying to build one of the best gaming PCs, to take advantage of the best PC games, you shouldn’t forget about the best PC gaming chairs. You don’t want to walk away from your gaming session crouching over like Igor from Young Frankenstein. With the best PC gaming chairs, you can bring your gaming and sitting experience to a new level. Because, at the end of the day, if you’re immersed in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, saving the world from some cult, you should be comfortable while you do it.

That’s why, now that the year is coming to a close, we decided to make a list of the best gaming chairs of 2019. Some might end up looking like your dad’s office chair, with all-black ‘real leather’ designs – others fully embrace the gamer aesthetic with RGB lighting and loud, clashing colors, making you look like futuristic race car driver.

We will help you find the best PC gaming chairs on the market, so you can spend more time sitting down and less time shopping around. Because – let’s be honest – we do our own fair share of sitting, and we’re very familiar with the best PC gaming chairs. 

It’s no exaggeration to call the Noblechairs Epic Real Leather the best gaming chair. From the cross-thatched embroidery to the real leather of its namesake, if you’re looking for a no-compromises gaming throne, this is it. Plus, it’s surprisingly quick and easy to set up. And, once the set-up is complete, the Epic Real Leather is a dream to sit on – and you can customize your position however you want. Just do us a favor, and read the instructions while you’re setting it up.

If you want to play games all day in comfort, but you don’t want a chair that looks like you’re playing games all day, the Autonomous ErgoChair 2 is for you. Marketed as an office chair, the ErgoChair 2 has a very modern and stylish aesthetic to it that will appeal to anyone that doesn’t use RGB as a personality trait. It’s not all style either, as the ErgoChair lets you adjust basically every part of the chair, so that no matter how your body is built, you’re guaranteed to be comfortable while gaming.  

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Respawn 115 

Leather and fabric have their advantages, namely to comfort and texture, but sometimes a mesh office chair is best – especially if you live in a warmer climate, where breathability is of utmost importance. The Respawn-300 combines the racing-seat design and lumbar support and mesh material from some high-end office chairs. It really does take comfort to another level and is one of the best PC gaming chairs you can buy today. 

  • This product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Noblechairs Epic Real Leather. 

Corsair is known for making popular and high-end PC components and gaming peripherals. It’s only fitting, then, that they dip their toes into the gaming chair game – and they may have made one of the best gaming chairs yet. Covered top to bottom in breathable PU leather with neck and lumbar pillows wrapped in microfiber, you’ll be able to game both in comfort and style. And with its rollerblade-style wheels, you’ll be able to move it around on any surface without having to worry about scratching up your floor. 

Noblechairs is well known for crafting some of the best gaming chairs out there – and the Noblechairs Icon makes it clear why. While it’s more affordable than the flagship Epic Real Leather, it’s still extremely comfortable and one of the best PC gaming chairs out there. This is thanks to its nice lumbar pillow, which you can easily remove if you don’t like it.  

The Edge GX1 is a gaming chair that actively avoids the popular racing style that is increasingly popular with modern gaming chairs. The company behind the Edge GX1 goes as far as to say that racing-style bucket chairs actually negatively affect gamer’s performance, with their designs limiting movement and comfort. It sort of makes sense, as those styles of chairs are based off designs for racing cars, where limiting movement for the driver is a priority. Instead, the Edge GX1 aims to give an ergonomic experience where comfort is key, while also offering a premium gaming chair. And when we say premium, we mean it, with the Edge GX1 costing £800, a huge amount for a gaming chair. It’s hand-crafted in the UK, and there’s some great touches, such as inflatable lumbar support. It’s a huge asking price, but we’ve been using it for a while now, and it is very comfortable. You need to adjust it a bit to suit your needs, but once you have it set up just how you like it, the ergonomic benefits of the chair really help justify the price. This ships worldwide from the UK, but be warned that shipping costs will add to the price if you’re in the US or Australia.

You can only buy this chair direct from Edge

There’s a certain subset of the PC gaming community that needs to have the absolute best of everything, at whatever the cost. These people are going to be absolutely enamored with the Vertagear Triigger 350 SE. It features over 350 individual components with a mix metal, mesh, leather and high-end plastics to create the ultimate PC gaming chair. If you have the money to spare, and you can’t stand to have anything less than the best, you might want to give this chair a look. 

Another day, another Noblechairs gaming seat – and the Noblechairs Epic is the best gaming chair for the classier gamer. It features a faux-leather covering inspired by car seats, combining both comfort and a high-end design to make it one of the best gaming chairs you can buy today. And, if you’re the type that shies away from the ‘gamer aesthetic,’ the Epic’s subtle black design is far more elegant than some of the more brightly-colored seats on this list.

For the gamer looking for some extra room in their seat, the Vertagear Racing Series PL6000 is a must-have. Specially designed to provide both added width and height, this is the best gaming chair for anyone with a larger frame – no matter how tall you are, the adjustable headrest means you’ll never experience discomfort. However, this is a complicated chair to assemble, so use the buddy system to build this masterpiece.

The Nitro Concepts C80 is a gorgeous, comfortable gaming chair that could easily blend in in an office environment – it looks more expensive than it is. Nitro Concepts made one of the best gaming chairs by keeping the price down, while keeping compromises to a minimum – like using polyurethane instead of leather. And, no compromises were made in the build quality, either – this is an impressively sturdy gaming chair. Just make sure you get a friend to help you put it together – constructing this thing had us tearing our hair out.

  • This product is only available in the UK at the time of this writing. US and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Noblechairs Icon 

If we would have told someone a decade a go that the best gaming mouse pads in 2019 would feature wireless charging and RGB lighting, we would have been laughed out of the room. But, that’s just how much things have changed for the best gaming mouse pads in that time. They’ve evolved to include latest features gamers demand from all their peripherals.

We don’t need to tell you that the best mouse pads are important, but if you’re already playing the best PC games on the best gaming PC with one of the best gaming mice, why would you settle for anything less than the best gaming mouse pad?

Because there are hundreds of gaming mouse pads in 2019, we decided to list all the best gaming mouse pads you can buy today. Whether you want to light up your desk like a Christmas tree, or if you just want a slick pad for maximum accuracy and response times in your favorite ESports title, we found the best gaming mouse pads for you.

The Corsair MM600 isn’t interested in distracting you with brightly colored lights like the MM800. Instead, it offers a great deal more versatility than its higher priced sibling. This double sided mouse pad stays secure in place with rubber stoppers on each corner so that your mouse moves – not your mouse pad. The MM600 is also made of aluminum, and features a low-friction surface that will boost your response times in-game. 

