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The tower defense genre is a tried and true gaming category in the App Store that has had some gems and flops. What makes a TD game stand out in the sea of others like it is unique design and interesting gameplay.

The tower defense genre is a tried and true gaming category in the App Store that has had some gems and flops. What makes a TD game stand out in the sea of others like it is unique design and interesting gameplay.

Defense Technica is a TD game that offers players the ability to get a glimpse at the enemy’s plans in order to use resources most effectively and offers a level of challenge that is uncommon in the genre…

Design

The game’s theme is sci-fi-alien-invasion featuring bug-like bio beings with weapons of great power. Players are tasked with defending a space station and protecting its core. If the core is destroyed, the space station goes down.

As is typical with TD games, turrets cost some kind of currency. In this game, energy cubes are used to pay for new weapons. Weapons are placed in specified locations by tapping the available spot and then tapping the weapon you want to build. Then, tap the weapon again to build it.

You can zoom in and out of the level, but only slightly. To see all available paths, you’ll need to drag your finger on the screen to move around. The levels are fairly expansive. They get bigger as you go along, too.

Each level includes three different modes. Campaign mode, which is the base of the game, must be unlocked before you can play Hell mode. Hell mode is more difficult, but still possible to beat with the right strategy. If you are able to beat it, you can unlock Endless mode, which gives you access to all available weapons, but requires you to fight to the death. You don’t start out the harder levels with any additional energy cubes.

Gameplay

The game starts by giving you a couple of quick pointers on how to build turrets and best strategies for different types of enemies. Then, you’ll be on your own, defending your tower to the best of your abilities.

To place a tower, tap the designated build location. These spots will be identified with a glow around them. After tapping the location, the weapon options will appear. If you can afford the weapon, it will be highlighted in blue. If you don’t have enough energy cubes, it will be red.

After placing the turret, it will be built immediately. More expensive weapons need a bit more time, but not much. If you decide to build a block instead of a weapon, you can add a weapon on top later. However, if the enemy destroys a weapon or block, nothing can be built in its rubble.

As enemy combatants are killed, players earn energy. When an entire wave has been defeated, a transparent cube will appear on the ground. This is an extra bonus for destroying the wave. You must manually collect the cubes when they drop or you will lose them after about 30 seconds.

Players earn crystals for completing levels. Crystals are used to purchase special upgrade cards. These cards offer random bonuses, like a decrease in the cost of a turret, or increase to a weapon’s power. Cards range in price from 120 crystals for a random level 1-5 bonus, up to 550 crystals for a random level 3-5 bonus.

Cards can either be equipped individually or combined to create an even more powerful bonus. For example, I had two upgrade cards that lowered the cost of certain weapons, which I hadn’t even unlocked yet. I combined them in the “Factory” section to create a core shield, which increased the core’s health by twice as much.

You can also use crystals to see the enemy’s plans. By spending 20 crystals, you can activate the “Silver Eye,” which displays the best route for the stage, making it much easier for you to push the enemy toward your path of destruction.

The biggest complaint I have with this game is that players are offered in-app purchases for additional crystals. Personally, I hate paying for a game that also offers in-app purchases. However, this is the way of the world now and more games are following the same model. Defense Technica does offer in-app purchases, but you can still play the game without ever needing to spend more money.

While there may seem like times when you can’t beat a level, it is not because you need more powerful weapons, it is because you need a better strategy. I got stuck on level four and thought it was because my weapons were not powerful enough. After replaying five times, I completely changed my strategy and placed my turrets in an entirely different location and beat the level with no problem. No upgrade necessary.

The Good

This game offers a very challenging level of play. Most TD games can practically be played on autopilot. Place a couple of turrets, earn some money, place some more turrets, and upgrade weapons. Then, hit the fast forward button until you’ve destroyed all waves of enemies. This game requires you to have a good strategy. You don’t earn a lot of energy cubes, so you must place turrets in ideal locations and use your earnings wisely.

I like that each level offers three different modes. It gives the game a very high replay value, especially Endless mode, which produces a lot of crystals.

The Bad

While playing on my iPad was seamless, I had a difficult time trying to play this game on my iPhone. I couldn’t even place my first turret when I originally downloaded it. I thought there was a glitch. After speaking with the developer, who was very helpful, it turns out that I was just tapping the wrong spot on the screen. The game’s graphics are so tiny and detailed on the iPhone’s screen that it makes it hard to tell where to tap in order to build turrets fast enough.

Value

The $2.99 price tag is completely reasonable and comparative with other tower defense games. However, because you are presented with in-app purchase options, there is a chance you will end up spending more than that. While I don’t like this new game mechanic of requiring a download cost and then offering more payment options, I know it is the way App Store gaming is headed. In this game, the in-app purchases only make it possible for you to get something immediately that you would otherwise earn if you worked for it. So, you are not getting ripped off if you just play the game.

Conclusion

If you like tower defense games, this one offers a significant challenge that makes it worth checking out. There are plenty of different ways to beat the enemy and you can even use your Silver Eye to find out the best possible route to win the game. Each level features three different modes, giving it a high replay value. Defense Technica is available in the App Store today for $2.99.

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‘Hook’ Review: A Puzzle Game You’ll Get Hooked On

Relaxation puzzle games are great for winding down at the end of a long and taxing day. They can put you into a Zen-like mood and help you wash the stress of the day out of your mind.

“Hook” is one of the most relaxing puzzle games I’ve ever played. It features complex challenges, but has no time restrictions or scoring, so you don’t feel any pressure, just levelheaded enjoyment. We’ve got a game review of “Hook” for you today.

Concept

The game consists of several lines, mechanisms, and yes, hooks. Your job is to remove each object from the board by reeling it in. The only problem is that some things are in the way of others. So, you must figure out which object to remove first and how.

Design

The board is constructed with a minimalist design. The background is just slightly off-white (in house paint terms, it is called Swiss Coffee). The objects are very dark brown, almost black, but not quite. There are trigger buttons, represented by solid circles, hooks, which are made up of thick lines, some of which have hooks on them, and various gear-like mechanics, which are usually a circle with some additional lines inside.

