Tag Archives: ELECTRONIC

20 of the best free Windows 7 apps

It might be eight years old, but almost half of the world’s desktop devices are still running Windows 7 – and for good reason. It’s an excellent operating system that’s still supported by Microsoft and receives regular security updates (unlike Windows Vista), doesn’t pester you with popups like Windows 10, is much more open than macOS, and is easier for beginners to master than Linux.

Here, we’ve picked 20 of the best programs you can download free to give your Windows 7 PC a new lease of life.

Windows 7’s version of Microsoft Paint is a big step up from the edition provided with Windows Vista, but it’s still not much use for editing photos or creating your own graphics from scratch.

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a brilliant open source photo editor that’s amazingly powerful, and is available to download and use completely free. It’s not quite as feature-packed as Adobe Photoshop, but it has everything hobbyist photographers need to make their shots look amazing before printing them or sharing them online.

You can even add more tools and filters by installing plugins – including ones designed for use with Photoshop.

Review and where to download: GIMP

If you’re still using Windows Media Center to play music in Windows 7, you’re doing your tunes a disservice. MusicBee is designed to organize songs and podcasts in a logical way, add accurate metadata, and give you the best sound quality your PC can provide – whether you have a high-end soundcard or not.

MusicBee supports every music file format you can name without the need to download additional codecs, as well as streaming services and online radio.

Review and where to download: MusicBee

MusicBee is the best free music player for Windows 7, but for video you need VLC Media Player. Again, it supports a huge range of file formats (far more than Windows Media Center), and can be expanded with user-created plugins and skins.

VLC Media Player is also an excellent way to enjoy DVDs and Blu-rays on your PC (provided you have the necessary optical drive), and you can optimize playback to suit your system.

Review and where to download: VLC Media Player

If you poke around in the Accessories section of Windows 7’s Start Menu, you’ll find the Sound Recorder. ‘Basic’ hardly describes it – all it does is take input from a microphone and save it in WAV format.

If you want to make your own podcasts, record music, or edit existing sound files, you need something far more powerful. That something is Audacity.

This open source audio editor lets you record in stereo, remove noise, apply various effects, edit channels individually, cut and combine files, remove vocals from songs and much more. Like GIMP and VLC Media Player, Audacity also supports plugins so you can tailor it to suit your exact needs.

Review and where to download: Audacity

Windows Movie Maker was a great video editor when it was first released, but its inelegant interface and cheesy effects now look very dated. After many long years of service, it’s time for Windows 7 users to wave goodbye and upgrade to Shotcut instead.

Shotcut isn’t the most powerful free video editor around (that would be Lightworks), but it strikes a perfect balance between features and usability. You don’t need to study a manual to start making a great-looking video, and there’s a a huge set of tools and filters to experiment with.

Review and where to download: Shotcut

You might be happy sticking with Internet Explorer in Windows 7, but Microsoft has moved its attention to Edge – a new browser that’s exclusive to Windows 10.

If you haven’t experimented with many other browsers before, Google Chrome is a great place to start. It’s hugely customizable via plugins, fast, and integrates with your Google account so you can sync bookmarks and preferences between different devices – including phones and tablets.

Review and where to download: Google Chrome

If you don’t like the idea of Google getting its roots into all your online activity, or you just want an alternative for occasions when privacy is particularly important, take a look at Tor Browser.

Tor (the Onion Router) works by encrypting your data and redirecting it through a series of remote servers around the world, making it all but impossible to trace.

Be careful if your Windows 7 PC is on a work or college network though – some organizations take a dim view of Tor because it’s often used for nefarious purposes like pirating movies and music.

Review and where to download: Tor Browser

Another way to protect your privacy online is to use a VPN (virtual private network) service, which disguises your identity and location using remote servers. Take care, though – there are lots of dodgy free VPNs around that are actually malware in disguise.

WindScribe is the real deal – a free VPN with a very generous data allowance of 10GB per month. That’s not enough for streaming movies (for that, you’ll need to upgrade to the premium version), but it’s ideal for online shopping and banking.

Review and where to download: WindScribe

Windows 7 can open PDFs without any trouble, but it doesn’t let you annotate them, make text changes, or perform security checks.

That’s why you need Foxit Reader – a free PDF reader that’s full of useful extra tools you didn’t realise you needed, but can’t live without. The scan-to-PDF tool is particularly handy if you have a paper worksheet or handout to convert, and the Microsoft Office Plugins are a brilliant touch.

