Monday, October 25, 2021

CD Projekt Acquires The Molasses Flood, The Studio Behind The Flame In The Flood

CD Projekt has announced that it has acquired The Molasses Flood, the studio known for games like The Flame in the Flood and Drake Hollow.  This news comes by way of a press release from CD Projekt that says The Molasses Flood is a perfect fit for the studio group. The studio will be working on one of CD Projekt’s IP, although it will retain its own identity and won’t merge with any existing teams in CD Projekt.  “The Molasses Flood will be working in close cooperation with CD Projekt Red, but will keep their current identity and will not be merged with existing teams,” the release reads. “The studio will be working on its own ambitious project which is based on one of CD Projekt’s IPs. Details about the project will be announced in the future.”  CD Projekt specifically cites The Molasses Flood’s technological insight and experience as reasons for the acquisition. “We’re always on the lookout for teams who make games with heart,” CD Projekt president and CEO Adam Kiciński writes in the press release. “The Molasses Flood share our passion for video game development, they’re experienced, quality-oriented, and have great technological insight. I’m convinced they will bring a lot of talent and determination to the Group.”  The Molasses Flood’s studio head, Forrest Dowling, says the studio saw an incredible opportunity in becoming part of the CD Projekt group, which is also the home of CD Projekt Red, the team behind The Witcher series and Cyberpunk 2077. Dowling says The Molasses Flood’s acquisition by CD Projekt will allow the team to reach a much wider audience.  While waiting for more details on The Molasses Flood’s next project, check out Game Informer’s The Flame in the Flood review and then check out our Cyberpunk 2077 review. 
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    The very best accessories for the new iPad

    This likely won’t come as a surprise, but the Apple Pencil is the best stylus you can get for the iPad. Both the first- and second-generation Pencils are designed to work specifically with iPads and it shows in their seamless writing performance. The second-gen stylus has a double-tap feature that you can customize to a certain degree, and pressure-sensitivity allows you to add as much or as little detail as you want to digital artwork. I highly recommend shelling out $100 or $130 for the Apple Pencil if you’re an artist — you won’t be disappointed. But there are other options, too. Logitech’s Crayon is more affordable at $70 and it has arguably a better grip than either Apple Pencil. It’s just as good in terms of latency and accuracy — drawing in Procreate was a lag-free experience and my strokes always ended up exactly where I wanted them to be. Buy Apple Pencil (1st gen) at Amazon - $95 Buy Apple Pencil (2nd gen) at Amazon - $125 Buy Logitech Crayon at Amazon - $70 Valentina Palladino / Engadget But as someone who primarily uses an Apple Pencil for digital art, I missed pressure sensitivity when using the Crayon. Aside from that, the other biggest annoyance is that you have to use a Lightning or USB-C cable to charge it (even the newest model for the iPad Pros doesn’t magnetically attach to the tablet for charging). While I wouldn’t recommend the Crayon for serious artists, I would recommend it for anyone who’s on a strict budget, especially digital journal-keepers, hardcore note-takers and the like. If you’re a heavy user of the Apple Pencil or some other stylus, you should consider getting a screen protector for your iPad. They pull double-duty: not only do they act as a first line of defense if your iPad goes careening onto the concrete, but they can also enhance the digital drawing and writing experience. Using a stylus on an iPad is strange at first because gliding the stylus nib over a glass surface feels nothing like “normal” writing. Matte screen protectors can get closer to replicating the pen-on-paper experience, and they also prevent the stylus nib from wearing down so quickly. Paperlike is the most popular in this space, but Bersem’s screen protectors are a great value at $14 for a pack of two. Not only does the matte finish help when you’re drawing or taking digital notes, but it also reduces screen glare and doesn’t interfere with FaceID on the newest iPads. Buy Paperlike screen protector starting at $40 Buy Bersem screen protectors (2 pack) at Amazon - $14 Hubs and adapters Valentina Palladino / Engadget If you plan on pushing your iPad Pro to its limits as a daily driver, you’ll probably need more than the tablet’s single USB-C port. Apple has provided little guidance to which USB-C hubs and adapters work best with the iPad Pros — there’s no MFi certification for accessories like this yet. Some hubs specifically advertise that they work with the newest iPad Pros, and if you want to be extra safe, I recommend buying one of those that comes from a reputable brand. A newcomer in this space is Satechi’s $100 aluminum stand and hub, a foldable rectangle that cradles your iPad and provides a bunch of useful