The soundtrack is straight out of a meditative mix, complete with singing birds and ocean waves. If you’re not careful, it will put you to sleep.

Gameplay

Players must remove every line or hook from the board by tapping the trigger button. If the coast is clear, the object will reel in and disappear. If something is in the way (like a line is underneath another one, or a hook is in the path), it will get stuck and you’ll have to start over. As levels progress, there are more and more objects on the screen and new mechanics are introduced to make things more complex.

For example, by the time you make it to the 30th level, there are line-switching gears that control the object that the trigger button will real in. The switchers can be rotated by tapping them. Some are curved. Others are straight. They connect one or more lines to the trigger button. When rotated, they will connect to different lines or buttons.

Once you’ve managed to clear the board, you will move onto the next level. There are not star rewards, achievements, or scores for fastest completion. It is truly relaxing. The game’s developer calls it a “game-like experience” more than a classic game.

The Good

The puzzles start off really easy and slowly become harder. I appreciate the extended learning curve. I never felt frustrated by an inability to understand what to do, even though there are no instructions whatsoever.

The Bad

I didn’t find anything wrong with it.

Value

“Hook” costs $0.99. The game is worth at least twice the asking price. I’m not totally sure about the replay value because I’ve only made it to level 35 and have no idea how many more levels there are. You can replay levels, but once you’ve completed one, there is no burning need to go back over it again, since you are not scored.

Conclusion

I love this game. The puzzles get really challenging after you make it past 25. However, it is never so difficult that you get frustrated or irritated. It is incredibly relaxing, while giving your brain some exercise. This game is available on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. Download it in the App Store today.

Related Apps

This game reminds me of the relaxing nature of KAMI.

Elden Ring: Where To Find Every Deathroot In The Game

Elden Ring features numerous key items that reward players with loot, and Deathroot is one of them. A strange item that you can get from a few bosses in the game, the item rewards players with Incantations, Ashes of War, and more. However, tracking down all the Deathroots and exchanging them can become confusing. In this guide, we talk about what exactly is Deathroot, where to find them, and how to receive the rewards from exchanging them.

What Is Deathroot in Elden Ring and How to Find It?

Deathroot is a key item in Elden Ring that players can obtain to exchange for items. Guuranq, one of the non-playable characters, searches for them to devour and eat. In exchange for a Deathroot, Guuranq rewards players with incantations, upgrade items, or weapons for players to use in their playthrough.

Deathroot is often found where roots have grown out of the ground or are carried by an undead enemy. The official description of the item says that Deathroots appeared when the Rune of Death spread throughout the Lands Between through the underground roots of the Great Tree. This happened after the first death of a demigod.

Deathroot, Elden Ring.

Before players obtain and do anything, they first need to find a particular NPC called D, Hunter of the Dead. To track him down, head to Summonwater Village Outskirts at East Limgrave. Once players reach the area, they can notice an individual standing before a dead body. This individual wears unique armor and rests the point of his sword on the ground. This is D, Hunter of the Dead. Talking with D prompts him to warn the players from progressing further and asks them to stay away.

Head to the Roundtable Hold to talk with D, who has moved away from his original position. Talk with him to learn the location of the Bestial Sanctum in Caelid, a place where Guuranq lies. Head to the point marked by D on the map to spawn into Bestial Sanctum and in front of Guuranq.

If you do not want to meet D and find the location of the Bestial Sanctum, the other way is to reach the Third Church of Marika. From here, head north toward the shallow pond. Once near the area, search for a bush on the eastern side with a hidden teleporter. Interact with it to get transported to Greyoll’s Dragonbarrow in Caelid. Interact with the large door to open up the Beastial Sanctum. Guuranq, The Best Clergyman, accepts the many Deathroot players can find in the game and consumes them. For the trouble of players, Guuranq rewards them with an item in exchange for a Deathroot.

Deathroot Locations in Elden Ring

In total, there are nine places in Elden Ring where players can obtain a Deathroot. Down below, these places allow players to gather them.

First Deathroot

The first Deathroot in Elden can be traced inside the Deathtouched Catacombs at Stormhill. Located on the west of Stainstbridge, players can track it down if they follow the road. Another quick way of going to Deathtouched Catacombs is if players reach the Warmaster’s Shack at Stormhill and head straight right.

The Deathtouched Catacombs is a typical dungeon that allows multiplayer. At the end of the dungeon, players need to defeat the Black Knife Assassin, allowing players to open the chest at the end of the boss room, giving them a Deathroot.

Second Deathroot

Location: East Limgrave Summonwater Village ruins.

Across the Saintsbridge lies a dilapidated village underwater called Summonwater Village Ruins. This is also the location of our second Deathroot, which the boss Tibia Mariner holds. Tibia Mariner is a ghostly field boss who uses a large horn to attack the players while steering a boat which he also uses to attack the players. On top of this, Tibia Mariner summons skeletons to assist him in fighting the players.

Third Deathroot

Location: Ruins located south of the Artist’s Shack in Liurnia.

Right before the Artist’s Shack in Liurnia lies another ruin with a small water body. In it lies the second Tibia Mariner boss, which fights and behaves like its previous iteration at Summonwater Village Ruins. Take the boss out to receive the third Deathroot.

Fourth Deathroot

Location: Black Knife Catacombs, located on Liurnia. Reach the Ruined Labyrinth and take a road northeast to reach there.

Situated northeast of the ruined labyrinth site of grace, the Black Knife Catacombs is one of the many dungeons players can discover all over the map of Elden Ring. What is unique about this dungeon is that instead of one, this one has two bosses that players can defeat – the secret boss Black Knife Assassins and Cemetary Shade.

Once players hand over four Deathroot to Guuranq, he gets frenzied and starts attacking the player upon approaching him. This portion is scripted and bound to happen once handed over four Deathroot. Furthermore, dying won’t revert Guuranq to a non-aggressive state. To calm him, deal a few hits carefully while dodging his fast attacks. Doing so will make Guuranq regain his senses and stop attacking the players.