Review and where to download: Foxit Reader

That said, Microsoft Office isn’t your only option when you’re using Windows 7 at work. LibreOffice is a totally free suite of programs that almost perfectly replicate all the features of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more.

Like many of the programs in this list, LibreOffice is open source, which means anyone with the skills and time is free to develop their own plugins for fellow users. It also has a huge team of dedicated volunteers who keep it updated with new features and squish bugs as soon as they’re identified.

Review and where to download: LibreOffice

LibreOffice is excellent, but if you just need to get your head down and do some serious writing, FocusWriter is the tool for you. It’s far superior to Windows 7’s Notepad tool, with a full-screen mode that completely blocks out all distractions, including the clock, Start menu and notification area.

You can set yourself writing goals and configure alerts for specific times to keep you on track. There’s also an excellent Focus feature that highlights the paragraph or sentence you’re currently working on, while everything else fades into the background. No more procrastinating.

Review and where to download: FocusWriter

If you cast your mind back (keep going… further… there), you might remember once tracking your finances using a program called Microsoft Money. It was discontinued a long time ago, but Money Manager Ex does essentially the same job, making it easy to monitor your accounts and credit cards, record spending, schedule payments, and make sure you’re sticking to your budget.

It can’t link directly to your online banking service, but this might be a good thing as far as security’s concerned and entering the figures manually isn’t too time-consuming.

Review and where to download: Money Manager Ex

FileZilla is an FTP (file transfer protocol) client – a handy tool designed for moving files between PCs or remote servers. It’s not as flashy as a cloud storage service like Dropbox or OneDrive, but it means you’re in total control and aren’t trusting your data to a third party.

FileZilla can store login data for up to 10 remote servers, letting you connect and start shifting your data with just a couple of clicks.

Review and where to download: FileZilla

Torrents have a bad reputation thanks to their popularity with copyright-infringing pirates, but they have lots of legitimate uses too. They’re simply a way of sharing particularly large files, and many artists and producers are now choosing to release material this way. They’re also handy for downloading copyright-free media, games and other content.

To use torrent files, you need a dedicated client software, and qBittorrent is the best for Windows 7. It’s not cluttered with ads, has a clear interface, and is easy to get to grips with.

Review and where to download: qBittorrent

If you’re unlucky, you might know the horror of emptying your Windows 7 Recycle Bin, then realising too late that it contained a file you accidentally needed. Or you might have been unfortunate enough to lose data due to physical damage to a drive, or corruption.

There’s no guarantee that free file recovery tool Recuva will be able to bring your documents and photos back, but it can be an absolute lifesaver in an emergency. Install it now and be prepared.

Review and where to download: Piriform Recuva

Piriform – the delightfully-named developer of Recuva – also makes an excellent PC optimization tool called CCleaner. It performs much the same job as the various system-sweeping tools you’ll find under Accessories in Windows 7’s Start Menu, but is much faster and easier to use.

CCleaner can also clear our your web browser’s cookies and stored passwords for added security. Just make sure you read the description of each item carefully before erasing it, so you don’t accidentally purge anything useful.

Review and where to download: Piriform CCleaner

When it comes to gaming, Minesweeper and Solitaire just won’t cut it. If you want something more entertaining than watching paint dry, you need Steam – Valve’s huge PC gaming platform and store, where you can find almost every title you could wish for, often with deep discounts.

Download here: Steam

If games aren’t your thing, you might be more interested in Any Video Converter Free – a video downloading and converting tool that can grab clips from all the biggest sites and save them in any format you like. You can even rip the audio from videos and save it for listening later.

Just make sure you have permission from the copyright holder before you start downloading videos from YouTube and Vimeo.

Review and where to download: Any Video Converter Free

Continuing the theme of entertainment, let’s move to ebooks.

We’ve tried lots of e-readers for Windows 7, but Amazon’s official Kindle app is easily the best. It makes organizing your ebooks a breeze, with an excellent search tool, and reading is a thoroughly pleasant experience thanks to the carefully designed pages and customizable colors and fonts.

There are links to the Kindle store, naturally, but they’re surprisingly unobtrusive and you won’t be harassed by prompts to buy more books.

Download here: Kindle for PC

Hopefully you now have a good idea of which programs you need to get the most from your Windows 7 PC, but there’s just one more we recommend.

Windows 7 comes with a tool for extracting compressed file archives, but there are dozens, if not hundreds of different types around and it only supports a small handful. 7-Zip is far more capable, and integrates into Windows Explorer and the context menu so it’s there whenever you need it.