ports and charging capabilities. The holder itself rotates outward, revealing a hidden, attached USB-C cable and a rubber bumper that keeps the stand in place in your desk. On the back edge are a 4K HDMI socket, one USB-A port, a headphone jack, both SD and microSD card slots and a 60W USB-C connection for charging. I liked the versatility of Satechi’s hub. I could easily use it when I needed to prop my iPad up to watch a YouTube video, and by just plugging in the attached cable, I could switch to using my iPad as more of a work device with all of the necessary connectors in place. It’s also surprisingly light at 10 ounces. Combine that with its foldable design and you have a full-featured hub that can easily be stuffed in a bag. Buy Satechi stand and hub at Amazon - $100 Another popular option is HyperDrive’s USB-C adapter. I’ll admit I was skeptical about this one, mostly because so many Amazon reviewers and YouTube personalities have raved about it (and I have a hard time believing a six-port adapter the size of a lighter should cost $90). However, after testing it out, I can say it delivers on its promises: t’s a neat little adapter that’s just large enough to fit an HDMI socket, a USB-C port, a USB-A connection, micro- and regular SD card slots and a headphone jack on its edges. That should cover most things you’d need an adapter for, save for hardwired internet. However, what sets the HyperDrive USB-C adapter apart is that it comes with a tool kit that gives you more flexibility in how you use it. The default plate that surrounds the USB-C plug fits iPads without screen protectors, but there’s an included plate that accommodates screen protectors. HyperDrive even included a third plate with a dongle-like attachment so the adapter doesn’t have to sit right up against the iPad. All you need to do is use the tiny screwdriver that’s in the box to switch out the plates. I think that somewhat justifies its $90 asking price. So many adapters that hug the iPad Pro’s edges are slick but they become basically unusable if you have a case, skin or screen protector. Buy USB-C adapter at HyperDrive - $90 Valentina Palladino / Engadget But $90 for an adapter is still a lot of money and I’d only recommend spending that much if you plan on using the iPad Pro as your daily driver. A cheaper alternative is Anker’s 5-in-1 USB-C adapter: It works just as well as HyperDrive’s; has most of the same ports, with the exception of an extra USB-C port and a headphone jack; and costs only $26. You could use any of these adapters to connect an external drive to your iPad for more space. We’re fans of Samsung’s T7 series and SanDisk’s Extreme drives for those that want a good amount of extra storage in a fairly durable yet pocketable gadget. If you’d prefer something even more portable, SanDisk’s Dual Drive Luxe flash drive is a good option because it can plug right into your iPad’s USB-C port, it’s available in up to a 1TB capacity and it’s small enough to attach to your keys. Buy Anker 5-in-1 adapter at Amazon - $30 Buy Samsung T7 drive at Amazon - $80 Buy SanDisk Extreme drive at Amazon - $85 Buy SanDisk Dual Drive Luxe at Amazon - $50 Chargers and power Valentina Palladino / Engadget A battery pack or an extra charger is important to have in your bag regardless of where you’re going. RavPower’s 26,800mAh power bank can charge iPad Pros 1.5 times using its 30W USB-C PD port. It also works with the newest MacBook Pros and other USB-C laptops in addition to the Nintendo Switch — so it can be your one-stop-shop for all your charging needs. I also appreciate that it comes with its own USB-C to C cable, so you don’t need to remember to bring one with you, as well as the micro-USB cable used to charge the power bank itself. RavPower’s PD charger will set you back $60, but you can opt for the $50 Anker Powercore Essential PD charger if you want to spend a bit less. Its 20,000mAh capacity will provide at least 50 percent more juice to most iPads. It’s not ideal for larger devices like laptops, but it works well with smartphones and tablets. You also don't want to rely solely on the charging adapter that came with your iPad; it's handy to have a backup. Anker's new line of GaN II chargers has a couple of good options, and arguably the best for most people is the 45W Nano II. It's the midrange adapter in the lineup and it can power up a 2020 11-inch iPad Pro up to 30 percent faster than Apple's default adapter. In just a half hour of charging, I got about a 33 percent boost in battery life on my 11-inch iPad Pro. Anker's device is also smaller than Apple's and it has a foldable design, so it'll fit better in cramped spaces and it'll be easier to throw in a travel bag. Buy RavPower 26,800 power bank at RavPower - $60 Buy Anker 20,000 power bank at Amazon - $50 Buy Anker Nano II 45W GaN charger at Amazon - $36

    The very best budget robot vacuums you can purchase