Fifth Deathroot

Location: Gelmir Hero’s Grave at Mt. Gelmir. Located across the Abductor’s village.

Deep through the Abductor’s Village in Mt. Gelmir lies one of the Hero’s Grave, and along with it the fifth Deathroot of Elden Ring. A dungeon that players can enter to complete, this area not only gives us one of the goofiest weapons in the game called The Ringed Finger Hammer, but it also provides us with a Deathroot. Complete the dungeon by maneuvering the murderous chariots and lavas to reach the boss room, which holds the Red Wolf of the Champion.

The wolf fights similarly to the Red Wolf of Radagon at the Academy of Raya Lucaria, who players have to defeat to reach Rennala to use larval tears. Defeat the Red Wolf of the Champion to gain access to the chest at the end of the hall. Opening it will reward players with a Deathroot.

Sixth Deathroot

If players tracked down the two halves of the Dectus medallion at Fort Haight in Limgrave and Fort Faroth in Caelid or took the secret road through Liurnia of the Lake, they can reach the Altus Plateau, shrouded in the golden light of Leyndell. This is the next area where we receive Elden Ring’s next Deathroot, located in the Wyndham Ruins. There are two ways to reach this area, and both are pretty simple since it falls in the player’s route.

If players entered the Altus Plateau through the secret route through the Ruined-Strewn Precipice, navigate the plains north of the area. Similarly, if players took the Grand Lift of Dectus, head to the north of the area. Doing so will bring players to the Wyndham Ruins, where a Tibia Mariner roams. While the boss fights like the previous Tibia Mariners, he summons gigantic skeletons this time, who shoot lasers at the players and vanish every so often. Carefully subdue the boss to despawn the enemies and receive a Deathroot.

Seventh Deathroot

Location: Giant’s Mountaintop Catacomb, situated west of the Mountaintop of the Giants.

The next Deathroot of Elden Ring takes us to the snowy fields of the Mountaintop of the Giants, situated inside the Giant’s Mountaintop Catacomb. To reach it, head to the Zamor Ruins, located right in front of the players after they exit the lift. Head southeast after spawning at Zamor Ruins to reach a cracked wall. From here, continue east and circle the rocks to continue northwest to pass through a passage. Here, a handful of Fire Monks roam the area. Get down the slope and take an immediate right to find the entrance to the Catacomb.

Eight Deathroot

Location: Stargazer’s Ruins at the Mountaintop of the Giants.

The next Deathroot is located south of the Stargazer’s Ruins. Take the bridge across the Stargazer’s Ruins and head towards the graveyard. The Tibia Mariner roams the area near the walking Mausoleum in Mountaintop of the Giants, hence using it as a landmark. While the previous Tibia Mariners was a boss fight, this one is a field enemy. However, it attacks similar to the previous Tibia Mariners in Elden Ring, and eliminating him will reward players with a Deathroot.

Ninth Deathroot

Location: Hidden Path to the Haligtree dungeon.

The final Deathroot of Elden Ring lies inside a large dungeon called the Hidden Path to the Haligtree. Accessing the area requires players to the two halves of the Haligtree Secret Medallion. The right part is obtained from Albus, hiding in the Village of the Albunaurics in Liurnia. The left portion is dropped by Commander Niall, located on the rooftop of Castle Sol in Mountaintop of the Giant. Receive the pieces and head back to the Grand Lift of Rold to access the area.

Use of Deathroot in Elden Ring: How to Get Rewards?

The only use of Deathroot in Elden Ring is to progress the storyline of Guuranq at the Beastial Sanctum. Once received head over to the NPC to hand him over the Deathroots. There are no set patterns in which a player needs to do these side bosses. However, given the enemy placements, players will stumble upon these bosses during the main story playthrough for the most part.

Giving Deathroot to Guuranq will reward players with one item per Deathroot. The first time a Deathroot is given to Guuranq, players also receive Beast Eyes, which quiver when near a Deathroot, helping players to locate them.

Deathroot Given to GuuranqRewardFirst DeathrootClawmark Seal and Beast EyesSecond DeathrootBestial Sling IncantationThird DeathrootBestial Vitality IncantationFourth DeathrootBeast’s Roar Ashes of WarFifth DeathrootBeast Claw IncantationSixth DeathrootStone of Guuranq IncantationSeventh DeathrootBeastclaw Greathammer WeaponEight DeathrootGuuranq’s Beast Claw IncantationNinth DeathrootAncient Dragon Smithing Stone

Frequently Asked Questions

Can We Use Deathroot For Any Other Purposes

No. Deathroot are solely quest items for Guuranq and are only accepted by him at the Bestial Sanctum.

Is it Mandatory to Do These Boss-Fights for Deathroot?

Deathroot procurement is an optional questline that players can skip if they want to. However, we suggest doing them, as it rewards players with great incantations, an upgrade item, and a hammer.

Amazfit Gtr 3 Smartwatch Review: Works For Work, Best For Workouts

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As a health tracker, however, the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch hits the mark. It has more than 150 unique sport modes and its sensors can tell you about everything from your breathing to your blood oxygen level. That means that if you’re in the market for a workout tracker and you’re excited by an option that doesn’t proclaim to everyone that you have a gym accessory strapped to your wrist, the Amazfit GTR 3 could be the best smartwatch for fitness. It meets the needs of professionals looking for wardrobe accessories as they present metrics just as well as it meets the needs of athletes looking to dig into their performance stats. 

What is the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch?

Released in mid-October 2023, The Amazfit GTR 3 is Huami’s follow-up to the Amazfit GTR 2 smartwatch. The new $179.99 Amazfit GTR 3 offers many of the same health-tracking features as its predecessor while boosting the total possible battery life by a week (from 14 to 21 days on a single charge). The Amazfit GTR 3 also upgrades the sensor technology for more accurate measurements across sport modes, stress and sleep monitoring, plus a Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) health assessment that goes beyond just step counting. However, it drops a speaker to let you answer calls.

