We’re here at Gamescom 2017!

Techradar has landed!

In Germany that is. We’ve arrived in Cologne for what is arguably Europe’s biggest annual gaming event, Gamescom. We’re very excited to be here, and not just because Cologne has a chocolate museum. Mmmmmm, chocolate.

Gamescom officially opens its doors to the public on August 23, but the doors open to the press on August 22, and there are events as early as August 20, so we’re here early to share with you all the latest breaking news from the world of gaming. 

As always, there are some seriously big companies peddling their wares at the gaming extravaganza and we have been promised looks and some upcoming blockbuster games, as well as a number of surprises, so it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on TechRadar over the coming days.

Once open, Gamescom runs until August 26, giving gamers a solid three days to get their hands on some of the world’s most exciting games. 

Can’t wait? Here’s a quick rundown of what we’re expecting to see over the next few days:

Xbox One X 

Sitting in the interim period between announcement and release, now is the pivotal time for Microsoft to be getting gamers excited about the upgraded Xbox One, the Xbox One X. Because of this we are expecting to see Microsoft pull out all the stops with gameplay demos to show the X off to its full potential. 

Age of Empires

This year marks the 30th anniversary of this landmark title, and Microsoft isn’t going to let this milestone go unacknowledged. It’s throwing a live event to launch the 4K remaster of the classic game being developed for Windows 10.

Super Mario Odyssey

As Nintendo’s next big release, there will be a big Super Mario Odyssey presence at Gamescom this year. For those at the event, there will be the option to play the game, and for those at home, there will be the option to see gameplay examples.

EA

EA is promising gameplay of Star Wars Battlefront II, Need For Speed Payback and FIFA 18, plus a live show that it promises will include “some surprises”. Eeeek.

…and much more

And that’s just a small snippet of what we’re expecting to see this week. There are a good number of events that you’ll be able to watch at home. For information, check out our guide on how to watch Gamescom 2017.

And for all other news, make sure that you check our full guide to Gamescom, where we’ll be keeping track of all the biggest announcements. 

  • Gamescom is Europe’s largest annual gaming event, stuffed full of the latest and greatest games, consoles, and gaming hardware. TechRadar is reporting live from Cologne to bring you the very latest from the show floor. Head to our dedicated Gamescom 2017 hub to see all the latest news, along with TechRadar’s world-class analysis and buying advice about the next year in gaming

How to live forever

Humans have wanted to live forever for as long as we’ve lived at all. It’s an obsession that stretches back so far that it feels like it’s somehow hard-coded into our DNA. Over the years, immortality (to a greater or lesser extent) has been promised by everyone from religions and cults to the cosmetics industry, big tech companies and questionable food blogs.

It’s also a staple of fiction, all the way back to the earliest surviving great work of literature. The Epic of Gilgamesh, carved onto stone tablets in 2100 BC, depicts its titular king hunting for the secret of eternal life, which he finds in a plant that lives at at the bottom of the sea. He collects the plant by roping stones to his feet, but then a snake steals it while he’s having a pre-immortality bath. Gilgamesh has a little cry, then gives up. 

A cuneiform tablet containing part of The Epic of Gilgamesh.

The reason why we age is still the subject of major scientific debate, but it basically boils down to damage accumulating in our cells throughout our lives, which eventually kills us. By slowing that damage – first by making tools, then controlling fire, inventing writing, trade, agriculture, logic, the scientific method, the industrial revolution, democracy and so on, we’ve managed to massively increase human life expectancy.

There’s a common misconception that to live forever we need to somehow pause the ageing process. We don’t. We just need to increase the rate at which our lifespans are lengthening. Human lifespan has been lengthening at a constant rate of about two years per decade for the last 200 years. If we can speed that up past the rate at which we age then we hit what futurist Aubrey de Grey calls “longevity escape velocity” – the point we become immortal.

There’s a common misconception that to live forever we need to somehow pause the ageing process. We don’t. We just need to increase the rate at which our lifespans are lengthening.

That all sounds rather easy, and of course it’s not quite that simple. It’s all we can do at the moment to keep up with the Moore’s Law of increasing lifespans. But with a major research effort, coordinated around the world, who knows? Scientific history is filled with fields that ticked along slowly and then suddenly, massively, accelerated. Computer science is one. Genetics is another recent example.

Low-hanging fruit

To understand what we need to do to hit longevity escape velocity, it’s worth looking at how life expectancy has increased in recent history. The late statistician Hans Rosling made a powerful case that average lifespans rise alongside per capita income. Take a couple of minutes to watch this video and you’ll be convinced: 

Reducing the gap between the global rich and poor, therefore, is probably the fastest way to boost the world average life expectancy figure, but it’s limited. And it won’t do much for people in rich countries. 

To boost the lifespans of the people living in countries that are already pretty wealthy, we need to look closer at the countries that are forecast to have the highest life expectancies in the coming years. A study published earlier this year in the Lancet shows what life expectancy might look like in 2030 in 35 industrialised countries, using an amalgamation of 21 different forecasting models. 

South Korea tops the chart with women living on average beyond 90, while France, Japan, Switzerland and Australia are not far behind. Most of the countries at the top of the chart have high-quality healthcare provision, low infant deaths, and low smoking and road traffic injury rates. Fewer people are overweight or obese. The US, meanwhile, is projected to see only a modest rise – due to a lack of healthcare access, and high rates of obesity, child mortality and homicides.

The study results are interesting, not only because they’re the best possible guess at our future but because they clearly show how social policies make a massive difference to how long people live. There are unknowns, of course – no-one could have predicted the 80s AIDS epidemic, for example, and no doubt further pandemics lurk in humanity’s future. But ban smoking, fight obesity, and introduce autonomous cars and personalised medicine, and you’ll see lifespans rise.

The US is projected to see only a modest rise in lifespan – due to a lack of healthcare access, and high rates of obesity, child mortality and homicides.

The other interesting thing is that the study’s results are a shot across the bows of scientists who claim that there are hard limits to human lifespan.

“As recently as the turn of the century, many researchers believed that life expectancy would never surpass 90 years,” lead author Majid Ezzati of Imperial College London told the Guardian back in February.

That prediction mirrors another, published in Nature in October 2016, that concluded that the upper limit of human age is stuck at about 115 years. 

“By analysing global demographic data, we show that improvements in survival with age tend to decline after age 100, and that the age at death of the world’s oldest person has not increased since the 1990s,” wrote the authors – Xiao Dong, Brandon Milholland & Jan Vijg. 

“Our results strongly suggest that the maximum lifespan of humans is fixed and subject to natural constraints.”

The maximum length of a human lifespan remains up for debate.

Other researchers, however, disagree. Bryan G. Hughes & Siegfried Hekimi wrote in the same journal a few months later that their analysis showed that there are many possible maximum lifespan trajectories. 

“We just don’t know what the age limit might be. In fact, by extending trend lines, we can show that maximum and average lifespans, could continue to increase far into the foreseeable future,” Hekimi said. 

“Three hundred years ago, many people lived only short lives. If we would have told them that one day most humans might live up to 100, they would have said we were crazy.” 

Making it personal

That’s all big-picture stuff, so let’s dive down to a more personal level. Assuming that you can’t change your genetics or your life up until the point that you’re currently at, what can you personally do to live longer?

Here’s the list: Don’t smoke. Exercise your body and mind on a daily basis. Eat foods rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and unsaturated fat. Don’t drink too much alcohol. Get your blood pressure checked. Chop out sources of stress and anxiety in your life. Travel by train. Stay in school. Think positive. Cultivate a strong social group. Don’t sit for long periods of time. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. Keep your weight at a healthy level. And don’t go to hospital if you can help it – hospitals are dangerous places.

All of those things have been correlated with increased lifespan in scientific studies. And they’re all pretty easy and cheap to do. If you want to maximise your longevity, then that’s your to-do list. But there are also strategies that have a little less scientific merit. The ones that people with too much money pursue when they realise they haven’t been following any of the above for most of their life. 

Inside the Cryonics Institute.

Cryonics is probably the most popular. First proposed in the 1960s by US academic Robert Ettinger in his book “The Prospect of Immortality”, it involves freezing the body as soon as possible after death in a tube kept at -196C, along with detailed notes of what they died of. The idea is that when medicine has invented a cure for that ailment, the corpse can be thawed and reanimated. 

“Calling someone ‘dead’ is merely medicine’s way of excusing itself from resuscitation problems it cannot fix today,” reads the website of top cryogenics firm Alcor.

A different kind of brain freeze

The problem is the brain. First, it’s so dense and well-protected that it’s extremely difficult for the cryonics chemicals to penetrate it. It’s almost impossible that it doesn’t get damaged in the freezing process. 

The 21,000,000,000 neurons and ~1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses in the human brain means that it’ll be a while until we have the computational resources to map it.

Secondly, your neurons die quickly – even if you’re immersed within minutes of death, you’re still likely to suffer substantial brain damage. To which cryonics proponents argue: “What do I have to lose?” If the choice is between probably never waking up again and never waking up again, and it’s your money to spend, then why not give it a shot?

An alternative to deep freeze is storing your brain in a computer. Not literally a lump of grey matter, but a database detailing in full all of the connections between the neurons in your brain that make you you (known as your connectome). Future doctors could then either rewire a real or artificial brain to match that data, resurrecting you in a new body (or perhaps even as an artificial intelligence).

A close look at a slice of mouse brain. Credit: Robert Cudmore

So far, we’ve only managed to map the full connectome of one animal – the roundworm C. elegans. Despite the worm’s mere 302 neurons and 7,500 or so synapses, the resulting data is about 12GB in size – you can download it in full at the Open Connectome Project, and even install it in a robot, which will then act like a worm.

Unfortunately the human brain is a somewhat larger undertaking. The Human Connectome Project is making a start, and AI is helping, but the 21,000,000,000 neurons and ~1,000,000,000,000,000 synapses in the human brain means that it’ll be a while until we have the computational resources to get it done. It’s worth noting that this isn’t an unassailable goal, especially if we can somehow figure out which bits are actually important to our personality and who we are as individuals and which bits are just used to remember the lyrics of Spice Girls songs. 

For now, though, my recommendation would be to stick to the list of simple life extension strategies above. It’s probable that in time we’ll have new ways of augmenting our bodies that will extend our lifespans (we’ve already started with cyborg technology – just look at pacemakers and artificial hips).