Review and where to download: 7-Zip

      

Snapchat’s latest update includes one useful feature, two just for fun

Snapchat’s been on an update roll lately and that continues today with three new features for the disappearing chat app’s iOS and Android editions.

The first and by far most useful feature is the ability to share links with friends in Snaps. By tapping the new paperclip icon, you can share a website link that your pals can swipe up to view. It’s a simple addition, but one that should prove helpful for those who want to share and receive pertinent links to outside sites.

Next up is backdrops for Snaps, a feature that’s firmly in Snapchat’s wheel house. To access backdrops, tap the new icon in the scissors tool section. You’ll next highlight the figures you want untouched by the effect, then select a pattern or graphic to place in the background. Snapchat will introduce a new batch of backdrops every day.

Disappearing wars

Finally, Snapchat is bringing voice filters to all. Previously sequestered to Lenses, voice filters are after-Snap effects that let you change your voice to sound like a chipmunk (natch), robot or other creature.

You’ll first record a Snap, then select the speaker icon and pick from a smattering of sound effects.

Snapchat isn’t setting the chat app world on fire with these updates, but as the competition tightens between itself, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and particularly Instagram Stories for users’ attention, introducing fun – and somewhat useful – features is one way Snapchat can stay in the race.

Stories, Instagram’s take on disappearing posts, already has over 200 million daily users, putting it well above Snapchat’s last updated figure of 158 million daily users.

Instagram Stories has been known to ape Snapchat’s features, so it may not be long before we see updates similar to today’s land on the Facebook-owned service.

Via Engadget

      

Browser-based VR gains momentum as Apple devs join WebVR project

There’s some good news on the WebVR front, with developers from Apple having just joined the project, adding more weight to the initiative and pushing it forward (or at least that’s the hope, anyway).

Google’s Brandon Jones, a Chrome WebVR developer and one of the chairs of the WebVR community group, observed the Apple devs signing up and brought the matter to light in a tweet (spotted by Upload VR).

The idea of WebVR is to produce virtual reality experiences which work in a web browser and are hardware agnostic, so you can enjoy them with whatever headset you happen to own – from the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift down to Google Cardboard.

All you need is to be viewing the content in a browser which supports displaying WebVR, and as Jones observed in his tweet, Apple’s move means the spec now has every major browser vendor on board – Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and now Safari.

Of course, before we get too carried away, three Apple developers signing up to the community does not mean Tim Cook’s firm has suddenly decided that WebVR is going to be a big thing with its browser. It could potentially mean something along those lines – but equally it could mean nothing, and simply be a move born out of mere curiosity on the part of these folks.

Getting real

Still, the fact remains that it can’t be a bad sign, particularly as Apple is looking to push forward in a major way with virtual reality. We saw this clearly at last month’s WWDC, where a number of announcements were made including the firm’s Metal 2 graphics tech being optimized for VR development (with High Sierra) and Mac computers finally getting support for HTC Vive and SteamVR.

But the road ahead for WebVR is a long one, because even putting Safari aside (which of course doesn’t support the standard – yet), all the various headsets are only compatible with certain browsers as it stands (for example, Vive and Rift aren’t compatible with Edge).

And as we saw last year, there are still technical achievements and goals to be reached, including pushing web-based VR to a fully smooth 90 frames per second experience.

So, there’s still plenty of work to be done, but hopefully this is another step in the right direction towards the WebVR standard realizing its full potential.

      

Microsoft wants to improve office productivity with this Office 365 app

Microsoft has announced that its Workplace Analytics feature is now available for Office 365 enterprise customers as an add-on, aiming to boost employee productivity – but possibly giving rise to some concerns about exactly how staff members can be monitored.

The basic idea of Workplace Analytics is that it takes metadata from Office 365 email and calendars and crunches that data, turning it into what Microsoft calls behavioural metrics.

In other words, the analytics solution takes data on who is sending emails where and when, and also for the likes of scheduled meetings via calendars, subsequently offering insights on how staff are spending their time, how many meetings they are attending and so forth – with a view to using this information to increase productivity levels.

Naturally, the first thought which may pop into the heads of staff members is that this is all rather ‘Big Brother’, but Microsoft notes there are built-in privacy and compliance measures here, and that the system leverages metadata which is aggregated and ‘de-identified’.

Fortune favours the analysed

That said, Workplace Analytics clearly does offer some level of insight into individual performance, as Microsoft cites examples showing this is the case. For instance, there is mention of the sales department in a Fortune 500 firm using the system to identify the ‘collaborative patterns’ of top performers, including the amount of time they spend with customers.