Existing solely as a budget mousepad, the SteelSeries QcK does exactly what you want out of a mousepad and nothing more. The QcK’s surface material has a high thread count for extremely precise mouse control and a smooth glide. At the same time, its rubber base helps prevent it from sliding around your desk while you’re gaming. It comes in a variety of shapes and sizes and there’s even a higher end version with RGB lighting – the SteelSeries QcK Prism. 

There are plenty of times when we’re looking at gaming mouse pads that we love in theory, but just aren’t the right size for our desk. Luckily, the Cooler Master MP510 looks to get ahead of this, by offering 4 different sizes, from a small pad that’ll fit in any area to a giant mouse pad that’ll take up your entire desk. It’s made of a durable Cordura fabric that won’t fray, stain or even absorb liquid. So you won’t have to panic when you inevitably spill your drink – except for all your other peripherals, we guess. 

  • This product is only available in the UK as of this writing. US and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the SteelSeries QcK.

Sure, everyone loves RGB lighting, but what if you’re looking for an unobtrusive, seamless desk surface? Well, the ultra thin – less than half a millimeter in height – Razer Sphex v2 is the mouse pad for you. Despite its thin profile, the polycarbonate surface is durable and optimised for laser or optical gaming mouse control. We picked the regular size, but if you have a smaller desk, there’s a Small size variant as well. 

The top of the Hiro+ is covered in a vulcanized silicone surface with a 3D structure to help increase your  gaming accuracy and speed. The base has a non-slip surface for steady mouse control, and the edges have been rounded for a smoother profile. Its surface is also coated to protect from water and grime, and makes for easy cleaning.

We bet you thought the best gaming mouse pads were just surfaces to move your mouse on top of didn’t you? Well, we don’t blame you – until the Corsair MM1000 Qi hit the market, that’s basically what they were. Not only is this thing one of the best gaming mouse pads, but it also features Qi charging. Launching alongside the Corsair Dark Core RGB SE, which itself features Qi compatibility. The MM1000 Qi isn’t just Corsair’s answer to the Logitech PowerPlay, it takes mouse pads to a new level by letting you charge your phone while playing. 

If you’ve had your eye on a RGB mouse-pad to match all of your tricked out peripherals, and you didn’t want to settle for a rigid piece of plastic, you’re in luck. The Razer Goliathus takes Razer’s expert RGB implementation and throws into a soft gaming mouse pad that will let you score those headshots in comfort and style. 

You simply can’t go out looking for the best mouse mat for gaming in 2019 without considering RGB. All the hottest gaming peripherals right now boast about how they can light your desk up like a Christmas tree, and the Corsair MM800 RGB Polaris is no different. On top of Corsair’s always-fantastic RGB implementation, the MM800 uses a low-friction finish that’ll allow for quick and precise tracking across its surface. And if the lighting wasn’t enough, the MM800 uses Corsair’s special CUE2 interface to sync its lighting with your other peripherals and even your PC through RGB share. It’s even available in two materials: cloth and a micro-texture surface.  

The Asus ROG Scabbard is less mouse pad and more ‘everything pad’. It can hold your laptop or keyboard and mouse, and whatever other accessories you have lying around – it’s seriously huge. It has a non-slip ROG-red rubber base and low-friction Sheath woven surface for gaming control. Asus has even temperature tested the ROG scabbard down to -30°C – but why you’d game in sub-zero conditions is unimaginable, unless you really take overclocking that seriously.  

Are other mouse pads just too soft for your gaming setup? Well, if so, you’re in luck – the MSI Thunderstorm gaming mouse pad is all metal. To be precise, this gaming mouse pad is made of an anodized, hairline-surfaced aluminum material with rubber stoppers. This textured surface is optimized for mouse control and speed, while its L shape allows it to be situated close to the keyboard. And, if that metal surface is just too real for you, you can flip it over for a micro-textured surface and the comfort of cloth. 

If you’re setting out to build a PC better than one of the best PCs, the most important things you can do is pick up the best PSU you can muster. We know it doesn’t sound too exciting, but every component in your PC relies on the best power supplies for life. Even if it means you have less cash for one of the best graphics cards you don’t want to compromise.

You shouldn’t need to compromise, though – there’s a ton of power supplies out there in 2019. Even if you’re on a budget, you can find a bargain on some of the best PSUs. Don’t worry, you can still splurge power supplies  bedecked with RGB lighting (of course) and enough wattage capacity to power the best gaming PCs with two NVLinked RTX 2080 Tis. No matter what you need, we’ll help you find the best PC power supplies for your build.

Having a PC power supply die is an awful experience and the many of the symptoms of a dying PSU can slip by unnoticed. , The worst silent killer could be as subtle as a power efficiency dip, leading to your PC to outright refuse to turn on one day. By the time you notice your PSU is beginning to fail, it may be too late. So, do yourself a favor and buy one of the best PC power supplies today, so it doesn’t fail tomorrow.

The Corsair RM750x scores the top spot on this list for one simple reason: it’s the most well-rounded power supply you can buy today. On top of a 10 year warranty and an 80 Gold Plus efficiency rating, the Corsair has a fully modular cable system. This means you only need to install the cables you need – you can say goodbye to the mess of cables and shoddy airflow that non-modular PSUs endure. 

If you’re looking to save some cash on your PC build, you don’t have a ton of options for cheap power supplies that aren’t terrible. In situations like this, an economical option like the EVGA 500 B1 might be the best PC power supply for you. For less than the cost of a AAA game, you can expect 500 watts of power transmitted through several SATA cables and two PCIe cables – it covers the bare essentials, which is exactly what a budget power supply should do. The three-year warranty is just the cherry on top.

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Corsair RM750x 

Even the best PSUs seem to have extremely loud fans, and unlike case fans, it’s not exactly easy to replace them. Luckily, the Straight Power 10 line-up runs nice and quiet. Options range from 400w to 700w, and they’re SLI and Crossfire certified. They’re also modular, meaning you only need to use the cables that are necessary for your build.  

The best PC power supplies unfortunately tend to be giant hunks of metal that don’t fit into smaller PC cases. However, the Silverstone SFX SST SX550 is a compact power supply that fits in plenty of cases. It’s half the size of most of the other PSUs on this list, allowing for more room for better airflow. This makes it an easy pick for anyone building a mini ITX or micro ATX build, and you can even slide it into a mid- or full-tower, if you feel like it. And, with small form-factor PCs being all the rage in 2018 – it’s easy to see why the Silverstone SFX is one of the best PC power supplies.