But if you want to be at the front of the waiting list then you’ll need to arrive at that point with as youthful a body as possible.

  • Help keep that body of yours in fighting fit shape with the best fitness trackers

When games consoles were bookshelves: celebrating 35 years of Fighting Fantasy books

My first games console was a bookshelf. Long before I felt the call of Skyrim’s icy tundras, tackled the complex dungeons of Zelda or battled the undead foes of Dark Souls, I was exploring vast fantasy worlds through the pages of books. 

The Fighting Fantasy novel series had it all – epic quests, hideous monsters and mysterious lands to visit. But they had a killer trick up their sleeves, too: they were interactive.

Armed with a pair of dice, a pencil, eraser and a character sheet, you’d create a hero to guide through the adventure laid out on the page before you. As you’d read along, you’d be presented with choices – should you take the left turn in the path, and face perhaps a marauding ogre head on? Or take the cowards option and sneak away by the right path? 

For the first choice, you’d turn to, say, page 301, while for the second you’d turn to page 21, for instance, at which point each the narrative would branch off and the adventure would become all your own. 

First published at a time when video games were still charmingly primitive, they were like nothing else – fully realised fantasy, sci-fi and horror worlds, in which you were in control of guiding your hero to glory, or to a grisly doom.

In the beginning was the words

It’s 35 years since the first Fighting Fantasy adventure, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, was published. More than 50 books later, the series’s creators Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson are relaunching the books, and releasing a new videogame, Fighting Fantasy Legends, alongside the developers at Nomad Games, based on some of the most popular of the gamebooks.

The pair’s own story is worth revisiting. Having already formed the Games Workshop (the tabletop game sellers which also birthed the Warhammer universe), Livingstone and Jackson were well placed to capitalize on the growing interest in the nascent roleplaying game scene.

Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone in the early FF days.

“Steve and I started Games Workshop in 1975 with another school friend John Peake. We acquired the exclusive distribution rights to Dungeons and Dragons the same year, and that really got us completely obsessed and immersed in roleplaying games,” recalls Livingstone.

“Having played and being involved with the game for six or seven years, we thought it’d be great to bring it to a wider audience, if we could replace the dungeon master with a book.”

“The time was right in the universe,” adds Jackson. 

“Roleplaying was gaining in popularity – people were talking about solo books, and there were a couple around at the time, but not using a proper roleplaying system with dice and character sheets. That was what was mostly original about our take on it.”

We thought it’d be great to bring D&D to a wider audience, if we could replace the dungeon master with a book.

Ian Livingstone

It was the action-packed nature of the books that really set them apart. With a little simple arithmetic and and a couple of dice rolls, Livingstone and Jackson landed on a way to let readers battle enemies and ‘test their luck’ in the tense scenarios presented by each book.

“We stripped the roleplaying system down to its basics without dumbing it down, concentrating on three attributes, ‘Skill’, ‘Stamina’ and ‘Luck’, and created a branching narrative like the Choose Your Own Adventure books but attached the game system to make it more appealing to roleplaying gamers,” explains Livingstone.

“The system evolved over time but it came about thanks to a chance meeting with Geraldine Cook at Penguin Books when we used to run our Games Day conventions, where you’d have 1,000 people playing roleplaying games in a hall in Central London. She was in attendance and thought it was incredible, and wondered if we could write a book about this hobby.”

Super sales and beastly books

And so, after a few weeks of furious writing, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was published. What had been conceived as merely an introductory guide to roleplaying games had morphed into its own interactive adventure.

It was an instant success, spawning a sprawling series set in its own fantasy universe that would stretch across dozens of books and genres, and achieve tens of millions of sales.

That success was in no small part down to the way the books were marketed – though ostensibly aimed at children, their covers were created by some of the finest fantasy artists of the day, often depicting gruesome monsters and otherworldly scenes.

The artist had drawn the scene with a woman, let’s say, not completely covered up.

Steve Jackson

“We used to have quite long arguments with Penguin right in the early days over what sort of covers we should have,” remembers Livingstone.

“Clearly because the Puffin imprint was aimed at children they wanted safe covers, so were more minded to suggest covers that had a toadstool with little gnomes sitting on top and butterflies flying around. We wanted covers that threatened to rip the faces off the readers! So we argued that we should use our Games Workshop illustrators, and that’s why Peter Jones, Russ Nicholson, and Ian McCaig all came onboard as we won the argument. To Penguin’s credit, they allowed us to use our artists.”

Though kids may have been enticed by covers that treated them like adults, the illustrations within pushed the boundaries of what could safely be called ‘children’s books’.

“I remember House of Hell had, like a typical 1950s b-movie horror film, a sacrifice sequence in it,” says Steve Jackson. 

“The artist had drawn the scene with a woman, let’s say, not completely covered up. The imprint Puffin objected to that, and had the artist cover just a little bit more up before it went into the book.”

House of Hell’s infamous sacrifice illustration.

It had a lasting impact on those who read them, including Carl Jackson, Design Director at Nomad Games (and no relation of Steve’s).

“I remember being quite scared by the illustrations!” recalls Carl, who was recently tasked with re-imagining the frightening scenes for the Fighting Fantasy Legends game.

“I first read them when I was about 10 or 11. Something you don’t realise when you look back on them now is the way the illustrations were always from the reader’s (or the ‘hero’s’) viewpoint – the monsters were looking at you, the treasures were in front of you. That drew you in and made you feel like you were there, and being able to make decisions was amazing for a book for a kid that age. Rather than reading about what someone else was doing, it’s you that’s there, they’re your consequences, your victories.”

You are the hero

That sense of putting the reader at the heart of the action – literally staring into the inked eyes of the enemy – was an important part of the experience.

“Clearly it’s the empowerment, that you are the hero,” says Livingstone. 

“That set off everyone’s imaginations. Linear books are a passive experience, Fighting Fantasy books are an interactive experience. Giving control to people was clearly very motivating, and of course the illustrations helped to spark the imagination even more so.”

To add to the excitement, tension and fear, was the fact that the books tended to be quite difficult.

Some people are quite masochistic and want to go down onto the poisoned spikes just to see what happens.

Ian Livingstone

“Steve tended to have… his [books] were a little bit more difficult than mine!” says Ian.

“We got an early taste of that because he was the culprit who designed the Maze of Zagor in Warlock of Firetop Mountain [a notoriously tricky area in the first Fighting Fantasy book]. 

“But you never know which way people are going to choose – some people are quite masochistic and want to go down onto the poisoned spikes just to see what happens, and some that we lure to their doom on purpose. I call it sprinkling rose petals towards quicksand. That’s the joyful part for me – designing things to lure people to their ultimate doom. That always makes me chuckle.”

“One of the things about Fighting Fantasy is that it attracts the more intelligent reader. They like to solve the quest – it’s basically a puzzle getting from the start to the finish, and they want to prove to themselves and to others that they can actually beat this book,” adds Steve.

Reimagining old adventures

The Fighting Fantasy books have been no stranger to adaptation. In the 1980s they were turned into the phone-in F.I.S.T (Fantasy Interactive Scenarios by Telephone) series, the ’90s saw Deathtrap Dungeon turned into a 3D platformer, and recent years have seen the books faithfully rebuilt as mobile apps. Fighting Fantasy Legends, released this summer, is perhaps the most ambitious take on the books yet. 

It combines three early books in the series (The Warlock of Firetop Mountain, Citadel of Chaos and City of Thieves) and turns them into a rougelike game. All the original story beats are present, but there’s now also a levelling system, a de rigueur collectible card system and, of course, a fully-realised world, drawn in full from a ’90s-aping overhead viewpoint.

Fighting Fantasy Legends from Nomad Games

“It was just nice to see the world in a way that hadn’t been seen before,” explains Carl of the overhead viewpoint.

“Places like Port Blacksand where City of Thieves takes place is a nice big open sprawling city, so we thought it’d be nice to allow the player to have a feeling of knowing where they were, which direction they’d come from and are going to. The town from above allows us to show more detail – if it was a three-quarter view or a 3D game, you may lose some of that. And it was also a nod back to some of the roleplaying games of the late ’80s and early ’90s that were all primarily top down, especially Japanese roleplaying games.”

Carl had the difficult role of realising areas and situations that may not have been fully pictorially illustrated in the books. Doing so without stepping on the imagined memories of veteran readers was a delicate task.

That feeling of learning and overcoming a challenge a little amount each time, getting slowly better is a nice feeling.

Carl Jackson, Nomad Games

“We look at the descriptions of the places you can go to and maybe filled in some of the reasoning why it might be like that,” he explained. 

“For example, with Firetop Mountain, when you look at the first third of the map is like an old orc barracks area, with orcs and goblins all on guard duty. So we had to make it feel like that. In the book, sometimes there’d be no description of a room at all – it was more about what was happening in there, when you were attacked, or perhaps there’s someone being tortured. 

“We’ll add little details: there’s a prison cell where a guy has been trying to escape for 30 years, so we added little hints that he’d been trying to escape, like a little tunnel at the back of a room with a spoon on the floor he’d been using. Nice little nods to a feeling that this is a real place.”

And, like the books that inspired it, Legends, whether played on mobile devices or on a PC, is a considerable challenge.

“It kind of surprised me,” admits Carl.

“I’m quite often put off by very difficult games. I usually play for the story and setting, but things like Dark Souls people play because they know they are being presented with a challenge right from the beginning. That feeling of learning and overcoming a challenge just a little amount each time, getting slowly better is a nice feeling. And that’s the same in this game – it is very difficult in the beginning, but what you very quickly realise is that most of the encounters don’t have to be dangerous when you learn what the different choices are.”

It’s just the sort of adaptation Steve and Ian have longed for, it seems.

“I think Carl’s done a brilliant job,” says Ian. 

“We’ve all been in the videogame industry [Livingstone headed up publisher Eidos when the Tomb Raider series was conceived] as well as the roleplaying books industry, but he and his team have evolved all the systems so that they have that zen flow through the game. It’s not too easy that you get bored, it’s not so difficult that you put people off – if you do the right thing you will ultimately be able to get through easier than you would if you had just tried to blitz your way through. They’ve gone to great pains to ensure that if you approach it in the right way you will succeed.”

The five-fingered bookmark

One thing that is missing, however, is a Fighting Fantasy stalwart, even if it wasn’t something Jackson or Livingstone ever intended – the ability to cheat.