Those behaviours were then adopted by the rest of the sales folk, resulting in boosted figures for the company in question.

As TechCrunch, which spotted this development, notes, there is then the theoretical possibility of being able to pinpoint less productive staff members rather than the top guns of respective departments, but Microsoft reckons that not one company in the private beta went down this route.

Although that isn’t to say that this couldn’t happen in the future, of course…

Kathleen Hogan, chief people officer at Microsoft, commented: “Our HR Business Insights group is using Workplace Analytics across a variety of initiatives – from understanding the behaviours driving increased employee engagement, to identifying the qualities of top-performing managers who are leading Microsoft’s cultural transformation from within. We believe people analytics is a competitive necessity for any HR team.”

      

Download of the day: Passpartout

In free indie game Passpartout, you play a penniless French artist, who must eke out a living and build a reputation selling works created using the equivalent of brightly coloured finger paints.

Draw a masterpiece using the simple Microsoft Paint style canvas on the left, set a price, and give it a name. The piece will then appear in the art gallery on the right, and customers will visit throughout the day to either spend their hard-earned Euros, or pass scathing judgement (apparently my doodle of a cat was “atrocious”),

Painting for numbers

Some patrons are looking for big name artists, some are seeking out new talent, and others only want something incredibly cheap to paper over the cracks in the wall. The value of your paintings is determined by several factors including how long you spent creating each one, and how experienced you are.

You must set your prices carefully to ensure you make enough money to pay the bills each week, or risk losing your creative space.

It’s oddly compelling, but making a name for yourself won’t happen overnight so don’t be surprised if you sink a good few hours into it.

Download here: Passpartout

Download of the Day is our pick of the best free software around – whether it’s useful, fun, or just plain silly. If you have any recommendations, please send them to downloads@techradar.com.

      

‘Slow and expensive’ internet is inhibiting Australia’s digital readiness, according to new report

In January we lamented how slow internet speeds were in Australia, with the hope that with NBN service rolling out to more premises each month, things would improve. That wasn’t the case by June this year when we still ranked behind Kenya in average ‘net speeds.

That was according to Akamai’s State of the Internet Report. It’s a month later and the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index has corroborated Akamai’s findings.

The Network Readiness Index was created after surveying 139 countries and, according to the report, Australia – which ranked 18 in 2014 and managed to jumped up two places in 2015 – fell back to 18th spot in digital readiness in 2016.

The affordability of fixed broadband and consistently slow connectivity are the reasons cited for Australia’s slip in global rankings, which now sits behind that of our neighbours across the Tasman Sea.

Globally, Singapore took top spot, followed by Finland and Sweden. Denmark, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Japan all ranked within the top 10.

According to the Digital Australia: State of the Nation, The 2017 Edition report released today by professional services group EY Sweeney, “As the world’s 13th largest mixed-market economy, boasting a AAA rating from all three global rating agencies, Australia should be further up the global digital rankings. However, Australia remains caught in the shadow of other advanced nations.”

      

Black Friday 2017 deals in the US: preparing for Walmart, Target and Amazon ads

Black Friday 2017 in the US is going to be filled with so many online deals that it’ll be one of the biggest single shopping day of the entire year.

It’s the day when stores like Amazon, Walmart and Target discount everything with Black Friday ads that leaks days before the actual sale date, which is always the day after Thanksgiving.

At least, that’s how it worked last year. Black Friday 2017 could easily top what we spent back then: $3.34 billion shopping online alone, making it the first time ever online spending on Black Friday surpassed $3 billion.

Target was shifting 3,200 TVs per minute on Black Friday, and in the first few hours of Black Friday, Amazon had sold over 100,000 children’s toys.

Of the $3.34 billion in online sales, $1.2 billion of that came from people using mobile devices. The most popular purchases? iPads and Samsung 4K TVs.

It’s ironic that Black Friday drives so much traffic to websites, because it used to be about more traditional traffic: in-store crowds. Black Friday still happens in shopping malls across the country, but increasingly the best Black Friday deals – and the most shoppers – are online.

When is Black Friday 2017?

Black Friday is the Friday immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday, so this year’s Black Friday will be on November 24, 2017.

It’s the official start to the holiday shopping season, and it’s famous for what retailers call “doorbusters”: deals so good that shoppers will try and break down the front doors to get at them. Inevitably that means it’s also famous for shoppers battling one another, with each Black Friday bringing a new bunch of YouTube clips showing people fighting over flat-screen TVs.

