Running and cycle tracking tech has grown incredibly over the past five years with GPS watches, form-fixing sensors and power meters expanding the universe of performance insights for us try-hard weekend warriors.
Even amateur soccer is now catered for with GPS monitors now available for casual players.
For swimmers, though, it’s been a different story. It’s taken a while for people who like a bit of pool time to feel as much love as their land-loving fellow fitness types.
But this is changing fast as brands such as Fitbit, Apple and Samsung race to upgrade their sports watches and fitness trackers with waterproof skills.
While there still aren’t many dedicated swim trackers, the best all-round fitness trackers now offer automatic stroke detection, accurate lap and distance tracking in the pool and open water, and some even offer fairly accurate heart rate monitoring in the water.
But prices range from well under $100 /£100 to over $500 / $500, so we’ve tested the leading products on the market to find the best swimming watch for every budget.
With each generation, the Apple Watch becomes a more serious fitness device. Along with its updated running and heart rate skills, the combined new Apple Watch Series 3 and watchOS 4 now has much improved swimming smarts.
That said, it’s still better suited to people who like to go bobbing (see what we did there) along for general fitness rather than serious swimmers.
Apple’s latest swim-carnation offers a range of features for pool and open water swimming (using the Watch’s built-in GPS). That includes auto stroke detection, automatic sets and detailed splits that you can filter for 25m, 50m and 100m all in the Workout app.
The lap and distance accuracy is solid and we loved that you could calibrate the pool length on your watch, and even down to 1m. That’s a level of fine-tuning that many dedicated swim trackers don’t offer.
While Apple’s auto stroke detection isn’t always 100%, in most cases it happily detected when we were doing front crawl, back or breast stroke and at the end of each swim you get a breakdown of your sets and strokes.
Sadly for all those hardcore swimmers, the basic swimming tracking in the Workout app offers very little beyond how many lengths you've completed in the pool. For example, there’s no option to pre-load workouts.
However, you do get the option of using third-party swimming apps such as Let’s Go Swim and Swim.com that offer a wider range of features and there’s something here for the curious triathlete too.
WatchOS 4 lets you easily transition between different workout segments e.g. run, bike, swim without starting a new workout.
The Apple Watch will detect heart rate in the pool, though this isn’t something Apple is pushing as the accuracy of optical sensors is obviously affected by the water. However, in our tests we got readings that appeared fairly close to the numbers we’d expect.
Read the full review: Apple Watch 3
Like many of the other devices on this list, the Moov Now does much more than just keep tabs on your pool workouts. As such, we’d describe this as a capable all-round fitness tracker with skills that carry into the water - justifying it as our top fitness tracker of 2017.
The small, super lightweight tracker fits into a comfortable soft, silicone strap that you wear on your wrist and uses on-board sensors to tracks laps, distance, time, speed, swimming style and stroke count.
We really loved that Moov broke our session data down to individual lengths where you can see how many strokes you pulled, how long it took, your turn times, any breaks or pauses you made, and what stroke you were swimming.
With attention to detail like this, the Moov Now comes close to being one of the most capable products on the list; however there are some significant drawbacks.
Firstly, you have to start your session from your phone. In most cases this means doing it in changing rooms where you can leave your smartphone safe and dry back in your locker.
A bit annoying and made worse by the lack of screen on the Now itself, which means you can’t see what’s going on while you’re swimming.
We were often left wondering if it was actually tracking at all. It also struggled a little with accuracy, dropping laps and miscounting strokes per length.
But then look at the price tag, for £50 / $60 / AU$79 and with a battery life that lets you log more than 200 workouts, you get a lot of bang for your buck and if you’re an occasional swimmer as part of a wider fitness regime then this is hard to beat.
Read the full review: Moov Now
While some of the other devices on this list cater for general fitness, the Garmin Forerunner 935 is as serious as multi-sport devices come.
