Turning GDPR into an experience benefit

In recent years, data capture has followed a ‘quantity over quality’ approach resulting in acres of premature data taking up space and causing a headache if and when we actually needed to delve into it. However, GDPR forces a return to the idea of ‘quality over quantity’ and actually creates an opportunity: GDPR offers us the chance to start again; finding quality data and capturing this at the right time, for the right reasons. 

Data can be a powerful tool, and when used collected and processed correctly, you can turn it into an experience benefit for your customers, enticing them to return, nurturing them from initial contact, through to purchase, all the way through to advocacy and loyalty. Here are just a few ways to achieve this:

Be clear about how you will use data before you capture it. Data isn’t useful until it has a purpose

Data without context is just data, data with context is information. A date is only a string of numbers until you know you’re looking at a date, add in formatting and it’s even clearer. Data needs to be viewed with other data to make sense of it. What you actually want from your customers is to be able to add their data into your analytical melting pot and for it to spit out information that will:

A) Encourage spend or interaction

B) Make your customers feel valued and loyal to your brand

Tell your customers that, so they understand how their data helps make your brand better.

Know the difference between data you want, and data you need

Under the GDPR the customer has a right to know why data is captured and what it will be used for. Customers won’t give up their data if they don’t see a credible reason beyond the obvious need for fulfilment of the service or product. As a mutually beneficial value exchange develops along with trust, you can start to ask for more data at the right time and in the right context. Don’t be greedy. Create a list of the data items that you need, separated from what you want alongside your customer journey / customer experience plans. 

  • Upgrading your IT? Here are the best laptops for businesses 2018

Don’t use data as a ‘just in case’ asset

We hoard data. Gathering it as soon as we can, just in case we might need it. Manufacturers long ago realised that this ‘just in case’ mentality is simply inefficient, expensive and a bit lazy. With leaner planning and forecasting processes, manufacturers are less likely to be stuck with a roomful of expensive but defunct widgets. So why shouldn’t we treat data in the same way? The fear that customers won’t part with their data later on drives brands to capture so much data as soon as they can. This mentality has to change; ideally customers should volunteer data to personalise or customise their own experience.

Have a plan for dealing with the new ‘rights’ under GDPR

Along with subject access reporting, customers can and will request changes to their data, and will exercise the right to decline processing. You need to have a plan for how you will manage these so that you can act promptly and mitigate risk to your brand. Social media and the press will be all over GDPR-related incidents. More importantly, no-one wants to be trending as part of #NotGDPRCompliant.

Adopt a service thinking approach – learn to adapt and adapt to learn

For a mutually beneficial value exchange to work we need to encourage feedback. Service thinking requires feedback loops and agile thinking. Brands are not going to get this right immediately so be prepared to adapt and to listen to your customers. It’s their data after all.

 Marie Bradley is Head of BA and QA at Tribal Worldwide’s Tech Engineering Practice.

  • Want to know more about GDPR? Check out our GDPR guide here!

Volvo V40 becomes the first car you can order on Amazon Prime – for a test drive

Amazon Prime is pretty amazing with the things you can get delivered to your door, but now it’s added something you wouldn’t expect – the Volvo V40 hatchback.

That’s right, using your Amazon account you’ll be able to order a Prime Now delivery of a Volvo V40 to either your home or office.

Now, this is a fairly limited run (which smells more than a little like a marketing stunt), only available over a series of a few weekends in June and July, and only in select cities. 

Coming to a postcode near you

Just in case you want to be one of the lucky few who’ll be able to take advantage of the Amazon Prime Now test drives, here are the time and dates that you’ll be able to book:

  • 9-10 June, London
  • 16-17 June, Birmingham
  • 23-24 June, Manchester
  • 30 June – 1 July, Edinburgh

You’ll need to head over to the Amazon page dedicated to the Volvo partnership, enter your postcode, then pick a time slot for your V40 to be delivered. It’ll be accompanied by an expert who can explain the V40 to you. 

We’d have liked to see true Amazon integration so that you could use you Amazon Echo to call for a vehicle to come to your door, but you can’t have everything, eh?

  • Rather not leave the house? Check out the best movies on Prime.

The best PC gaming headset 2018

As you wait for the best graphics cards return to regular prices, you should think about the rest of your components and peripherals and how they’re getting older – one day they’ll be as obsolete as an Intel 8080 is today. And honestly, high-quality sound is severely underrated, so while you’re busy trying to fetch the highest resolutions and framerates, you’re being outdone by someone that’s taking advantage of the best gaming headsets, and the audio immersion they offer.

