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7 of the Best Third-Party Camera Apps for Android

Phone taking photo of the beach Naruedol Rattanakornkul/

Phone cameras are incredibly impressive nowadays, but there’s always more that could be done to expand their utility—especially on the software side of things. And while the stock camera app on your phone is fine, there are many third-party options out there that can offer much more in the way of tools and features.

Why Use a Third-Party Camera App?

Here are just a few features third-party camera apps can offer that make them worth using:

  • Manual Controls: Most stock camera apps will take care of the ISO, exposure, and focus settings for you. And while they’re pretty great at it usually, sometimes you want full control of these settings when taking photos.
  • In-Depth Settings: Some stock camera apps can be fairly limited when it comes to settings, but third-party apps can offer much more extensive options. Whether you want to change the file location and format of your images, image quality, or even adjust parts of the UI, a powerful camera app will allow you to tweak all of these to your liking.
  • Live Filters: Applying filters to photos is nothing new, but what if you could see how the photo would turn out with a certain filter before actually taking it? That’s where live filters can come in handy, as they allow you to make sure that everything looks just right before you take the photo.

Photo-editing apps are also worth a quick mention, as there are a few that offer basic camera modes (such as Adobe Lightroom). We’re focusing on apps that offer more robust camera features in this list, but regardless, a good photo-editing app is an important tool for any mobile photographer to have.

One more note specifically for Pixel users: Only certain third-party apps make use of your phone’s “Visual Core”—the chip inside the Pixel line of phones that makes pictures look so good. That’s not to say photos will look bad without this functionality, but rather that they won’t look nearly as fantastic as you’re used to.

In-Depth Options: Open Camera

Open CameraMark Harman

If you’re looking for a camera app that you can fine-tune to your liking, then Open Camera is the app for you. Not only does it feature full manual controls for exposure and focus, but a wealth of settings ripe for the tweaking. You can toggle certain UI elements (like face tracking); remap the volume buttons to take photos, adjust zoom, and more when the app is open; and easily adjust the file location and format of your photos.

And on top of all of that, Open Camera is open-source, which means it’s completely free and anyone with the technical knowledge can adjust the source code to add more features. HedgeCam 2 is probably the most popular alteration of Open Camera, and it features a slightly different UI and a few new features such as ISO control.


Full Control: ProCam X

ProCam XImagi Mobile

ProCam X prides itself on allowing users to manually adjust every aspect of their photos. Focus, ISO, and exposure settings are all easily accessible on the main camera screen, so you don’t need to dig through menus when taking pictures. You can also easily adjust the file format and image quality settings of photos with the dropdown menus.

ProCam X costs a one-time payment of $4.99. There is also a “Lite” version of the app which is completely free, but it limits your photo resolution to 8 MP, video resolution to 1080p, and video duration to five minutes.


Black and White: Hypocam


Black and white photography is much deeper than it appears, and Hypocam aims to give you all the tools you’ll need to take some fantastic monochromatic images. You can adjust shadows, highlights, and use multiple filters to achieve a specific look, or use a preset to simplify the process. There are a few presets included with the app for free, but if you want more you’ll have to buy the various filter packs available in the app’s store. There are also texture packs available for purchase which can give your photos a unique look.

You can even view photos from other black and white photographers within the app if you’re looking for some inspiration (or just want to look at some cool pictures).

Hypocam is completely free to use, though the filter and texture packs range in price from $0.99 to $2.49.


Vintage Photos: 1998 Cam

1998 CamThe FFFF Studio

If you love the look of vintage photos, then you’ll have a blast experimenting with 1998 Cam. This is a pretty simple app, but it allows you to choose from a wide variety of live filters when taking photos. There are over 100 filters to mess around with here, covering a wide range of vintage styles.

But a lot of those filters will be locked when you download the app, along with the video recording functionality. If you want to unlock everything, you’ll need 1998 Cam Pro in the app for a one-time payment of $2.99.


Live Effects: Pixtica

PixticaPerraco Labs

On the surface, Pixtica seems like a pretty standard camera app. You can adjust the resolution and file format of photos, record videos, and even create GIFs. However, where Pixtica becomes more unique is with its live filters. You can make images and videos look hand-drawn or painted, along with other complete visual overhauls. There are over 70 filters to check out, so you have a lot of options to work with here.

Pixtica is free to use, but you’ll only have a few filters to choose from. If you want all the filters, you’ll need Pixtica Premium, which costs $2.99 a year or a one-time payment of $7.99.


Fun Lenses: Cymera

CymeraSK Communications

Cymera offers plenty of live filters that you can use while taking photos, however, the more unique feature it offers is the various “lenses” you can use. These allow you to take multiple pictures in succession to be auto-formatted into a collage, use effects like a fisheye lens, or something more elaborate like the “Sprocket” lens, which adds a vintage film effect to your photos. Cymera also features a “Beauty Cam” that can soften out blemishes and a photo editor with some color-grading and cropping tools.

Cymera is completely free to use.


Editing Plus Camera: VSCO


To round off this list, we want to bring up VSCO which, despite having a pretty basic camera mode, is great for those looking to deeply edit their photos. In VSCO’s editor, you can manually adjust colors, highlights, contrast, and much more, or just download a “Recipe” made by another user as a preset. You can also use one of the prepackaged filters that cover a wide range of styles and effects.

VSCO is free to download, but if you want access to even more tools (like video editing) and over 200 filters, you’ll want VSCO’s membership, which costs $19.99 a year.


