Tech Advisor March 2021

Every issue of Tech Advisor is packed with the latest news, reviews and features plus comprehensive and impartial buying advice as well as easy-to-understand tutorials and workshops to help you to get the most from your PC. Whether you want to buy the best value equipment or make the most out of equipment you already own, Tech Advisor delivers expert advice you can trust.

United Kingdom
IDG Communications - UK
12 Issues

in this issue

2 min
microsoft is testing a cortana ‘file skill’ to find files faster in windows 10

Cortana may not be the personal assistant it once was, but a new update as part of the Windows Insider Dev Channel means that its capabilities to find files have improved. The new ‘File Skill’ in the Cortana app appears in the new Windows 10 Insider Preview Build 20270, part of the Dev Channel. (Dev Channel releases publish test code that may or may not end up in a future release.) In this experimental app, Cortana’s skills have been honed to the point where it can find files in the cloud, with a better understanding of what you’re looking for. If your PC is enrolled in the Windows 10 May 2020 Update or later, some of these capabilities will already be available. As long as you have speech recognition enabled on your…

2 min
the windows feature experience pack is curated collection for beta testers

Windows beta testers now have a new way of evaluating new Windows features: a ‘Windows Feature Experience Pack’ that will apparently live outside of the standard testing channels. Windows fans already have access to three Windows Insider beta channels: the Dev Channel, where new code is released that may never see the light of day; the Beta Channel, often seen as a middle ground for new features that will debut in an upcoming Windows 10 feature release; and the Release Preview Channel, designed as a specific test bed for the next round of feature updates. The Windows Feature Experience Pack might best be explained as a curated and sandboxed collection of beta features, kept separate from the cadence of Windows 10 builds. This exchange via Twitter provides the best explanation: “Is it…

3 min
your pc is either directx 12 ultimate-ready or you’re not a real gamer

Add DirectX 12 Ultimate to the list of stickers and logos you’ll want to look for while buying PC hardware. In March 2020, Microsoft announced DirectX 12 Ultimate, which encapsulates many of the next-gen PC hardware and Xbox Series X technologies that Microsoft is now explicitly encouraging consumers to buy: DirectX Raytracing (DXR) tier 1.1, Variable Rate Shading tier 2, mesh shaders, and more. DirectX 12 Ultimate didn’t seem like a brand, just a collection of technologies governing the features of graphics cards like the Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Founder’s Edition, as well as AMD’s RX 6800 series, too. Apparently, Microsoft thinks differently. As part of a new Xbox Game Bar for PC update released in the autumn, Microsoft includes an explicit check to determine whether your gaming PC qualifies for…

9 min
razer blade stealth 13

Price: £1,899 (inc VAT) from The Razer Blade Stealth 13 is the smallest gaming laptop from one of the biggest brands, and it’s long been an intriguing option for portable gaming because high-end hardware and slimline laptops don’t often mix. As GPUs have become more efficient, though, lightweight gaming laptops have become more feasible – and Razer bolsters the latest Blade with an upgraded 11th-gen Intel Tiger Lake processor, too. The model I’ve reviewed costs a hefty £1,899, which is far more than the Blade’s main rival. The Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (see page 71) arrived to huge acclaim, and that costs just £1,199 for an equivalent specification. Design The Razer Blade Stealth 13 looks fantastic – because it’s effectively a larger Razer laptop that’s been shrunk down. That means an all-aluminium body with…

7 min
honor magicbook 14

Price: £669 (inc VAT) from Honor has updated its MagicBook 14 and 15 – only released in the UK a scant nine or so months ago – with faster Ryzen 4000-series processors for a welcome spec boost. Not much else has changed, but given the quality of the original MagicBook, that’s really no bad thing. The big question is really whether the late 2020 MagicBook 14 is worth the price hike that comes with the faster processor, or whether that tips it over the edge and away from being our top mid-range laptop recommendation. DESIGN The chassis of the MagicBook 14 remains unchanged from the previous model. What you’re essentially getting is a laptop that’s undeniably a mid-ranger, but is about as slick, polished and portable as you’re going to get without jumping…

9 min
google pixel 4a 5g

Price: £499 (inc VAT) from Google makes excellent cheap smartphones for the mid-range market, but the Pixel 4a doesn’t support 5G. Well, anyone disappointed by that can now be satisfied with the aptly named Pixel 4a 5G. However, there’s a lot more difference than just the mobile networks these phones support. This is far from the same device with a 5G modem inside. It’s understandable for Google to highlight the 5G element in the name, but it would perhaps have been a good idea to add ‘XL’ to this phone. It’s another solid effort from Google, especially if you want some of the Pixel 5 features at a cheaper price and with a bigger screen. DESIGN In a nutshell, this is a bigger version of the Pixel 4a when is comes to design. A 6.2in…