Despite the chaos, Black Friday continues at just about all the major US retailers every year. Many even open start the bargains on Thanksgiving to give shoppers a chance to grab the best deals even earlier. Last year, $1.9 billion was spent online on Thanksgiving Day, bringing the two-day Thanksgiving and Black Friday total to over $5 billion.

Why Black Friday matters

Black Friday has transformed the holiday shopping season, for better and for worse. James Miller, senior retail consultant at Experian Marketing Services, told the BBC that “there is little doubt Black Friday has dramatically changed the way people shop in the run-up to Christmas and has created an expectation of deep discounts that arguably did not exist before,” while a report by LCP Consulting found that nearly one-third of US retailers believe Black Friday is “unprofitable and unsustainable.”

Before Black Friday became a big deal, the run-up to the holidays was a great period for retailers: we’d buy loads of presents for others and for ourselves, and retailers would make huge piles of money. Then Black Friday happened, and all of a sudden many of us were browsing the bargains for the presents to put in Santa’s sack. Money spent on deeply discounted products in November is money that won’t be spent on more profitable products in December.

According to research by Verdict Retail, there is “no evidence” that Black Friday “stimulated demand”: Black Friday is essentially a black hole that sucks in a big part of people’s pre-Christmas shopping. We buy more but pay less for it.

The National Retail Federation has numbers to back that up; according to the group, shoppers spent less on average over the 2016 Thanksgiving weekend, though that was largely because items were so deeply discounted. Amazon led the way with an average of 42% off items available on its digital storefront, according to Reuters.

“It was a strong weekend for retailers, but an even better weekend for consumers, who took advantage of some really incredible deals,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “In fact, over one third of shoppers said 100% of their purchases were on sale.”

As online shopping overtakes in-store shopping on Black Friday, mobile is playing an increasingly important role. Many retailers reported significant leaps in mobile shopping last year, and it was the first-time ever shopping via phones and tablets topped $1 billion in the US. That’s a 33% increase in mobile shopping over Black Friday 2015.

Black Friday 2017 won’t be so crazy

While Black Friday of years’ past may have spelled mayhem, with more people shopping online than in stores, the main thing you’ll have to worry about on Black Friday 2017 is whether stock will run out, not whether you’ll be bowled over by a shopping cart.

Retailers, too, will have to be prepared for an increase in online shoppers on Black Friday 2017. Macy’s wasn’t prepared for the traffic that came to its website on Black Friday 2016, and shoppers were kept off the site at several points during the day. Not good.

This year, expect major retails to be well prepared for even higher online traffic, especially on mobile.

What’s more, just like Black Friday 2016, there will likely be lots of savings spread out over the week, not just on Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Last year, many big-name retailers spread their sales over an entire week from the Monday before Black Friday to Cyber Monday 2017, the Monday immediately after.

Cyber Monday used to be a separate event, the day everybody panicked that they hadn’t bought any presents before visiting Amazon on their work computers. But in 2016, it was just another part of Black Friday Deals Week.

“There is no question that heavy discounting early in the holiday sales season, both online and in stores, along with retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day have cut into Black Friday sales,” NRF spokesperson Ana Serafin Smith told USA Today. “However, Black Friday remains the official kick-off to the holidays and an important tradition for millions of shoppers across the country. There is no indication that will change in the foreseeable future.”

During what some call the Cyber Five weekend (Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday), Internet Retailer (via CommerceHub) estimated Amazon sold more than $4.7 billion. That’s a lot of Amazon Echo speakers, GoPro cameras, and other goods!

With deals spread out over several days, Black Friday has lost some of its influence as the biggest shopping day of the year. Still, retailers reserve some of their best bargains for Black Friday, so it’s well worth keeping an eye on the day.

The best Black Friday deals from last year

Every year, we load up with pizza and energy drinks to scour the entire internet for Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. These were some of our favorite deals from Black Friday from a year ago.

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus for $0 + gift card
Apple’s iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus may have been new but that didn’t mean you couldn’t get a Black Friday deal. T-Mobile was selling the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus for $0 and giving away $250 gift cards when shoppers signed up for a two-year contract.

$50 off PS4 with Uncharted 4 bundle
The PS4 is a brilliant console, and last Black Friday it was a brilliant bargain too: the best-selling console bundle was $50 off for the PS4 500GB with Uncharted 4 at Amazon, Best Buy, GameStop, Target and more, bringing its price to $249.