The Amazfit GTR 3’s design

The Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch has a round face with a minimalist look that doesn’t scream smartwatch. It even features a rotatable navigation crown on the top right—in addition to a second menu button—that looks very much like the wind tool on an analog watch. When the 1.39-inch HD AMOLED display isn’t activated, all you see is a sleek black face with analog clock marks etched on the bezel. You can keep the minimalist look by choosing an analog watch face from one of more than 100 options available via the Zepp app, though I prefer a digital face that tells me my daily step count. The fingerprint-proof tempered-glass touchscreen doesn’t quite live up to its smudge-resistant billing, but the 454×454 resolution screen offers 1,000 nits of brightness and is nice and clear, displaying vivid colors and easy-to-read text. 

The Amazfit smartwatch comes in Thunder Black and Moonlight Gray and the body is made from a durable aluminum alloy. The smartwatch is also rated at ATM 5, meaning it can survive swims and even dives up to 50 meters. At 32 grams, it’s lighter than other fitness trackers like the 38-gram Fitbit Versa 2. Plus, the 22mm-wide silicone strap offers 14 sizing holes, allowing a comfortable fit that didn’t bother my wrist, even when wearing the health tracker and sleep tracker for more than two weeks without taking it off for anything but a quick shower (I opted to take it off then because when I tested the nicely equipped budget Amazfit Bip U Pro the band severely chapped my skin).

Setting up the Amazfit GTR 3

A stress-free setup process has you using the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch to track daily activity soon after opening the box. You can use a QR code to download the Zepp app or search for it in an app store. Once you’ve downloaded the app, use your phone’s Bluetooth connectivity to sync it to the smartwatch (the process takes a few minutes). The Amazfit GTR 3 features a Bluetooth 5.1 BLE connection and the Zepp operating system is compatible with Android 7 and above or iOS 12 and above.

I had previously downloaded the Zepp app when testing the Amazfit Bip U Pro, so I’d already input my fitness goals, health data, and alert settings (opting to receive call, text, and news update notifications on my watch). But I’d say from memory that the entire setup process, including selecting your preferences, takes about 15 minutes. One frustrating feature of the Bip U Pro that still hasn’t been resolved with the Amazfit GTR 3 is that the app and the smartwatch seem to regularly disconnect. That means if you don’t open the Zepp app every few days, your watch may stop displaying information like incoming calls.

To be sure, opening the Zepp app reminds you of all the powerful tracking that the watch is providing—from detailed sleep reports to records of past workouts. Still, I’d prefer to not have to open the app constantly to maintain the connection. 

A sleek design suits daily wear.

Features of the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch

While there are some business-minded features like Alexa connectivity and to-do-list management, the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch really came across to me as fitness first. Here are my takeaways:  

Exercising its abilities

No matter your sport, this Amazfit smartwatch can track it. I used it on my bike, on the rowing machine, on the elliptical, on rollerblades, and while lifting weights. In the rowing mode, for instance, the smartwatch will track the number of strokes, the number of strokes per set, workout duration, and heart rate. If you use it to hike, it’ll track your elevation and distance. 

Sport options, which you can access by pressing the lower side button, range from skiing and snowboarding to stair climbing and spinning to square dancing and skateboarding. You can pause workouts or select interval rest times and, when you’re finished, the watch estimates how long you should let your body recover before exercising again. 

On track 

The Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch also impresses as a health tracker, offering data like blood oxygen and stress levels in addition to 24/7 heart rate monitoring. This data comes from the BioTracker PPG 3.0 Biometric Sensor that monitors it all. You can choose one-tap measuring to get an instant look at your health—hold still for 60 seconds and you’ll be given everything from your stress level to your heart rate to your blood oxygen levels all in one shot. The watch will also alert you when you’re too stressed or when you need to stand up. It’ll even tell you to take a break when necessary, which I found to be a nice contrast to the “Get up and move” memos.  

All of this data, combined with your activity levels, contributes to a Personal Activity Intelligence (PAI) indicator that provides a complete and customized picture of your health. The PAI score is individualized based on your athletic ability and physical data, so not everyone needs to do the same amount of activity to reach 100 PAI. It also adjusts to your improved health, relying only on the previous seven days of data to set the activity level required to reach a maximum score. That means that as your heart rate and daily activity intensity improve, it becomes harder to get to 100. The research behind PAI, based on 25 years of data, claims that reaching a score of 100 each day can decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by 25 percent and increase life expectancy by an average of 5 years. 

Awakening to the realities

After each night, the Amazfit GTR 3 sleep tracker delivers a detailed sleep report that includes a color-coded chart marking when you were in light sleep (blue), deep sleep (purple), and REM sleep (green). Yellow marks moments of wake-up. The report breaks these down into percentages, comparing them to average numbers; for instance, my 20 percent of deep sleep last night falls into the 20- to 60-percent reference value, but my 71 percent of light sleep is over the 55-percent reference value. That’s not surprising, considering we have a 6-month-old who still stirs at night. The watch also tracks how long you’re asleep and gives you a sleep score. Some of this information is available on the watch each morning but the detailed charts come via the app. It’s hard to judge the accuracy of the time spent in deep sleep versus light sleep, but I’d say the amount of time asleep was fairly accurate, although the health tracker tends to count time spent falling asleep as actual unconscious hours. 

Handling your business

Although the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch would need more features like a camera and call capabilities to be considered a fully equipped smartwatch, it’s not without some of the better capabilities. For starters, it features Alexa onboard—though, truth be told, it’s probably just easier to use your phone to access the virtual assistant since her voice responses will come from your phone’s speaker. You can also use the smartwatch to operate your phone’s camera. In addition, the watch can control your music, give you the weather forecast, and let you manage your calendar, on top of telling you who’s calling or buzzing you with text messages and other app notifications. 