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The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Schoon

Chrome Extensions with 80 Million Installs Caught Injecting Phony Search Results

Phony extensions on the Chrome Web StoreAdGuard

Extensions are part of why Chrome is the most popular browser on the planet, but they’re also one of the most common vectors for security issues. This week researchers at AdGuard found a bunch of them posing as legitimate tools but injecting fake search results into pages on Google and Bing.

According to the report, no less than 295 extensions featured on the Chrome Web Store (Google’s online repository of Chrome extensions) were injecting advertising links into search results. Collectively, they were being used by an estimated 80 million users. In an especially unfunny twist, many of the extensions were posing as ad-blocking tools, with most offered as frivolous wallpaper collections and new tab themes. Other phony techniques on display include false affiliate cookies and just straight-up spam.

Google seems to have removed the malicious extensions from the Chrome Web Store, but users still need to remove them manually from their browsers if they’re already installed. If you’re curious to find out if you have any of these extensions installed, you can take a look at the full list.

Source: AdGuard

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Michael Crider

8 Excellent Couch Co-op Action Games

Cuphead, Hyrule Warriors, Castle CrashersStudio MDHR, Nintendo, The Behemoth

Couch co-op gaming will never truly fade away—playing games with your teammates literally by your side is just too enjoyable. Combine that with the satisfying and just plain fun gameplay of a good action game, and you’re certainly in for a treat.

“Action” is an extremely broad genre, so when selecting games for this list we looked out for the titles that deliver on constant thrills as you play. Regardless if you’re taking on groups of enemies or intimidating boss fights, we just care that’s it’s a heart-pumping and action-packed experience.

Hand-Drawn Boss Encounters: Cuphead (PC/Xbox One/Switch/PS4)

From its reveal in 2014 to its release in 2017, Cuphead has been turning heads thanks to its unique hand-drawn art style. Not only does this game feature tight controls and some of the toughest bosses in gaming, but it also feels like you’re controlling a living cartoon thanks to the excellent animation. And you can enjoy this creative adventure with all with a friend as you play as Cuphead and Mugman.

You’re both going to die to the bosses a lot, but fortunately, you can keep each other in the fight by continually reviving one another. And when you finally beat that difficult boss, the sense of satisfaction you’ll both feel will be unmatched.

Cuphead is available on PC, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4.

Four-Player Chivarly: Castle Crashers (PC/Xbox One/Switch/PS4)

Castle Crashers is an iconic couch co-op game for it’s simple yet fun gameplay, comedic tone, and four-player co-op support. There are jokes around every corner as you and your teammates work together defeating bosses and enemies in an effort the save the princesses kidnapped by “The Wizard.” There are multiple characters to unlock and different weapons to use, so every run-through of the game will feel fresh as you experiment with the different combinations.

Castle Crashers is available on PC, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4.

Spell Slingers: Wizard of Legend (PC/Xbox One/Switch/PS4)

Casting spells has never been more fun and satisfying than in Wizard of LegendIn this top-down roguelike (a genre of games where you have to restart your character after each death), you’ll learn how to make use of various spells and magical abilities to progress through stages and fight enemies. There are two-player co-op and a wide variety of spells to use, so you and your friend can each create your own loadouts and become the perfect duo.

Wizard of Legend is available on PC, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4.

Lunging Luchadors: Guacamelee 1 and 2 (PC/Xbox One/Switch/PS4)

The bright and vivid world of the Guacamelee series is filled to the brim with enemies to fight. At their core, these games are 2D platformers, but you don’t just jump on enemies to defeat them. You play as powerful Luchadors, so you can expect to use a variety of wrestling moves to keep combos going for massive damage. Both games are pretty similar gameplay-wise and support two-player co-op, so you can’t go wrong with either. But, as a sequel, Guacamelee 2 does naturally expand on the concepts introduced in the first game.

Guacamelee is available on PC, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4, as is Guacamelee 2 (PC, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4).

Flashy Moves: River City Girls (PC/Xbox One/Switch/PS4)

Classic beat em’ ups of the arcade era like Golden Axe are a great time in two-player co-op, and River City Girls aims to recapture that gameplay with some modern flair. You’re not just limited to normal punches and kicks here, there’s a great selection of ultra-flashy moves between the two selectable characters. Whether you’re whacking people with a backpack or stunning enemies with the flash from your phone, River City Girls’ combat never stops being interesting as you fight through the stages.

River City Girls is available on PC, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4.

Sprawling RPG: Outward (PC/Xbox One/PS4)

“Open-world RPG” is likely not a genre that springs to mind when it comes to couch co-op, but Outward aims to change that. Outward has all the makings of a great RPG including a massive fantasy world to explore. But most importantly, it supports two-player co-op throughout the entire game. You can each create a character, choose your weapons and items, then explore this world together.

Outward is available on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.

Hordes of Foes: Hyrule Warriors (Switch)

It’s hard to think of a franchise that embodies the “action” moniker more than the Dynasty Warriors series, and this Nintendo sanctioned spinoff is perfect for some co-op fun on the Switch. Taking place in the Zelda universe, Hyrule Warriors features massive hordes of enemies that you can cut through with the various characters. And there are a lot of characters to choose from (31 to be exact), including some more obscure picks that fans are sure to love playing as.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Zelda series, the action-packed gameplay the Warriors series is known for is in full effect here. Characters use massive, sweeping attacks that clear out enemies quickly and spectacularly. It’s not particularly in-depth, but the simple joy of tearing through hordes of enemies and racking up points keeps you playing for many hours. There’s a full story mode present, along with additional gameplay modes, such as “Adventure Mode” where you complete missions with special requirements on a map styled after the original Legend of Zelda game. All of the game modes fully support two-player co-op, so there’s plenty of content to work through here.