These days, even the best gaming monitors either don’t come equipped with speakers, or they feature speakers so bad, they might as well not have any. So, if you want decent sound, you’re stuck choosing between the best computer speakers, or preferably, the best gaming headsets to hear all the immersion-making background, sound effects and dialogue in crisp, clean detail.

However, a good set of computer speakers can be expensive and take up more space than you actually have, so our general advice here is to just skip all that hassle and just go for one of the best gaming headsets – they sound great, and they’re easily stored to boot.

For the money, the best gaming headset will give you all the bells and whistles of a pair of speakers, but with one key difference: privacy. For those dead-set on letting their roommates sleep at night, here’s a collection of gaming headsets that we’ve methodically tested and ranked for your reading pleasure below.

HyperX Cloud Revolver S

When we first sat down to review the HyperX Cloud Revolver S, we were a bit divided. On one hand, it features fantastic 7.1-channel surround sound, delivered through Dolby’s trademark digital signal processor. On the other, it’s extremely pricey when compared to other similar headsets. Luckily, as one of Kingston’s most subdued pair of cans we’ve ever seen (or heard), the pristine comfort and top-notch sound more than make up for its high price and oddly placed detachable mic.

Read the full review: HyperX Cloud Revolver S

If there’s anything you can count on SteelSeries for, it’s pristine audio – and the SteelSeries Arctis Pro is proof perfect of just that. Not only will this headset provide immersive surround sound for all the explosive action of your favorite games, but, thanks to its included DAC (digital to audio converter), the Arctis Pro will also serve you well while listening to music. It may be a little expensive, but when you consider just how comfortable and bombastic this headset is, well, it’s not hard to see why it’s one of the best gaming headsets you can buy today.

Read the full review: SteelSeries Arctis Pro 

Valuing sheer performance over the traditional ‘gamer aesthetic,’ the Logitech G Pro headset offers fantastic sound quality over long periods of time and little else. Not that that’s a bad thing though. Available for just $89 (about £65, AU$115), Logitech made sure that you’re paying for fantastic sound and comfort, with none of your cash being wasted on flashy RGB lighting or other frivolous features. If you’re looking for something a bit more subtle, but can perform with the best of them, the Logitech G Pro is a compelling headset.

Read the full review: Logitech G Pro Gaming Headset 

If you’re looking for one of the best gaming headsets, but those high-end $300 headsets make your stomach turn and you also don’t want something cheap, you should take a look at the Astro A20s. Featuring solid stereo sound performance in a wireless headset, not to mention the stunning 15 hour battery life, this headset has all the necessary features that you might want in its price range. Sure, it doesn’t have surround sound, but it more than makes up for it with its economy and battery life.

Read the full review: Astro A20

Creative Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition

Over the years, Creative has made a name for itself to be trusted when it comes to audio products – and the Creative Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament edition further cements that legacy. Rather than just sitting and iterating on the winning formula of its previous products, Creative took the Sound BlasterX H7 and completely changed it up, creating a headset that looks as good as it sounds. If you’re looking for a comfortable, sturdy and deep-sounding headset, the Creative Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition, especially at such a low price, is one of the best PC gaming headsets money can buy in 2018.

Read the full review: Creative Sound BlasterX H7 Tournament Edition 

Compromises are a part of everyday life, but nobody actually likes making them. Luckily with the SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless, you don’t have to make any compromises, you can get high quality lossless audio playback with a wireless headset. And, when you add in the unique and ultra-convenient dual-battery charging system that lets you wear this headset in perpetuity, you have a recipe for one of the best gaming headsets we’ve ever gotten our hands on. If you have the cash, and you absolutely need the best wireless headphones money can buy – you can’t do wrong here.

Read the full review: SteelSeries Arctis Pro Wireless 

HyperX Cloud Flight

The HyperX Cloud Flight is a long-lasting wireless gaming headset packed with up to 30 hours of battery life. This means you can potentially get two full days of gaming in between charges. However, there is a catch – unlike the Cloud Flight’s competition in the Astro A20, the HyperX Cloud Flight only offers stereo sound, foregoing any surround sound implementation. You can thankfully get around it by messing around with the Dolby Access app, however, and the sound profile is balanced enough to make this a non-issue. 

Read the full review: HyperX Cloud Flight

Razer ManO'War

Razer ManO’War

Quick and easy to set up using a wireless USB receiver that stores inside the headset for transportation, the Razer ManO’War is a user-friendly unit primed for surround-sound gaming. Sure, it’s a little chunkier than most other headsets, but two soft leatherette ear cups make it comfortable to wear over extended periods. And, with Chroma RGB lighting customizable through Razer Synapse, it even looks snazzy to observers.

