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Engadget is a news, reviews and opinion outlet with obsessive coverage of cutting edge gadgets, consumer electronics and the science and technology they're built upon. Launched in March of 2004 as a web property, Engadget has since expanded to cover mobile devices and live events through video and photography in addition to the written word.

Valve’s latest Steam Deck update promises less fan noise

On Thursday, Valve began rolling out SteamOS 3.2 for Steam Deck, addressing one of the more prominent issues people have had with the handheld since its release. According to the company, the update introduces an “all-new OS-controlled fan curve” Valve claims allows Steam Deck’s internal fan to quickly and smartly respond to heat. In turn, the company says that allows the component to more quietly go about its job, particularly “in low usage situations.”

“This has been tested extensively, and we're continuing to work on improvements – so please let us know what you think,” Valve said. Excessive fan noise is something many reviewers, including Engadget’s Jessica Conditt, mentioned in their Steam Deck reviews. In fact, when iFixit began selling replacement parts for the handheld early last week, it quickly sold out of Huaying fan units. Valve sourced fans for Steam Deck from two companies, with the ones from Huaying producing less noise, according to some owners.

SteamOS 3.2 also introduces an option to adjust the handheld’s display refresh rate while in-game. Valve recommends Steam Deck owners try setting their device to 40Hz for the sweet spot between responsiveness and battery life. It’s now also possible to push the volume of Steam Deck’s speakers even higher and the company has made formatting microSD cards faster. Check out the full changelog for SteamOS 3.2 on Valve’s website.

Google now lets you request the removal of personal information from Search

You can now ask Google to remove your personal contact information, such as your physical and email addresses, as well as your phone number, from Search. The tech giant already takes request for the removal of identifiable info in cases of doxxing or if the details posted in public could be used for financial fraud. It's now expanding that policy to cover the aforementioned details, along with confidential log-in credentials and images of ID documents that can be used for identity theft.

According to The Verge, Google still has a process to deal with malicious doxxing, wherein an employee will look at links to determine how they'd cause harm. Under this expanded policy, though, the company can grant requests if the content you want to be removed from search doesn't have any public interest value or isn't "relevant to a news report." 

As the publication notes, it's also different from the system Google implemented in the EU to comply with the region's right to be forgotten law. The rules under the law allow you to ask for content removal if it's irrelevant, inaccurate or unflattering — this policy expansion only covers sensitive information. A spokesperson told The Verge that Google will de-index content whether it's behind a paywall or not, so long as the request meets its requirements.

In the company's announcement post, Google Global Policy Lead for Search Michelle Chang reminds people that the removal of content from Search doesn't mean it's gone from the internet. Chang encourages contacting website hosts if you want your information scrubbed completely.

What we bought: How a portable monitor made working from home a lot easier

Even for someone like me who likes working from home, the pandemic has made things a challenge – especially in my small 1,000 square-foot two-bedroom apartment. You see, when my wife and I welcomed our first child last year, dedicated working spaces became scarce. So I addressed the situation the best way I know how: with tech. In this case an ASUS ROG Strix XG17AHP portable monitor.

Before my son arrived, we actually had a pretty good setup going. I used our second bedroom as an office and very occasional guest room. And when all the office buildings closed in early 2019 due to Covid-19, we managed to find room for another desk in our bedroom. It wasn’t ideal because, even though I’m a gadget nerd, we try to keep the bedroom free of unnecessary screens and distractions. But we each had our own dedicated working space with dual monitors, and enough room between our desks that we could jump on video calls without disturbing one another. It was awkward but acceptable.

The included monitor stand lets you position the Asus ROG Strix XG17AHP above your laptop's display, instead of off to the side.
The Asus ROG Strix XG17AHP included stand means you can position it above your laptop's display, which does a ton to help prevent neck strain.

Note: For the photos, I swapped my 13-inch MacBook Pro work laptop in for my wife's machine for privacy.