$150 off iPad Pro 9.7
There were lots of iPad bargains on Black Friday 2017 including $150 off the iPad Pro 9.7 and $70 off the iPad mini 2. Apple wasn’t offering those discounts, but it did bundle gift cards with various products.

$1,301 off Sony Ultra HD 4K TV
How’s this for a discount: Black Friday meant a massive $1,301 off the Sony 65″ XBR Ultra 4K LED Smart HDTV, bringing its price down to a much less scary $998. There was also $400 off Samsung 4K TVs and over $200 off LG 4K OLED TVs.

Huge savings on Xbox One bundles
The Xbox One S was just $299 with Battlefield 1 or Gears of War 4 thrown in, or an even cheaper $249 for a non-special edition console. Prices were slashed all over the place for every conceivable combination of console, controllers and games. There were good deals to be had on accessories too.

Why to expect from Black Friday 2017

Last Black Friday had some of the most ambitious deals we’ve seen to date, so expect even deeper discounts in 2017. In addition to greater markdowns on Black Friday, retailers will try to beat their own savings – and each other – with better deals even earlier. What started as Black Friday weekend has become Black Friday week, and this year we expect some big-name retailers to start discounting long before that.

That makes sense for many reasons: it spreads the load on their websites and stores, and more importantly it means the news of their deals won’t be buried amid the avalanche of Black Friday announcements. So keep your eyes peeled – and keep visiting our deals page – from early November, and maybe even earlier than that.

Something we saw a lot of in 2016 and expect to see even more of in 2017 is a sliding scale of discounting: we noticed deals got bigger and better as the month progressed. That’s likely to happen again in 2017, with reasonable deals at the beginning of the Black Friday period and more exciting but limited quantity deals on Black Friday itself. The emphasis will be on the more expensive products where retailers can cut prices but still make a decent profit.

Best Black Friday deal 2017 predictions

iPhone 8
We know that Apple’s 2017 iPhone 8 is likely to be dramatically different from the current model, we can reasonably expect it to go on sale in September or October at the latest, and we know that iPhone 8 Black Friday deals will be very popular – so this one’s a slam-dunk. Expect similar discounts to 2016 chopping $100-plus off the up-front price, and Apple to offer gift cards across the range. We’d expect some decent deals on iPads too as Apple has already refreshed its line-up this year.

Samsung Galaxy S8
Black Friday 2016 saw really good deals on the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge, with retailers charging $0 with a contract plus throwing in a gift card and Samsung Gear VR for free. These were a fantastic deals, and we’re expecting to see similarly great Galaxy deals on the Samsung Galaxy S8 in 2017.

PS4 Pro
Black Friday 2016 was all about the PS4 Slim, and Black Friday 2017 will be all about the PS4 Pro. As with 2016 we’d expect the very best deals to be on bundles, with some of them costing only a little more than the PS4 Pro itself, so start working on your game wish list: a bundle’s only a good deal if it includes the games you actually want to play. Up to now, the PS4 Pro is holding its MSRP but you can expect that to change later this year, particularly when Microsoft has launched the Xbox One X…

Xbox One X
Microsoft’s got a pro console too, and unless something goes wrong with the release schedule it will be on sale long on November 7 – right in time for Black Friday 2017. As with the Xbox One in 2016 we’d expect to see the very best deals on bundles, rather than on the console itself: there’s more wiggle room for the retailer there, so they can afford to be more daring with the discounts.

4K HDR OLED TVs
Black Friday 2016 was positively packed with TV deals, including nearly half-price deals on select TVs. High-end sets are where the really expensive MSPRs are, and the ever-advancing world of TV tech means those prices can only be sustained for a fairly short time. If you’re in the market for the kind of TV with a price tag that wouldn’t look out of place on a car, Black Friday 2017 could be a very good day for you indeed.

Black Friday 2017 FAQ: what it is, when it happens and where to get the best deals

What is Black Friday?
Black Friday is the Friday immediately after Thanksgiving. It’s a day when retailers offer big discounts to kick-start the holiday shopping season.

When is Black Friday 2017?
Black Friday 2017 will be Friday, November 24. What is Cyber Monday? Cyber Monday is the Monday immediately after Black Friday.

When is Cyber Monday 2017?
Cyber Monday 2017 will be on Monday, November 27. What is Black Friday deals week? It’s the week that includes Black Friday. Retailers are increasingly offering deals before and after Black Friday itself so they stand out from the crowd.