Read the full review: Razer ManO’War

Corsair Void Pro RGB Wireless

It wasn’t that long ago that Corsair was solely known for PC components but, over the last five years or so, they’ve arguably become better known for their gaming peripherals. With products like the Corsair Void RGB Wireless, it’s hard not to see why. Now, while at first glance, some may scoff at the asking price, the Void Pro RGB Wireless delivers on that price point with great build quality, fantastic sound fidelity and – perhaps most importantly – RGB lighting. Plus, if you’ve already got a full arsenal of Corsair peripherals, the Void Pro RGB Wireless fits in nicely, and can even synchronize lighting effects with other peripherals through the Corsair Utility Engine.

Read the full review: Corsair Void RGB Wireless 

Corsair HS50 Stereo Gaming Headset

As a general rule when you’re buying anything, much less gaming peripherals, you get what you pay for. You don’t go into Walmart, pick up a $50/£50 gaming headset and expect to be blown away. Corsair takes this rule and turns it on its head. The Corsair HS50 is, for the budget gamer, the best gaming headset you can buy today. Retailing at $50 in the US, the HS50 has sound quality and mic quality that rivals headsets that are twice as expensive. Everything, even down to the build materials radiates quality. If you’re looking for a cheap gaming headset, and you don’t mind giving up some extra bells and whistles, like 7.1 surround and Bluetooth connectivity, you need to take a look at the Corsair HS50.

Read the full review: Corsair HS50 Stereo Gaming Headset 

Beyerdynamic Custom Game

While it’s more expensive than we’d like, the Beyerdynamic CUSTOM Game is one of the best gaming headsets we’ve used in a while. While it might not feature flashy surround sound or wireless functionality, this headset excels in the two most important categories: sound and comfort. Seriously, once you put it on and experience your games in cans that sound this good, you won’t want to go back. Even if the price is a little tough to swallow.

Read the full review: Beyerdynamic Custom Game

Turtle Beach XO Three

Although it’s designed to be used for the Xbox One, Windows users can take solace in the fact that the Turtle Beach XO Three is compatible with any PC sporting a single jack for both mic input and headset output or a PC splitter cable. In spite of this minor caveat, the XO Three is a steal for the price, especially considering its use of 50mm sound drivers. What’s more, it even supports Windows Sonic for 3D surround sound. 

Read the full review: Turtle Beach XO Three

SteelSeries

SteelSeries Arctis 7

 

SteelSeries has a storied reputation among the best PC gaming headsets, and the Arctis 7 only proves to continue it. Boasting a shockingly long battery life and extreme comfort, this headset will appeal especially to anyone who plays a lot of MMOs, where comfort reigns supreme over long play sessions. The sound quality is also worth noting here – as its neutral sound signature means that even audiophiles will be happy with it, even if the bass is a little weak.

Read the full review: SteelSeries Arctis 7 

Astro A50 Wireless

We called the original Astro A50 a “game-changing, experience-enhancing headset,” and thankfully its wireless successor follows the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. Astro’s latest headset does what it says on the tin and adds wireless connectivity to an already stellar package. Not only is it ready to rock with your PC, but with PS4, Xbox One and legacy consoles as well – a headset that’s robust and versatile.

Asus ROG Centurion 7.1

Eschewing any traditional rules of fashion, the ROG Centurion 7.1 is a beautiful headset regardless. Even if it’s a genuine pain to get going, this excellent PC gaming headset features both surprising style and a knack for emitting extremely clear sound. The Asus ROG Centurion 7.1’s onboard amp controls give you complete control over this bombastic sound, and this beast can even bolster its already amazing sound through a passthrough to an external set of speakers. Really, this thing is great. 

Read the full review: Asus ROG Centurion 7.1 headset

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article

  • Put your audio quality to the test in the best PC games

Got an iPhone? You can now log into all your accounts password-free

LastPass for iOS now supports YubiKey, meaning you can log into all your online accounts and services without entering a single password. Just touch a YubiKey Nano device to your phone and you’ll be automatically authenticated into your LastPass account. 

LastPass stores all your usernames and passwords in a single encrypted vault, and can complete login forms for you automatically so you don’t have to remember them yourself. It can also store shopping profiles, including card details and addresses, and complete forms with a single tap.

“We’re excited to offer this new authentication method for our iOS users right out of the gate, giving them another option for adding an extra layer of security to their LastPass vault,” said Akos Putz, principal product manager for LastPass at LogMeIn.