“We used to call it the five-fingered bookmark,” says Livingstone of the way people would hold the page they were leaving through the dangerous and winding narratives, just in case a nasty shock awaited at their destination.

“You’d see people on trains and buses with multiple people with fingers over multiple pages. Which is great! Why not? If that’s what you want to do, who are we to say no? It’s not really cheating, it’s peeking around the corners!”

The new-look books, including Livingstone’s all-new The Portal of Peril.

Fighting Fantasy, in both this videogaming reimagining and the relaunched book series, exist now in a very different media landscape to the one in which the series was initially conjured. Video gaming is now a Hollywood-rivalling, spectacle laden medium, while kids spend just as much time on their own smartphones as they do reading books. But both Steve and Ian believe all can co-exist happily.

Videogames, mobile phones, PC adaptations, they’ve all been additive rather than at the expense of the books.

Ian Livingstone

“It’s interesting to see how this all develops,” muses Steve. “I can remember Ian and I having a conversation on what the future had in store, and that’d it’d be video games taking over from table topping and roleplaying. But actually they haven’t, in that they all exist now.”

“Videogames, mobile phones, PC adaptations, they’ve all been additive rather than at the expense of the books,” believes Ian.

“What’s great about the 35th anniversary is that children who read them in the 1980s now have their own children, and are passing the baton, so to speak. Normally children reject anything their parents say is cool, but Fighting Fantasy seems to resonate and strike a chord just as much as they did back in the ‘80s.”

Leaving a mark

But the influence of the Fighting Fantasy series is cemented, ingraining themselves in the memories of today’s game creators, and helping forge a path for the complex narratives of today’s video game RPGs.

“We’re delighted that we’ve had an influence on many video games,” says Livingstone.

“We’re told that the designer of Dark Souls [Hidetaka Miyazaki] used to read Fighting Fantasy when they were published in Japanese. They were a big influence on his approach to design. We’re also told that the designers of The Witcher games used Fighting Fantasy gamebooks as source material for the scenarios they created. And of course Telltale.

Ian Livingstone in more recent times.

“But you can’t say it’s a direct result,” adds a modest Livingstone. “You can certainly say we’ve had an influence, and we’re very proud to have had an influence on the video games market in this particular genre. It’s very satisfying.”

And, after all these years, Livingstone and Jackson still love, and find time to play, the roleplaying games they helped to popularise in the first place.

“We meet regularly, every two or three weeks and play mainly German boardgames and card games,” says Jackson. 

“It’s a games night that’s been going on with some of our gaming friends from the industry for, what, 25 years or something like that!

“[Fable creator] Peter Molyneux is a member, Clive Robert of 505 Gaming is a member and two other non-industry friends,” laughs Livingstone.

“We run a spoof gentlemen’s club called The Games Night Club, we have a trophy, we keep a record of the points total, and at the end of the year we award the winner. 

“I write a newsletter for a circulation of six, we’re on issue 455 at the moment!”

Fighting Fantasy Legends is out now on PC, Android and iOS devices. The re-launched Fighting Fantasy book series is published by Scholastic and is available in all good bookshops.

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Best shows on Netflix (August 2017): the 50 best Netflix series

UPDATE: It’s finally here! The Defenders has arrived and is one of the 50 best Netflix series, bringing together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and that annoying glowy fist bloke. It’s eight episodes long, far better than the travesty that was Iron Fist, and has Sigourney Weaver in it. What more could you possibly want?

Want to know what the best shows on Netflix are right now? Well, you’ve come to the right place. This is TechRadar’s constantly updated guide to the best Netflix series right now. 

We’ve chosen the 50 best Netflix shows that you need to watch. Whether you are into meth-laced dramas (Breaking Bad), talking horses (Bojack Horseman) or fear-inducing dystopias that are far too close for comfort (Black Mirror) there’s something for you on the list. 

Netflix is currently the hottest streaming service on the planet. Not only is it creating fantastic original shows – House of Cards, Orange is the New Black – it is teaming up with the likes of Marvel to adapt famous superheroes for the small screen. And it’s just bought its own graphic novel IP so expect more original comic-book content soon. 

It’s also trialling news things, such as the Puss In Boots choose your own adventure show and is a big advocate for 4K and HDR. Oh, and it finally did something it said it never would – allow you to download many of its shows to watch Netflix offline.

It’s fair to say there’s never been a better time to bag yourself a Netflix subscription and binge watch, so get stuck into our gallery and let us know if your favourite show isn’t on the list.

  • Check out our in-depth and completely updated Netflix review
  • Want to test out the rival? Here’s our Best Amazon Prime Video TV Shows
  • Want know the best movies on Netflix. Then this is your in-depth guide
  • Want to know the worst movies on Netflix? The check out Not On My Watch
  • The best sci-fi movies you can stream right now

There’s a reason Iron Fist isn’t on our Best Shows on Netflix list: it’s terrible. Which is such a shame as the rest of Netflix’s Marvel series have been hard-hitting, explosive delights. Thankfully The Defenders sees the Marvel TV universe fighting fit once more, with the mini series proving that all of the characters are better together – yes, even glowy fist man. Given its limited episode run – it’s a lean eight episodes – it’s a little strange that it takes a good three episodes to get going but once it does, and mostly because of Sigourney Weaver, it’s great.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

  • Streaming on Netflix now

It’s always a pleasure to watch Neil Patrick Harris in anything but A Series Of Unfortunate Events is the perfect platform for him. He plays Count Olaf with all the vim and vigour you’d expect – adding a certain weirdness to what is already a strange show. Based on the first four Lemony Snicket books, the series consists of eight episodes – so four two-part stories – and is arguably a better adaptation than the Jim Carrey starring movie. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1

Watch on Netflix now

Archer is now into its eighth season and apart from a few hiccups – season 5’s Archer Vice is particularly grating – it’s a brilliant, adult pastiche of Bond. The plot is simple: Archer is a heavy drinking womanising spy for an agency that’s headed up by his mum. The cartoon charts his antics, alongside his co-workers Cheryl, Cyril, Lana, Pam and Krieger. Featuring many of the cast of Arrested Development, and a  sprinkling of Mad Men, Archer is hilarious, off-kilter fare.

Seasons on Netflix: 8

Watch on Netflix now

Arrested Development is one of the best comedies ever made. So it made sense that Netflix would want to resurrect it for a fourth season. While it wasn’t perfect – primarily because most of the cast were too busy to get into the same room – it was great to see the Bluth family back. Full of in-jokes, jokes that run for entire seasons and more, well, jokes, this is essential TV. And the good news is that a fifth series has been commissioned.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

Watch on Netflix now

Babylon is a cutting satire on policing in the UK. Written by the folks behind Peep Show, it focuses on a bumbling commissioner (James Nesbitt), Brit Marling as a PR person trying to modernise the force and firearm officers on the ground. It’s both hilarious and dramatic in equal fashion, making it one of the most highly original shows on British TV in recent years. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1

Watch on Netflix now

On paper, the idea of a show that mines the early life of Hitchcock psycho Norman Bates is pretty terrible. But over the course of a number of seasons Bates Motel has proved to be a hit. Focusing, with a lot of unease, on the relationship between Norman (a brilliant Freddie Highmore) and his mother (Vera Farmiga) acting more like a psychological thriller than outright horror. The best thing about it is how it manages to keep you guessing as to what is going to happen next, even though the story it is building up to is one of the most famous of all time.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

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Charlie Brooker was best known for his snarky looky at the news in Weekly Wipe and his fantastic, caustic look at meeja types in London’s Shoreditch before he penned Black Mirror – and now the show has given him superstar status. For good reason, it’s fantastic TV with each episode taking on a different dystopia topic, mostly framed around technology going very long. The third season was commissioned by Netflix and is in 4K, with most of the episodes being feature length.

Seasons on Netflix: 3

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‘Clear eyes, full heart’. That’s Coach’s mantra in Friday Night Lights, a fantastic show that everyone should watch – even if you have absolutely no interest in American Football. Kyle Chandler is the coach of a small time football team, who moves to the fictional Texas town of Dillon, a place obsessed with the sport. Over the course of five seasons, the show paints a fantastic picture of America through the lens of sport. 

Seasons on Netflix: 3

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Better Call Saul is better than Breaking Bad. That’s a sentence we never thought we would write, but it’s now three seasons and it is flawless TV. It doesn’t have the menace or fear that propelled Walter White in Breaking Bad, instead it takes its time to paint a picture of Saul Goodman, someone that was in Bad mainly for comic relief. In his own show, though, creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould have created a well-rounded, means well character whose descent into criminality is a slow burn. Although some characters have started to appear from Breaking Bad, the show doesn’t beg for the appearance of Walter White or Jesse – it’s now it’s own thing and we can’t wait for Season 4.

Seasons on Netflix: 3 

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Yes, Bojack Horseman is hilarious. Yes, it’s the best thing Will Arnett has done since Arrested Development. And, yes, it should be the next thing you watch if you are into anthropomorphic comedy about a once great TV star who has fallen on hard times. It’s all of that but it’s also a pretty accurate portrayal of depression and should be celebrated as such.This may make it sound like the saddest show ever. It’s not but it’s far more weightier than most of the cartoon comedies doing the rounds on Netflix at the moment.

Seasons on Netflix: 3

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Breaking Bad is must-watch TV and one of the reasons Netflix has risen to the popularity it has. Before Breaking Bad, Netflix was seen as a fairly decent streaming service. After it got the rights to show the final season of Breaking Bad in the UK, Netflix propelled itself to superstardom. Not bad for a show that’s ostensibly about a high-school teacher with cancer who goes on to sell meth to pay for his hospital bills. 

It goes without saying, if you haven’t yet spent time with Walter White and Jesse – do so now! But, be warned, the show is as addictive as the stuff Walter is peddling. 

