Gateway, the major PC brand of the 1990s with the iconic cow-spotted logo, is back — well, kind of. Acer now owns the company and has decided to start selling Gateway-branded laptops again, exclusively at Walmart.
As is often the case with Walmart-exclusive laptops, the main attraction is the price. On the most affordable end is the Gateway Ultra Thin series, which starts with a $179 11.6-inch laptop with an AMD A4, and spans up to a $499 15.6-inch model with a Core i5. There’s also a $199 11.6-inch touchscreen 2-in-1 available, powered by an Intel Celeron processor. The names aren’t very interesting, but they do come in a variety of fun colors, including purple, blue, green, and rose gold, as well as black.
On the higher end is the Gateway Creators series, two 15.6-inch laptops meant for media editing and gaming. No funky colors on these — they only come in black — but they do seem to have some decent specs. You can choose the $799 rig with a Ryzen 5 4600H and an Nvidia GTX 1650 GPU or a $999 model with a Core i5 and an RTX 2060. That puts them a step above the Ultra Thin series in price, but they’re still fairly inexpensive as creator-focused machines go. I would guess that’s at least partially because they don’t seem to have a lot of storage — only 256GB each.
Finally, Walmart is also selling two Gateway-branded Android tablets — an 8-incher for $69 and a 10-incher that Gateway says is $79 but is currently listed at $66.50. Both are powered by an A50 processor and come in black, purple, and blue.
If you want to pick any of these up, you can order them from Walmart today.
It’s past time for the Apple Watch to add Qi wireless charging
The Apple Watch Series 6 is officially out, with the latest entry to Apple’s smartwatch lineup adding new features like a blood oxygen sensor and a brighter display. But the company has once again punted on a long-overdue addition to the Apple Watch: support for the universal Qi wireless charging standard.
It’s an incredibly frustrating limitation to the product, one that ensures that you can only use Apple’s chargers to recharge the device. More importantly, it means that you can’t use a standard wireless charging pad, despite the fact that Qi is used almost universally across the tech industry. Even Apple uses Qi charging for its iPhones and AirPods.
Just not the Apple Watch.
Since the original Apple Watch was released in 2015, Apple has used one type of charger: a proprietary magnetic charging puck. And while the company does allow third-party companies to develop their own versions of Apple’s chargers and integrate them into their own products (while paying a licensing fee, of course, to Apple’s Made for iPhone program), today’s Apple Watch cables are virtually unchanged from when they were released five years ago.
The only real change: the addition of a USB-C variant to the lineup in 2018, although it’s still not the cable that Apple includes in the box, despite every single Apple laptop supporting the port standard for nearly all I/O options.
The insistence on sticking to its proprietary charger only gets worse when one considers Apple’s own environmental messaging. Apple proudly announced at its event that it would no longer include USB wall plugs in its Apple Watch boxes (even its luxury Edition and Hermès models) out of a concern over its environmental impact. It’s rumored to be doing the same on this year’s iPhone models.
But if Apple is concerned about the environment, it should also consider the millions of proprietary cables for those products. Apple used to exclusively use MagSafe chargers and Lightning cables across its entire product line, which can’t be used with anything else. But even that has started to change: MacBooks and most iPads use USB-C now; iPhones and AirPods (while still stuck on Lightning) offer standard Qi wireless charging. In theory, it’s possible to use a full portfolio of Apple’s devices now without ever touching an Apple charging standard — except for the Apple Watch.
There are difficulties in changing to a new standard. Apple historically tends to dislike change and enjoys the control it has over peripherals. There are engineering challenges with creating a magnetic charging disc that offers the ease of use of the current one while still supporting Qi pads.
And of course, there’s momentum: millions of people already have Apple Watch chargers, which Apple introduced years before it started to adopt the Qi standard, and changing to a new charging standard would mean either figuring out a way to ensure backwards compatibility or leaving them out.
But none of these are insurmountable problems. Apple has changed chargers before in a way that completely broke compatibility with years of products when it changed from its 30-pin connector to Lightning. And customers, somehow, managed to adapt. Switching Apple Watch chargers might even be easier, given that there’s a far smaller accessory ecosystem built around the Apple Watch than the iPod / 30-pin connector.
And while yes, there are no doubt engineering issues — especially as the number of sensors on the back of the Apple Watch continues to grow — they’re not insurmountable.
Apple already uses an inductive charging system that’s extremely similar to Qi, at least technically. (As iFixit’s teardowns show, Apple cleverly uses a copper disc around the other sensors for the inductive receiver and to prevent interference from the magnet.) John Perzow, VP of market development at the Wireless Power Consortium, claimed in 2015 that Apple is already using a modified version of the regular Qi standard for its charging. The Apple Watch Series 3 was even reported to work with some Qi pads at one point, although that seems to no longer be the case. Between the work Apple’s already done and the company’s engineering prowess, it doesn’t seem like an impossible task.
But Apple’s insistence on its own standards is becoming increasingly unsustainable, especially as USB-C has begun to actually unify charging for hardware across nearly all product segments. Apple itself has had to contend with these warring standards, with the inability to integrate the Apple Watch reportedly one of the biggest issues with its canceled AirPower charger. Even now, most wireless chargers have been forced to choose between lacking any Apple Watch support at all or figuring out an awkward way to shoehorn in a separate Apple charging pad.
But at some point, Apple needs to rip off the bandage and switch to a proper universal standard. And the longer it waits to do it, the harder that transition is going to be.
Xbox Games with Gold free games for October 2020 announced
The Xbox Games With Gold titles for October certainly are Halloween-themed, but most Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass subscribers will probably have heard of one, maybe two of them, tops.
The one you know — 2010’s Costume Quest for Xbox 360, is available free from Oct. 16-31. And it’s a sensible choice, given its trick-or-treating premise and the fact that Microsoft now owns Double Fine Productions.
The others you don’t start with Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy, which is evidently the Xbox version of the 2003 THQ kids game. THQ Nordic resurrected that from the back catalog in 2017 for Windows PC, and last year for Nintendo Switch. Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy is available free Oct. 1-15.
For the Xbox One, sit down to two titles we have never written about. Slayaway Camp: Butcher’s Cut is available all month. Maid of Sker is available Oct. 16 to Nov. 15. Both are video games.
Three games from September’s Games with Gold haul are still available until Wednesday: Tom Clancy’s The Division (Xbox One), The Book of Unwritten Tales 2 (Xbox One), and Armed and Dangerous (Xbox One and Xbox 360).
Polaris and Zero team up to build battery-powered snowmobiles
Polaris has a history in electric vehicles, since it bought Global Electric Motorcars in 2011, a Minnesota maker of low-speed “neighborhood electric vehicles” (think: gussied-up golf carts). That same year, it bought Goupil, a French maker of electric flatbed trucks, while in 2015 it bought Brammo, an electric motor company that made the Arial Atom for the US market and built its own range of electric motorcycles.
And it’s clear that, between moves like this and Tesla’s own project to build an electric quad-bike, there’s a market for rugged EVs. After all, who says that crunching mud, or snow, needs to be the preserve of gasoline lovers?
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