A bit like combining the features of a Fenix 5 with the looks of a Forerunner 635, this triathlon watch combines dedicated pool smarts with overall training and performance features that make it the top choice for competitive amateur swim-bike-run athletes.
The watch comes with built-in activity profiles for pool and open water swimming, and you can also create your own workouts, or download sessions via Garmin Connect - plus check out your SWOLF score - AKA your swim efficiency.
You get your SWOLF score by adding together your strokes per length, and the time it took to complete the length. e.g. 25m length at 30 seconds in 20 strokes is a SWOLF score of 50.
The lower your SWOLF the more efficient you are. Why is this important? Well for a start it lets you compare your performance for swims in different size pools more easily.
In the water, the Forerunner 935 automatically detects stroke type as well as lengths, distance, pace and stroke count. There are also time and distance alerts, a handy countdown start, advanced rest timers and open-water swim metrics.
One thing we really loved, mainly because the other trackers failed to offer it, was the option to input drills manually. This means you can also log all the hard work you do that’s not based on stroke alone, for example kick and single-arm drills. However, we did find it missed tracking the odd length here and there.
Once your sessions are done, the new Training Status feature helps you spot if you’re undertraining or overdoing it by evaluating your recent exercise history and performance indicators, making this fantastic for monitoring training, performance and recovery.
There’s no heart rate from the wrist in the water but you can pair the Forerunner 935 with a HRM-Tri or HRM-Swim heart rate monitor for added insights.
You can also sync data wirelessly via your smartphone to Garmin Connect and then into the Speedo On web platform for added Strava-like competition, community, training tips and advice.
Read the early review: Garmin Forerunner 935
When we tested the Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro as an all-round fitness tracker, it didn’t quite float our boat.
But thanks to a partnership with Speedo On which means the swimming brand’s app comes pre-installed, the waterproof upgrade to the popular Gear Fit 2 fares better in the pool than on dry land.
The Fit 2 Pro is impressively light and there are two strap sizes that make it comfortable for the tiny and massive-wristed alike.
The bright and colourful screen is undoubtedly a stand out feature on the Gear Fit 2 Pro and we found it really easy to see our swim data during pool sessions.
There’s also a Water Lock feature that turns off the touchscreen functionality when you’re swimming, a bit like the Apple Watch but without the bit where you get to make your watch spit the water out.
In the pool, Samsung’s own swim app will track some basic stats but what really lifts this is the Speedo On app.
It measures stroke type, lap time, SWOLF and pace before firing all of that data into Speedo’s own platform for more detailed analysis, additional competition and community features that add an extra edge to your training.
There’s 4GB of internal storage and offline Spotify, though because Bluetooth doesn’t work underwater, ‘streaming’ music while swimming sadly isn’t an option.
Read the full review: Samsung Gear Fit 2 Pro
If you only use swimming as part of a general fitness regime, knocking out a few lengths each visit, then the Fitbit Ionic’s simple, easy-to-use interface and length, distance and pace tracking should prove more than sufficient for your tracking needs.
The fact that the app shows your swim in terms of your overall daily fitness goals is also a nice touch.
If, however, you’re a competitive swimmer or take your pool time seriously then you’ll find Fitbit’s first smartwatch somewhat on the basic side.
Like many of the all-round fitness trackers there’s no way to input drills – so a length of kick won’t register, for example – and because there’s no automatic stroke detection, changing stroke in the middle of a length can lead to data registering incorrectly.
The watch is easy to wear in the water and the sheer number of spacing holes on the strap mean it stays put even on smaller wrists.
The swim tracking function is self-explanatory; pick 'exercise' from the apps, swipe to swim (yes, swiping worked surprisingly well in the water) and go.
There’s a settings button where you can easily input the length of the pool for tracking, and the fact that the screen stays off unless you’ve set a cue – showing you distance, laps and time every 100m for example – is beneficial, as a flashing screen entering your eye line when you’re doing your best Phelps impression can prove distracting.