Seasons on Netflix: 5

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Is The Crown Netflix’s crowning glory? Not quite, but it is a sumptuous look at one of the world’s most famous families: the Royal family. Charting the early years of the relationship between the Queen (Claire Foy) and Prince Philip  (former Doctor Who Matt Smith), the show was written by Peter Morgan and, at £100 million, is one of the most expensive TV series ever made. Which means there’s enough pomp and ceremony to keep those pining for a Downton Abbey replacement happy.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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When it comes to superhero movies, Marvel are bossing DC thanks to the rich tapestry it has weaved with its cinematic universe. Its TV shows, as fun as Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter are, haven’t had the same success as DC’s The Arrow or The Flash. Thankfully Daredevil has come along to change all this. Released in one binge-watching dose, Daredevil is superb television, regardless if you are a superhero fan or not. Matt Murdoch’s (Boardwalk Empire’s Charlie Cox) rise from blind lawyer to vigilante is brutal and steeped in realism. The reason it works so well is that it doesn’t shy away from being violent – each crack and crunch is a world away from Ben Affleck’s terrible movie version. And special mention has to go to Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, his best role since the tortured Private Pyle.

Daredevil season two is out now and adds Elektra and Punisher into the mix. With new showrunners on board, the show has shifted slightly tonally but the brutality of the fight scenes are still there – you just need to check out Episode 3 to see what we mean.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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Mackenzie Crook was one of the breakout stars from The Office, swapping his brilliant performance as the hapless Gareth for Hollywood roles in Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones. But it’s on home soil where he fares best.

The Detectorists, written by and starring Mackenzie, is a warm, brilliant comedy. Based around the lives of a group of metal detectorists, it features brilliant writing, acting and characters – in any given episode, you will either be in tears of laughter or poignancy. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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Following in the footsteps of fellow ‘mumblecore’ members the Duplass brothers – whose brilliant Creep was a Netflix exclusive – Joe Swamberg has hit Netflix with a candid and considered look at sex and relationships.

Easy is an eight-episode look at relationships in Chicago. There’s a different subject for each episode, although each life portrayed eventually overlaps in the show in some way. 

Cast-wise, Easy has some surprisingly big names. Malin Akerman and Orlando Bloom star in one vignette, while the likes of Emily Ratajkowski, Marc Maron and Dave Franco also make an appearance. 

Don’t go into Easy expecting explosive drama or high-tense action, but as a realistic look at other people’s love lives it’s a great, if slightly meandering watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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There was a collective groan by Coen Brothers fans the world over when Fargo the television show was announced. But what could have been darn tootin’ awful ended up being fantastic, thanks to the casting of Billy Bob Thornton who is both funny and psychotic – well, his character is anyway. The series thankfully didn’t retread the movie but added to it, acting as a strange but sublime companion piece. It’s so good, the Coens initially refused to have their name on the show – until they saw it and loved it.

The second season is also now on Netflix and surpasses the first. The plotline veers away from the original film, but the heart of Fargo is still very much in this TV show. The second series flips back 27 years before the events of the original.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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Unfairly cancelled after just one season, Freaks and Geeks was the starting point for many AAA comedy actors, directors and writers careers of today. Set around two factions of kids trying to get by in a typical US school: the freaks and, well, the geeks. 

James Franco, Seth Rogan and Jason Segel are fantastic as part of the geek ensemble – Franco playing the heart throb, Rogan the monosyllabic beer fiend and Segel, the loveable stoner. While the geeks include Silicon Valley’s Martin Starr and a superb John Francis Daley. But it’s Lind Cardellini who’s standout, playing Lindsay Weir, the math kid who decides to rebel. 

Created by Paul Feig, who recently tried his hand at rebooting GhostBusters, and written by Judd Apatow, the show is great antidote to the whimsical teenage world of Dawson Creek and the like.  

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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The Get Down has a lot to live up to. It’s the most expensive Netflix show ever made – knocking Marco Polo of that perch – thanks to its creator Baz Luhrmann’s vibrant style that suits the show’s premise. And that premise is a doozy: The Get Down charts the beginnings of hip-hop in the 1970s, telling the tale through the eyes of young rapper Ezekiel. Bombastic in its approach and beautiful to look at, The Get Down is a potent mix of fictional characters and real-life stars of the hip-hop scene, including Grandmaster Flash who also produced the show. All 12 episodes are available to binge now – you’ll either love or hate it!

Netflix recently revealed that this will be the only season of The Get Down as it’s cancelled the show – which we reckon is a big mistake as it’s a great watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 1 (part one and two)

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Alison Brie already proved she had comedic chops in Community but GLOW cements her as a comedy genius who can turn on the seriousness when she needs to. In GLOW (gorgeous ladies of wrestling) she plays Ruth Wilder, a struggling actress in ’80s LA who turns to women’s wrestling to make a star of herself. The show is a look at the underground sensation of ladies wrestling, with all the wit and gender stereotype reversing you would expect from the maker of Orange Is The New Black. It’s a great, highly original watch, with a superb cast that includes British singer Kate Nash.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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Him & Her is one of the best British sitcoms in years. Based around the lives of a bored, lazy but happy 20-something couple, the show’s plot is slight but it manages to get laughs out of the most mundane happenings. Sarah Solemani is fantastic as Becky whose love for Steve (Russell Tovey) never falters, despite her parents disliking him. And Kerry Howard as Laura, Becky’s sister, is the most hateful character since, well, ever.

All four series are now on Netflix and are an essential watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

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Homeland, now in its fifth season, is a very different show now than it was when it first aired back in 2011. Based on the Israeli series Prisoner of War, the first few seasons were based around the premise of a returning war hero that may or not be holding a dark secret. This duplicity has been a running theme since then but the narrative has moved on. What hasn’t changed is the brilliant central performance by Claire Danes as the CIA officer with bi-polar disorder – she’s superb and the glue that holds this sometimes disparate show together.

Seasons on Netflix: 5

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If there ever was a poster boy for Netflix, House of Cards would be it. Funded completely by the streaming service, Cards’ first season boasted direction by David Fincher and acting by Kevin Spacey and was addictive television. The reason: Netflix positively wanted you to binge watch, putting all episodes up at once. Now in its third season, Netflix’s Card trick is still impressive and shows just how far Netflix has come, given it’s shot in both 4K and HDR.

House of Cards Season 4 was more timely than ever before, with Frank Underwood fighting to get re-voted in as president which, on the face of it, was about as likely as Donald Trump rising to power. Oh…

And now we have the arrival of Season 5. This is the first without showrunner Beau Willimon. The good news is that is still feels like House of Cards and it also has a number of familiar faces returning. 

Seasons on Netflix: 5

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Ever gorged on Toblerone and driven to Dundee in your bare feet? Alan Partridge has. The fictional disc jockey is easily comedian Steve Coogan’s finest creation, and the I’m Alan Partridge series is the character at his cringe-inducing best.

From zombie infestations at travel taverns to arguments with farmers over 20 foot chickens to a guest appearance from “Bono”, the BBC’s best worst former employee will have you in stitches.

Jurassic Park!

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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Initially made on a shoe-string budget, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia first season had a cult following, but low viewing figures meant it was destined to be a one-series wonder. Thankfully, everything changed when Season 2 was eventually green-lit, thanks to some big-time star power. Danny De Vito joined for a 10-episode run that was extended because he loved it so much. He’s still in the show that’s now in its 11th season, bringing with him huge viewing figures. The antics of Dennis (Glenn Howerton), Mac (Rob McElhenney, the show’s creator), Charlie (Charlie Kelly) and Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson) won’t be for everyone – at its darkest the show’s ‘comedy’ themes range from nazism to drug abuse – but stick with it and this deliciously depraved classic will reward you.

A new, 12th season, has finally landed on Netflix, after airing in the US earlier this year. The show has also been renewed for two more seasons, which will make it the longest running live-action comedy series on TV ever. Impressive stuff.

Seasons on Netflix: 12

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And there was us thinking that Daredevil’s subject matter was dark. Jessica Jones is another tale set in Hell’s Kitchen that may be under the Marvel banned but is about as far removed from the bromance of Thor and Iron Man that you are likely to see.

Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter is superb as the titular Jones, a private detective with superpowers and super issues. This is nocturnal noir that moves in the same circles as Daredevil – figuratively and literally as both characters will eventually team up in the Defenders. It may not have the bone-crunching violence that Daredevil is famed for, but there’s enough booze, sex and black humour on the screen to make this a cracking comic-book caper that’s strictly adults only.

Check out our Jessica Jones review

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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Netflix struck true crime gold with How To Make a Murderer and its done the same again with The Keepers. This time the case in question is the murder of a nun in 1969 in Baltimore. The case remains unsolved and this documentary series goes back to the scene of the crime, speaking to witnesses and people who worked on the case.

This is a meticulously researched series, and one that has been in the works longer than Making a Murderer. It shows, too. Each episode ends on a new piece of evidence and by the end you’ll be horrified with just how this case remained unsolved for so long. Gripping stuff.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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This awkward rom-com has been penned by Judd Apatow and it’s yet again another hit for Netflix Originals. It’s a similar bedfellow to Master of None, but it improves on the themes of dating, love and city life with characters that are more rounded and a touch more awkward. Community’s Gillian Jacobs is great as the prim Mickey, while Paul Rust is effortless as slacker Gus. The show stealer, though, is Apatow’s uber talented daughter Iris who plays a frankly horrible child star.

The ‘will they, won’t they?’ shenanigans continue in the second season – those expecting a plot-heavy season will be disappointed, though, as Love meanders through its storylines – which is no bad thing if you ask us.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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Luke Cage is the latest addition to Netflix’s impressive and growing Marvel TV show offering. Marvel has created a rich cinematic universe and although some of its TV shows (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Agent Carter) have struggled to stay on their feet others like Jessica Jones and Daredevil have flourished.

Luke Cage is more in the same vein as Jessica Jones and Daredevil, with less light-hearted superhero fun and more hard-hitting themes, violence, and grit.

After making his debut in the first series of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage is getting his own show which sees him swap Hell’s Kitchen for Harlem, delving into his origins as a hero. Viewers who lamented the fact that they didn’t get to see more of him in Jessica Jones will enjoy the opportunity to find out more about what makes his character tick here. Don’t worry if you haven’t watched Jessica Jones, it’s not a requirement to understand or appreciate anything about Luke Cage.

The first season in its entirety is on Netflix now, making it perfect to settle in and binge watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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Idris Elba was a relatively unknown actor when he blew us all away as Stringer Bell in The Wire. After starring in the show his career catapulted him into the A List, but he thankfully never forgot his TV roots. Luther is a cop show with a difference, and that difference is Elba. He brings that bit extra to a cop who is battling both deranged criminals and his own demons. He befriends murderers and breaks rules, all amongst the beautiful but broken backdrop of London’s East End.