Sam Rutherford/Engadget

But then our little bundle of joy threw a drool-covered wrench into those plans. Now just to be clear, I don’t begrudge him one bit. Parents often have to make sacrifices for kids, and more often than not, we’re happy to do so. But I think it’s fair to say that an office/nursery just isn’t a good combo. So after my son outgrew his bassinet and stopped sleeping in our room, I had to move my gear out (well most of it anyway) so he could have a real bedroom of his own.

What made this a bit more challenging is that my main computer at home is a desktop. I’ve always been a big PC person, and I love the speed and flexibility you get with a custom-built rig. (Side note: With work from home becoming a more permanent thing, I feel like there are a lot of people that would benefit from switching to a desktop. Assuming you have the space for it, of course). The downside of this is that I’m pretty limited in where I could put my PC. Big shock I know, but a desktop sort of necessitates having a desk. Thankfully, my wife graciously offered to let me use the one in our bedroom (which I honestly can’t appreciate enough), while she moved her workspace out to our dining table in the living room.

Here's the Asus ROG Strix XG17AHP on its own.
While the Asus ROG Strix XG17AHP does look seem of puny compared to regular monitors, its much easier to pack up and move when you need that space for other stuff.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

At this point, you’re probably envisioning a host of issues. Since we eat dinner there, setting up dual monitors isn’t really an option. This meant my wife was completely reliant on her 13-inch MacBook Pro, which doesn’t offer a lot of screen space and messes with her posture. Looking down at a laptop screen for eight (or more) hours a day is a surefire recipe for chronic neck and back pain.

That’s where the ASUS’ ROG Strix XG17AHP portable monitor comes in. At first glance, it seems like overkill for general productivity, and it is. It has a 240Hz refresh rate and support for AMD FreeSync, which are great for gaming but don’t do much when you’re looking at spreadsheets. There’s even a built-in 7,800 mAh battery so you can use it completely untethered for four to five hours. And with a price of $600, the ROG Strix XG17AHP is two to three times more expensive than a lot of competitors, particularly the traditional business-oriented ones.

The Asus ROG Strix XG17AHP has a wealth of ports including two USB-C, micro HDMI and a headphone jack.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

But honestly, I feel like that money has been well spent. My personal philosophy is that for something you’re going to use a lot, it’s better to spend a little extra than pinch pennies and end up with an unsatisfactory device. Unlike most of its rivals, the ROG Strix XG17AHP comes with a stand, and I’m not talking about a simple kickstand. It’s a full-on detachable tripod, which means you can position the screen so it sits above your laptop’s display, instead of off to the side. No need to crane your neck. Important apps live up top on the portable monitor, while less critical stuff like Slack live down below.

The ROG Strix XG17AHP also measures 17.3-inches across, which makes it one of the largest portable monitors you can buy. Most enterprise-focused alternatives top out at 14 or 15 inches, and while we probably would have gone even larger if we could, there aren’t really any 19-inch or larger portable monitors that offer the same level of specs and features. Sure, the monitor’s brightness of 300 nits could be better, but its matte coating makes it easy to look at all day – even in sunny rooms with lots of reflections.

The ROG logo on the back of the Strix XG17AHP even lights up.
The ROG logo even lights up, if you're into that sort of thing.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

Meanwhile, thanks to support for video and power delivery over USB-C, setting up the monitor only requires a single cable. This makes it super easy to break down and pack away when friends or family come over. And during the week when we’re too lazy to do that, the whole kit is slim enough we can just push it to the side and still have plenty of room for food.

I also want to give ASUS props for including a bunch of useful accessories. The monitor comes with a carrying bag and a foldable screen protector that doubles as a kickstand, along with a USB-C cable, a USB-C to USB-A adapter, a power brick, and even an HDMI to micro HDMI cable – in case your PC doesn’t support video over USB. My only gripe is that the locking mechanism for its height adjustment isn’t super secure. So if I press hard, even when it’s locked, the monitor still moves up and down.