You can also set the tracker to automatically recognize different exercises, including swimming, so if you do forget to press go you’re sorted.
The tracking itself, however, is where the Ionic swam into trouble. Despite inputting the pool length as 25m, we got readings of 8 lengths as 100m and 22 lengths as 450m instead of 550m.
Fitbit say that some inaccuracies may come from shorter swims, stopping to rest in the middle of the pool and stopping for more than 60 seconds at the end of a length (which we probably did when trying to work out why the 100m cue we’d set didn’t go off after four lengths).
For these reasons, they recommend you should be able to swim between 6-12 lengths without stopping to track your swims – so it’s probably not suitable for those just starting out.
Read the full review: Fitbit Ionic
Slightly older than some of the trackers on this list, and with a name that’s incredibly long, the TomTom Spark 3 Cardio + Music is another multi-sport watch designed for people who mix up their fitness activities.
In the pool, once you’ve set the length distance, the Spark 3 tallies lengths, strokes, strokes per minute, total distance and calories. Sadly, there’s no automatic stroke detection.
One thing it does offer that some other trackers on this list don’t is SWOLF - and especially not at this price.
We also like the fact that the Spark 3 let us set session targets and get an easy at-a-glance view of how close we are to achieving those targets.
The form factor, with the small joystick control, also made it much easier than touchscreen devices to control once we were all wet.
One big oversight that might put off serious triathletes is the lack of a tri mode to let you do combined multi-sport sessions.
With this you have to start each sport as a new session, an odd exclusion for a device that caters well for swim-bike-run in many other ways.
Read the full review: TomTom Spark 3
- More into all-round fitness? Check out the best fitness trackers
With the Xbox One X launching earlier this month at £450, Sony was always going to march in with its one year old PS4 Pro and ruin Microsoft's party with some barnstorming Black Friday deals.
As it turns out, this has happened a week early - a whole range of PS4 Pro bundle deals went live this week which are truly irresistible. The best value deal comes with three Crash Bandicoot games, Call of Duty: WWII, Fallout 4, Doom and FIFA 18 all for just £339.99 at Currys.
If you're looking to spend even less, you can also get the PS4 Pro with FIFA 18 and the three Crash Bandicoot games for just £299. That's an order of magnitude cheaper than a bundle like this cost just one week ago - so if you're after a PS4 Pro, your window is open!The best PS4 Pro Black Friday deals:
After months of voting, the Golden Joystick Awards presented with OMEN by HP took place in London today. The winners have been revealed and appropriately revered, and now they’re going to dance the night away.
So, who walked away victorious this year? We can help you there. Below you’ll find out which games were honored as the best and brightest in the industry, whether that’s because of their outstanding storytelling, atmospheric audio or stunning visuals.Best Storytelling
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive EntertainmentBest Visual Design
Developer: StudioMDHRBest Audio
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Publisher: NintendoBest Gaming Performance
Ashly Burch – Aloy, Horizon: Zero Dawn
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive EntertainmentBest Indie Game
Friday the 13th: The Game
Publisher: Gun MediaBest Multiplayer Game
Developer: PUBG Corp.
Publisher: PUBG Corp.Studio of the Year
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey
Publisher: NintendoBest VR Game
Resident Evil 7
Publisher: CapcomESports Play of the Year
Agilities' five-man Dragonblade at Overwatch Contenders – Overwatch
Publisher: BlizzardESports Team of the Year
Lunatic-Hai – Overwatch
Publisher: BlizzardESports Game of the Year
Publisher: BlizzardBest Streamer/Broadcaster
MarkiplierHandheld/Mobile Game of the Year
Pokémon Sun and Moon
Developer: Game Freak
Publisher: The Pokémon CompanyNintendo Game of the Year
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Publisher: NintendoPlayStation Game of the Year
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Developer: Guerrilla Games
Publisher: Sony Interactive EntertainmentXbox Game of the Year
Developer: StudioMDHRPC Game of the Year
Developer: PUBG Corp.