Seasons on Netflix: 4 

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Five series of Mad Men have arrived on Netflix. While it may not be the full set – there were seven in all – there’s enough here to bing watch and get caught up in Matthew Weiner’s modern TV classic. On the face of it, Mad Men is about advertising execs – lead by the ever-conflicted Don Draper – in the Sixties but it’s much much more. Each episode lingers, taking time to tell its tale, but it’s worth the wait. Superb television.

Seasons on Netflix: 5

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Marco Polo may not have had the accolades that Netflix would have hoped for such an pricey series – at $90 million only Game of Thrones is more expensive – but it has enough going for it to keep you entertained. Benedict Wong is Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty, while Lorenzo Richelmy plays Marco Polo, the Venetian whose travels to China see him given a place in the Khan’s court.

Bombastic and old school, Marco Polo is a stunning watch – it’s also HDR-ready so make sure you have a TV that can handle this type of content.

It was announced recently that Marco Polo will not be getting a third season, making it the first Netflix-owned series to be cancelled. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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Aziz Ansari was part of one of the best comedy ensembles ever in Parks and Recreation, but in Master of None he proves he can hold his own when he goes it alone. Channeling Louie CK, by way of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Master of None is a fantastic look at being in your 30s in Hollywood and all the trappings that go with it. Ansari plays the fictional Dev but this sitcom comes off as deeply personal and is all the better for it.

The second season improves on what is a fantastic first season. Dev is now in Italy, making pasta and trying to forget about acting. It’s not long before he heads back to New York, though.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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The world’s fascination with real crime seems to be at its highest at the moment and it’s all thanks to the podcast Serial. Now on to its second series, Serial highlights cases of crime in forensic detail. Making a Murderer is in a similar vein. This 10-part series looks at Steven Avery, someone who spent 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit and is then accused of a different crime. The show has been ten years in the making and is gripping stuff.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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Narcos is that wonderful thing: a TV show that doesn’t scrimp on controversy. Based on the exploits of Columbian drug lord Pablo Escobar, the show examines the criminal’s rise to the top of one of the biggest drug rings the world has seen, while constantly trying to avoid the clutches of the DEA.

Uncompromising, uncomfortable but completely unforgettable, Narcos is exactly the sort of thing that Netflix should be commissioning. It’s also the sort of thing that HBO would have snapped up just a few years ago – which is very telling as to where television is today.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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The OA rounds off what has been an exceptional year for television on Netflix. Co-created by and starring the ever-brilliant Brit Marling, the show consists of eight episodes that rival Stranger Things for, well, strangeness. 

Marling is a blind woman who comes back after disappearing for many years. Her sight is restored and she has a tale to tell. Although there are eight episodes they vary wildly in length – from 70 minutes to 30 minutes. The whole thing has been made to make you feel uneasy and it does a great job of that.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

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Orange Is The New Black consistently tries to oust House of Cards from the Netflix top spot, with its superb tale of life in a women’s prison. It’s so popular that its makers have announced that the show will be running until at least season seven.

The show has finally returned for a fourth season and things of gotten very dark! Racial tensions and issues with the US prison system are the main plot points for season four and while the comedy is still there, it’s slathered with a fair bit of drama.

Seasons on Netflix: 5

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Fresh from giving horror anthologies a new spin with American Horror Story, creator Ryan Murphy has taken this idea and expanded it into the world of crime. The first series of American Crime Story focuses on the very public case of OJ Simpson and the death of his wife Nicole. It’s superb TV, dramatising what was one of the most engrossing true stories to come out of the ’90s. Cuba Gooding Jr is great as OJ but it’s the supporting cast that steals the show. Sarah Paulson, David Schwimmer, John Travolta and Courtney B Vance ham it up to the max and it makes for some of the most entertaining television in years.  

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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Netflix’s latest TV drama has been tipped as the next Breaking Bad, but it doesn’t quite deserve that accolade. One of the main reason is that Jason Bateman’s Marty Byrde has already broke bad, helping a Mexican cartel to fudge their figures. This means the descent that was so brilliant in Walter White isn’t really seen here. But that doesn’t mean that show isn’t worth a stream – it’s a tense, occasionally terrifying watch that mashes stereotypes and cultures as the Byrde family leave their home in Chicago for the Ozarks in Missouri. 

Also, Jason Bateman is always worth a watch, even when he isn’t winking at the camera Arrested Development style. But the real scene stealer is the ever-brilliant Laura Linney. She acts, directs and produces in this series, proving she’s the real star of the show.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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All nine seasons of Peep Show are now on Netflix – and if you haven’t seen the show, then you are in for a treat. Charting the rather mundane lives of two flatmates Jez (Robert Webb) and Mark (David Mitchell), the show is a wry look at adults trying and failing to be adults. 

All shot in first person – hence the name – Peep Show doesn’t shirk from sex, drugs and political incorrectness but it does it all in such a brilliantly British way, that you don’t mind at all when you are watching some of the most awkward TV moments, including one of the characters serving up a dead dog for dinner. 

Don’t ask, just watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 9

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From the mind of Jonathan Nolan – Inception writer and brother to Christopher – this twist-ridden series is as high concept as it gets. A computer algorithm offers up ‘people of interest’ to a crack crime-fighting team which consists of former Jesus Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson, last seen chewing the scenery as Lost’s big bad Benjamin Linus. While the first season is a little by the numbers, this show has blossomed into something of a must watch.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

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As its third season nears, it’s a perfect time to get into Rick and Morty. The show on its most linear level focuses on the relationship between a grandfather and his grandson. But it’s oh so much more. It’s a meditation on sci-fi tropes, a pop culture cauldron, a high-concept cartoon that’s endlessly quotable and also a show that contains more than its fair share of fart jokes. It’s endlessly bingeable and very funny – all thanks to its creator, Community’s Dan Harmon.

Seasons on Netflix: 3 (new episodes streaming every Tuesday)

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Slathered with a fantastic dose of black comedy, Santa Clarita Diet stars Drew Barrymore are the stereotypical TV mum, with one difference: she likes eating people. This brand-new show on Netflix is a great send up of the family sitcom, taking all the tropes that make Modern Family and the like so successful, then turning them on their head, and then eating their head. And be warned: when things are eaten it’s all very grizzly. Timothy Olyphant also stars as the dad who is happy for his wife to be a flesh eater. 

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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The Wachowski siblings have been more miss than hit lately – Cloud Atlas was brave but flawed, Jupiter Ascending was just flawed – but Sense8 sees something of a return to form for the directing duo.

Yes there are problems with Sense8 but this uneven show is brilliantly high concept and packed with interesting characters. Well, eight characters in all, from different parts of the globe that are connected in a variety of ways.

The disparate batch of characters means this is a show that has a lot in keeping with Cloud Atlas, where different genres nestled uneasily against each other. But it’s a brave show and one that suits the lavish cinematography the Wachowskis are famed for.

A Sense8 Christmas special helped fill the gap before the second season – but now the second season is here and proves that the show is developing into something great. Unfortunately, the second season will be the last as Netflix has decided to pull the plug on the show.

Seasons on Netflix: 2 (plus a feature-length Christmas special)

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There’s very good reason Sons of Anarchy is the highest rated show on FX ever – its Shakespeare-esque plot (think Hamlet on bikes), following the tumultuous lives of a motorcycle gang, has everyone who watches it gripped. The show ended in 2014 after seven glorious seasons – although later seasons could never quite reach the glory days of one to three – and is perfect fodder for those looking for another Breaking Bad-style fix.

Seasons on Netflix: 7

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Now celebrating its 50th year, Star Trek is a movie and TV phenomenon that has no signs of slowing down. The original series, The Next Generation, Voyager and Deep Space Nine have all landed on Netflix but it is the first two series that are the best.

Watching it now, the original Star Trek maybe full of creaky sets and suspect acting but the show was bold, colourful and slathered in ’60s sci-fi innovation. The first series is superb, with perhaps the greatest-ever TV double act: William Shatner’s Kirk and Leonard Nimoy’s Spock. Kirk is all bluster and pomp, Spock is cool, calm and authoritative.

Unlike the original series, the Next Generation took a few seasons to get things right but it still fantastic viewing. Patrick Stewart is effortless as Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the rest of the crew are – including Data, William T Riker and Geordi La Forge – up there in stature with the original crew.

Seasons on Netflix: 3 (Original Series); 7 (The Next Generation)

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When it comes to TV and movies, the ’80s is the nostalgia decade of the moment. Whether it’s Jeff Nichols’ Midnight Special that plays like a Steven Spielberg film, if Spielberg still made films like he did in the Eighties, or The Goldbergs and Red Oaks mining the decade for laughs, filmmakers can’t get enough of the shell suits and Sony Walkmans.

Stranger Things is another brilliant homage to this era. Leaning heavily on Spielberg, John Carpenter and Stephen King – so much King – the story revolves around a small town, a group of friends, a missing person and a dodgy science lab. Writing anything else would give away the myriad twists in a show that is full of brilliant creepy fun.

The second season of Stranger Things had a new trailer debut at ComicCon and it looks epic.

Seasons on Netflix: 1

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The Thick Of It is perfect satire. It is the closest we will ever get to the machinations of politics, until they decide to let cameras roll 24/7 at Number 10. From the ever-sweary Malcolm Tucker to the string of forever-wrong MPs he has to protect with his profanities, The Thick Of It manages to show the world what an omnishambles a government in charge can be, with hilarious consequences.

Seasons on Netflix: 4

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The Trip is the perfect gig for Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon and one that must have been too good to pass on. Based on the flimsy premise that hyper realised versions of the two comedians drive around rural England eating in the best restaurants as food critics, the show shouldn’t work but it really really does. Completely unscripted, each episode is strewn with movie star impressions and passive-aggressive jokes, where the two try to one-up each other. Director Michael Winterbottom manages to hold the show together with clever editing and cinematography and manages to add subtle plot through phone conversations with Steve and Rob and their respective families.

The second season has also landed on Netflix and it feels like a sumptuous main course. Italy is the setting and its beautiful surroundings seems to have made the pair more relaxed about life, while still bringing the funny.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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Someone escaping from a Domesday cult shouldn’t be a recipe for comedy but Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt manages to squeeze the funny out of this premise. Created by Tina Fey and starring Ellie Kemper as the title character, the show sparkles with wit and is the right side of kooky – unlike some other shows *cough* New Girl *cough* we won’t mention.