If you’re a serious builder that plans on building an absolute behemoth of a rig, with multiple graphics cards, cooling systems on top of some healthy overclocking, the Corsair AX1500i is the best PC power supply for you. It has the highest possible 80 Plus Titanium efficiency rating, and is fully modular, so you only need to add the cables your build actually requires. 

If you’re really trying to maximise the visual appeal of your build, a modular power supply is almost essential – you can avoid all of those messy looking wires cluttering up your case. The NZXT E650 takes things a step further. Not only is it a fully modular power supply, meaning you only need to connect the wires you actually need, but it’s also extremely attractive itself, begging to be shown off in your case. This is all topped off with an 80 Plus Gold efficiency rating and a 10-year warranty – not only will it look good, but it’ll deliver power efficiently and last forever while it does it. 

In 2018, if your PC isn’t strapped to the nines with RGB lighting, you’re not trying hard enough. Enter the Thermaltake Smart RGB 700W – not only does it have beautiful, addressable RGB lighting, but it also features a reliable 80 Plus efficiency rating and enough power to support even the best gaming PCs. Yeah, it’s not modular, but at less than a hundred bucks, we’re willing to look the other way – especially with that sick lighting. 

Bill Thomas and Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

Even the best PCs will eventually experience some kind of slow down over time, especially as operating systems like Windows 10 and macOS Mojave become more and more demanding. If your computer is starting to drag its feet and show its age, you might want to go out and pick up the best RAM to give your PC a healthy speed boost.

One of the first things you’ll notice when you out looking for the top-rated RAM is just how varied the memory market is. Anyone that new to the PC hardware scene will have a hard time finding the best RAM for them.

We went ahead and picked all the best RAM that we’ve tested ourselves, so you can be sure you’re only getting the best memory – no matter what your needs are. So, whether you’re looking for a quick and easy upgrade that’ll let you open more Chrome tabs, or if you’re trying to run the best PC games better, you’re going to find the best RAM right here on this list. Let’s dive in. 

Best RAM: Corsair Vengeance LED

Corsair is responsible for some of the best RAM on the market. Its Vengeance series, especially, has something for everyone with its LED DDR4 offerings. On top of giving PC builders that extra touch of vibrant lighting, the Corsair Vengeance LED series’ built-in heat spreaders maximize cooling for higher overclocking and maximum performance. Corsair’s Vengeance LED DDR4 series features CL16 latency and 3,466 MHz speeds.

Best DDR4 RAM: G.Skill Trident Z RGB

At this point, everyone kind of knows about G. Skill and its Trident Z RGB series of RAM. This is some of the best RAM not just because it’s fast, but the top of every DIMM features a full-spectrum rainbow wave light bar that you can use to match your RGB lighting across your entire system. Trident Z RGB DDR4 RAM features CAS latencies between 14 and 19 which is awesome enough, but with speeds up to 4,266, it’s almost perfect. No matter your aesthetic, it’s hard to argue with the G. Skill TridentZ RGB as the best RGB RAM.

Best DDR3 RAM: Kingston HyperX Predator

Kingston’s high-performance HyperX has some of the best DDR3 RAM on the market and the Predator models is particularly tuned for  and extreme-performance that’s further expandable with XMP profiles. The Predator DDR3 series achieves CL9 to CL11 latencies and speeds between 1866MHz to 2666MHz.

Best Budget RAM: Kingston HyperX Fury 

This Kingston HyperX Fury is auto overclocked memory that won’t empty your wallet. This smart DDR3 or DDR4 RAM auto-detects system components to overclock to the highest speeds possible, optimizing performance for all of Intel’s latest chipsets. It comes with latencies between CL14 and CL16, and has speeds between 2,133 and 2,666MHz. While it’s inexpensive, it really can have a huge impact on the performance of your rig. 

Best High-end RAM: Corsair Dominator Platinum

If you need to perform a  lot of high-intensity tasks, the Corsair Dominator Platinum is the best RAM for you. The chrome heat spreaders not only allow for premium performance, but they also allow for maximum bling. The massive heatsinks might get in the way of more low-profile builds, but if you’re running your RAM at 4,000MHz, things can get pretty toasty. On the low end, Corsair also offers a low-latency C14 version of the Dominator Platinum at 2,400MHz.

Best double capacity memory: G.Skill Trident Z RGB DC

Sometimes, especially when you’re looking for the best gaming components, ‘go big or go home’ is the best advice. And, when you want more RAM than you’ll know what to do with, you’re going to want to go with the G.Skill Trident Z RGB DC memory. The DC stands for double capacity, as in,  32GB per stick. Now, this is definitely not the fastest memory in the world, right now it’s only available in up to 3,200 MHz, but if you need a lot of RAM without taking up too many DIMM slots (like if you have a big CPU cooler or a Mini-ITX board), you can’t go wrong with the G.Skill TridentZ RGB DC.

Best gaming RAM: Adata Spectrix D80 

If you’re going for an all-out no-holds-barred build, and you want the flashiest hardware so that your desktop can illuminate your office, you’re going to want the Adata Spectrix D80. Not only is it available in frequencies up to 5,000MHz, but it’s liquid-cooled, which means you shouldn’t ever have to worry about it overheating on you. The Adata Spectrix D80 is going to be the best RAM for gaming in an RGB-lit cavern. 

Best RGB RAM: HyperX Predator DDR4 RGB

HyperX has always been a huge name in desktop memory, and it’s not hard to see why. The DIMMs they release always feature the latest technologies without pushing the price higher than it really needs to be – and the HyperX Predator DDR4 RGB is yet another example. Not only is this ram fast, but it looks good, too – with Infrared Sync tech that promises to actually synchronize the lighting between DIMMs. And, with its stylish black heat spreaders, this is the best RAM if you want your gaming PC to reach max aesthetic.

Best Low-Profile RAM: Corsair Vengeance LPX

Corsair’s Vengeance LPX RAM is made for users who want the maximum performance with minimum footprint. This low-profile RAM is essential for PC builds with massive CPU coolers. Despite being so low-profile, they still feature an eight-layer heat spreader to cool while overclocking. While its thin design doesn’t allow for LEDs, but you can get it in three colors: black, red or blue.  