Publisher: PUBG Corp.Critics Choice Award
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Publisher: NintendoHall of Fame
Final Fantasy for its 30th anniversaryBreakthrough Award
Ashly Burch – Life is Strange and Horizon Zero DawnMost Wanted Game
The Last of Us Part II
Developer: Naughty Dog
Publisher: Sony Interactive EntertainmentStill Playing
World of Tanks
Publisher: WargamingOutstanding Contribution to the UK Games Industry
Debbie Bestwick MBE – co-founder of Team 17Lifetime Achievement
Sid Meier – Civilization, Pirates!, Alpha CentauriUltimate Game of the Year
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Publisher: Nintendo EPD
And there you have it! Congratulations to all the winners – and we look forward to seeing you all for the 36th Awards next year.
It’s tough to work out the best camera phone on the market - there are so many smartphones to try out, so how on earth will you be able to work out which has the best snapper on the back?
The good news for you is that TechRadar tests them all thoroughly, putting them through their photography paces in all manner of lighting conditions and scenarios to help you work out which phone will give the right pictures for you.
Before choosing, it’s worth thinking about what you want from a camera phone. Do you want something that’s great at taking outdoor snaps and aren’t bothered if it’s good in low light? Is a great quick pic with friends more important than a really powerful sensor that takes amazing shots when you put the effort in?
It’s also worth thinking about battery size and screen quality - if you’re going to be heading out all day and doing longer photography sessions, you’ll need a battery that can keep up.
And if you’re mostly going to look at your photos on the phone, then a phone with OLED screen technology can really make your snaps pop - but if it’s social media, or even printing out your photos, that’s your plan then you’ve got a wider array of options.
We’ve listed all that information below, along with some of our top test snaps so you can make the right decision when it comes to choosing your next camera phone.
The Google Pixel 2 duo have decent sensors on the back, but amazing software processing - and both cameras are identical.
That means you can take an average picture, and instantly watch it improve before your eyes as the phone stitches together multiple images. Despite only packing a single lens, the Pixel 2 pair can both take stunning portrait shots, bringing some real definition to the mix.
The camera software isn't always the best, with a tiny bit of lag in taking the picture (and waiting for the software to kick in) but the optical image stabilisation is a real boon.
The larger screen and longer battery life on the Pixel 2 XL will attract those looking for a more premium smartphone, but it is rather more expensive as a result.
But if you want the best pictures from a phone - we'd point you in the direction of the aptly-named pixel.Pixel 2 / 2 XL photo samples
The Samsung Galaxy Note 8 camera is one of the very best we've tested for a number of reasons: firstly, because the dual sensors are impressive and powerful.
The blurred background, the telephoto lens, the speed of snapping - these are all the things we're looking for on a top-end smartphone.
The longer battery life and the improved screen mean you'll be able to keep taking photos over a longer time, and enjoy them with more vivid colors too.
The thing that we love about Samsung phones is that nearly every snap you take comes out looking clear and crisp, even in low light, which is what you want from an expensive phone... and the Note 8 certainly is.
Samsung has put so many modes on here, but also made the automatic settings incredibly easy to use... it's touch and go between this phone and the Pixel 2 for best camera phone, so either will certainly satisfy you.Samsung Galaxy Note 8 photo samples
- Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review
The Samsung Galaxy S8 pair are the two best phones on the market at the moment, helped ably by their excellent cameras.
They might only be single sensors, which means portrait mode isn't easily achieved (and the reason they're not top of this list) but if you don't care about that, then we'd recommend these phones.
The S8 is well-designed and fits more nicely in the hand for more comfortable photography, but the larger S8 Plus is longer-lasting and packs a more expansive screen.
The sheer range of camera settings is to be applauded here - as is an easy selfie mode - but overall, it's the fact that a quick automatic snap always looks so good in our opinion.