Season Two of Kimmy Schmidt has arrived and is fizzing with the same energy of Season One and there’s not long to wait for Season Three – it’s out 19 May.

Seasons on Netflix: 2

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The prequel to a film sequel that no one watched, Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp is both fantastic and utterly stupid. It has a cast list to die for – most of Mad Men are in there as is Ant Man’s Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper – and focuses on the goings on at the first day at camp.

These goings on include X-Files style conspiracies, homoerotic dancing, long lost rock singers, journalists going undercover and government hit men. In the original film the cast were in their 30s and were playing 17 year olds. In the prequel, the same cast is now in their 40s and are playing their characters’ younger selves. If you can get your head around that, then you are going to love the show.

Its TV sequel Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later has also arrived and follows the gang 10 years after they left school. 

Seasons on Netflix: 2 (First Day Of Camp / 10 Years Later)

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Netflix shows no sign of slowing down when it comes to creating its own original content. The following shows will be out later in the year and all of them have had A Lot of money spent on them and big stars attached…

Narcos: Season 3

  • Out 1 September

We’re not one to offer up spoilers so we’ll just let the latest trailer speak for itself. But it’s fair to say that it’s all change for Narcos in season 3 – the fantastic Netflix drama that centres on the drug empires of the Seventies and Eighties and the agents whose job it is to track down the bad guys. 

Inhumans

  • Out TBA

Comic-Con San Diego has thrown up a ton of new trailers for the comic-book crowd. One that’s causing quite a stir is the new trailer for Inhumans, a new TV show for Netflix. The first trailer wasn’t that well received, with the acting, costumes and effects all looking a little shonky, but the second trailer is a vast improvement. We’re still not 100% convinced but maybe that’s because there’s been a glut of superhero stuff around at the moment. 

Stranger Things: Season 2

  • October 27

Stranger Things was a revelation when it first landed on Netflix. A love letter to the horror and sci-fi movies of the ’80s, the show played on nostalgia but also managed to be something original. The second series looks to expand on the mythos behind The Upside Down and promises bigger and scarier monsters.

Star Trek Discovery

  • 25 September

Star Trek Discovery has been a long time coming. Show-runner Bryan Fuller delayed the show as he was working on American Gods but now we finally have a  release date. It will be shown in the UK on Netflix from 25 September, with a new episode to air weekly. Although the show is 15 episodes long only eight are being released initially with the rest coming in the new year. This is to help with pre-production, apparently. This was a trick The Get Down used – it’s unknown how many actually came back to watch the second batch of episode of the now-cancelled show. Discovery stars The Walking Dead’s Sonequa Martin-Green and is set 10 years before Kirk and his crew boldly went through space and beyond.

The Dark Crystal

  • Out TBA

We may soon have a new must-have watch in our best shows on Netflix guide! Do you remember Dark Crystal, the fantasy, puppet-filled adventure from the brilliant mind of Muppet creator Jim Henson? It’s set to make a comeback as an all-new prequel TV series thanks to Netflix. It’s vaguely slated to be “coming soon” to the service, but you can get a sneak peek in the trailer.

The Punisher

  • Out November

The Punisher was meant to just play a bit part in Netflix’s Marvel world.But  Jon Bernthal’s depiction of Frank Castle, the vigilante war veteran was so good in Daredevil: Season 2 he’s been given his own show. The plot is still shrouded in mystery but don’t expect this one to be a laugh-fest. The character of the Punisher is one of the most tortured around, so the atmosphere for this show is going to be dark, dark, dark.

Jessica Jones: Season 2

  • Sometime in 2018

Krysten Ritter recently revealed that Jessica Jones: Season 2 will be more ‘bingeable’ than season one. Quite what that means we don’t know but it does point to a faster-paced than the first fun but stretched instalment. Alongside Ritter, Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) is back and the action takes place after The Defenders show, which debuts in August.

Mindhunter

  • Out October

David Fincher is no stranger to Netflix, he’s heavily involved in House of Cards as producer and directed the first episode, but Mindhunter is Fincher going full Fincher. It’s based on John Douglas’ book of the same name and charts the life of an FBI profiler whose job it is to track serial killers.

Dark

  • Out Winter 2017

If you are at a loss after watching Stranger Things, the Dark is for you. It’s the  first German-language series Netflix has made and the lot is about two missing children – but it’s not just about that as there’s supernatural elements and sci-fi twists galore.

Really bad movies you shouldn’t be streaming on Netflix and Amazon Prime

Welcome to Not On My Watch, the only place to get your weekly fix of truly terrible movies that are streaming on Amazon and Netflix right now. 

As we are now onto our ninth edition, it felt right to do something to celebrate – and what better way than doing a whole article on freakin’ ninjas?

Ninjas, they’re cool right? I mean, throw a ninja into a movie and it’s a recipe to print money. The thing is, ninjas were kind of dicks. They were the scrawny underclass of feudal japan, not perceived as being of a good enough ilk to be samurai, and turned to covert warfare to do their damage. Sure they looked awesome but their modern day equivalent is a teenage hoodie giving you a slap from behind and riding off on their stolen moped.

That hasn’t stopped Hollywood and, more importantly, b-movie makers from liberally usimg ninjas in their oeuvre. And one actor who keeps cropping up in these movies is none other than Richard Harrison. 

Between 1986 and 1988 Harrison made 20 movies with ninja in the title. Yes, 20. They include such gems as: Ninja Operation: Licensed to Terminate, Ninja Powerforce, The Ninja Showdown, Cobra Vs Ninja… he truly is the granddaddy of Ninja-based shenanigans which is why three of the following movies are dedicated to him.

If Harrison is the master, then Michael Dudikoff is his apprentice. He is the star of the American Ninja franchise. Our pick for the one you shouldn’t ever watch but kind of really should is the second one, which has one of the most underwhelming taglines in movie history…

Enjoy/Endure – delete as appropriate.

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1. American Ninja 2 The Confrontation

  • Steaming now on Netflix

The Premise: Private Joe T Armstrong is a ninja, an American one, who has to confront a load of other ninjas on an army base in the Philippines. 

After the blinding success of American Ninja (seriously, it made over $10 million which in b-movie land is big bucks) its makers had something of a quandary. What do we call the second movie? I mean, they couldn’t just call it American Ninja 2, that would be too easy. They needed something bigger, a tagline that didn’t just encapsulate the epic-ness of a movie about elite ninja assassins, but one that at the same time summed up exactly what was going on in the film. 

And with that, American Ninja 2: The Confrontation was born. Nailed it.

Many of the ‘confrontations’ in American Ninja 2 take place on a beach, with the ninjas in question oiled up with sunscreen and wearing bermuda shorts. When they aren’t sunning themselves the rest of the movie plays out like a buddy cop drama – but more like It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s take on Lethal Weapon than Lethal Weapon. 

Also, for a movie set predominantly on an American airbase there’s a lot of ninjas about. They’re bloody everywhere, confronting people left, right and center. 

2. Ninja Terminator

The Premise: Ninja master Harry is in search of a mystical statue that will give him superpowers so he can fight some ninjas and cut up watermelons. 

Well, I like terminators and I like ninjas – despite me ripping into them in the intro – so a film called Terminator Ninja seems ideal, I’ll just pop it on the old TV and ‘oh, my god what the hell am I watching?!’

That was pretty much my reaction to watching Terminator Ninja, a movie that is hands-down one of the most bizarre things I’ve seen. It’s a bad movie, really bad. But it’s also so compelling. I don’t really know how to describe the movie, so forgive the stream of conscience writing but here we go: 

Richard Harrison is Ninja master Harry (obviously) who trains for his fights by slicing up melons with samurai swords. He is the only person who can get back the golden ninja warrior statue that gives whoever owns it special powers. Ninja master Harry spends most of the movie cutting up watermelons, wearing guyliner, and speaking to someone over increasingly over the top phones. Seriously, there’s one bit where Ninja master Harry has a serious conversation with someone on a Garfield shaped phone. Ninja master Harry then puts down the Garfield shaped phone just so he can slice up a watermelon. Ninja master Harry is the original fruit ninja and it’s an amazing watch. Ninja master Harry is no ordinary ninja, either – instead of wearing all black, he wears a camouflage ninja robe, even though he never actual goes anywhere near any foliage to camouflage himself against which means his camouflage ninja robe makes him stand out more. And when he – spoiler – does eventually get the golden ninja warrior statue he gains special powers (essentially disappearing in smoke) that set him up for the big end fight. 

I rarely say this in Not On My Watch but please watch this film. It’s utterly, majestically bonkers.

  • Steaming now on Amazon Prime

3. The Ninja Squad

  • Steaming now on Amazon Prime 

The Premise: Ninja Master Harry is no more! Long live Ninja Master Gordon! He stars in this ludicrous move about two rival gangs, the Furious Fox and the Black Eagle, looking to take over the world.

Oh, dear. Where Ninja Terminator was actually good bad, this is bad bad. The Ninja Squad seems to have the only ninjas in the world where they feel the need to wear day-glow shell suits instead of black robes. And if that’s not conspicuous enough they have headbands saying NINJA on them. Let that just sink in for a second. 

And that’s not the most ludicrous part of this movie. For a start, there’s not much fighting but a lot of prancing around and the fact this is almost certainly an old movie spliced together with some new footage shot in ’80s America doesn’t do it any favors either. 

4. Ninja Dragon

  • Steaming now on Amazon Prime

The Premise: Something about ninjas and gangsters, all wrapped in the worst dubbing ever committed to film.

Ninja Dragon is yet again another cut-and-shut job of a movie. I’m getting the feeling that even though Richard Harrison made over 20 ninja films over two years, the filmmakers actually only had him in a room for one day, gave him a load of costumes together and then said: ‘don’t worry Richard, we’ll fix the rest in post’. Ninja Master Gordon is back and this time he’s been spliced into a 1930s Chinese gangster movie. While everyone else wears nifty pinstripe suits he parades around either half naked or in his camouflage ninja robe last seen in Ninja Terminator. Hang on, isn’t that end fight the same one that’s in Ninja Terminator? I think it is. I don’t know what’s real anymore. 

Not even Ninja Master Gordon can save me now.