Best Mac RAM: G.Skill Mac RAM

Just like their dedication to laptop and desktop RAM, G.Skill has RAM upgrades for Macs, too. Adding more memory on the Apple Store is needlessly expensive, so going with a third-party kit can help you save a ton of money – assuming that your machine is one the last remaining MacBooks or iMacs that are still upgradable. These SO-DIMM have a CAS latency between 9 and 11 and have between 1,333MHz and 1,600MHz. The best bang for the buck seems to be the G.Skill DDR3-1333 for Mac.

Best Laptop RAM: Crucial Ballistix Sport

Crucial is by far the best RAM for laptop systems. This manufacturer has designed its Crucial Ballistix Sport SODIMMs for efficient battery life while still delivering fast speeds for multi-tasking. It’s ideal for anyone wanting to speed up the best laptops, and this memory likely offers higher memory speed than anything coming stock in your laptop. Just make sure your laptop actually lets you upgrade the RAM – repairability is falling out of fashion these days.

What’s cooler than being cool? That’s right, keeping your PC components ice cold. And, before you go out to find more exciting parts like the best graphics cards, you should start your best gaming PC build off with the best CPU cooler. After all, lower CPU temps will make your computer last longer and be more performant.

The best CPU coolers are available in all kinds of varieties, and the right cooler for your build depends on the kind of PC you’re trying to build. Luckily, the best CPU coolers are available in a wide range of budgets, too – some of the best air coolers are extremely affordable. Don’t worry if you’re looking for the cream of the crop – you can still drop a ton of cash for elaborate liquid cooling systems for the best processors.

We have you covered, no matter what kind of CPU cooler you’re looking for. We’ll help you find the best CPU cooler you can buy today. And, because we’ve tested them all ourselves, you can use our exclusive price comparison tool, so you can save some cash without compromising on quality.

The Noctua NH-D15 is the best CPU cooler you can buy in 2019 simply because it performs just as well as – if not better than some liquid coolers, while costing a fraction of the price. Now, you might not be too familiar with Noctua’s name, as they’re relatively small in the CPU cooler world, but its business is centered around designing coolers, so you know that when you buy one of their products, you’re getting a product by people who really know their craft. Not only will you get fantastic cooling performance from the NH-D15, but it’s nearly silent too. 

Yeah, we know, it’s been around for years. But, the Cooler Master Hyper 212 Evo is still one of the best CPU coolers on the market – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Even though it only features four heat pipes and an aluminum fin structure, this legendary CPU cooler has proven again and again to be just as efficient as any liquid cooling system These air coolers are designed to make heat dissipation a breeze – literally – whether you’re playing Destiny 2 at max settings or reading TechRadar with your web browser. 

Noctua is an Austrian manufacturer that does one thing, and one thing only: make CPU coolers and fans. What this means is that while the Noctua NH-L9 is tiny, it is still capable of insane cooling with no compromises. This is a fantastic cooler for anyone with a smaller build, or even if you’re using a ton of large components, and you’re not comfortable with liquid cooling.  

Corsair H100i Pro

Corsair has been on top of the all-in-one liquid cooling game for a while now, and the H100i Pro continues the trend. Not only is this thing strapped in the RGB lighting we’ve come to expect from Corsair, but it also features impressive cooling performance, thanks in part to its powerful and unique fans, which you can control through Corsair’s iCue software. This all results in a CPU cooler that not only performs well, but that is also completely customizable. 

If you’re looking for a powerful liquid cooler that’ll help contribute to your epic RGB setup, the Deepcool Gamerstorm Castle 240 RGB is the best CPU cooler for you. Beyond the ridiculous name, it’s a reliable AIO cooler that can push your overclocks higher and higher with addressable RGB that’s compatible with a wide range of controllers – so you can effortlessly sync your lighting. The CPU Block stands a little high, but when it looks this good, does it really matter?

If you’re running one of the best processors, and you want to push it to the limit, the NZXT Kraken X72 is the best CPU cooler for overclocking. Not only does it pack a gigantic radiator, but its high fan speeds ensure that cooling performance is top-notch all the time. And, because it’s 2019, it features addressable RGB and an infinite mirror design that looks amazing in any case. Then, to top it all off, the NZXT Kraken X72 is backed by a 6 year warranty.

There isn’t a single component that can’t be improved through RGB, and Cooler Master is well aware – jumping on the RGB bandwagon with the MasterLIquid ML 120R RGB. What’s more, it integrates some of the first addressable LEDs seen on a liquid cooler. This all-in-one liquid cooling solution isn’t just about aesthetics – it features an oxidation free pump and an efficient radiator. This means that not only will it last longer – but it’ll keep your CPU cooler, and all without giving up too much case real estate.

For less than 70 big ones in both US dollars and British sterling, the Arctic Liquid Freezer 120 is a deal you can’t pass up if you’re on the prowl for a liquid cooler that won’t break the bank. While it lacks the bells and whistles of pricier, more extravagant liquid coolers, like the NZXT Kraken, the Arctic Liquid cooler is enough to get you by, not to mention it’s still a massive step up from the classic fan and heatsink pairing. So, while you can’t expect RGB lighting or software – or even hardware-based fan control, the 120mm variant of the Arctic Liquid Freezer will keep your system refrigerated at a (mostly) quiet volume. 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK at the time of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Corsair Hydro Series H5 SF 

Even if your budget will allow you to really go all-out on a serious liquid cooling solutions, if you have a smaller PC case, you’ll likely not have enough space. That’s where something like the Corsair Hydro H5 SF comes into play. Even on the smallest PC cases, you should able to use this CPU cooler to keep your CPU chilled, even if you have some beastly overclocks going on. And, because it’s a closed loop, you don’t even need to worry about maintenance. Set it up, and let it do its thing – you won’t be disappointed. 

Unless you’re already neck deep in the rabbit hole that is silent PC assembly, you’ve probably never heard of NoFan, a South Korean component company that specializes in helping enthusiasts reach that 0dBA silent sweet spot. In doing so, of course, you can count on severely limiting yourself in terms of power, with its CR-95C fanless solution being limited in compatibility to processors whose TDP fall below 95W. Still, the NoFan CR-95C is worth a shot for those sporting low-power rigs that prioritize tranquility over raw horsepower. 