The updated iOS app will roll out to existing users automatically, and is available to download free from the App Store.

LastPass for Android has long supported password-free login via YubiKey, and is available on Google Play.

Good news for app developers

Yubico, creator of Yubikey, has also released a software development kit (SDK) that makes it easy for developers to incorporate NFC two-factor authentication into their own iOS apps.

“It’s absolutely critical to have a hardware-based root of trust, like the YubiKey, to establish an approved relationship between a mobile phone and the apps we use,” said Stina Ehrensvard, CEO and founder of Yubico.

“Mobile authentication methods, like SMS or push apps, cannot be considered as trusted second factors to authenticate in a mobile app setting. They can be spoofed by porting a number to a different mobile device or can be very unreliable at the mercy of the phone networks.”

For more details check out the YubiCo developer site.

  • We’ve rounded up the best free password managers

The best VPN for Mac in 2018

Mac users can get somewhat complacent about security, but they shouldn’t – Apple’s desktop computers are being increasingly targeted by cybercriminals, and it never pays to let your guard down. Getting a VPN for Mac is a good option.

Certainly, as well as competent antivirus, folks with a Mac need a quality Virtual Private Network just as much as anyone on Windows – although not every one of the best VPN services provides a client or satisfactory support for macOS users. However, if you’re stuck as to which provider to go with, help is at hand…

How to choose the best VPN for Mac

It’s not always easy to find a Mac-friendly VPN service. Obviously enough, it’s important to choose a provider that offers a pre-configured client for its service. Having a good Mac client is a huge boon in terms of simply making things as easy as possible. Solid iOS support is also a welcome feature if you’re heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem and have an iPhone as well as a Mac.

  • Check out the best VPN services of 2018

Next, you need powerful security with strong encryption, which goes without saying, and an easily understandable privacy policy that makes it perfectly clear what data is kept by the provider. Good performance levels obviously don’t hurt, either. Below are the five best VPN services for Mac that we’ve picked out for you.

  • We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services of 2018

The best VPN for Mac is ExpressVPN

[Save 49%] ExpressVPN Special Deal – Get 3 months free with an annual plan on Techradar’s #1 Rated VPN Service.

ExpressVPN is our top choice for the best all-round VPN service on the Mac. The firm’s dedicated app is intuitive and very user-friendly, featuring a one-click option for connecting, as well as some advanced options.

It uses 256-bit encryption over OpenVPN UDP by default and the app comes with a kill switch and split tunneling functionality.

There’s also a very good iOS app and Safari browser extension, so you get a complete Apple VPN experience. Great speeds, a favourable privacy policy and 24/7 customer support round off an excellent Mac VPN product.

ExpressVPN includes fast VPN servers across 94 countries and unlimited bandwidth. That makes for a solid choice for anyone using the VPN for P2P traffic or unblocking content on services like Netflix.

The service is a tad pricier than most other VPN providers,  but may be a great fit for those who want the best VPN experience for Mac. ExpressVPN doesn’t come with a free trial, but there is a 30-day money-back guarantee for reassurance. 

The company offers three price plans, with the 12-month plan offering the best value (you get an extra three months into the bargain). The packages available are:

  • Exclusive deal [$6.67 a month], save 49%, 15-months – $99.95
  • [$9.99 a month] 6-month – $59.95
  • [$12.95 a month] 1-month – $12.95

When it comes to security, NordVPN does it like no other. Its own ‘Double VPN’ technology encrypts data twice – in other words, it passes your data through two separate VPN servers to make things even more secure – while there are additional security extras such as encrypted chat, web proxy extensions and so on.

NordVPN’s clients for both macOS and iOS are rather basic compared to others, but keeping things simple can be advantageous for novices. This provider is also P2P-friendly and has a strict ‘zero logs’ policy. Performance was slightly above average in our testing.

There’s a free 3-day trial, and NordVPN is a relatively affordable service. There are four plans available with a 30-day money-back guarantee, and the 3-year offer represents great value. The packages available are:

  • [$11.95 a month] 1-month
  • [$5.75 a month] 1-year – $69.00
  • [$3.29 a month] 2-years – $79.00
  • [$2.75 a month] 3-years – $99.00

[Save 40%] Until July 31, 2018, get 40% off VyprVPN’s annual plans, just in time to boost up your coverage of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. VyprVPN is a fast, highly secure VPN without third-parties, all for as little as $36.00 for the first year. Get VyprVPN here.