For Fire Emblem fans, Fire Emblem Warriors does much of the same as Hyrule Warriors except in the Fire Emblem universe. It’s also fully playable in two-player co-op, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you want more of the gameplay seen in Hyrule Warriors. 

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Schoon

Logitech’s $400 G923 Racing Wheel Offers Incredible Feedback for Simulation Fans

Logitech G923 racing wheelLogitech

If you like your racing games serious, you know that the only “real” way to play is with a wheel. Those who prefer to simulate rather than merely play can pour thousands of dollars into an advanced gaming setup, and Logitech is here for them, with the $400 G923 Racing Wheel. It’s up for pre-order now and shipping later in August.

The wheel comes in Xbox and PlayStation varieties, with both of them boasting compatibility for the PC. (If you’re primarily a PC player, I’d go with the Xbox version.) The wheel uses a steel and aluminum construction covered with hand-stitched leather, complemented with steel pedals and steel racing-style shifter pedals. That wheel can turn a total of 900 degrees with a hall-effect sensor.

But the star of the show is the force feedback system, what elevates this from merely a controller to a wheel simulation. Its internal motors continually adjust their electrical current for precision simulated feedback, which is fancy talk for “it really feels like you’re driving a car.” Other notable functions include an LED rev indicator and dual-clutch launch assist in supported games, and full Xbox/PlayStation controller inputs on the inner wheel for easy game navigation.

Logitech G923 Trueforce feedbackMichael Crider

Players can either use automatic, developer-supplied profiles from supported games (like Farming Simulator—yes, really!) or customize their own in Logitech’s G software. The long list of supported titles mostly includes dual clutch functionality, though only a few take full advantage of Logitech’s TrueForce feedback system, including GRID 2019, Assetto Corsa Competitzione, and Gran Turismo Sport on the PS4.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Michael Crider

4 Reasons Everyone Should Own a Portable Battery

Four portable batteries laying together on a brown swirly rugCam

Portable batteries are one of my favorite accessories, but they’re also admittedly pretty unsexy. They’re not as glamorous as a new mouse or set of true wireless earbuds, but that doesn’t mean a solid portable battery is any less of a must-have for literally everyone. So, if you don’t have one, you probably should. Here’s why.

Use It to Charge Smaller Gadgets

A RavPower battery charging a Logitech MX Keys keyboardCam

I use a wireless keyboard and mouse at my desk, and I absolutely hate plugging them into a wall wart (or even a USB port on my computer). Something about that cable across my desk drives me nuts, not to mention how annoying it makes using the mouse. So instead, I’ve been using a portable battery for both of these.

It may seem trivial, but it makes a pretty big difference. It’s easier than dragging a cable across my desk and more convenient than plugging into the computer. The portable battery sits flush next to the keyboard while it’s charging, and the neatly wrapped cable keeps things tidy. The mouse is also easier to use attached to the battery because the cable is able to move about freely.

I also use a portable battery to charge other small gadgets like wireless earbuds, flashlights, and whatnot. I can get multiple charges for a variety of small devices from the battery. And, as long as I don’t forget to charge the battery (which I usually do overnight), it’s always ready to go.

A PD Battery Is a Great Couch Companion

A RavPower battery on a tan couch with a teal pillowIf I get it a little blanket, it may never leave this spot. Cam

I’ve been working from home for a long time, and some days I get sick of looking at my home office. And on those days, I will camp my ass on the couch for as long as I can (until my wife gives me the boot so she can watch TV or whatever). But sometimes my laptop isn’t up to the challenge, and I hate digging around behind the couch for an outlet.

But the RAVPower battery I’ve been using has a 65-watt PD (Power Delivery) port, which means it can power most laptops. It works beautifully to juice up my Pixelbook and Surface Laptop 3, and saves me a bunch of hassle when I last longer than my laptop (often). One full charge of either laptop will basically drain the battery, though, which is a potential downside. Something to consider if you’re looking for a couch buddy—get one bigger than you think you’ll need.

It’s a Must-Have in an Emergency

The Anker Roav portable battery with car booster cablesYou can boost your car with this battery. Cam

A storm is rolling in, and there’s a chance your power could go out. Your phone is at 12 percent. What do you do? If you have a portable battery, you don’t sweat it. You’ll be able to make sure your phone is juiced up at least a couple of times, which might be crucial in the case of a real emergency (not just a power outage), like a natural disaster.

There are also portable batteries that are designed to be able to boost a dead car battery. They’re slightly larger than other portable batteries, but having one in your car for emergencies could be the difference between having to call someone and getting your car boosted immediately. Most of those batteries also have other features like a built-in flashlight. In many cases, they’re also capable of charging your phone or laptop if you need them to. Just remember to get it out of your car and charge it once every six months or so!

Charge Your Battery-Hungry Gadgets Right in Your Bag

A portable battery charging a laptop inside of a messenger bagIt’s in ur bag, chargin’ ur laptop Cam

After CES 2020 (which feels like a lifetime ago), I wrote about how a 45-watt RAVPower battery saved my ass on more than one occasion. A big part of that was because I could charge my laptop or phone while they were in my backpack between meetings. That made the “downtime” while traveling between places incredibly valuable when it came time to get stuff done during or after those meetings. Plus, at events like CES, any outlet you might potentially find will almost certainly be occupied by someone else.