The Asus ROG Strix XG17AHP's kit includes a carrying back, extra USB-C and HDMI to micro HDMI cables, a removable stand, power brick and a USB-C to USB-A adapter.
One of the best things about the Asus ROG Strix XG17AHP are all the included accessories.
Sam Rutherford/Engadget

But this one demerit doesn’t really detract from all its positives. That’s because while the ROG Strix XG17AHP isn’t as good as a regular monitor, it’s way more than simply adequate. It’s flexible and it fits in my life (and on my table) in a way that a regular desktop display can’t. It even has a lot of potential as a handy companion for my Switch while traveling. Though due to the pandemic, I haven’t had a chance to test that out yet. And while my wife and I are thinking about getting a bigger place, with the housing market the way it is, moving isn’t in our immediate future. So until we upgrade to a larger home, ASUS’ portable gaming monitor is filling an important role when it comes to making a cramped work from home situation a lot more tolerable.

Sonos is reportedly releasing a $250 soundbar in June

Sonos isn't exactly known for affordability, but the company has released a few more inexpensive products in recent years like the portable Roam speaker. Now, according to The Verge, Sonos is going to release its first budget soundbar in the first week of June. Apparently codenamed "Fury," this product is expected to cost around $250, which makes it significantly cheaper than the $449 second-generation Beam (pictured above) and the $899 Arc.

As for what Sonos will leave out to hit this lower price point, the Fury won't be able to output Dolby Atmos content like the Beam and Arc, and it may not even have an HDMI port; you'd hook it up to your TV with an optical audio cable. As such, it has fewer speaker drivers in it than other Sonos soundbars. It will be able to be part of a 5.1 surround sound setup using other compatible Sonos speakers — we presume that you can use speakers like the Sonos One as rear surrounds like you can with other Sonos soundbars. 

It sounds like Sonos will also skip including microphones for a voice assistant on this model to cut costs, like they did with the $159 Sonos Roam SL that was recently released.

One potentially intriguing feature is that Sonos will let the Fury work as rear surround speakers for a bigger soundbar like the Arc. As such, Sonos is apparently making vertical mounting stands for the Fury so that it can be used for Dolby Atmos content. 

There are plenty of budget soundbar options on the market from the likes of Vizio and Roku, while Sonos recently raised the prices on nearly all of its products. The original Beam sold for $399, but the new one costs $50 more, making for an even bigger gap between Sonos home theater options and those from more affordable competitors. As such, this is a pretty logical part of the market for Sonos to get into, and it's not hard to imagine a $250 soundbar being a good product to get people into the company's ecosystem. 

We've reached out to Sonos and will update this story if the company has any comment on the leak.

The Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 multicooker is $70 off right now

The Instant Pot may be the most popular and ubiquitous multicooker, but it's certainly not the only option. Companies like Ninja now make their own multicookers that can hold their own against the various Instant Pot models out there, and now you can pick up one of Ninja's most capable machines at a near record-low price. The Ninja Foodi 10-in-1 multicooker is on sale for $130, or $70 off its normal price and only $10 more than its all-time low that we saw at the end of last year.

Buy Ninja 10-in-1 multicooker at Amazon – $130

As the name suggests, this model supports 10 cooking modes, including pressure cook, slow cook, steam, dehydrates and more. Among those is an air-fry mode, which isn't something all multicookers have, and the machine uses Ninja's "TenderCrisp Technology" to lock in juices using pressure cooking and then crisp the outside just before finishing. This multicooker has a 6.5-quart capacity, which is big enough to make a whole meal for a mid- to large-sized family, and it can fit a whole, five-pound chicken or a six-pound roast easily.

Generally, you'll find the best deals on these devices during the holiday shopping period, but this discount is a good one if you want to add a device like this to your kitchen immediately. And if you're totally new to the world of multicookers, you can check out our Instant Pot guide for handy tips, tricks and recipe sources since most of them can be applied to this Ninja device, too.

Follow @EngadgetDeals on Twitter for the latest tech deals and buying advice.

The Lectric XP Lite is a folding e-bike with a low price

Lectric already has a good reputation for delivering solid electric bikes at budget prices, thanks to models like the $1,000 XP 2.0. Now, it has taken that to a new level with the launch of the Lectric XP Lite. It's a 46 pound folding e-bike with a 48 volt electrical system that can hit speeds of 20 MPH, and costs just $800. 