This Switzerland-based provider operates a tier-1 network and is solely in charge of its own servers – so it’s no wonder that VyprVPN does well on the performance front. In fact, in our testing we found that it more than doubled our download speeds compared to our regular rates (without the VPN running).

When it comes to Mac, there is a rather neat and, to our knowledge, unique feature. Namely, the ability to manage and customise your VPN connections on a per-app basis, allowing for better overall control of your online privacy.

And in terms of security, you get VyprDNS, OpenVPN (160-bit and 256-bit), L2TP/IPsec protocols, as well as VyprVPN’s own Chameleon protocol for avoiding VPN blocking. However, note that some logging does go on here in the form of recording connection times and IP addresses.

VyprVPN has two pricing plans with either monthly or annual billing. Monthly plans are rather expensive, so the yearly option is the best way to save money. Curiously, there are no refunds available from this provider, so be sure to utilise the three-day free trial in order to test the service out before you buy. The packages available are:

  • Basic: [$9.95 a month] [$45 annually – $3.75 a month]
  • Premium: [$12.95 a month] [$60 annually – $5 a month]
  • [40% off]: Special World Cup offer

IPVanish’s Mac app features a nifty design and a few welcome options like a kill switch and automatic IP switching. The service is blazingly fast, and it’ll automatically hook you up to the fastest server available, a nice touch on the convenience front. Not only are download speeds fast with this VPN, it allows P2P.

OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP protocols are supported, and there’s also decent iOS support and a wide coverage of servers, with no logging of the user’s activities. However, it’s worth noting that when we contacted tech support, we experienced a sluggish response, and if you have a problem, this may prove a slight source of irritation.

IPVanish doesn’t have a free trial, sadly, although there is a 7-day money-back guarantee with all three available plans. The 1-year subscription is clearly the best choice. The packages available are:

  • [$4.87 a month] 1-year – $58.49
  • [$6.74 a month] 3-month – $20.24
  • [$7.50 a month] 1-month – $7.50

Ivacy gets off to a great start in terms of raw performance, as in our testing, it offered download speeds which almost matched our normal non-VPN rates. And when you consider the plentiful server locations spread across the globe, things are definitely looking good for this Singapore-based provider.

The Mac app is pretty intuitive, presenting you with a list of purpose-themed options – such as unblocking websites, or torrenting. Simply choose what you wish to do and the client sorts out the actual nitty-gritty of the settings itself, which makes everything very user-friendly.

Multiple security protocols (PPTP, SSTP, L2TP, OpenVPN and IKEv2) and 256-bit encryption are in place here, and you also get some advanced features like split tunnelling, IPv6 leak protection and a kill switch. As for your privacy, Ivacy enthusiastically states that it keeps ‘no logs whatsoever’!

Ivacy doesn’t offers a free trial and there are some restrictions with the refund policy. It’s only valid if you connect fewer than 30 times or use under 7GB of data. The two-year plan is extremely affordable, and the packages available are:

  • [$9.95 a month] 1-month
  • [$3.50 a month] 1-year – $42.00
  • [$2.29 a month] 2-years – $55
  • Ready to make the switch from Mac? Check out the best 2-in-1 laptops

The best VPN for your Amazon Fire TV Stick in 2018

Introduced back in 2014, the Fire TV Stick is Amazon’s rival to Chromecast and Roku. The device plugs into an HDMI port to allow any TV to stream content over a Wi-Fi network, effectively turning the set into a very well-featured smart TV.

However, much of that content is geo-locked, meaning it’s only available from a certain country or region due to the likes of content licensing agreements and broadcast rights. Of course, one way you can get round such content blocking is by using one of the best VPNs.

How to choose the best VPN service for Amazon’s Fire TV Stick

Obviously, performance is always important for streaming, so you want a VPN provider that offers fast and reliable connections. A plentiful server count is helpful for finding a swift server – the more options you have, the better – and it’s also good to have a lightweight app which won’t affect performance levels, too.

You won’t always find a dedicated app for the Fire TV Stick, though, and it’s obviously a bonus when you do, because it means you can avoid having to set things up manually. Support for Kodi add-ons is also a boon. 

Here are our top five picks for the best VPN service for Amazon’s Fire TV Stick.

  • Check out the best VPN services of 2018

ExpressVPN is our top pick for the best all-round VPN, and specifically for Fire TV and Fire TV Stick. With over 1,500 servers in close to 100 countries, this British Virgin Islands-based provider offers a lot of connection choices. In our testing, we found speeds were fractionally lower than our normal rates on shorter hops, with little change in long-distance connections.