Amaz-ing battery life

The Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch’s 450mAh battery fuels some truly impressive run times—the watch can last up to 21 days on a single charge, though that’s with minimal usage. If you’re regularly using the smartwatch to switch music tracks, measure your blood oxygen, and talk to Alexa, the battery will last closer to 10 days. Still, that’s a solid total. I found myself feeling like I needed to connect to the magnetic pogo pin charger every few days only to do so and see that I still had more than 80 percent of the battery life (my favorite watch face doesn’t include the battery level). Once connected to the charger, the depleted smartwatch can get back to full power in a couple of hours. 

Health tracking is just a tap away.

So, who should buy the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch? 

Anyone who is in the market for a stylish health tracker should consider the Amazfit GTR 3 smartwatch. From sleep tracking to step totals to stress levels, the watch’s sensors provide accurate readings and detailed reports. Plus, it has the ability to track more than 150 different sports and/or exercises.

If you’re looking for a fitness tracker with a sportier look, you may be happier with something like the Fitbit Versa 3. For a budget fitness smartwatch, Amazfit’s own $70 Amazfit Bip U Pro is a solid option, offering many of the same health tracking as the Amazfit GTR 3, just with an older generation of sensor technology. And if you are looking for an accessory that truly has all the features you’d expect from a device that bills itself as a smartwatch, the Apple Watch Series 7 is still your best bet—provided you don’t mind the nearly $400 bill. 

But, at the end of the day, if you want one of the best fitness trackers with a look that’s stylish enough for the office and technology that can deliver detailed data about all your exercise, the Amazfit GTR 3 has a lot working for it and working for you.  

Steel Storm Indie Game Review

As the indie game market continues to grow, we thought it would be timely to kick off 2011 with another game review. Steel Storm, a game produced by a small company called Kot in Action Creative Artel, is a top-down arcade shooter that puts you in control of a small futuristic aircraft. Like the addictive space shooters of the past, Steel Storm keeps the action and explosions coming.

Visual Presentation

Steel Storm is very pleasing to the eyes. Do not let the words “top down” fool you. Although it functions like a 2D top-down shooter, the game is actually rendered in 3D, giving you the full depth of each level, ship, and obstacle. Weapons fire and explosions are as bright and colorful as you would expect from a modern 3D shooter.

You can choose different camera positions for your ship, which is particularly useful if you prefer a slightly angular view rather than straight top down.

Features

The Linux version of the game came with both 32-bit and 64-bit executables, making it easy to install and run. To begin the game, you create a player profile and are immediately given options to start the action. The game supports multiple graphics resolutions and fit my 1440×900 precisely.

Episode I includes single-player campaigns, where the player must fight enemies, collect power-ups, and complete specified mission objectives. It also has the type of multi-player functionality you would expect in a first-person shooter, with death match and cooperative play. You can join currently running servers or host your own public or private death matches or campaigns. Do not expect to find a lot people in active matches, but that may change over time.

For even more extensibility, Steel Storm also has a level editor, allowing you to create your own campaigns and death matches. The editor is easy to use and builds upon already established level designs.

Gameplay

The default control scheme uses the mouse and keyboard, but the control system is customizable and supports the use of a gamepad. I found the gamepad to be more appropriate for this type of game, using one analog stick to control movement, and the other to aim.

The average enemy ship is pretty easy to defeat, although it will still require dodging and hiding behind safe objects. Stationary guns also pose a threat, particularly if ships are also attacking at the same time. Some larger ships are more intelligent and require a bit more strategy, but you should not have much trouble defeating them one-on-one. The real challenge is taking on multiple ships at once. The most enjoyable weaponry are the missiles, and once you have them, you will definitely want to make use of them to quickly take out nearby enemies with one clustered shot.

Unlike some retro top-down shooters, Steel Storm actually requires you to do other things besides just shooting. You must find ways to open force fields, destroy enemy installations, and escape certain areas within a given amount of time. All of this adds a little more thought to the game, which is good if you like that type of gameplay and bad if you only wanted to blow things up.

Finding your way through a level to complete tasks can be confusing at times, but fortunately, there is a map to help you figure out where you have been and where you need to go.

Overall Impressions

Steel Storm is fun, and the added features make it a game you could potentially enjoy for hours. For multi-player fun, you may need to schedule matches with friends, but it should be easy to pick up, even for casual gamers. Considering it is free of charge, you get quite a lot, including the source code. Steel Storm’s gaming engine is licensed under the GNU General Public License, meaning you could conceivably create your own maps and enemies for it.

This game will not revolutionize shooters, and the strategy will not keep you up at night, but the gameplay is addictive enough to warrant the purchase. I give Steel Storm a perfect 5 out of 5.

Tavis J. Hampton

Tavis J. Hampton is a freelance writer from Indianapolis. He is an avid user of free and open source software and strongly believes that software and knowledge should be free and accessible to all people. He enjoys reading, writing, teaching, spending time with his family, and playing with gadgets.

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Amd Ryzen 9 6900Hs Review: Game

The Ryzen 6000-series laptop processors, announced at CES 2023, are based the company’s Zen 3+ core (an upgraded version of the architecture found in AMD’s stunning Ryzen 5000 desktop processors) and built on an improved 6nm TSMC process. Inside the core, not much has changed all that much from the awesome-sauce Zen 3 from a performance perspective.

There’s more than one way to skin a CPU though. Instead of changing the design of the core, AMD mostly aims to pick up performance by greatly increasing its power efficiency. So much so that the company claims the new Ryzen 6000 is “most efficient x86 CPU” in town. And that focus on efficiency winds up making the thin, light Ryzen 9 6800HS gaming laptop we’re testing today go toe-to-toe with significantly chunkier gaming laptops in raw performance, bolstered by the similarly energy-efficient Radeon RX 6800S GPU—a truly impressive spectacle indeed.

Apple fans will note the statement of “most efficient x86 CPU” leaves Apple’s M1 chips out of the conversation but that’s a discussion for another day. Today, AMD is focused solely on continuing to peel off sales from Intel’s new 12th-gen CPUs. AMD success in laptops (an area Intel has long ruled) has been nothing short of phenomenal recently so there’s a lot riding on just how well Ryzen 6000 does. Do the Ryzen 6900HS and Radeon RX 6800S keep AMD in the game against Intel’s excellent Alder Lake? Spoiler alert: Yep. Let’s go.