Are Black Friday deals real?
Yes, although in some cases the discounts have been negotiated well in advance with suppliers. As with any sales you’ll see a mix of genuine bargains, discounted end-of-line stock and mysterious things found in the back of a warehouse somewhere. In other words, alongside all those shiny new consoles, you’ll also see deals on random items like cheese graters and shaving razors.

Where can I find the best Black Friday deals?
Right here on TechRadar of course! We scour all the top retailers’ Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals so that you don’t have to – and we tell you whether the deals are worth getting excited about too. Whether it’s a 4K HDR OLED TV or an Xbox One controller, if it’s discounted we’ll have the details here.

How do I get the best Black Friday 2017 deals?
Know what you want, know what you can afford to spend and know the market: you’ll often see retailers charging higher than usual prices in October so they can offer amazing discounts on Black Friday. Pay particular attention to real prices, not MSRPs: TVs are notorious for this, with sets having a suggested retail price of several thousand dollars routinely selling for a few hundred.

Sites such as CamelCamelCamel, PriceGrabber and Become and PriceSpy will help tell you if you’re looking at a legitimate bargain as well as track deals on items you want to buy.

It’s also a very good idea to be flexible: for example, if you want a Sony 4K TV then think about the features you want rather than a specific model number: the BRV123ABD54-88C-9218-B may not be discounted on Black Friday, but an almost identical set with the specification you want probably will be.

Can I get cashback on Black Friday deals?
Sometimes, yes. Your debit card or credit card may offer cashback on purchases, and sites such as Ebates offer cashback for customers of big-name online shops. It’s definitely worth looking into, not just for Black Friday but for any online shopping.

Am I protected when I buy on Black Friday?
Yes. In the US, anything you buy from a company online is covered by a wealth of consumer protection legislation including the Fair Credit Billing Act. This bill lets you dispute a charge or stop payment under certain circumstances while the retailer is being investigated, according to the FTC.

How can I stay safe on Black Friday?
Black Friday brings out the scammers as well as the sellers, so be wary of unsolicited emails or links to deals on social media no matter how legitimate they look: anything asking for credit card details or login details is a scam. Phishing sites do big business on Black Friday, so be extra suspicious – and if you’re on a PC, make sure your security software is up to date. Many suites automatically block known scam sites.

      

Bing search has taken over a surprising amount of Google’s turf

Microsoft’s search engine Bing has made some seriously surprising inroads into Google’s territory, managing to snatch a considerable chunk of the search market in the US and UK.

According to comScore’s figures for desktop PC searches in March of this year, Bing has managed to capture no less than 33% of the market over in the States. And it’s not far behind that in the UK, with a 26% share.

That represents 5 billion searches every month in the US, and just under 980 million in the UK.

Note that Bing is considerably more popular in these two countries than most other places in Europe, or indeed the rest of the world. Bing has a global market share of 9%, in fact – and it’s worth further noting that Bing searches here include Yahoo and AOL searching powered by Microsoft’s engine.

Nonetheless, that’s still almost a tenth of the global market – and the overall percentage is pulled down by the Asia-Pacific region, where Bing’s market share is only 3%.

It’s quite incredible to think that one in three searches in the US are powered by Bing, and a quarter of all searches in the UK. That’s far more than we (and doubtless many others) imagined would be the case.

Other highlights include a 19% share in France, 17% of the Canadian search market, and a score of 24% over in Taiwan.

As MS Power User, which spotted this data, observes, Microsoft’s search engine is on course to pull in $5 billion (around £3.9 billion, AU$6.6 billion) in terms of annual revenue, which is hardly small fry.

Windows of opportunity

So what’s driving Bing’s success? The spread of Windows 10 is the primary factor, with Microsoft’s newest OS maintaining a steady rate of growth as time goes on, as we saw with the latest figures on that front yesterday.

Windows 10 is fronted – quite literally, from setup onwards – by Cortana, and searches conducted via the digital assistant are powered by Bing.

As Windows 10 continues to gather pace, and more folks begin to use Cortana on the desktop, naturally more searches will come Bing’s way.

And to some extent, Google getting flak for anti-competitive practices in Europe, as seen last month when the search giant was hit by a massive fine for favoring its own shopping services in results, isn’t likely to hurt Bing’s prospects either.

We’ve certainly had several non-techie friends hear anti-Google news hitting the headlines, prompting them to think about using alternatives. This search might lead folks to Bing’s door.

And finally, the fact that Microsoft will now pay you to use Bing could tempt some folks, as well.