Of course, not everyone is going to CES, but you should still be the appeal for other real-life events too. Like on vacation, when you might be using your phone for navigation to find your way around.

Okay, Which Portable Battery Should I Buy?

So you’re convinced, but a quick look through Amazon has you absolutely overwhelmed with the number of options. I don’t blame you! Portable batteries are prolific—everything from small and ultraportable $5 “tubes” to massive beastly bricks that could bludgeon someone make it a hard choice.

Never fear, friend, because the RG staff has used more portable batteries than you can shake a stick at (why are you shaking sticks at batteries?), so we have some favorites. But first, a quick word about those cheap-ass “tubes.”

I can see why those are so popular—they’re cheap and ultra-portable. I’m sure they’re great in a pinch, but if you want a battery with some real utility, I’d suggest skipping those. They’re more than likely only big enough to charge your phone one time (and certainly not powerful enough for anything else), so they’re honestly not all that useful. Unless, of course, you only buy one to supplement your real battery. I dunno man, I guess that’s a thing someone does.

Secondly, you might be tempted to pay a little extra for a battery that has wireless charging. In a word: don’t. I’ve used several batteries with wireless charging and in every situation, it’s been a superfluous feature that does nothing more than jack the price up. It’s simply not worth it.

And with all that, here’s a look at the batteries you probably should buy (or at least consider).

Best Overall: RAVPower 20,000 mAh 60w PD Charger

RavPower's 20k mAh 60w chargerRAVPower

If you’re looking for a killer use-it-at-your-desk-or-throw-it-in-your-bag battery that can charge everything from your headphones to your laptop, this is it. It’s small enough to be truly portable, but powerful enough to juice up damn-near anything you throw at it.

It has two USB ports—a 60w USB-C port with Power Delivery and standard 18w USB-A port—so it’s versatile enough to cover most bases. It also has a 30w input, so it charges quickly and will be ready the next time you need it.

The Best for Emergencies: Anker Roav

The Anker Roav with car booster cablesAnker

As I said earlier, some portable batteries can boost your car if you get caught with a dead battery—the Anker Roav is one such battery. This 12,800 mAh battery doesn’t have the biggest capacity, but it’s also not meant to be a battery you toss in your laptop bag for everyday use. Nay, this is a beefy emergency battery that’s best left in your car so it’s there in case of, well, emergency.

Aside from the ability to boost your car’s battery, it also has a built-in flashlight, 45-watt charging, two USB-A ports, and a USB-C port. It’s a big boi.

Best for Emergencies

Anker Roav Jump Starter Pro 1000A, 12800mAh, 12V Portable Car Jump Starter (Gas Engines up to 6.0L, Diesel up to 4.0L), Battery and Phone Charger with 3 USB Ports, SOS LED, and Jumper Cables

This chonky boi can charge your laptop or phone, has a built in flashlight, and can even boost your car in a pinch. What more could you want?

Best for Fast Charging Laptops: Zendure SuperTank

The Zundure SuperTank in silver with charging cableZendure

If you’re looking for something that is powerful enough to juice up even the beefiest of laptops, look no further than the massive 27,000 mAh SuperTank from Zendure. It has not one, but two USB-C ports capable of outputting at 60w and 100w, respectively. That’s enough to power a 15-inch MacBook Pro.

But it doesn’t stop with a pair of USB-C ports, because it’s also packing a pair of 15w USB-A ports. And despite its fatboy 27k mAh size, it can hit a full charge in just two hours with a 100w brick. As an added bonus, it’s made of aluminum and weighs over a pound, so it can also double as a weapon in a pinch. Consider that a perk.

Best for Fast Charging Laptops

Zendure Power Bank, SuperTank 27,000mAh External Battery with Dual USB-C PD (100W&60W) and USB-A (15W&18W), QC 3.0 Portable Charger for USB-C laptops, MacBook, iPad Pro, Switch, etc.-Silver

With its 100w output, this battery can handle even the most power-hungry laptops. Plus it would likely knock someone out if you throw it at them.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Cameron Summerson

The Best Turntables and Vinyl Accessories for Beginners

Young audiophile playing vinyl record on turntable in her homePopartic/

If you’re just getting into vinyl, it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed by all the options for turntables and vinyl accessories. Lucky for you, we rounded up a solid list of beginner-friendly (and budget-friendly) turntables, and some basic accessories for storing, playing, and cleaning your new vinyl collection.

We know that everyone’s audio tastes differ. Our suggestions won’t create the perfect audiophile setup; rather, this is just a starting point for anyone who’s new to vinyl. All you really need to get started is a turntable, good speakers, and a safe place to store your vinyl. Undoubtedly, expanding and upgrading your turntable setup will naturally progress as time goes on. We listed a few turntable options—all of which are under $500—as well as some vinyl storage solutions and other accessories that’ll start your vinyl-listening experience off on the right note.

The Turntables

The expression “you get what you pay for” is widely applicable but in few places more appropriate than with turntables. If you’re bargain hunting or hoping to snag a used turntable online, you run the risk of ending up with one that’s made of low-quality material, missing important features, or that’ll do a poor and inconsistent job of playing your records—something that could ultimately damage them.

Paying a little more for a new turntable is a good investment. It ensures you’ll end up with the latest technology, higher-quality components (like a built-in preamp and a nice tonearm), which in turn means you’ll get a clean perfect sound. Though the more inexpensive options are a perfect jumping-off point, the most costly devices are worth every penny, and you should be able to hear the difference.