  •  This Product is only available in the US at the time of this writing. UK and Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Noctua NH-L9 

Samsung promised a Bixby-powered Galaxy Home smart speaker back in August, a premium device that could potentially compete against Apple’s HomePod and the Amazon Echo Plus. While that speaker still isn’t available and doesn’t have a set release date, the company is reportedly also planning a second Bixby speaker that comes in black and according to SamMobile, citing an anonymous source, may be a more affordable option that can compete with the likes of cheaper smart speakers.

The second Bixby speaker reportedly has the model number SM-V310, while the Galaxy Home is model number SM-V510, suggesting that there could always be more Bixby smart speakers down the line. There aren’t any known specs for the lower-end speaker yet, but it’s presumed to have fewer of the features Samsung announced for the main Galaxy Home, such as six built-in speakers, a subwoofer, and eight microphones.

Being a budget option could also help set apart a Bixby smart speaker in an already crowded market where more established companies like Google and Amazon offer devices powered by smart assistants that people already know to be reliable.

Samsung has said very little since August about the Galaxy Home and hasn’t confirmed its rumored counterpart, but with CES 2019 just around the corner, where Samsung is sure to have a presence, it could be possible that more information will be released shortly.

If one word described the focus around the tech industry this year, it’s privacy. From user data mishandling to the private lives of major tech executives having an impact on company cultures, this year we’ve become more aware than ever of when to take control of your own privacy — and when it’s time to speak out.

Beyond that, 2018 has also been a quieter year for innovation than the last — from gadgets to gaming to smartphones, most products we saw this year have been building on the grounds 2017 broke without many major new hardware releases. So how did some of the biggest tech companies and industries fare this year on The Verge’s annual report cards? In this last week of 2018, we’ll take a look at the past 12 months in technology, and what we can hope to look forward to in 2019.

In 2018, Tesla turned its biggest ever quarterly profit, and its first profit in two years. The company shipped close to some 100,000 Model 3s in the first full year of production of the most affordable vehicle it makes. SpaceX, one of Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s other companies, successfully launched its brand new Falcon Heavy rocket for the first time ever — and Musk used it to send one of the original Tesla Roadsters into space. By those measures, 2018 was a wild success for Tesla.

Of course, there’s more to the story: a failed plan to go private, announced by Musk on Twitter; a beef with the SEC; difficulty retaining top executives not named Elon Musk; and a close call with death. There were questions about the safety of Tesla’s cars, the safety of the workers making the cars, and the customer service buyers received. What could be viewed as a rebound year for Tesla was in reality more like a roller coaster ride, something reflected in the stock price, which started this year at $323, touched as high as $387 and as low as $244 before settling at $334 at the end of trading on December 28th — a slight improvement.

But Musk “bet the company” on the Model 3, and 2018 was all about watching to see if that gamble paid off. That meant those roller coaster moments were often excruciating for Tesla supporters (and catnip for critics), especially because the company was mere weeks away from death at one point, according to Musk himself.

The year didn’t begin well: Tesla had lost $2 billion in 2017 as it got Model 3 production off the ground, and yet the company was months behind its goals for that car. Only 1,550 Model 3s had been delivered by January 1, 2018 – a far cry from the 5,000 per week rate Musk originally promised for the end of 2017.

the tesla model 3Tesla Model 3 / Photo by James Bareham / The Verge

Musk also promised that once the ball was rolling on Model 3, production would increase exponentially. That climb began early in 2018, but it wasn’t until Musk admitted Tesla’s push to heavily automate the production line was a mistake that the Model 3 really took off. Musk scaled back to a mix of automation and manual labor in April.

While Model 3 output was still sputtering in March, a Tesla owner in California died in a crash while using the company’s Autopilot driver assistance feature.

Tesla said the driver received multiple warnings in the minutes leading up to the crash, insinuating he hadn’t been paying attention — even though it was reported in May that the company had decided against adding more advanced driver monitoring features to its cars. The death brought renewed scrutiny to the company’s effort to increase the autonomy of its cars, and was also immediately followed by the news of Tesla’s largest recall ever for an unrelated steering issue.

(Months after that death, Tesla released its first ever report on the “safety” of its driver assistance feature. Musk promised that Tesla would regularly release these reports, but this first one was short on details. The company also stopped promoting the promised “full self driving” capabilities of its cars later in the year.)

Soon after, in April, Tesla was making 2,000 Model 3s per week. Even at that pace, the company was behind Musk’s already-delayed deadlines. Musk announced Tesla would have to build the electric sedan around the clock to meet its mid-year production goal of 5,000 per week. The stress showed: during a spring investor call, Musk railed analysts for asking “boring, boneheaded” questions and instead spent 20 minutes answering ones from a YouTuber.

Investors seemed to lose confidence, as Tesla’s stock price dropped to its low for the year. The Autopilot death added to the pressure of the Model 3 production ramp, all as the company was “bleeding money like crazy,” as Musk admitted to Axios in November.

In response, Tesla and Musk got more aggressive. Tesla was removed from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s investigation into the Autopilot death from March, though the company says it stepped down on its own. Reveal and The Center for Investigative Reporting also published an expose about alleged workplace safety problems at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California in April (and followed with a similar story later in the year about the injury reporting practices of Tesla’s on-site health clinic). Tesla responded the story by calling Reveal an “extremist organization.”

In the summer, Tesla steered into the skid: the company built a tent in the parking lot outside the Fremont factory, which allowed Tesla to increase capacity for the Model 3 without radically restructuring how things worked inside the factory walls. After Musk found what he described as a “Russian nesting doll” structure of contractors, Tesla laid off a few thousand workers and flattened the company’s management structure. Tesla also closed a dozen solar installation centers and backed away from a deal to sell its energy storage products at Home Depot as it focused resources on the Model 3.

The on-the-fly adjustments worked. The company hit its mid-year goal just a few hours after Musk’s deadline, and finally started turning a slight profit on the Model 3. Tesla also announced plans for its first international Gigafactory, set to open in China sometime in 2020. It will give the company a chance to tackle the largest market for electric cars in the world without having to ship vehicles across the planet, or deal with touchy trade relations between the US and China. In a flip of the spring investor call, Musk sounded relieved while talking to analysts after announcing the company’s second-quarter results in August.

 Photo by Becca Farsace / The Verge

Then, one week later, the Tesla CEO sent the infamous “funding secured” tweet. Musk announced he wanted to take Tesla private again — at a share price of $420, no less. Tesla hit its stock market high for the year as supporters piled on, hoping to help bring Musk’s tweeted vision to life.