More bad movies you shouldn’t be watching

Marc Chacksfield is a former film journalist (and TechRadar’s global managing editor) who is already regretting agreeing to watch terrible movies for the sake of his column Not On My Watch.

Hacking the home: how connected tech is making your shack a security risk

If there’s one place in the world that’s supposed to feel safe and comfortable, it’s the home. When you’re not working or doing things outside, this is the place where you and your family members can relax. However, as a result of modern homes becoming increasingly connected, there are fears that they are becoming hot targets for cyber criminals.

Connected technologies are taking over the world. According to recent statistics from research firm Gartner, there will be 8.4 billion internet-enabled devices in use by the end of 2017. And this number will grow to a staggering 20.4 billion by the end of the decade. Total spending on Internet of Things products and services is expected to reach $2 trillion this year, too.

Gadgets such as smart fridges and wearables are making our lives easier and more productive in a plethora of ways, whether keeping a track on your personal stock of milk, or suggesting you at least attempt to lift your bum off a chair. That’s why they have such a potent role in our homes. But while they’re so useful, that’s not to say they’re safe. Hackers are using these devices to get hold of personal information and cause havoc. A recent investigation by consumer group Which? found that tech-savvy crooks are able to compromise a home network and connected devices within just four days. 

In this study, ethical hackers were able to gain access to a variety of home-based connected gadgets – including CCTV cameras, smart children’s toys, internet routers and artificial intelligence speakers like the Amazon Echo. 

These threats go largely unnoticed, until it’s too late. So it’s time to spot the threats before they happen. Here’s how the modern home can be hacked. 

Consumers less confident

From the NHS attack to the Ukrainian security breach, there have been a number of high-profile cyber attacks over the past few months, and they’ve all had great consequences for the general population. The thing is, these hacks are not only happening more frequently, but they’re also becoming more complex. Shaan Mulchandani, director of technology and security at global engineering firm Aricent, says that cyber criminals are targeting a range of consumer devices and that consumers are becoming less confident in manufacturers. 

“Data leakages undermine consumers’ trust in connected environments and attacks like WannaCry and Petya cause for further consternation,” he tells us. 

“This is the tip of the iceberg as physical threats can have profound consequences. Disabled smart locks in homes and offices may lead to theft while disabled vehicle detection and collision prevention features in a connected car can be fatal. 

“Similarly tampered connected fire alarms, Carbon Monoxide / Natural Gas detectors and smart thermostats among other devices can all lead to fatalities. What’s more, cybercriminals can use connected toys and digital assistants to access and manipulate home patients’ insulin pumps and pacemakers, or instruct children to consume dangerous substances.”

Mulchandani believes that if tech companies put security first, they can forge better relationships with consumers. 

“These threats should not put off increasing connectivity. Instead, businesses must recognize security as a value creator to increase the take-up of connected and smart use cases. Focus on preventive capabilities and build trusted, resilient ecosystems.”

Spying on your passwords

Although many types of technology can be hacked, many cyber criminals are showing an interest in webcams. Last year, researchers at Vectra Networks – a threat detection and response company based in California – were able to hack into a low-cost D-Link Wi-Fi web camera and reprogram it to act as a network backdoor. This gives hackers the ability to not only access computer systems, but also use the camera to capture credentials and passcodes. 

Matt Walmsley, EMEA director at the company, says it’s become increasingly difficult for companies and individuals to  secure their networks from outside attacks – especially those committed through unsecured connected devices such as surveillance cameras and sensors. 

“Webcams are of interest to hackers given the video and voice recording functions that can enable them to capture credentials and passcodes to access computer systems and secure facilities,” he says. 

“There are numerous tried and proven ways to exploit these features. For example, to capture and recover hand movements to reveal someone’s passwords and other sensitive details. 

“Last year, we demonstrated how easy it is to hack a D-Link Wi-Fi web camera and reprogramme it to act as a persistent network backdoor without disrupting its camera function. These IoT cameras are installed in businesses as well as homes and the irony in this particular scenario is that Wi-Fi cameras are typically deployed to enhance security, are giving ‘Peeping Tom’ voyeurs with unauthorised access the ability to spy, spread and steal without being detected. 

“To protect homeowners from being hacked, smart devices need to have secure credentials, enabling the purchaser to configure the device for their own network environment. However, the default credential very often goes unchanged after installation, creating a significant vulnerability for attackers to leverage.”

Manufacturers ignoring threats

Despite the fact that these security risks are pretty obvious, many people believe that manufacturers aren’t paying enough attention.  Pete Turner, a consumer security expert at Avast, happens to be one of them. He says hardware makers often put factors such as speed and affordability before security, creating big opportunities for cyber criminals. 

“Because of the demand of IoT and smart home devices, impetus is usually put on the speed of manufacturing and an affordable retail price, with security sometimes coming as an afterthought. Hardware manufacturers are rarely experts in security software so consumers have to figure out how best to keep their devices and their personal information safe and secure, with many not knowing how,” he tells us. 

Turner says common devices such as broadband routers and webcams are easy targets for hackers. Cyber criminals are also using webcams to take down internet services. 

“Internet routers are one of the devices revealed to be hackable and, in a recent study, Avast found that nearly half of all routers (47%) in the UK are in fact unsecured, along with around a fifth of the webcams (22%) in our homes. Webcams are in fact a popular choice with hackers who access these devices either to create a botnet which can take down our internet services, as happened to Talk Talk routers just last year,” he says. 

Before an attack occurs, it’s important to ensure your devices are secure, and Turner says there are some basic steps to do this. 

“Firstly, change any default passwords as soon as you get a device – or immediately if you have never changed any that you currently use – and make sure that your passwords are unique to each of your appliances and not shared across other devices. Also ensure you have a good and up-to-date antivirus software,” he suggests.

Smart TVs and speakers

Dr Ben Silverstone, course leader for computing and quantitative business at Arden University in Coventry, says data leakages and phishing scams can affect devices like smart speakers and connected TVs. 

“There is issue of potential data leakage. Items such as smart speakers and home assistance devices transmit a large amount of data about behaviours, and preferences which could be used to build a profile of owner activities,” he says.

“There is also the potential for phishing type scams such as the hacking of smart TVs, which could be used to target other connected devices in the home. However, there would only really be value in attacking devices that require human interaction. The damage caused by trying to control a light bulb or central heating may be an irritation but would not necessarily be overly damaging.

“Before there is a real move towards financially motivated hacking of connected devices there will be the ‘hobby hacker’, who will try it just to see what can be achieved. Looking at the patterns of this and the types of attacks committed will give a good indication of future issues.”

Homes are easy targets

Cyber criminals may have some sophisticated techniques to get into complex systems, but in the home environment, the majority of devices just happen to be easy to hack. Raj Samani, chief scientist at McAfee, says hackers often have the ability to develop code to get into and brick devices quickly.  

“You just need to look at Mirai for example to see that cyber criminals hacking techniques aren’t particularly sophisticated,”he says. 

“In fact, many of the devices that are used as part of the connected home are currently being secured by passwords that are publicly known. This in turn makes it easier for hackers to develop code that can exploit these devices, which in some cases are known to ‘brick’ these devices.

“No matter what the device, consumers need to always ask the following questions: What data does it collect? Where does it go?  Who is it shared with?  If they are not comfortable with the potential answers then they must walk away. If they do feel comfortable, it is essential to check whether there is a default password and whether that can be changed. Cyber criminals often exploit the fact that many consumers don’t switch to a new, more secure password, making it even easier for cyber criminals to attack.”

We all love the connected devices and commodities that we keep in our homes. They make life more convenient and keep us entertained, but they also happen to be potentially dangerous. Unfortunately, manufacturers don’t always focus on hardware security, and this is creating lucrative opportunities for hackers. There’s no doubt that we’ll see hacks continue to happen as connected technology evolves – and if security doesn’t improve. For the time being, for our own sakes we’ll have to personally be extra careful, and extra vigilant.

  • After Wannacry, here’s how you can protect against ransom attacks

The best translation software of 2017

Technology has taken some major strides to break down language barriers in recent times, with translation software from giants such as Google and Microsoft employing some clever tricks.

Thanks to the likes of ‘neural machine translation’ tech – the system Google has been trumpeting lately – the Babel Fish skills of these sort of apps have never been stronger. This had led to features like a camera mode – that’s where you simply point your phone camera at a sign to see an instant translation of the words on-screen.

But which are the very best apps in this category? That’s the question we’re answering here, and the good news is that the top performing apps are free (although some have in-app purchases, and one of the apps in this article has a paid-for pro version as well as a freebie offering).

Anyhow, without further ado, cast your eyes over this platter of top-notch apps, any of which could be a massive boon on your next holiday or business trip.

  • We’ve also rounded up the best voice recognition software of 2017

Google is a heavyweight when it comes to the translation game, with some serious technology powering its free Android and iOS apps. Recent advances in machine learning have meant that Google Translate is coming somewhere near the powers of a human translator, the company claims, with ‘neural machine translation’ tech now offering powerful translation chops from English to 30 other languages (initially only Chinese was supported).

The end result speaks for itself (ahem). Google Translate offers the ability to translate text to different languages (that you’ve typed in, or copied from an app using the handy ‘tap to translate’ feature), or you can use the split-screen ‘conversation mode’ to directly translate speech in order to converse with someone in a foreign language (32 languages are supported with this mode).

Even when you’re offline, the app is still capable of translating 52 languages. Perhaps one of the coolest features, though, is being able to use your camera to look at a sign or menu written in one of 30 languages, then have the app magically transform this into English with impressive accuracy.

Featuring high quality speech recognition and translation routines, this is a powerful, neat, free piece of software that you shouldn’t be without when it comes to translation duties and travel in general.

  • You can download Google Translate for Android or iOS

Microsoft’s rival translation app is free and supports over 60 different languages, with most of them (45) coming complete with spoken translations, so you can have the translation read out loud (and not just presented in text).

The app also boasts a split-screen mode which allows two individuals to hold a conversation in different languages, with their responses being translated to each other. And much like Google Translate, there’s a camera mode so you can decipher signs and menus (although this didn’t work quite as well for us as Google’s effort).

Microsoft Translator also facilitates translating conversations across multiple devices for group chats, a very nifty extra. The app further allows for downloading language packs so you can get translations when offline, and it offers a very impressive overall level of both speech recognition and translation accuracy.