To get the price down to that level, Electric reduced the battery size from 9.6Ah (461Wh) on the XP 2.0 to 7.8Ah (375Wh). It also has smaller, narrower wheels than the XP 2.0 and lacks its 7-speed gearshift and front suspension.

Still, Lectric claims you'll get 40 miles of autonomy, just five miles less than the XP 2.0, though that'll require a lot of pedaling as range drops to 15 miles with the throttle only. Speed-wise, it can hit up to 20 MPH with pedal assist or throttle, compared to 28 MPH for the XP 2.0

It's got the same style of folding frame that lets you get it down to a portable size (36x16x26 inches) for travel or storage, and at 46 pounds, it's very light for a foldable e-bike. It can use many of the same accessories as the XP 2.0, including the racks, baskets, lights, comfort package and more. 

Other features include an easily swappable battery compartment, twist throttle, backlit LCD display with a large readout, 160mm disc brakes, integrated front/rear lights and IP65 water resistance. It's also what the company calls its "most customizable e-bike to date" with four color options (Arctic White, Midnight Black, Lectric Blue, and Sandstorm) and three accessory package options at $99 each (Carry, Commuter and Comfort). 

Lectric gave first ride on the new model to Electrek, which has tested the company's previous models like the XP 2.0 in the past. It noted that a lot of bikes in the $500-$800 category are "junk," but called the XP Lite "a quality offering at a super low price." As mentioned, Lectric's XP Lite e-bike costs $799 without accessories and is now available to order. 

Spotify will reportedly integrate live audio into its main app

In addition to music and podcasts, Spotify may soon offer live audio within its primary streaming app. According to Bloomberg, the company plans to integrate Greenroom into its mainline app. In the process, Spotify will reportedly also rename the platform to Spotify Live. All of this could happen before the second half of the year, according to Bloomberg

The outlet was tipped off on the impending move by iOS developer Steve Moser, who found evidence of it in the beta version of Spotify’s iPhone app. As for the ultimate fate of Greenroom, in a separate tweet, Bloomberg reporter Ashley Carman said the app would live on as a kind of backend for creators to record and upload their content to Spotify.   

We’ve reached out to Spotify for comment.

Speaking to Spotify’s potential motivations behind the plan, Bloomberg suggests Greenroom has “struggled to take off.” By integrating live audio into its very popular streaming app, the company would be elevating the format to a place where it would be more accessible – even if some users would complain about the app becoming even more crowded. 

In a way, it’s strange the company may only now be considering integrating the two together. When Spotify first announced its plans for Greenroom, CEO Daniel Ek said he saw live audio as something that every platform would eventually feature. "Just like Stories with video where every major platform has them as one way for its audience to communicate with each other, I see live audio similarly," he said at the time. "I expect all the platforms to have it."

Google disables ‘Hold for Me’ feature on the Pixel 6 following buggy update

Last year, Google introduced an exclusive feature for Pixel devices called "Hold for Me" that can alert you when a business finally picks up your call. However, that function has been temporarily disabled on the Pixel 6 due to a bug in the December update, XDA Developers has reported. Pixel 6 owners may also lose the Call Screening tool that stops robocallers from ringing your phone, Google said in a community post

"In light of a bug in the December Android update, we are disabling Hold For Me and Call Screening on Pixel 6 devices running on the Android S December QPR release," the company wrote. The issue only affects Pixel 6 phones with the latest December 2021 security update, and not any older devices. If you haven't yet received the update, you should continue to have access to those features. 

Hold for Me started as a US exclusive feature but was recently expanded to Canada, as XDA Developers noted. It uses Google's Duplex technology AI to detect when a real person comes on the line to take your call, sparing you the pain of listening to looped elevator music or pre-recorded messages. Google's Call Screening tech also uses Duplex AI tech, which launched with the promise of automatically making restaurant reservations for you. 