A surreal few weeks followed. Musk admitted he had been talking about the plan with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, but then backed away from the idea and kept the company public. But Musk had only held cursory conversations with the people in charge of the fund, and many people inside Tesla — from the company’s head of investor relations, to its chief financial officer — had not been given any heads up about the announcement. All of this emerged later in a lawsuit filed by the SEC. In fact, the lawsuit itself suggested some degree of instability; Musk had been close to settling with the agency and abruptly withdrew, only to enter into a more punitive settlement days later. He was forced to step down as chairman of Tesla for three years, pay a $20 million fine, and submit his public communications about the company — including his tweets — to oversight.

This might explain why so many top Tesla executives ankled the company, including the head of global finance and the company’s accounting lead. That wasn’t all: the SEC, the DOJ and the FBI opened investigations into Tesla. Besides the “funding secured” investigation, the feds were also looking into Tesla’s communications about its Model 3 numbers. The company’s stock languished through early October, nearly matching its low point from the spring, as investors reacted to the settlement and news of the government’s increased focus on Tesla.

The Model 3, meanwhile, swapped “production hell” for “delivery hell.” Tesla leaned on loyal fans and customers to help with a late-year delivery crunch as thousands of Model 3s went out to eager owners around the country. Problems cropped up for these new owners, too, in the form of delivery delays and notable quality issues. Musk admitted Tesla had committed a “foolish oversight” by leaving major gaps in service coverage throughout the US, and promised to improve its reach by early 2019.

Despite the delays, the long hours, and the overextension of the company’s CEO, Tesla made and delivered enough Model 3s to contribute to a $311 million profit in the third quarter of the year. Musk had promised investors earlier in 2018 that Tesla would reach profitability in the second half of the year, and so this was the first big step. (Fourth quarter earnings won’t be revealed until early 2019.) Even this victory for Tesla came with a qualification, though: some $190 million of the $311 million Tesla earned in the quarter came from the sale of regulatory credits.

Still, Tesla’s stock climbed in the following weeks and nearly matched its high in mid-December, though it slid dramatically during a late-month sell-off in the broader market. Tesla’s stock will now leave 2018 more or less where it started.

Tesla the company, however, leaves 2018 in better shape than it entered. There are worthy questions to be asked about Autopilot, especially as the United States government wrestles with how to legislate advanced driver assistance systems and, eventually, autonomous cars. The company’s treatment of its workforce is still constantly being scrutinized, and will demand greater attention as Tesla pushes into new regions like China in 2019.

Tesla still has to make good on its original promise to deliver a version of the car that starts at $35,000, which Musk delayed until 2019 in order to focus on more expensive, higher-margin trims. But the Model 3 is now an almost fully realized product, and the company has put itself in a position to be profitable going forward. That couldn’t had happened at a more important time: Musk told Axios in late November that Tesla narrowly avoided death by a matter of weeks over the summer. He bet the company and won. Wherever the story of Tesla goes next, and whatever detours Elon Musk has in store, 2018 will likely be remembered for that.

Final Grade: B-

B-
2018 Grade

The Verge 2018 report card: Tesla

Gold Stars

  • Massive ramp up of Model 3 production
  • Turned first profit in two years / biggest quarterly profit ever
  • Announced expansion into China

Needs Improvement

  • Shift attention and spending back to lagging projects
  • Continued workforce problems
  • Needs more consistent quality and service, as well as transparency about Autopilot’s capabilities and safety metrics

Google has been facing a lawsuit since 2016 for alleging scanning and saving the biometric data of a woman who was unwittingly captured in 11 photos taken by a Google Photos user on Android. The lawsuit over facial recognition privacy has just been dismissed by a judge in Chicago, who found that the plaintiff didn’t suffer “concrete injuries,” as first reported by Bloomberg.

In the original suit, the woman sued Google for allegedly uploading her data to Google Photos and scanning it to create a template of her face without her permission. The Google lawsuit is one of three cases aimed at prominent tech companies that have allegedly violated the United States’ toughest biometric privacy law and it’s the first one to get dismissed.

The Illinois Biometric Information Privacy Act has long been a huge obstacle for tech companies working on facial recognition initiatives. The law requires companies to obtain people’s explicit permission in order to make biometric scans of their bodies. Illinois citizens who feel their rights have been violated can file lawsuits under the act. Companies including Google, Snapchat, and Facebook all faced lawsuits initiated in 2015 and 2016 for allegedly violating the Illinois law.

The other lawsuits are still pending. In April, a federal judge ruled that Facebook must face a class action lawsuit from Illinois users over allegations that it used facial recognition technology photos without explicit user consent. The feature “Tag Suggestions” that offers users suggested people based on their faces in photos allegedly violates the Illinois law.

Lady Gaga has been teasing a new animated character on social media as part of her Las Vegas residency show. It looks to be a cyborg with long blue hair and the ability to fly through space, a character that Gaga was also dressed as on Friday. In a short, mysterious clip posted to YouTube and Instagram, the character looks around at a shining star before making contact with it and absorbing its powers.

The anime-like character charges up, while crying, “What’s happening to me?” before hurtling through space with the newfound energy. The video ends with the appearance of “PetGa,” an alien being first seen during the release and promotion of Lady Gaga’s 2013 album ArtPop. PetGa says fondly, “Hello Gaga,” and then the word “Enigma” flashes across the screen.

Gaga isn’t the only pop artist by far to fuse tech with live concerts — Drake put on a drone show in August and American and South Korean singers performed alongside an augmented reality of League of Legends’ fake k-pop band K/DA, just to name a few recent examples. It’s also not Gaga’s only means of entertainment — Friday’s show included her singing ontop of a giant robot, albeit one operated by human crew members manipulating its arms.

In the month leading up to her Vegas show, Lady Gaga has been posting short clips of her wearing motion-capture gear and voicing parts of the Enigma show, including one scene where she’s crying. That seems to fit in with what we’ve seen from the animated clip, and indicates that the motions of the cyborg character are in part based on Gaga’s movements in real life. The Enigma show began on Friday and is set to run throughout next year.

Failure is real and should be feared. Ironically, fear of failure is the most potent saboteur. This is a fact proven time and time again in the world of innovation. Many expensive and time-consuming efforts to build innovation capability and capacity inside of organizations fail for a few simple reasons. Either they import a framework …

While 2018 was a year of iterative updates, Apple, Google and Microsoft all released some of their best products yet, even if they weren’t as innovative as some would like. While many flagships went without any upgrades – we didn’t even see a new MacBook or Surface Book – devices like the MacBook Air and Surface Laptop 2 saw significant upgrades which impacted the user experience.