Audio-Technica LP60X

The Audio-Technica LP60X budget-friendly turntable for beginners, with attached dust coverAudio-Technica

The Audio-Technica LP60X ($99) is your best bet for a quality turntable that won’t bust your budget. Its super-simple design won’t overwhelm beginner users, yet its quality components are good enough to impress serious audiophiles. Its automatic belt-drive operation can run at both 33 and 45 RPM, and it can even convert your vinyl to digital audio if that’s something you’re interested in doing.

The LP60X’s solid platter is designed to minimize vibrations, and its newly redesigned headshell and tonearm base mean better tracking and reduced resonance for crystal clear playback. It also has a built-in preamp for line- or phono-level output, and included in the box is an RCA output cable, a 45 RPM adapter, and a hinged removable cover for keeping dust out whenever you’re not using the turntable. The only notable downside of the LP60X is its fixed cartridge that can’t be upgraded if you don’t happen to like it.

U-Turn Orbit Basic

U-Turn Orbit Basic turntable least expensive turntable from U-TurnU-Turn Audio

If you want a turntable with a clean minimalist look, look no further than the U-Turn Orbit Basic Turntable ($179). You have six fun colors to choose from that are, frankly, a welcome and exciting respite from the armies of plain black turntables smothering the market. The Orbit Basic is easy to set up and use, and it ships with an AC adapter, RCA cables, a dust cover, and a felt slipmat. Its external belt-drive motor is designed to run quietly while spinning at a consistent speed for pure-sounding playback. The Orbit Basic even has a precision gimbal tonearm with an adjustable counterweight that ensures accurate tracking with low distortion.

U-Turn also has another fairly inexpensive model, the Orbit Plus ($289), that’s a solid choice for vinyl newbies with an extra hundred bucks to spare. It has slightly better components than the Basic, so your records will sound better, and the turntable itself will last longer. Who wouldn’t want that? Both turntables come with an impressive three-year manufacturer warranty.

Audio-Technica LP120X

Audio-Technica LP120X turntable best recommendation for new vinyl collectorsAudio-Technica

The Audio-Technica LP120X is one of the most widely recommended turntables for beginners. After all, it’s the remodel of the well-loved LP120USB that many seasoned vinyl enthusiasts enjoy using. The turntable’s magnet-powered direct-drive motor is a nice treat, as it rarely (if ever) will require servicing and is a feature more commonly found on high-end turntables than on those at this price point. On-system playback controls feature a variable pitch control with quartz speed lock, and the popup stylus has a target light for easy song cueing of your favorite 33, 44, and 78 RPM tracks if you happen to be vibing in dim light. The S-shaped tonearm has hydraulically damped lift control, and you can lock it into a rest position when needed. It also has a built-in preamp that’ll allow you to switch between line- and phono-level output with the flip of a switch.

The fully manual turntable ships with a detachable RCA output cable, USB cable, AC adapter, 45 RPM adapter, felt slipmat, counterweight, and hinged dust cover you can remove during use. It can also convert your analog audio into digital audio via the USB output, which is great to have if you’re streaming or simply want to digitize your vinyl collection.

Fluance RT81

Fluance RT81 turntable with a wooden plinthFluance

If you want a great turntable with a beautiful solid wood plinth, the Fluance RT81 ($249.99) is an incredible choice at this price point. The diamond elliptical tipped stylus tracks with precision and accuracy which, paired with the balanced aluminum S-Type tonearm, gives you stellar-sounding audio. The turntable even has a built-in Texas Instruments preamp, gold-plated RCA line outputs, and a ground terminal.

The RT81’s solid walnut-finished wooden cabinet has an aluminum platter, isolation feet, and an included rubber slipmat so you won’t have to worry about unwanted vibrations interfering with your music session. Plus, it looks stylish and classy. Also included in the box is a dust cover, 45 adapter, RCA cable with ground wire, AC adapter, and a quick-start guide.

Denon DP-300F

Denon DP-300F turntable with glossy platter and slipmatDenon

Though the Denon DP-300F ($329) costs a bit more than the other turntables we’ve covered so far, it has additional features and functionality that justify the jump in price. Its heavy super-solid base means added stability and reduced vibrational impacts to its performance whether you set it to 33 or 45 RPM. Automatic startup makes the turntable starts playing at the press of a button, and the tonearm will also automatically return to its rest to minimize possible damage and scratches. (Though it also has a manual lifter mechanism, which is nice to have in the event you want to cue up a specific song.)

The DP-300F’s diecast aluminum build is designed for smooth, vibration- and flutter-free performance. It also has a phono equalizer built-in to connect to an external receiver or integrated amp lacking its own phono input.

Rega Planar 1

Rega Planar 1 turntable with excellent components for such a low price pointRega

The Rega Planar 1 has a super-glossy minimalistic design, and is a stellar under-$500 choice for vinyl novices. The turntable is known for its excellent hi-fi sound as much as its modern design, and is probably the closest any beginner will get to a professional-grade set up on this kind of budget. Though the Planar 1 lacks a built-in phono preamp, it is designed to easily connect to an external one. Its other high-quality components—including zero play ultra-low friction bearings and a 24v low-noise synchronous motor—more than make up for this omission.

A weighted tonearm is mounted to the 23mm phenolic resin platter, and ideal tracking weight is marked on the arm as well. The Planar 1 is fully manual but includes directions so there’s no need for beginners to feel put off by this; it also means you’ll have to manually switch between 33 and 45 RPM. The turntable is available in a white or black finish, both glossy.