ExpressVPN is known for its quality apps which include a brand new Android app that works well with Android-based streaming devices (like Amazon’s Fire TV and Fire TV Stick), and it can be navigated with the remote control. When you fire it up, the app immediately recommends the location that gives you the best connection speed.

ExpressVPN offers an excellent level of technical support, including lots of troubleshooting guides and 24/7 live chat support, plus you can also get in touch via email if that’s more convenient.

The Android app uses the OpenVPN protocol, encrypting all traffic with 256-bit encryption. The privacy policy clearly explains that the company doesn’t collect or log traffic data, connection IPs, or browsing activity from individual users, a huge plus for Kodi users. In our testing, we confirmed that ExpressVPN unblocks Netflix US, BBC iPlayer and a wide range of streaming services. ExpressVPN also provides Fire TV-compatible MediaStreamer DNS services, for those who wish to unblock content even when not connected to the VPN.

Price plans aren’t the cheapest, but may be worth the added cost for the best possible streaming experience on Fire TV / Fire TV Stick. The pricing is somewhat mitigated by ExpressVPN’s ‘no hassle’ money-back guarantee which allows you to try the full service for up to 30 days, with no sneaky small print restrictions on bandwidth or similar. That certainly comes in handy as there’s no free plan or trial. The yearly plan offers the best bang for your buck (with three months thrown in for free). The packages available are:

  • Exclusive deal [$6.66 a month] 15-months [3 free months] – $99.95
  • [$9.99 a month] 6-months – $59.95
  • [$12.95 a month] 1-month

IPVanish certainly delivers on the performance front, over both short hops and long-distance connections, with the former being up to five times quicker than some rivals, and the latter showing a commendable average increase of 15% in download speeds. There are plenty of servers to choose from, with impressive global coverage.

There’s also a dedicated Fire TV app that is easy to setup and use. It has some handy options like automatic IP switching and fastest server optimisation, although note that it doesn’t support the first-generation Fire Stick. IPVanish doesn’t log any traffic or connection data when you use the service.

One downside worth mentioning is that when we tested out the firm’s customer support, we found it sluggish to respond, which obviously isn’t ideal if you do run into a problem.

There is no free trial, but the three plans on offer do come with a 7-day money-back guarantee. Your best bet is the yearly subscription which is the most affordable option. The packages available are:

  • [$7.50 a month] 1-month
  • [$6.74 a month] 3 months – $20.24
  • [$4.87 a month] 1-year – $58.49

This VPN is blazingly fast and delivered more than twice our normal download rates, which will be pure streaming heaven for users watching 4K content (or HD, for that matter). The server count is very impressive as well, with more than 700 servers in 70+ locations around the globe.

VyprVPN has its own Fire TV app, available in the APK format or directly through the Amazon Store. The app offers lots of speed optimisation options and will automatically connect to the fastest server available, also providing you with upload and download speed graphs, a ping test and so on.

OpenVPN and Chameleon protocols are used here, with the latter being VyprVPN’s proprietary solution that’s designed to avoid deep packet inspection, and your VPN connection being detected and throttled or blocked (note that this is only available on the Premium plan).

The provider also has its own DNS solution, and maintains a ‘no logs’ policy, although that said, some session logging does take place, such as connection times and IPs – which might not be ideal for everyone.

You can test the service with a free 3-day trial – and it’s a good idea to exercise that right, as VyprVPN doesn’t allow refunds after you’ve signed up. When it comes to subscription plans, the best all-round choice is the Premium plan billed annually, because this comes with all the advanced features on offer – and monthly billing is expensive (for either plan). The packages available are:

  • Basic: $9.95 monthly or $5.00 per month billed annually
  • Premium: $12.95 monthly or $6.67 per month billed annually

In our testing, NordVPN delivered very good performance, with impressive speeds on short connections, and some very serviceable results with longer distances. There are plenty of servers to choose from, too. The provider offers tutorials on how to set up your router with a VPN or share the VPN connection from your PC in order to use the service with the Fire Stick. 

NordVPN excels on the security front, offering double data encryption (where your connection gets passed through two separate VPN servers), along with support for all the major security protocols. On top of that, the firm has a ‘no logs’ policy, which is always good to see.