However, 2019 should see the big three push their hardware further than before – especially as 7nm and 10nm AMD and Intel processors become mainstream. So, what can we expect to see from Apple, Google and Microsoft throughout the next year? 

Apple in 2019

Apple’s release schedule in 2018 was all over the place. After the insanely powerful iMac Pro dropped in December 2017, we got an iPad aimed at students in March, followed by a lot of nothing. 

We were left waiting for WWDC 2018 for new MacBooks, but that show came and went without any new hardware. It wasn’t until the new MacBook Pro launched, totally under the radar in July, that we started seeing new hardware. 

We’re not sure Apple is going to follow the same kind of release schedule in 2019, but now that it became the world’s first trillion-dollar valuation company this past year, we figure Apple can basically do whatever it wants.

New Mac Pro. We’ve been anticipating the new Mac Pro for a while now, but we know its coming, and we know it’s coming in 2019. The only thing we don’t know is when in 2019 we’ll see the new Mac Pro. Apple has come out and said that the computer will be modular and upgradeable, and if the iMac Pro was any indication, we might be seeing an extremely powerful Mac – we just want to know whether it’ll look like a trash can again. 

New MacBooks. When it comes to Apple’s 2019 lineup of MacBooks, we’re not quite sure what’s going to happen. We’ll see a new MacBook Pro, that’s a given – Apple hasn’t missed an annual upgrade for its flagship professional laptop to date. However, beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. Apple skipped the 12-inch MacBook for the new MacBook Air this year, though that laptop has more in common with the now-defunct MacBook Pro without Touch Bar. Regardless, expect to see new Intel silicon inside these laptops – Apple’s in-house computer processors are still years away. 

iPhone XI. Another year, another iPhone. Apple releasing a new iPhone is inevitable, and the rumors are already starting to roll out. It might be thinner and lighter than ever before, thanks to a new touch-integrated OLED display, and Apple might even include its own modem, making it an almost all-Apple device. Also, we wouldn’t be surprised to see Apple take another three-pronged strategy with its iPhone models this year, with two high-end models and an entry-level version alongside them. Finally, don’t expect to see a 5G iPhone in 2019: Apple will surely sit on that for a while longer.

New iPads. Apple knocked it out of the park with the iPad Pro – it can outpower many full-blown laptops, on top of the fantastic new design. With the next non-pro iPad, we can see Apple bringing over the same bezel-less design as well as FaceID, like it did with the iPhone XR. We’ve also seen rumors of a new iPad Mini arriving in 2019. We fully expect to see more drastic software improvements than hardware, as iOS needs some serious work to both remain competitive in the phones space and improve productivity for its ‘Pro’ tablets.

Google in 2019

Even if we didn’t get the Pixelbook 2, Google still had an exciting year, with products like the Pixel 3 and the Google Pixel Slate.

Google also doubled down on its Home line of smart speakers and smart-home technology – something we’re sure we’ll see more of in 2019.

However, with an arguably poor outing this year, we wonder whether Google will continue making tablets – or at the very least go back to the drawing board. Also, we’ve seen very little from Google in the home entertainment department in 2018, so perhaps we’ll revisit that in 2019.

Pixelbook 2. We wanted to see the next Pixelbook in 2018 – the original is by far one of the best Chromebooks we’ve ever used. However, Google had other plans, instead releasing the Google Pixel Slate: a sort of half-tablet half-Chromebook hybrid. 

While we’re sure the Google Pixel Slate will have its niche, we hope Google will launch a true Pixelbook 2 with 8th-generation Core processors. The Pixel Slate doesn’t set as strong of a standard for other Chrome devices as Pixelbook did, simply put.

Google Pixel 4. The Google Pixel 3 and Google Pixel 3 XL are awesome – everything from the camera to the hardware makes either two of the best phones you can buy today. Of course, we’re sure that Google is brewing the follow-ups as we speak. What’s to come in that? Rumors are nowhere to be found yet, but we’d anticipate Google doubling down on its incredibly useful camera and machine learning software, because that’s what’s selling the Pixel 3 phones more than anything.

Mid-range Pixel phones. Google has made plenty of flagship phones in its time, but we’ve seen new Pixel devices hinted at in the latest ARCore update. These rumored devices are code-named Bonito and Sargo, and just like all other Pixel phones, are named after fish. We’d love to see new Pixel phones that almost anyone can afford – especially if Google keeps that camera software intact. All in all, this would be an incredibly smart move for Google.

Microsoft in 2019

When it comes to hardware, it’s hard to predict what Microsoft is going to do in 2019, as its release schedule is all over the place.

However, you can bet that you’ll see new Surface devices along with Windows 10 updates. We might even see the next Xbox creep out of the woodwork 

Surface Book 3. The Surface Book 2 is still one of the best laptops on the market, even if it launched way back in October 2017. This year, however, we should see the Surface Book 3 launch, packed with Intel 9th-generation processors and Nvidia Turing graphics. If Microsoft could provide the Surface Book 3 with a 4K display and a black color option, that’d just be gravy.

Surface Pro 7. We’re putting our money on another Surface Pro launching next year, but hopefully with more drastic improvements. Microsoft followed the Surface Pro 2017 with the Surface Pro 6 this year, packing 8th-generation processors and some snazzy new color options … but that’s it, really. We’d love to see a Surface Pro 7 with even smaller bezels and USB-C connectivity for 2019.

Surface Phone. It seems like we’ve been waiting for the Surface Phone for ages, but we feel like 2019 might be the year we finally see it. The latest rumors about the Surface Phone, code-named Andromeda, point to it being a foldable smartphone, which would make it prime competition for Samsung’s similar device, also likely launching in 2019. 

2018 started off with all the makings of a hot year for Nvidia. Everyone was still talking about cryptocurrency, and Nvidia’s graphics cards were caught up in the middle of the mining craze. The prices of existing Nvidia cards like the GeForce GTX 1080 Ti were nowhere close to as low as they should have been, and the company’s flagship cards were long overdue for an update. Thankfully, we just got that with three brand new Nvidia Turing GPUs plus a whole new ray tracing revolution – at least in one game anyway.

We’re going to take an in-depth look at how the year actually played out and it’s been a challenging one for big green, to say the least. Nvidia has arguably ended the year in a tougher spot than when it started. Although the company has made some of its biggest leaps forward, they’ve also came with heavy caveats.