How we tested

Our testing platform for AMD’s new Ryzen 9 6900HS and Radeon RX 6800S comes to us in the form of the upgraded Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2024). The laptop selection is fitting, as the introduction of the original ROG Zephyrus at CES 2023 really helped put AMD’s mobile Ryzen push in motion. At the time, Intel’s best comparable CPUs ran too hot to squeeze into thin and light laptops, leaving the debut ROG Zephyrus G14 with its Ryzen 9 4900HS to crush all comers at the time, despite being nearly half a pound lighter.

This new ROG Zephyrus G14 is just as impressive with its 3.6 pound weight, 8-core Ryzen 9 6900HS, new Radeon RX 6800S discrete graphics, 32GB of DDR5/4800, and an eye-catching 14-inch 16:10 2560 x 1600 resolution screen, blazing at an impressive 500 nits. The compact powerhouse laptop also features a vapor chamber cooling design to help share power between the CPU and GPU, which both use liquid metal instead of standard thermal paste as well. The laptop, and all of the others we tested below, was running the latest version of Windows 11. We opted, however, to leave Microsoft’s Virtual Based Security feature turned off. It increases security but can at times eat some performance. The Windows 11 OEM power/performance slider was set to the highest state available for all laptops.

Performance on battery will be a topic for later testing, but just know that AMD has said that Ryzen 6000’s performance on battery can be as good as while plugged-in. This has been a problem for AMD processors, which have tended to end up in laptops that saw performance nose dive while on battery. We did run Cinebench R20 both plugged and unplugged, and found the performance to be identical, but we should note Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 doesn’t allow access to its “Turbo” setting when unplugged, so we used the “Performance” preset for that experiment.

We’re comparing the Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 with its all-AMD loadout against a wide selection of rival laptops:

MSI GE76 Raider with a 14-core 12th-gen Intel Core i9-12900HK, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Laptop GPU with a 175 watt TGP, 32GB of DDR5/4800, 2TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD, 17.3-inch 1080p 360Hz panel and 280 watt power brick. The laptop itself weighs 6.4 pounds.

MSI Prestige 14 Evo with a 4-core 11th-gen Intel Core i9-1195G7, Iris Xe integrated graphics, 16GB of LPDDR4X/4266 RAM, 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD, 14-inch 1080p screen and 65 watt power brick. The laptop weighs 2.8 lbs.

XPG Xenia 15KC with an 8-core 11th-gen Intel Core i7-11800H, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 Laptop GPU with a 140 watt TGP, 32GB of DDR4/3200, 1TB PCI Gen 4 SSD, 15.6-inch, 2650×1600, 165Hz screen and 230 watt power brick. The laptop weighs 4 lbs.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA401 with 8-core Ryzen 9 4900HS, Nvidia GeForce RTX 2060 Max-Q GPU, 24GB of DDR4/3200, 1TB PCIe Gen 3 SSD, 14-inch, 1080p, 120Hz screen and 180 watt power brick. The laptop weighs 3.6 pounds. The laptop actually comes with 16GB of RAM, but we decided to add additional RAM to bring it to 24GB to give it a better chance when running against most of the other laptops with 32GB of RAM.

Asus ROG Flow X13 with 8-core Ryzen 9 5980HS, Nvidia GeForce RTX 1650 Max-Q GPU, 32GB of LPDDR4X/4266, 1TB PCIe Gen 3 SSD, 13.4-inch, 3480×2400 resolution touch screen and 100-watt power brick. The laptop weighs 2.9 pounds.

Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 GA402 with 8-core Ryzen 9 6900HS, AMD Radeon RX 6800S, 32GB of DDR5/4800, 1TB PCIe Gen 4 SSD, 14-inch 2560×1600 500 nit screen with a refresh of 165Hz and 240 watt power brick. The laptop weighs 3.8 pounds with its miniLED Anime Matrix lid.

Asus ROG Strix Scar G17 with 8-core Ryzen 9 5900HX, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU with a 130 watt TGP, 32GB of DDR4/3200, 2TB PCIe Gen 3 SSD, and 17.3-inch 1080p 360Hz screen. The laptop weighs 6 pounds.

Before we start, we want to remind you that looking at CPU and GPU performance in laptops isn’t the same as in a desktop, where you can control the cooling and power. Laptops are fully integrated platforms, and performance can indeed vary based on the engineering and business decisions made on each and every laptop model. That, however, can’t turn a really slow CPU or GPU into a really fast one.

Still, you should consider the influence that every laptop design has on the chips inside of it. For example, our tested laptops include results from models that weigh up to 6.4 pounds and feature 280 watt power-bricks and 17.3-inch screens. That’s significantly more room for cooling the CPU and GPU than you’d get in a smaller laptop, such as this new ROG Zephyrus G14. So just remember to factor in the size and weight of the laptop when looking at the performance scores below—a key consideration since our only 12th-gen Core “Alder Lake” specimen comes in the form of the beefy MSI GE76 Raider, with Intel’s flagship Core i9-12900HK inside (complete with a mixture of high-power and high-efficiency cores).

3D rendering performance

We’ll kick this off where we often do, in Maxon’s popular Cinebench R23 test. It’s a benchmark built around the same 3D rendering engine found in Maxon’s commercial Cinema 4D application, which is also integrated into such applications as Adobe’s After Effects. It’s used for 3D modeling and scales quite well with core and thread count. Basically, the CPU with the most cores and highest sustained clocks under load usually wins.

The winner, no surprise, is the beefy GE76 Raider with its 14-core Core i9-12900HK CPU in it. Intel’s Alder Lake is clearly nothing to dismiss with a hand wave.