    All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. We all could use a little help keeping our homes clean, and now we live in an age where robots are actually capable of lending a (mechanical) hand. Robot vacuums are some of the most recognizable smart home gadgets available today with their circular shapes and propensity for bumping into walls. While they provide an undeniable convenience, they can also have high price tags. It’s not unheard of to drop close to $1,000 on a high-end robo-vac. But unlike just a few years ago, today there are plenty of budget robot vacuum options to choose from. At Engadget, we consider anything under $300 to be cheap in this space and you may be surprised to see how many there are at that price point. And if you’re new to the world of robot vacuums, you may find that one of these budget gadgets does everything you expected and more. Are robot vacuums worth it? Friends and family often ask me if new gadgets are “worth it,” and when it comes to robot vacuum the answer is yes. The most important thing they have going for them is autonomy — just turn it on, walk away. If you’re someone who wants to spend as little time as possible cleaning your home — or just someone who detests vacuuming — then a semi-autonomous robot is a great investment. There are plenty of other good things about them that we’ll discuss in a bit, but let’s take a look at the biggest trade-offs when opting for a robot vacuum: less power, less capacity and less flexibility. The former two cons go hand in hand — robot vacuums are much smaller than upright vacuums, which leads to less suction. Also, they hold less dirt because their built-in bins are a fraction of the size of a standard vacuum canister or bag. Also, while robo-vacs are cord-free, that means they are slaves to their batteries and will require regular recharging. When it comes to flexibility, robot vacuums do things differently than standard ones. You can control some with your smartphone, set cleaning schedules and more, but robo-vacs are primarily tasked with cleaning floors. On the flip side, their upright counterparts can come with various attachments that let you clean couches, stairs, light fixtures and other hard to reach places. What to look for in a budget robot vacuum Valentina Palladino / Engadget When looking for a cheap robo-vac, one of the first things you should consider is WiFi connectivity. While you may think that’s a given on all smart home devices, it’s not. Some of the most affordable robo-vacs don’t have the option to connect to your home WiFi network. If you choose one like this, you won’t be able to control it with a smartphone app or with voice commands. Another feature that’s typically reserved for WiFi-connected robots is scheduling because most of them use a mobile app to set cleaning schedules. But WiFi-incapable vacuums usually come with remote controls that have all the basic functions that companion mobile apps do, including start, stop and return to dock. And if you’re concerned about the possibility of hacking, vacuums with no access to your WiFi network are the best option. You should also think about the types of floors you have in your home. Are they all carpet? Or mostly hardwood and tile? Carpets demand vacuums with more suction power that can collect debris that gets pushed down into nooks and crannies. Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal metric by which suction is measured. Some companies provide Pascal (Pa) levels and generally the higher the Pa, the stronger. But other companies don’t rely on Pa levels and simply say their robots have X-times more suction than other robot vacuums. So how can you ensure you’re getting a robot vacuum that will adequately clean your floors? Read the product description. Look for details about its ability to clean hardwood and carpets, and see if it has a “max” mode you can use to increase suction. If you are given a Pa measurement, look for around 2000Pa if you have mostly carpeted floors. Size is also important for two reasons: clearance and dirt storage. Check the specs for the robot’s height to see if it can get underneath the furniture you have in your home. Most likely any robot vacuum you find won’t be able to clean under a couch (unless it’s a very tall, very strange couch), but some can get under entryway tables, nightstands and the like. As for dirt storage, look out for the milliliter capacity of the robot’s dustbin — the bigger the capacity, the more dirt the vacuum can collect before you have to empty it. Object detection and cliff sensors are other key features to look out for. The former helps the robot vacuum navigate around furniture while it cleans, rather than mindlessly pushing its way into it. As for cliff sensors, these prevent robot vacuums from taking a tumble down your stairs and they are a must-have if you have a multi-level home. The best budget robot vacuums Best overall: $250 Shark Ion RV761 Valentina Palladino / Engadget It was harder to name a best budget robot vacuum than I anticipated because many of the machines I tested were pretty solid. However, two in particular stood out a bit from the crowd — the Shark’s Ion RV761 and iRobot’s Roomba 694, and Shark’s device ended up besting the Roomba in a few areas: price, battery life and cleaning modes. Buy Shark Ion RV761 at Best Buy - $250 