Nvidia in 2018

Nvidia at the start of 2018:

Nvidia kicked off the new year at CES 2018 talking about its big moves with powerful cards that would go into data centers and power AI, like that used in self-driving cars. 

It also hyped up the Max-Q versions of its 10-Series graphics cards, which offer desktop-like performance in thin-and-light laptops. 

But, what the company wasn’t doing at that time was announcing the replacements to the 10-Series. It showed off the new Titan V that was hardly a gaming-targeted, consumer-facing product, but little did we know that its Tensor cores would make their way into its new line of 20-series GeForce GPUs.

Still, in spite of nothing for gamers to get too excited about early in 2018, Nvidia was doing well.

Nvidia in 2018

Gamers’ pains, Nvidia’s gains:

One thing that was driving Nvidia at the beginning of 2018 was cryptocurrency. Popular cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin were booming, and miners needed powerful graphics cards to mine many of them. Nvidia’s were the most powerful around and the demand was huge.

Nvidia recorded record revenue in early 2018 with a huge bump in graphics card sales. The company didn’t attribute the surge solely to cryptocurrency, rather crediting “new games, holiday-season demand, iCafe upgrades, esports and cryptocurrency mining,” in an earnings call.

As good as the sales were for Nvidia, gamers were hurting for much of the first half of 2018. The high demand for mining graphics cards drove prices up, making it hard for gamers looking to upgrade or build new PCs without spending a fortune.

Nvidia made some efforts to ensure the core audience of gamers could still get their hands on GeForce graphics cards. One of the schemes Nvidia used to prevent miners from gobbling up all the GPU stock was encouraging retailers to prevent bulk buying. Some shops even went further by bundling graphics cards with monitors and other gaming PC components that gamers would need but miners wouldn’t.

Fortunately for gamers, the cryptocurrency gold rush didn’t last forever. By the end of the first half of the year, it already felt like no one was talking about it. In May, we learned Nvidia had continued seeing strong sales for graphics cards going to cryptocurrency miners, but the company was predicting a significant decline. And, not long after, it definitely started to feel like crypto was snapped away by Thanos right along with half the Avengers.

Nvidia in 2018

RTX On

When July rolled around, gamers finally started to see things turn back into their favor. Amazon Prime Day kicked off, and with it actually came some good deals on powerful graphics cards. It was a major swing to go from cards scarce and priced hundreds of dollars above retail pricing to having plenty of cards available at discounts.

Any gamers who’d been starving for a new graphics card and snatched one up in these deals probably felt the sting of August’s announcement, though. 

In August, Nvidia began announced the Turing architecture along with a new series of ray tracing Quadro graphics cards for the enterprise market. Although these ultimately weren’t the gaming GPUs we were looking for, it spelled out basically everything the next-gen GeForce series would be.

After kicking up a tempest of speculation, leaks and rumors, Nvidia would launch its new series of graphics cards just a week later: the RTX 20-Series. This new launch included a top-tier RTX 2080 Ti, an enthusiast-tier RTX 2080, and a mainstream RTX 2070.

Those new cards weren’t just shown off as the next step in performance with more compute cores and faster clock speeds. Instead, the company boasted its revolutionary real-time ray tracing and AI-assisted supersampling technology would vastly improve games visual fidelity.

None of the cards were announced cheap. Nvidia offered pre-orders on the Founders Editions of each card, with prices from $599 (£569, AU$899) to $1,199 (£1,099, AU$1,899). Cards from board partners were priced a bit lower, but those cards didn’t show up right away, and they didn’t show up at the lower prices too soon either.

Those high prices may have been part of a push to clear stock of older 10-Series graphics cards. GamersNexus reported in early November that GTX 1080 Ti stock was getting low, and that will hopefully lead to better prices for gamers, as the 20-Series cards can actually start to fill the void left behind by their respective 10-Series versions.

Nvidia in 2018

Everything isn’t always sunshine and reflections

Putting the price of Nvidia’s new cards aside for a moment, there was a serious issue with the new cards that had the best GPU gamers could buy turning into hot garbage soon after installation. 

Some gamers with the expensive RTX 2080 Ti were suffering crashes and errors from their cards, and some had their shiny new cards completely brick. That’s not the kind of issue you want to see from the newest and best graphics card on the market. Some customers who got their cards replaced even experienced the same issues on the replacements.

While those problems should be covered by warranty and may be sorted out by Nvidia in production or by board partners, there’s another issue with the 20-Series cards that gamers are facing: fancy new features that are all but non-existent.

The new 20-Series cards have a sizable portion of the GPU dedicated to AI-focused Tensor Cores and RT Cores. Those special cores promise the smart supersampling of DLSS and the real-time ray tracing that makes light and shadow look substantially more realistic, respectively.

That all sounds great until we consider that only Battlefield V supports real-time ray tracing and only Final Fantasy XV supports DLSS. No game to this date supports both. While many games have been slated to build in support for these features, it’s always worth being skeptical about future promises from tech companies when your cash is on the line — anyone who bought an Xbox One in hopes of playing VR games or Scalebound can surely relate.

The issue is made a little worse by performance hits that come from enabling ray tracing. The feature, as first implemented, resulted in dramatically reduced frame rates in Battlefield V. Though an update helped bump performance back up, the initial drop just further highlights the dubious state of the features 20-Series cards offer. 

Nvidia in 2018

What does 2019 have in store for Nvidia?

Though ray tracing and DLSS may still linger in a vaporware-like doubt, there’s no denying Nvidia’s new line-up of cards this year has kept it at the top for now. But, the focus on new features may come around to bite Nvidia.

AMD has yet to announce new cards, and rumors have suggested they’re coming. Worse still for Nvidia (better for gamers), the rumors suggest the new cards will drastically undercut the price of RTX 20-Series cards. 

An AMD Radeon RX 3060 may come at half the price of a Nvidia RTX 2070 while offering similar performance and skipping ray tracing. AMD will likely leave the RTX 2080 Ti on its throne, as the company didn’t produce a card to match up against the Nvidia GeForce 1080 Ti last time around. 

This all leaves the core market of gamers with the possibility of compellingly priced AMD cards stacked up against high-priced Nvidia cards and unfulfilled promises of ray tracing and DLSS. All the while, Intel is gearing up to introduce its own graphics cards.

Time will tell, but it seems Nvidia has one of its biggest fights to stay on top in the coming year.