But the new Ryzen 6000 chip represents itself quite well. Its score of 14,236 outstrips the similarly 8-core Core i7-11800H by far, and it walks away from the original ROG Zephyrus G14 and Ryzen 9 4900HS by a shocking 46 percent. It’s also 17 percent faster than the Ryzen 9 5980HS as well. The real shocker should be the other Ryzen here: The Ryzen 9 9 5900HX in the Stix SCAR G17. That was AMD’s second-best gamer-grade Ryzen 5000 HX-series offering and was a shockingly fast CPU just last year. That the tiny Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 can outpace it in a multi-core load is simply amazing.

Overall, we again see the 12th-gen Intel chip with 14-cores ahead of the pack, but the gap has closed with the Ryzen 9 6900HS in that tiny Asus G14 laptop just 10 percent behind it despite having significantly fewer cores. Again (and more impressively) we see the Ryzen 9 6900HS simply school all other AMD CPUs, clocking in at almost 12 percent faster than the Ryzen 9 5900HX. It doesn’t win here, but when you consider the context of the Ryzen 9 6900HS being in a smaller and much lighter laptop, it’s impressive again.

Moving on from 3D modeling, our next looks at video encoding using the free, open, and popular Handbrake encoder. For the test we use the 1.5.1 version and convert the “open-source” 4K Tears of Steel video using the H.265 MKV preset on the CPU. CPU encodes, video nerds tell us, still often yield the highest quality encodes, but they take much longer than GPU encodes. Handbrake generally likes more cores, but that’s not the only thing that matters. The winner is the 12th-gen Core i9-12900HK but it just barely gets its nose over the finish line before the Ryzen 9 6900HS crosses it. That the Ryzen 6000 CPU can slightly outpace the Ryzen 9 5900HX and breath down the neck of that 12th-gen CPU, all while being in a thin and light laptop, again says a whole lot more than simply winning the overall race to us.

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As we said, CPU-based encodes are what video nerds tell us they favor, but when the CPUs have built-in hardware encoders, why bother to wait? For this test, we encode the same Tears of Steel 4K video, but use the H.265 running on either Intel’s Quick Sync or AMD’s VCE features. Those video-enders, however, often need software support. For example, Intel has long been active helping to optimize Handbrake to use its QuickSync technology and it shows, as all three Intel CPUs cross the finish line first. 

The Ryzen 9 6900HS doesn’t impress whatsoever, which makes us suspect the Ryzen 9 6900HS’s media engine may not be supported by the version of Handbrake we’re running yet. We’ll have to revisit this in the future with updated versions of Handbrake—and also look a little harder at the score for the Ryzen 9 5900HX, which is just funky. That score, we’ll note, isn’t due to us running it incorrectly, as we noticed its lower performance despite being run with the same settings. The takeaway here is Intel’s years of Quick Sync support in Handbrake is paying dividends but AMD’s VCE (when it’s supported, like in the Ryzen 9 5980HS) isn’t too shabby.

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Adobe Creative Cloud Performance

What’s the killer app on the PC (and Mac) today? Adobe Creative Cloud. With a stable of stars ranging from Photoshop to Premiere, you basically don’t have a competing consumer and business platform if you don’t have the support of Adobe Creative Cloud. To see how well the laptop chips do here, we use workstation vendor Puget System’s set of “PugetBench” benchmarks that run the applications through a script of tasks to produce a score. First up is PugetBench Premiere.

We actually run the benchmark two ways: First with each laptop’s discrete graphics cards enabled, and with them disabled. The second method gives us a little more insight into how each laptop CPU’s integrated graphics would handle the job. It also helps remove the disparity in discrete GPUs from the picture too. As Intel and AMD push higher performance CPUs without discrete GPUs at all, it’s also actually possible this is the performance you’ll see in a laptop you’d buy.

The big, huge winner is the MSI GE76 Raider with its 12th-gen Intel CPU and GeForce RTX 3080 Ti Laptop inside. Software optimization matters and Nvidia has long worked with Adobe to support GPU-encoding and GPU-based effects, which generally gives it the edge.

The All-AMD Asus ROG Zephyrus G14, however, does relatively well. As we said, Adobe applications tend to simply run faster on Nvidia GPUs, but the Ryzen 9 6900HS and Radeon RX 6800S combo is fairly competitive with the Ryzen 9 5900HX and GeForce RTX 3080 inside of a 6 pound laptop. With the discrete GPUs disabled, the Ryzen 9 5900HX manages to muscle by the Ryzen 9 6900HS but it’s pretty close.

Unfortunately, we were unable to install the scripts for the Ryzen 9 4900HS laptop. We also decided against running it on the 2.8 pound MSI Prestige 14 Evo for time’s sake. PugetBench also recommends having a minimum of 32GB to run the benchmark so it’s probably for the better.

The winner is again Intel’s Core i9-12900HK and GeForce RTX 3080 Ti combo but the Ryzen 9 6900HS and Radeon RX 6800S is surprisingly competitive with the larger Ryzen 9 5900HX and GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop combination. With the discrete GPUs turned off, the Ryzne 9 6900HS and its RDNA2 graphics are solidly in front of all others except Intel’s 12th-gen behemoth.

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If a working photographer had to choose between Photoshop and Lightroom Classic, we bet the majority would pick Lightroom Classic. It is, after all, the application that makes it possible to slog through the 4,000 photos they took at an event.

Intel etches solid wins this category again with the 12th-gen laptop a solid front runner, but the 4 lbs. Xenia 15 KC with its 11th-gen Core i7-11800H also outpaces Team Red. The good news for the Ryzen 9 6900HS is it’s at least in front of all other Ryzen CPUs, including the larger Ryzen 9 5900HX laptop.

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Office 365 Performance

In the world we live in, a ton more people run Microsoft Office 365 than Adobe Creative Cloud. Sure, that may not be by choice, but if you live the cubicle life and find joy in hitting reply-all on company-wide emails, it matters.

To gauge performance in Office 365, we use UL’s Procyon Office, which runs Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook through a set of scripted tasks in the way you might run it. That is, all four applications are open at once and switched between.