      

Broadband deal of the week: £75 Mastercard with £18.99pm Sky broadband

There’s scarcely been a better time for your broadband contract to come to an end than the last few weeks. Promotions from TalkTalk and Plusnet, as well as BT’s Black Friday 2016 prices offer, have meant brilliant broadband deals for all.

And now Sky broadband is joining the fun. Already offering one of the very cheapest standard broadband tariffs – a mere £18.99 per month including phone line – it’s now throwing in pre-paid cash cards to the sum of £75. Available to spend anywhere that Mastercard is accepted, the offer takes the effective price of the broadband to a teeny £172.83 over 12 months. That’s unbeatable at the moment.

Keep reading to learn more about our broadband deal of the week and how to claim your cash card. Then bag this limited time only broadband offer…

Sky Broadband Unlimited deal of the week

Sky Broadband Unlimited | 12 months | Up to 17Mb | Line rental inc. | No TV | £19.95 upfront | £18.99pm
If you were to take a look at our full broadband deals comparison chart, you wouldn’t find much cheaper than Sky broadband at the moment – especially when you take the £75 pre-paid Mastercard into account. Line rental and unlimited data are included. You may feel put off by the twenty quid set-up, but that’s less than what the likes of BT broadband charges. Whichever way you spin it, this is a fantastic deal. Total cost of 12 months £247.83

View this Sky broadband deal of the week

£75 pre-paid Mastercard

If the £75 Mastercard is whetting your appetite for Sky broadband, it’s worth noting a few of the conditions. For example, it’s only available to new customers joining Sky Broadband for the first time. And you need to make sure that you claim it within 90 days within signing up for broadband. So if you’ve got a forgetful nature then it’s well worth popping in your diary! You have to use it within 12 months, too.

You can use the card anywhere that accepts Mastercard, with just a few exceptions – gambling, cash withdrawals, currency, cashback or at petrol stations.

Existing Sky Broadband customers

Sky states that this deal is for new Sky customers only. So if you already have Sky Broadband – or even if you have had it before – you won’t be able to snap up this offer. Head to our other best cheap broadband only deals instead.

Sky TV and Talk

If you like the idea of grabbing a Sky Broadband deal but want to see what the prices are like if you add Sky TV or its landline Talk options, then click on the link to see the best that Sky has to offer.

      

You can save a packet with up to £490 off Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4

In the wake of the new Surface Pro coming out, Microsoft is continuing to offer some big discounts on its Surface Pro 4 hybrid in the UK, with some truly tempting deals – plus there’s a good chunk lopped off one of its Surface Book models, too.

Major discounts run through the entire Surface Pro 4 range, and although these offers were expected to expire at the end of last month, Microsoft has extended them to last for the entirety of July. Although as ever that depends on stock availability.

The base Surface Pro 4 with an Intel Core m3 processor (and no stylus), 4GB RAM and a 128GB SSD is on sale at £635, which is down from the recommended price of £749, a saving of £114.

The best saving to be had, though, in terms of the percentage of the reduction, is the next model up, with the Core i5 CPU and the same amount of memory and storage, which has been cut from £949 to £719, a saving of almost 25%.

As mentioned, there are major savings throughout the rest of the range, with all models currently in stock.

The biggest saving in terms of the pure amount of pounds knocked off is, unsurprisingly, the most expensive variant of the Surface Pro 4, which has been reduced from £2,359 to £1,869; an impressive saving of £490. But obviously it’s still a pretty weighty price tag at nearly two grand.

Book bargain

Remember we just mentioned this is all while stock lasts? Well, that’s certainly something worth bearing keenly in mind, because reductions have also been made to the Surface Book range – but two of these have now sold out, so there’s only one device currently with its price reduced.

That is the Surface Book with Core i7 processor and 16GB of RAM plus a 512GB SSD, with the dedicated GPU on-board. This has been reduced from £2,399 to £2,024, a substantial saving of £375.

The top-end Surface Book which has the same spec but increases the SSD to a capacity of 1TB had been knocked down to £2,384, for a huge saving of £665; but as mentioned it’s now been sold out.

For those mulling a bargain on a hybrid, there’s a good chance we’ll see some impressive discounts on Windows 2-in-1s and tablets with Amazon’s Prime Day 2017, which happens a week tomorrow, offering an absolute shed-load of bargains and discounts for Prime subscribers.

Via: Neowin

  • If you’re curious, these are the hybrids we’ve rated as the best 2-in-1s