There’s a free trial but you’d never know about it unless you dig around on the website. Out of the four available price plans (all of which have a 30-day money-back guarantee), the monthly plan is very expensive, but the three-year subscription is a fantastic deal. The packages available are:

  • [$11.95 a month] 1-month
  • [$5.75 a month] 1-year – $69.00
  • [$3.29 a month] 2-years – $79.00
  • [$2.75 a month] 3-years – $99.00

This Hungarian-based provider offers impressive performance levels, with five simultaneous connections supported. In our review, we encountered an issue where a website wouldn’t load due to the VPN – and this might well be a one-off, but it’s still something to note. Buffered has 45 server locations and while that number isn’t as big as some other VPNs, they are all major locations so it shouldn’t make a huge difference.

The network has a detailed tutorial on how to set up Amazon’s Fire Stick so there shouldn’t be any problems on that front. If any occur, there is an extensive FAQ and live chat support to help you troubleshoot. This VPN makes it clear that it doesn’t log any online activity, so your privacy will be well protected.

One of this provider’s strong points is a generous 30-day refund policy that’s valid for up to 10 hours of usage time, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth – whichever comes first.

The refund policy is especially useful considering that Buffered VPN is far from cheap. Even the yearly subscription is pricier than many, but it’s the most affordable option here (as ever). The packages available are:

  • [$12.99 a month] 1-month
  • [$9.99 a month] 6-months – $59.94
  • [$7.62 a month] 13-months (with 1-month free) – $99.00
  • We’ve rounded up the best free VPN services of 2018

Buying a TV to watch the football? This is why you should go big with AO.com

There is nothing better than watching football on a big TV. It’s a sport that lends itself to the big screen and when it comes to the biggest football tournament in the world, it deserves to be watched on the largest screen possible – thankfully AO.com has you covered. 

Unfortunately, the size of the screen usually equates to the size of the budget you need. Thankfully, there are a number of brands out there that offer big-screen goodness on a relatively modest budget. 

A great example of this is the Toshiba 65U6763DB. This 65-inch setup, available from AO.com, boasts a number of impressive features but can be yours for just £699. 

Standout is the size and quality of the screen. which is an enviable screen size for anyone, and comes equipped with 4K capabilities. 4K is four times the picture quality of Full HD, offering up sharper and more detailed images, for the ultimate viewing experience. 4K simply means a clearer picture – it’s more pixels for a start, so images are crisper with much more details. 4K is also at its best when on a larger screen, where the crystal clarity of the picture really shines through and that is what is offered here in abundance. 

Another bonus of having a large screen is that AO.com is giving you the chance to claim back up to £300 when you buy a large screen TV – as long as England get through to the knockout stages. 

Smart choice

While size matters, it’s not just in this area where the Toshiba 65U6763DB excels. It also has an impressive smart TV platform. These include all your favourite streaming platforms to watch the best content on and Freeview HD – which gives you access to an amazing 70 channels. 

The television comes with four HDMI ports, which means you can have your set top, Blu-ray player and games console all connected without the need to switch around the wires. And if that wasn’t enough, there are also three USB ports on board for all your content needs. 

The Toshiba 65U6763DB is another great TV from a brand that is an absolute stalwart in the industry – one that offers fantastic technology in the form of 4K and smart TV functionality and all at a price that doesn’t need a footballer’s salary to afford. 

For more information on the Toshiba 65U6763DB and how you can be in with a chance of claiming £300 off your big-screen purchase, head to AO.com.

AO.com gives your football watching the kick it needs with these fantastic Sony TVs

Whether it’s the biggest event in the sporting calendar, one that only comes around once every four years, or a league match – there is no denying watching football is special and not treating it as such when looking for your next TV purchase is something of an own goal. 

If you buy a Sony TV, though, you are getting a superb television – and this is thanks to the features that Sony has packed into each television. The thing is, we could just dazzle you with some fancy names for the tech inside but that wouldn’t really do these televisions justice. On its own, the 4K X-Reality PRO processor doesn’t quite conjure up just what this fantastic innovation does. And MotionFlow – it’s a brilliant name, but what does it actually mean?

Go with the Flow

Let’s look first at MotionFlow. It sounds like a skill Lionel Messi has perfected and will use to against England, but the reality is that it’s a piece of technology that works behind the scenes to make the football you watch on TV look better. It sounds simple, but there are incredibly complex algorithms working to smooth out the flow of something like football, making sure there isn’t any jitter in the picture whatsoever. The TV does the hard work, adding in frames where needed to keep the flow of the game in tact. This is coupled with LED Backlight Control, which regulates the brightness to make sure it’s right for the motion on the TV. Add to this Image Blur Reduction and this will make the picture look a whole lot more crisp. All of these technologies work to make sure that when a ball is kicked, you are focused on whether or not it lands in the goal and nothing else. 