HTC Vive VR headsets fall to all-time lows for Black Friday

HTC's Vive Cosmos is one of the best VR headsets out there, but if we're being real, it's always been a bit too expensive. Now, you can buy that model from Amazon during Black Friday sales for $399 instead of $549, the biggest discount we've seen yet. Amazon also has deals on other HTC headsets and bundles, so it's a good time to jump in if you've been waiting for a sale.

Buy HTC Vive Virtual Reality headsets at Amazon

The Vive Cosmos must be tethered to a PC, but there's no need to install sensors thanks to the inside-out tracking system that works well, according to our Engadget review. It's strongest feature is the bright and sharp screens with very high 2,880 x 1,700 pixel resolution across both eyes, along with decent 90 Hz refresh rates. The biggest downside is the price, as it's far more expensive than Oculus headsets — but the sale brings it on par with rivals. Note that the controllers aren't included.

On top of the standalone headset, you can get a good deal on the HTC Cosmos Elite bundle designed for gamers. Rather than using the inside-out-tracking, the Elite's headset comes preinstalled with an External Tracking Faceplate that can be paired with base stations for higher precision. It includes two base stations and a pair of Vive controllers, along with the Vive Cosmos headset — and now costs $649 instead of $899 for a savings of $250 (28 percent). 

HTC's Vive Pro headset and bundles are also on sale at Amazon at the best prices we've seen. The HTC Vive Pro offers features like 1,440 x 1,600 pixel resolution per eye on the OLED screens, great ergonomics and built-in headphones. They're not for everyone because of the price, as we noted in our review, but you can now pick up the HTC Vive Pro system, including the headset, base stations and controllers 2.0 for $899 instead of $1,199. 

HTC's Vive Pro Eye improves on that with the addition of eye-tracking that uses Tobii's technology. It can follow users' eyeballs in real time, letting developers gather data on where they're looking and when, allowing for new and more immersive experiences. It also allows for foveated rendering, increasing resolution based on where a user is looking. You can now pick up the HTC Vive Pro Eye headset only for $599 instead of $799, and grab the HTC Vive Pro Eye VR system for $1,099, down from the regular $1,399 price. 

Get the latest Black Friday and Cyber Monday offers by visiting our deals homepage and following @EngadgetDeals on Twitter.

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Biden signs law blocking Huawei and ZTE from receiving FCC licenses

US President Joe Biden has signed into law the Secure Equipment Act that blocks companies like Huawei and ZTE from receiving network licenses. The new rules mean the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) can no longer consider any applications for network equipment that may pose a national security threat, Reuters has reported. 

With the measure, the FCC can no longer issue or review licenses to companies on the FCC's "Covered Equipment or Services List." It was passed by a 420-4 House vote and approved unanimously by the US Senate last month. "We have already determined that this gear poses an unacceptable risk to our national security, so closing what I have called the ‘Huawei loophole’ is an appropriate action for us to take," said FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr. 

We have already determined that this gear poses an unacceptable risk to our national security, so closing what I have called the ‘Huawei loophole’ is an appropriate action for us to take.

The FCC formally designated ZTE and Huawei as national security threats last year, finding that the companies had close ties to Chinese Communist Party. However, they were still able to apply for licenses as long as no federal funds were involved. To that end, Carr has been pushing legislators to pass the Secure Equipment Act. 

"Once we have determined that Huawei or other gear poses an unacceptable national security risk, it makes no sense to allow that exact same equipment to be purchased and inserted into our communications networks as long as federal dollars are not involved. The presence of these insecure devices in our networks is the threat, not the source of funding used to purchase them," Carr said back in March. 

Earlier this year, the FCC launched a $1.9 billion "rip and replace" program to help US telecoms replace Huawei and ZTE equipment they may be using. House member Steve Scalise last last week that "Huawei and ZTE "are probably the two most prominent companies that still have a lot of equipment out there where Americans’ data runs across those networks."

Huawei has yet to comment on the legislation, but last summer called the FCC's proposed revision "misguided and unnecessarily punitive." Joe Biden is expected to speak with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in in a "virtual summit" tentatively set for next Monday.