The Shark RV761 comes in at $250 and includes two extra side brushes and one extra filter in the box. Not only is that a great price for the vacuum alone, but those included extra parts increase the amount of time you have before you have to shell out more money to keep the vacuum working properly. Unfortunately, the robot’s design doesn’t do it any favors — it has a bowling-shirt vibe that I can’t get over. But I applaud its clearly labeled buttons, something many other robot vacuums don’t have. No obtuse icons here, just easy to read text for Clean, Dock and Max (the latter referring to the high-powered clean mode). You could rely just on the buttons, but it also connects to WiFi so you can use the Shark Clean app. I had no trouble connecting the Shark to my home WiFi network by following the in-app instructions, and I even got to name it before the setup was complete (Sharkey — I know, very original). It makes as much noise as I’d expect a robot vacuum to — loud enough that I had to up the volume of the podcast I was listening to, but not loud enough for me to hear it when it was cleaning a different room down the hall. I live in a mid-sized New York apartment, so “down the hall” really isn’t all that far away. Surprisingly, switching to Max mode didn’t dramatically increase the noise level either. The Shark doesn’t have a spot-clean feature, but Max mode is good to use when you have a specific area that needs a lot of attention. I gave Max mode a shot a few times, but I found the standard cleaning mode did a good enough job of inhaling dirt, debris, crumbs and even the cat hair embedded in my carpets. I also appreciated the Shark’s adjustable wheels, which raise and lower automatically depending on the “terrain” and the obstacles in its path. I first noticed the wheels when the Shark ran over my cat’s nearly 1-inch thick toy mouse, something that most other robot vacuums just push around as they move. The mouse was unharmed, just a little squished after the encounter, and the Shark avoided sucking up any of my cat’s other toys, too (even if it did push her T-shaped play tunnel around the living room incessantly). Valentina Palladino / Engadget The Shark has proximity sensors like many other machines do, which help them avoid collisions. But in my experience, very few robot vacuums are actually good at doing this — they often bump into walls and furniture, readjust and move on. What sets robot vacuums apart is their ability to avoid getting stuck, or least get unstuck quickly. The Shark was just ok at this — it was tripped up by a display case that had just enough space in between its legs that the robot tried to get underneath it, but alas, failed every time. The robot ran for an hour and a half on average in its standard cleaning mode. That’s right in line with the company’s estimated battery life, and more often than not, the Shark returned to its dock fairly quickly when it was getting low on battery. Only once did I actually have to pick up the machine and set it on its charger. Usually, I used the Shark Clean companion app. The homepage lets you start and stop cleanings as well as switch to Max mode and “find” the robot, which just forces the machine to beep loud enough that you’ll (hopefully) hear it from across your home. You can also see how long the device has been cleaning when it’s mid-job and a full cleaning history, which is helpful to check out if you forgot the last time you ran the vacuum. In the app menu, you’ll find the scheduling feature, which lets you choose recurring days and times for regular cleanings. Ultimately, Shark’s RV761 did everything I expected a good robot vacuum to do and did them well. For a semi-autonomous device, small details — like reliable WiFi connectivity, good battery life and a well designed app — can make or break your experience. While there were a few small hiccups along the way, they didn’t overshadow the fact that the Shark RV761 provides a ton of value for only $250. Runner up: $300 iRobot Roomba 694 Valentina Palladino / Engadget iRobot’s new Roomba 694 comes close to the Shark RV671. At $300, this model will eventually replace the Roomba 675 but, aside from an updated exterior, it’s fundamentally the same vacuum. I much prefer this robot’s all-black design to that of the Shark and it looks better than older Roomba models, too. It has three physical buttons on it — start, dock and spot — and, like the Shark, it connects to WiFi so you can control it via the iRobot app. Unfortunately, your $300 gets you the vacuum and its necessary parts only so you’ll have to pay up immediately when you need a replacement filter or brushes. Buy Roomba 694 at iRobot - $300 Setting up the Roomba 694 is much like the Shark machine — open the companion app and follow the instructions. Once it’s connected to your home WiFi network, you’re able to use the app to control the vacuum whenever you don’t feel like using the physical buttons. However, the spot-clean function is only available as a button, which is a bit of a bummer considering I expected the app to mirror the buttons while adding even more customizable controls. iRobot’s