If you want to see the perfect balance of all these technologies at work, then the Sony Bravia KD55XF8096BU is for you, which is available from AO.com – it’s packing Motionflow XR400hz, one of the best versions of this feature around. 

There’s even more reason to buy a big-screen TV this summer. AO.com is giving you the chance to claim back up to £300 when you buy a large screen TV – as long as England get through to the knockout stages.

Playing like a Pro

The other feature that’s worth a mention is the grand-sounding 4K X-Reality PRO processor. Yes, that’s right, our TVs have processors in them now, much like computers. What makes the 4K X-Reality PRO processor special is that it does myriad things to make your viewing experience better.

One of the most important features of the 4K X-Reality PRO processor is its Full HD to 4K upscaling. This technology doesn’t actually add pixels but enhance the ones that are already there. What this boils down to is: you will definitely see whether that contentious goal was actually over the line or not. 

Having this processor on board means that lines become clearer, action stays smooth and if you happened to be streaming anything, then this will become much clearer. 

To see this in action, then what you need, available from AO.com, is the stunning Sony Bravia XE70 range. And, don’t forget, you could be in with a chance of getting a fantastic up to £300 off the price of your new big-screen television, thanks to AO.com .

Windows 10’s Microsoft Store will be better organized to help you find deals

Microsoft is planning to better organize its the Microsoft Store in Windows 10 by introducing a new Departments drop-down menu, which highlights deals among other things – although this functionality is still in testing right now.

Windows 10 users may have experienced some difficulty finding what they need in the Microsoft Store in the past, because there’s a fairly sprawling mass of content of all different types for sale.

So, as Windows Central reports, the idea is to introduce a new Departments drop-down along the top menu which has four main categories: Software & apps, Entertainment, Devices, and Deals. And each of those has various subcategories to allow you to further drill down to find what you need.

Software & apps, as you might expect, is where you’ll bag applications, with subcategories for Windows 10, Office apps, and Edge extensions to soup up Microsoft’s browser. There’s also an option to customize Windows which offers the likes of different themes, and an area for support with software.

That’s Entertainment…

The Entertainment category covers games, movies, books, Mixed Reality and Xbox. And under Devices you’ll find all your hardware options, including Microsoft’s Surface tablets, along with PCs, gaming PCs, accessories, and Xbox consoles.

Bargain hunters, however, will likely be most interested in the Deals category, which highlights any discounts and offers across apps, games, movies and hardware (with subcategories for Surface and PC in the latter case).

All of which should certainly make navigating the Microsoft Store a more pleasant and streamlined experience, and hopefully help you save some money in the process. There are often deals to be had on the likes of Surface tablets, and this should mean you don’t miss them – although we’ll highlight any top-notch deals here at TechRadar as well, of course.

While this is only in testing at the moment, as mentioned, it’s difficult to see why Microsoft wouldn’t want to proceed along these lines, although naturally, the aforementioned subcategories may be rejigged depending on feedback.

Image credit: Windows Central

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Samsung confirms Bixby 2.0 is arriving with the Galaxy Note 9

Earlier in the year, Samsung said that the next generation of its smart Bixby assistant would probably be appearing at the same time as the Galaxy Note 9, and now it’s confirmed that match-up in an interview in the Korea Herald (via Engadget).

Head of AI research at the company, Gray G. Lee, said that Bixby 2.0 would appear on the scene with “enhanced natural language processes, improved noise resistance capability and quicker response times”. If you’ve been thinking about giving Bixby a second chance, this might be a good opportunity.

Lee didn’t mention the Galaxy Note 9 by name, but did say the upgraded digital assistant is arriving with Samsung’s next flagship in the second half of 2018. With the Samsung Galaxy S10 not due until January at least, he must be talking about the Note series.

Bixby 2.0 vs the rest

Samsung is investing more researchers into its artificial intelligence efforts, as per the interview, and is getting all of its products connected to Bixby by 2020. The company added Bixby to its TVs this year, but there are still plenty of gaps in the ecosystem.

Bixby 2.0 is certainly up against some stiff competition. Siri comes built into macOS and iOS, Cortana comes with every Windows PC and is available on mobile too, Amazon’s Alexa continues to get smarter all the time, and Google Assistant’s newest trick is ringing up restaurants to make bookings for you.

Despite the challenges ahead, Samsung seems determined to keep investing in Bixby, so we’ll see what’s changed when the Galaxy Note 9 appears – possibly in late July. Presumably older Samsung devices will get some Bixby 2.0 love as well.

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