Rega Planar 1

Rega – Planar 1 (Black)

A solid beginner-friendly turntable with amazing components and features for a low price point.

The Accessories

From slipmats to speakers to storage, having the right accessories for your vinyl setup is a must-have for keeping it clean and organized. Because vinyl is fragile and, in many cases, rare, having the right accessories on hand makes it easy for you to maintain and enjoy using your vinyl collection.

Quality Speakers

Edifier R1850DB active bookshelf speakers with bluetooth and optical inputEdifier

Having good speakers is the other half of the bare essentials vinyl turntable setup! The Edifier R1850DB Active Bookshelf Speakers are terrific speakers that are widely recommended for pairing with modern turntables. The set supports Bluetooth 4.0 and has lossless Optical Input options. You can adjust treble and bass on the rear panel, and even connect a subwoofer via the sub-out jack. The R1850 speakers ship with a wireless remote for quick adjustments when you’re away from them, along with a two-year warranty on parts and labor.

Storage for Your Vinyl

Old vinyl records in a box standing next to a turntable on a tableSerge Ka/

Even though having floor-to-ceiling shelving full of the choicest vinyl is the dream of every aspiring vinyl collector, it’s not exactly a realistic starting line. Something a little more humble, like the Ikea Kallax ($70) is where most people start, though you can always choose something a little more stylish and functional, like the Novogratz Concord Stand, which has storage for your vinyl, drawers for accessories, and a flat top for your turntable.

Novogratz Concord Stand

Novogratz Concord Turntable Stand, Double, Walnut

This stylish stand has a place for records, accessories, and your turntable.

Protect Your Vinyl with Sleeves

Mobile Fidelity Original Master Inner Sleeves pack of 50 for protecting your recordsTurntable Lab

The best way to become a serious vinyl collector is to care about your vinyl. Newbies and hardcore collectors alike swear by Mobile Fidelity Original Master Inner Sleeves ($19.95 for 50) from Turntable Lab, which keep your records from slipping out and protect them from the bumps and scratches that tend to occur during handling. The clear three-ply sleeves are anti-static and safely hold your vinyl as well as its original sleeve, so you can still see which record you’re looking at. They’re perfect for safely storing new vinyl as well as rare classics.

Keep Control with a Slipmat

SICMATS Pinwheel SlipmatTurntable Lab

A slipmat is an accessory that’s both fun and functional. Above all, a slipmat keeps your vinyl spinning and in position, and prevents it from sticking to the platter beneath it. And if you get one with a cool design, like this SICMATS Pinwheel Slipmat ($20), it looks cool when you’re not using your turntable. They’re commonly sold in sets of two and are an easy way to personalize your setup a bit.

A Turntable Weight for Stable Spins

Hudson Hi-fi BigBen turntable weightHudson Hi-Fi

Turntable weights, also called record weights, perform a number of benefits that help playback sound cleaner and less distorted (especially when playing older, warped records). A weight, like the Hudson Hi-Fi BigBen, keeps records flat when playing, dampens vibrations caused by the stylus as it moves around, and even reduces other problematic distortions, like flutter. It’s not a total essential if your record collection consists solely of brand-new vinyl, but if you’ve got older records, a turntable weight is absolutely worth investing in.

Keep Your Records Clean

Hudson Hi-Fi record cleaning kitHudson Hi-Fi

Clean vinyl is happy vinyl. Though your personal cleaning process and products might change over the years, the Hudson Hi-Fi Vinyl Record Cleaning Kit is a great place to start. It includes a rubber label protector, a stylus cleaner, a microfiber cloth, cleaning solution with a brush, mitts, and an anti-static carbon fiber cleaning brush, which is enough to keep your records in mint condition and sounding great for years to come.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

‘The Alto Collection’ Will Be Released for PC and Consoles on August 13

The Alto Collection bundle of Alto's Adventure and Alto's Odyssey available for PC and consoles on August 13Team Alto

If you’re a fan of Alto’s Adventure or Alto’s Odyssey, we’ve got good news: Team Alto is releasing both games together as The Alto Collection on August 13. The bundle will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Epic Games Store on that date and sometime later for the Nintendo Switch.

Though Alto’s Adventure was originally released on Windows, Alto’s Odyssey wasn’t, and neither were ever available on gaming consoles. However, with the massive success of both games, Team Alto has decided to bring the games to a wider audience so everyone can enjoy its relaxing (though difficult to master) gameplay. The procedurally-generated games offer stunning visuals of landscapes you can explore by snowboarding or sandboarding while rescuing llamas, escaping foes, and successfully landing tricks.

The Alto Collection will run you $9.99 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and the Epic Game Store. Even better, you can grab it free on the Epic Game store until August 20th. No details have been released as of yet regarding price or the date of availability on the Nintendo Switch’s eShop, or whether any changes have been made to either game for this special bundle.

Source: Team Alto via Engadget

Proactive Computing found this story and shared it with you.
The Article Was Written/Published By: Suzanne Humphries

Google Play Music Will Be Put Out of Its Misery in October

So long Google Play Music, we barely knew you. Well, that’s not true—we’ve known you for almost nine years, and you’ve come pre-installed on about a billion Android phones. But you won’t be around much longer: Google is retiring Play Music in October, in favor of the shiny new YouTube Music.