Pretty much any computer can run Microsoft Office 365 just fine. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a faster one though. The winner is the 12th-gen Intel laptop overall which shouldn’t surprise anyone. The Ryzen 9 6900HS still does relatively well but there are some odd results. While it seems to run Word almost as fast as the 12th-gen laptop, PowerPoint is bizarrely off the pace with the ROG Zephyrus G14 actually being the slowest laptop here—in PowerPoint. That’s fine though as it seems to make up for it Word and Excel.

We’re still trying to figure what makes Excel zing and we’ve seen some real head-scratching results here, such as a 4-core Core i7-1195G7 with 16GB of RAM out perform 8-core Ryzen CPUs with 32GB of RAM. And while that 8-core 11th-gen CPU looks decent, we’ve also seen a 6-core 9th-gen Core i7-9750H turn in about the same score.

Trying to figure out why the results are all over the map would be fun, but in the real-world, that doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is waiting to get a result so you can find out where to invest your money. Time literally is money in the world where Excel lives. So take that glory-seeking Photoshop.

The good news for Ryzen 9 6900HS is its performance. It finishes recalculating 38 percent faster than the Ryzen 9 5980HS, and 35 percent faster than the Ryzen 9 5900HX. It doesn’t outpace the mighty 12th-gen Core i9-12900HK, which finishes the task in 23 percent less time in its much larger laptop, but the new Ryzen 6000 is solidly faster than all others. Why? Who cares, we just want to make money.

Arguably the one application you can’t do without today is the browser. Having a snappy browsing performance is often how people judge how fast a PC is so we tasked the laptops with running Google Chrome 98 through four popular browser benchmarks. These tests would normally be used to gauge actual browser performance but since we’re running the exact same browser version on each laptop, the notebook hardware is what’s moving the performance needle around. The winner again is the big fast GE76 Raider and its 12th-gen Core i9. The Ryzen 9 6900HS is solidly in second place, however, and mostly outperforms all other CPUs not named 12th gen.

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AI performance

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Geekbench performance

Our next benchmark is the stupidly popular Geekbench 5 benchmark. It’s a suite of short programming loops built around tasks such as text compression, encryption, and JPG decompression. The Ryzen 9 6900HS is the solid second place finisher overall and again shows especially well against previous-gen Ryzen 5000-based laptops in multi-core performance.

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Besides testing CPU-based tasks, Geekbench also has a mode to measure popular tasks using OpenCL on the GPU. For our test, we ran Geekbench on both the integrated graphics of the CPUs as well as the discrete GPU. The Radeon RX 6800S gets paved over by the higher-wattage GeForce GPUs but there’s a good glimmer of light on the IGP test.

The Radeon RDNA 2 architecture in the Ryzen 9 6900HS defeats all, including the 12th-gen laptop’s DDR5-fed graphics to the tune of 61 percent. It’s also about 107 percent faster than the Radeon IGP in the Ryzen 9 5980HS.

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Gaming performance

That brings us to the gaming performance of the Radeon RX 6800S. Modern laptop GPUs are largely gated by the power they can consume. The higher the wattage, the higher the performance generally. To us, the question here isn’t whether the 110 watt Radeon RX 6800S in the tiny ROG Zephyrus G14 can outpace the 175 watt GeForce RTX 3080 Ti in the big 12th-gen GE76 Raider. It simply can’t. The question is how it performs against GPUs closer to its wattage envelope.

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Most people who buy a laptop with a powerful discrete GPU won’t use the integrated graphics for gaming, but one of the most exciting developments with Ryzen 6000 is the use of integrated Radeon RDNA 2 graphics cores and DDR5 RAM. To get a glimpse of where the Ryzen 6000’s integrated graphics performance falls, we run 3DMark Time Spy on it. The winner: The RDNA 2-based Radeon inside of the Ryzen 9 6900HS which comes in a whopping 33 percent faster than the IGP in Intel’s 12th-gen Core i9-12900HK.

What this means is you might get far more playable frame rates at 1080p with game settings turned down to low if it’s a milder game. For laptops with discrete GPUs it’s no big deal, but desktop APUs based on new RDNA 2 graphics cores may be quite impressive for budget gamers when they arrive.

Battery comparisons of a laptop are fraught with caveats because so many factors impact battery life other than CPU. The screen resolution and size of the battery, for example, tangibly move the needle in how long a laptop will run. Still, you want to see the results for these laptop configurations, so we ran our standard battery run test, which loops the Tears of Steel 4K video in airplane mode, with earbuds plugged in at 50 percent volume and the screen brightness set to a relatively bright 250 to 260 nits. The chart below denotes the size of the battery and resolution of the panel for reference.

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A more reasonable comparison would be the Ryzen 9 6900HS versus the Ryzen 9 5980HS, which is closer to its class. To help you see the increase in performance, we’re only showing the percent increase per-thread from the Ryzen 5000 to the Ryzen 6000. As you can see, the newer Ryzen 9 6900HS is pushing pretty respectable speed increase compared to what was the best Ryzen 9 HS-class CPU of last year.

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You’re probably wondering how the Ryzen 9 6800HS compares to Intel’s 12th-gen Core i9-12900HK, which we’ll show you below—but not without mentioning yet again that we’re looking at a very thick and heavy laptop versus a thin and light one. Still, it’s all blue here because there’s nothing the 12th gen Core i9-12900HK gives up against the new Ryzen 9 6900HS. The laptop is also almost twice as heavy too, however.

How Intel’s 12th-gen parts compare to Ryzen 6000 really can’t be determined until we’ve seen more Alder Lake laptops, especially those inside of thin and light laptops. The initial round of 12th-gen laptops sent to reviewers focused on heavy, gaming-grade H-series chips. It’s entirely possible that with the tighter thermal and power constraints of a thin and light laptop, Intel’s 12th-gen chips and AMD’s Ryzen 6000 mobile CPUs might be a lot closer than we expect them to be. At the same time, the Ryzen 6000 offers a hefty improvement in graphics performance, and when paired with its Radeon partner, it’s likely to close the gap even more.

The upshot in all this it looks like it looks like we still have a ball game when it comes to high-performance laptop processors, so don’t leave your seats and head for the exits just yet.

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