app is a bit better than Shark’s. Now, there’s nothing wrong with the Shark Clean app — it’s reliable and easy to use. But iRobot’s app puts most pertinent controls on the homepage, so you rarely (if ever) need to navigate through its menu to do things like set a cleaning schedule. Overall, it’s a bit more polished than Shark’s app and that might be best for less tech-savvy people. But simplicity can be tricky. The overall iRobot user experience is incredibly straightforward and some will prefer that over a more complicated setup. But customization and flexibility are sacrificed to achieve that. I was a bit shocked to see the features other robot vacuums have that iRobot machines don’t. Direction controls are a good example — believe it or not, most higher-end robot vacuums can’t be controlled like toy cars. But some like the Anker Eufy vacuum has them on its physical remote, and Roborock’s E4 vacuum has digital direction controls in the Mi Home app. The Roomba 694 may not have a ton of bells and whistles, but it gets the job done and does so without you needing to tend to it. It’s on par with the Shark robot in terms of cleaning but it generally only ran for around 45 minutes before needing to dock and recharge. iRobot says run times will vary based on floor surfaces, but the 694 is estimated to have a 90-minute battery life when cleaning hard floors. Regardless, it’s more than a half hour less than Shark’s robot. While 45 minutes may be enough time for the robot to scuttle around most rooms in my apartment, those with larger homes may have to wait for it to recharge in order to clean everywhere. iRobot has made a name for itself in the autonomous vacuum market for good reason. It’s machines are polished, dead simple to use and the accompanying app is excellent. That ease of use (and the reputation of the iRobot name) comes at a slightly higher price tag, which many will be willing to pay. But there are plenty of solid options now that didn’t exist even just three years ago. Best bang for your buck: $230 Anker Eufy RoboVac 11S Valentina Palladino / Engadget Anker’s $230 Eufy RoboVac 11S was one of the cheapest vacuums I tested but it also proved to be one of the most versatile. First thing to note: this robot vacuum doesn’t have WiFi, but it does come with a remote that gives you most of the functions you’d find in an app (including a schedule feature). Eufy also includes additional brushes and filters in the box. Buy Eufy RoboVac 11S at Amazon - $150 The “S” in this robot’s name stands for slim, and it’s roughly 0.5-inches thinner than all of the other vacuums I tested. Not only does this make the 11S lighter, but it was the only one that could clean under my entryway table. The 11S has a physical on-off toggle on its underside plus one button on its top that you can press to start a cleaning. It always begins in auto mode, which optimizes the cleaning process as it putters around your home, but you can use the remote to select specific modes like spot and edge clean. I ended up repeatedly using the 11S’ spot clean feature. My partner’s main hobby involves a lot of craft supplies and usually results in tiny pieces of scrap paper all over the floor. The 11S cleaned them up well when in spot-clean mode which focuses its suction in one area as it spins outward in a spiral. I didn’t even have to pick up and move the 11S to the paper-strewn location either — the remote’s direction buttons let me drive the vacuum almost like an RC car. The 11S has three power modes — Standard, BoostIQ and Max — and I kept mine on BoostIQ most of the time. It provided enough suction to adequately clean my carpeted floors, missing only a few crumbs or pieces of debris in corners or tight spaces around furniture. It ran for roughly one hour and fifteen minutes when in BoostIQ mode and it has remarkable collision avoidance. Sure, it bumped into walls and some large pieces of furniture, but it was the only vacuum that I tried to consistently avoid hitting my cat’s play tunnel that lives in the middle of our living room floor. As far as noise levels go, you can definitely hear the difference between BoostIQ and Max, but none of the three settings is abhorrently loud. In fact, I could barely hear the 11S when it was on the opposite end of my apartment running in BoostIQ mode. Thankfully, error alert beeps were loud enough to let me know when something went awry, like the 11S accidentally getting tripped up by a rogue charging cable (which only happened a couple of times and neither robot nor cable were harmed in the process). Overall, the Eufy RoboVac 11S impressed me with its smarts, despite its lack of WiFi. The lack of wireless connectivity is arguably the worst thing about the robot and that’s saying a lot. It’s worth mentioning that this model is rated for up to 1300Pa suction, but you can grab the next model up, the RoboVac 11S Max, which gives you 2000Pa suction (just know that it’ll likely be louder as a result). But you can’t argue with the value of the $230 11S — especially when it’s often on sale for around $150.

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