Play Music had a promising start, offering an alternative to the iTunes store for MP3 purchases and giving users free storage to stream tens of thousands of their own songs from Google’s servers. Google eventually added a premium option and ad-supported streaming stations. But the writing has been on The Wall for Play Music for a while, as the digital music scene shifted towards all-in-one services like Spotify. YouTube Music is Google’s answer to this, and it’s already been urging its customers to move their existing libraries over.

The Play Store’s MP3 storefront will shutdown later this month, with no more sales accepted from users. Streaming purchased or uploaded music will end in September in New Zealand and South Africa (for some reason), with the rest of the world following in October.

Google will store customers’ music and playlists for a little longer, not deleting all data until December. Users will have until then to initiate a transfer to YouTube Music, where purchases, uploads, and playlists will be preserved.

Source: 9to5Google

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Michael Crider

17 Cross-Platform Games to Play with Friends

Dauntless, Rocket League, and MinecraftPhoenix Labs, Psyonix LLC, Mojang Studios

Cross-platform multiplayer is more prevalent than ever, and while it may not be available for every major game yet, there’s still a great selection of titles that support it. Not all crossplay is created equal though, as some games may limit what systems can play with each other. Sometimes, this is simply because the game is only available on a limited number of systems, but other times, systems are specifically separated for technical or balancing reasons.

We’re going to outline exactly what systems each game allows for crossplay, so you don’t have to do that digging yourself. Besides that though, there’s not much more to say, so let’s just get started.

Cooperative Action Games

Dauntless, Sea of ThievesPhoenix Labs, Rare Ltd

There’s nothing quite like a good action game, and ones where you can work with your friends to complete a common objective are even better.

  • Dauntless (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC): Heavily inspired by the Monster Hunter series, Dauntless sees you teaming up with a squad of friends to hunt down and defeat intimidating beasts together. And, as you defeat harder and harder monsters, you can craft increasingly powerful gear to organically increase your avatar’s power level as well.
  • Sea of Thieves (Crossplay between Xbox One and PC): Are you ready to be a pirate? Because in this swashbuckling adventure, you and your friends can form a crew and sail the waves from island to island gathering treasure or, if you’re feeling aggressive, steal treasure from others. With beautiful visuals and plenty of charm thrown in, you’re sure to make many memories in Sea of Thieves. (Also worth noting, Sea of Thieves is on Xbox Game Pass for both PC and Xbox One, which is a significantly cheaper way to try it out.)
  • Deep Rock Galactic (Crossplay between Xbox One and PC): You’ve probably done plenty of mining in plenty of games. Well, now you can really put those spelunking skills to the test by mining precious gems from the hearts of dangerous planets and asteroids—while dealing with plenty of enemies of course. (Note: Deep Rock Galactic is available on both Steam and the Windows Store for PC. Crossplay with the Xbox One version only works with the Windows Store version.)

Competitive Games

Killer Queen Black, Rocket LeagueLiquid Bit LLC, Psyonix LLC

Some healthy competition never hurt anyone. So, when it comes to these games, you’re going to have plenty of fun either teaming up with your friends to take down other teams, or just competing with your friends for that glorious victory screen.

  • Rocket League (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC): You know what would make soccer better? Rocket-powered cars. And, in that case, Rocket League acts as a wonderful proof of concept. Team up with your friends and face against other players online, or duke it out amongst yourselves to climb up the effectively infinite skill ladder.
  • Fortnite (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, iOS, Android, and PC): You probably don’t need us to tell you about Fortnite—it’s one of the most popular games in the world right now. But with the impressive number of platforms Fortnite supports, plus the fact that it’s completely free, it makes it a crossplay game almost anyone can get in on. It’s worth noting that Fortnite’s crossplay is a bit more complex than other games. When it comes to joining lobbies, Fornite has a hierarchy of platforms that it will join your squad with depending on what platforms you’re all playing on. PC is the highest, then Xbox One and PS4, and then Mobile or Switch. So basically, even if you’re playing on a phone, if one of your friends is playing on a PC, you’ll all join a PC lobby, and so on and so forth.
  • Paladins (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC): While Overwatch may not offer crossplay support, Paladins does a pretty good job at capturing that same hero-based team gameplay. Paladins is also free to play, so no matter your friend’s system or budget, you can play together.
  • Brawlhalla (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC): Another free to play title, this time taking inspiration from the Super Smash Brothers series. Brawlhalla has you knocking your opponents out of the arena to gain points. With a wide cast of characters and the option to play against your friends, or team up with them in ranked mode, there’s plenty of bombastic brawling to be had here.
  • Killer Queen Black (Crossplay between PC and Switch): Fast-paced arcade games are always a great time, and Killer Queen Black takes that action-packed gameplay and transforms it into a team-based strategy brawler where you can win each match in any of three ways. There are multiple classes to master, and the base movement mechanics can be surprisingly complex. So, grab your four most strategic friends, form a team, and prepare to fight to the end in the pixelated bug-off.
  • Street Fighter V (Crossplay between PC and PS4): The Street Fighter franchise needs no introduction; it’s one of the most iconic fighting games of all time. And the latest entry, Street Fighter V, is no different with a thriving competitive scene both off and online.
  • Apex Legends (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC): Another battle royale game, but Apex Legends is quite different from Fortnite in both gameplay and tone. Apex Legends is a first-person shooter and focuses more on movement than its cartoony competitor. And, while crossplay hasn’t been implemented yet at the time of writing, later this Fall it will be introduced with support for all platforms, along with the Switch version’s release.