  • You can download Microsoft Translator for Android, iOS or Windows

The basic (free) iTranslate app offers a library of 92 languages and some impressive translation chops, along with wide platform support (with the mobile apps complemented by Windows and Mac software).

You can translate text or spoken words in any of those languages, and get the resulting translation spoken out loud (text-to-speech) in 42 of them. The software also keeps a full history of translations you’ve made, so you can refer back to them, and you can mark often-used phrases as favorites.

It can occasionally be a little glitchy when processing spoken words, taking a little time to do so, but that’s the exception rather than the rule. Also note that the app is ad supported, and will pop up an advert every now and then.

You’ll need to upgrade to the Pro version of iTranslate in order to benefit from the convenience of real-time voice conversations, and with this you also get an offline mode, along with verb conjugations (and of course the adverts are banished).

The paid app will set you back £4.99 ($6.50) per month, although there is a free trial to give it a spin first. Also note that iTranslate usually has deals running, and at the time of writing we were offered a year’s subscription for the cheaper rate of £3.33 ($4.30) per month.

  • You can download iTranslate here

This free app is a little different because alongside its core translation capabilities it provides a broad umbrella of useful features for those travelling abroad. TripLingo supports voice translation across 23 languages, with a simple instant translation system that allows for two participants to have a conversation with their responses spoken out loud. It’s fairly accurate, and further languages are supported with text output only.

You also get an Image Translator in the same vein as Google and Microsoft’s camera efforts whereby you snap a picture of a sign or menu, then get a translation. In this case, you don’t get an on-screen translation, rather it’s supplied in the form of simple text. It isn’t quite as good as the aforementioned big two, but it does the job.

However, the real major bonus here is the huge amount of stuff you get on top of this, including a full phrasebook, a breakdown of essential phrases (including slang), flashcards and other basic language learning material, along with cultural information like etiquette and travel tips. There’s even safety information provided such as emergency service numbers and contact details of embassies. Note that all these extras are only supported for 13 languages.

All this goes to form a really well-rounded translation and travel app which is worth considering simply because of all the additional elements on board. If you get really stuck language barrier-wise, this app also has a novel live translation capability powered by a human staff member – although it costs to use this functionality (this is one of several in-app purchase options for those who don’t mind forking out a bit of cash).

  • You can download TripLingo for Android or iOS

If you want a very simple yet powerful translation app, look no further than SayHi. The software is free and supports 46 languages, and it couldn’t be easier to use.

You select two languages, press the mic button, dictate a sentence and then it’s automatically translated (and in the majority of cases read out loud – most languages have text-to-speech support). The person you’re conversing with can then do the same thing in their language, with the conversation tracked in a simple chat view.

Translations are nicely accurate and there are several nifty features here, including the ability to select different dialects of, say, Spanish or Arabic (if you include these different dialects, 90 languages are supported in total). You can also choose to have a female or male voice when it comes to the app’s speech, and slow down the talking speed of that voice for better clarity if needed.

But there are no other options beyond these. The idea is to keep things simple, and this certainly works for those who want a streamlined app to facilitate conversations across a good number of languages. The app is available for iOS and also Android, but note for the latter you’ll need to install via Amazon Underground (because the app isn’t on the Play Store, but rather it’s part of Amazon’s Android app offerings).

  • You can download SayHi Translate for Android (from Amazon) or iOS

Apple and Comcast reportedly in talks for movie rentals right after theater debuts

As more people find creature comforts in watching movies from home with services like Netflix and Hulu, movie studios could soon skip the wait and release new flicks to streaming shortly after they hit theaters — for a price.

Distributors like Apple and Comcast — in conjunction with studios like Warner Bros. and the Comcast-owned Universal Pictures — are reportedly in talks with movie theaters to negotiate releasing brand-new films just weeks after their theatrical debut, according to Bloomberg.

Apple in particular has been keen to get movies added to its iTunes library as close to their release in theaters as possible, according to a report from December of last year. 

While no details have been made official yet, the price for “premium video on demand” rentals of these early-release movies could range anywhere from $30 to $50, with theaters receiving a cut for their cooperation.

However, months of negotiations seem be at a standstill, as theaters cling to keeping the home release of movies as far from the exclusive theatrical release as possible.

Theater or bust?

Typically, theaters urge studios to keep new movies theater-exclusive for between three to six months in order to encourage customers to see them on the big screen.

Should studios refuse, theaters may choose to boycott showing the film at all, denying that lucrative opening weekend at the box office. Appropriately enough, Netflix ran into such an issue when 2015’s Beast of No Nations was barred from major theater chains because the streaming service wanted a simultaneous online release alongside its theater run.

As such, theater companies have reportedly been hesitant to give studios and companies like Apple any slack at the risk of losing customers. However, as DVD sales drop in proportion to more people waiting for movies “to hit Netflix,” studios may be forced to twist some arms.

While $30 to $50 for a movie sounds like a steep price to rent a just-released-in-theaters flick, it isn’t that much more expensive than the price of a movie night for two these days — if you throw in some overpriced Icees and a large popcorn, of course.

  • Movie buff? These 7 gadgets are must-haves for your home theater

Xbox One X ‘Project Scorpio Edition’ could be on the way

Microsoft might be readying a special Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition, if leaks on two German retail websites are to be believed. 

The listings, which appear to have been taken down, seemingly reveal a unique version of the 4K-capable console is on the way. Project Scorpio, you may remember, was the codename of the Xbox One X before it was called that, so this new version appears to be a nod to those origins. 

XboxDynasty.de, which made today’s discovery, gathered up some photos of the console from one retail site, which you can see below.

The Xbox One X Project Scorpio Edition looks to feature a blacked-out controller with ‘Project Scorpio’ running down the middle in an electric green font. The console itself is tattooed with the same marking, and it appears to have a textured, mesh-y finish that’s unlike the matte plastic casing of the standard Xbox One X. 

This special Xbox One X is likely a limited-run console similar to the Day One Edition that Microsoft released for the Xbox One. 

The Day One Edition featured flashy accents that set it apart from the regular Xbox One, including “Day One 2013” stamped on the controller. Microsoft also released a Day One achievement for those who purchased the console. 

Microsoft is gearing up for a big weekend, where it will reveal Xbox One X pre-orders info during its Gamescom 2017 press event, going down this Sunday, August 20, at 9pm CEST / 8pm GMT / 3pm ET / 12pm PT.

It’s rumored pre-orders will open following the event. If Microsoft announces the Project Scorpio Edition during Gamescom, there’s a high chance you can pre-order one for yourself come Sunday, too.

Via The Verge; Top image credit: XboxDynasty.de

  • It’s the time of big reveals: the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is next

The 5 best Windows tablets: top Windows tablets reviewed

Update: Having replaced the HP Pavilion x2, the Acer Switch 3 is an affordable alternative to the Surface Pro that even gives the Lenovo Miix 510 a run for its money. Read on to number 2 on our list to find out more!

Despite its flagship Surface devices having been pegged as unreliable by Consumer Reports, Microsoft has taken strides to get its return rates to an all-time low and – in turn – inspire its partners to create some of the best Windows tablets around. Though they’re not all equipped with physical keyboards and industry-leading specs, they are all worth your consideration.

  • Find out which of these tablets also made our best laptops list

Most of these top Windows tablets are outfitted with Windows 10 (or Windows 10 S in some cases). However, it’s a little known fact that even the ones that aren’t can still be updated to the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system completely free of charge. Either way, you don’t have to worry about resorting to stripped-down mobile versions of your favorite sites and apps.

The top Windows tablets range from convertible to detachable and they’re all graced with compelling features curated in Redmond by Microsoft itself that give these devices the edge over competing machines from the likes of Apple and Google, and we don’t just say that because of the default browser. 

Whatever makes a slate the best Windows tablet for you, count on finding it here.

Best Windows tablets

Despite the subdued naming convention, this is actually the fifth iteration of the Surface Pro. As a follow-up to the winning Surface Pro 4, it would have been every bit deserving of a number attached to it, too. That’s because the latest Surface Pro sees not only the battery life improve by as much as 32%, but, of course, the processor has been updated to Kaby Lake as well.  Plus, although it’s now sold separately, the Surface Pen has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity. 

Read the full review: Microsoft Surface Pro

  • This product is only available in the US and Australia as of this writing. UK readers: check out a fine alternative in the Lenovo Miix 510.

The Acer Switch 3 arrives at a time when most of the best Windows tablets are premium 2-in-1 devices designed to oust both your PC and your tablet. But for anyone who doesn’t need the horsepower of a Surface Pro, the Acer Switch 3 is a wallet-friendly alternative. Even without cutting-edge specs, this tablet is highly competent in other ways. Its impeccable build quality, for example, is complemented by a top-notch active digitizer and pressure-sensitive pen.

Read the full review: Acer Switch 3

Best Windows tablets

HP’s Spectre x2 bears a striking resemblance to the Surface Pro 4. Take a closer look and you’ll notice that it’s thinner and lighter than Microsoft’s slate. Although the Intel Core M processor might leave you tentative to adopt the HP Spectre x2, this isn’t the Core m3 we’re talking about – this is a 6th-generation, Skylake Intel Core m7, which bears almost the same performance as the full-blown Core i5 chip harbored by the Surface Pro 4. 

Read the full review: HP Spectre x2

Best Windows tablets

The Samsung Galaxy TabPro S is a knockout 12-inch tablet that’s thinner and better built than most Windows 10 slates. It also offers a uniquely vibrant Super AMOLED screen you won’t find on any Windows device either, plus a pair of punchy speakers that actually sound good. Its keyboard feels a bit lackluster but if you get over this short coming, it’s the perfect Windows 10 tablet to use while streaming media and games.

Read the full review: Samsung Galaxy TabPro S

In a sense, the Lenovo Miix 510 is the Surface Pro alternative that you buy when you’re fed up with Microsoft’s reluctance to move forward with its connectivity practices. USB-C is here, and it’s brought USB 3.0 with it. While the screen is limited to 1080p, the Lenovo Miix 510 comes with an active stylus, a detachable AccuType keyboard and an articulating kickstand for flexibility without limits. While the battery suffers, the Lenovo Miix 510 is still a surefire win.

Read the full review: Lenovo Miix 510 

  • This product is only available in the US and UK as of this writing. Australian readers: check out a fine alternative in the Microsoft Surface Pro.

Gabe Carey has also contributed to this article