Crafting/Survival Games

No Man's Sky, MinecraftHello Games, Mojang Studios

When designed well, a survival (or crafting-focused) game can give players hundreds of hours of content. And because these games are commonly about spending those many hours working towards long-term projects, adding a few friends to the equation can speed up that process significantly.

  • Minecraft (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, Switch, iOS, Android, and PC): Minecraft was actually a leader in crossplay support, featuring crossplay between all major platforms with no complications before many other games. Of course, Minecraft itself is ridiculously well-known, but now you can rest assured that no matter the platform, you and your friends can build up your own blocky world together. (Note: There are two versions of Minecraft on PC: Minecraft: Java Edition and Minecraft: Bedrock Edition on the Windows Store. Only the Windows Store version works for crossplay.)
  • No Man’s Sky (Crossplay between PS4, Xbox One, and PC): Explore a seemingly endless universe in No Man’s Sky, all with a few friends by your side. Fly your ships, explore the procedurally generated planets, and complete quests together, all while staking a name for yourself in this oversized sandbox.
  • Ark Survival Evolved (Crossplay between Xbox One and PC): Ark Survival Evolved falls into the more difficult class of survival games, as it sees you and your friends surviving in a dangerous world full of dinosaurs. But as you progress through the game and start taking over part of the island as your own, you can actually tame those same dinosaurs and command them to do some of the work for you. It’s a time-intensive game, but if you’re willing to put the hours in, you can have a good time here. (Note: Ark Survival Evolved is available on both Steam and the Windows Store for PC. Crossplay with the Xbox One will not work if you are playing on the Steam version. Ark is also available on PS4, but crossplay is not supported at all.)
  • Astroneer (Crossplay between Xbox One and PC)Astroneer focuses on laid-back survival and crafting. There aren’t many immediate threats or pressing issues, rather, you just build your base at your own pace, while experimenting with the various gadgets you can create. This makes it the perfect game to play if you or your friends are new to the genre. But even for those who are veterans of the genre, Astroneer can offer up a nice change of pace.  (Note: Astroneer is available on both Steam and the Windows Store for PC. Crossplay with the Xbox One will not work if you are playing on the Steam version. Astroneer is also available on the PS4, but crossplay is not supported at all.)


Wargroove, Ultimate Chicken HorseChucklefish, Clever Endeavour Games

These games may not fit into any singular category, but they’re still worth looking at when it comes to crossplay multiplayer.

  • Wargroove (Crossplay between Xbox One, Switch, and PC): Harkening back to the niche Nintendo series Advance WarsWargroove is a turn-based strategy game about managing various units to win the day. In multiplayer, you and your friends can either play as a team or play against each other. Either way, you’re sure to have a good time micro-managing these pixelated soldiers. (Note: Wargroove is also available on PS4, but crossplay is not compatible with that version.)
  • Ultimate Chicken Horse (Crossplay between PS4, Switch, and PC): Ultimate Chicken Horse is about balance. The balance between your desire to win and your desire to make your friends fail. At the beginning of every round, each player gets the opportunity to place a stage element or obstacle. As the stage builds up, you have to make sure it remains possible for you to beat while being too difficult for your opponents. You can probably already see where the strategy comes in with that. (Note: Ultimate Chicken Horse is also available on Xbox One, but crossplay is not compatible with that version.)
  • Forza Horizon 4 (Crossplay between Xbox One and PC): Open-world racers are a great time, and Forza Horizon 4 offers one of the most beautiful maps in the genre, along with some of the deepest car customization (for both tuning your car’s performance and how it looks). So, start your engines, and get ready to rip through the United Kingdom with reckless abandon. (Also worth noting, Forza Horizon 4 is available on the Xbox Game Pass for both the Xbox One and PC, which is a significantly cheaper way to try it out.)

It’s great to see crossplay in any game, and the fact that we now have such a high-quality and varied selection of titles to choose from is even better. And, of course, that selection will only continue to grow as crossplay becomes a more standardized aspect of multiplayer gaming.

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Eric Schoon

Facebook Is Rolling Out Live Broadcasting to Messenger Rooms

Four poeple live broadcasting in a Messenger Room.Facebook

Recently, Facebook unveiled Messenger Rooms, its take on Zoom-like video chat. It supports up to 50 callers, and you join through Messenger or a shared link on Facebook. Now, Facebook is rolling out the ability to live broadcast your Messenger Room, so anyone can see the call without joining.

As the pandemic continues, we’ve begun to use video conferencing in new and interesting ways. You’ll find table reads of episodes of Community or casts from movies like Lord of the Rings reuniting over video calls and broadcast for everyone to see.

Facebook built its new Messenger Room feature for those kinds of scenarios. Perhaps you have a book club meeting and belong to a book lovers group that would find interesting. Or you want to reenact a favorite scene for all your friends. All you need to do is start a room and then broadcast it to your profile, page, or group and invite people to watch. Anyone can then watch the Room chat without joining the room and directly participating.

Facebook did put in a few sensible restrictions. Only the Messenger Room creator can decide to broadcast. And before the broadcast begins, everyone in the Room has to agree to the live stream, or leave if they don’t want to participate.

The Room creator can add or remove participants at any time, and participants can choose to leave at any time as well. That should prevent anyone from getting stuck in a live stream. Facebook says the feature is rolling out now in “some countries” and plans to roll out to all countries that support Messenger Rooms eventually.

Source: Facebook

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The Article Was Written/Published By: Josh Hendrickson

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