These are great, great camera phones - definitely check them out.Samsung Galaxy S8 photo samples
The iPhone X has the best camera ever seen on a device from Apple - and that’s on both the front and back.
The rear double sensor is capable of taking some stunning pictures in low light or bright scenes, capturing a lot of detail and erring on the side of natural colors.
Combined with the OLED screen, that brings a lot of vivacity to images, with the results still looking great on social media. The combination of two 12MP sensors, one being telephoto and both packing optical image stabilisation, is a nice move, and you’ll find the speed of snapping desirable.
The front-facing TrueDepth camera is also very capable, bringing clear selfies and also allowing you to take blurred background snaps without using a second sensor. It’s not the best camera on the market, but the iPhone X is easily the best Apple’s ever created and is very close to the top.iPhone X photo samples
- Read our iPhone X review
The LG V30 is a camera that takes the best of LG’s sensors and puts them to good use - it’s at its best when things get dimmer. Not in true low light, but if there’s a little bit of illumination the V30 really comes into its own, taking sharp and swift snaps when you need them.
The 16MP sensor is the main affair here, and when you just want to take a quick snap it works well. On top of that, the second sensor is a wider-angle affair, so you can get in more of the image you’re trying to snap.
We also really like how LG has worked to explain the more complex settings to you, allowing you to learn how to use the professional mode and get more out of your smartphone photography.
The selfie camera isn’t quite up to the same standard - a shame when last year’s V20 was so competent - but overall, this is a great snapper attached to a top phone.LG V30 photo samples
- Read our LG V30 review
The iPhone 8 Plus is only behind the iPhone X because it’s got a slight higher aperture on the second sensor, meaning low-light photography isn’t quite as good.
Apart from that, the main camera images are almost identical to those shot from the more expensive phone, and you’ll be pleased with the results time and again. Portrait mode continues to improve and can bring some stunning results, and while the front-facing camera isn’t TrueDepth-enabled (so you can’t do blurred-background selfies) it’s still very good.
On top of that, the iPhone 8 Plus has another big advantage over the competition: you can record 4K in crisp 60 frames per second, or super slow motion video at 240 frames per second.
If you can’t quite afford the iPhone X but want a great camera from an Apple phone, this is the place to look.iPhone 8 Plus photo samples
- Read our full iPhone 8 Plus review
The thing we like about the camera on the P10 Plus is that it’s so fully-featured, and easy to use in all the modes.
For instance, the camera task bar in the app is easy to use and makes it a cinch to open up the wider-aperture mode and bring some sparkle to your snaps.
The camera app itself is fast to use, easy to interact with and overall just results in some good images. It’s not the best around - as referenced by how low down on the list this phone is - but the sensors working together bring the ability to refocus an image after it’s taken.
Yes, that’s a feature that a number of phones here offer, but it’s - again - easy to do on the Huawei P10 Plus.
On top of that, low light performance is pretty impressive - better than on the standard P10, which doesn’t make the cut here - so that’s why we’re plumping for the P10 PIus on our ranking.Huawei P10 Plus photo samples
- Read our full Huawei P10 Plus review
The Huawei Mate 10 Pro is another step forward for a brand looking to really focus (sorry) on its photography performance.
The interesting thing is the Mate 10 Pro has the weakest performance in ‘standard’ light of all the cameras on this list - it’s a phone for the more professional user, as the name suggests.
Getting close, or using the phone in low light, will result in some great shots - and that’s a lot to do with the fact Huawei is combining monochrome and color sensors into its handset for the best mix of low-light and rich images - and the results bear out.
The Aperture Mode also allows you to fit far more into the frame, so while Mate 10 Pro isn’t the best snapper overall in a smartphone, it does reward those looking to put effort into their photos - and it’s a sensor bolted onto a really rather decent camera too, with simply sensational two-day battery life.Huawei Mate 10 Pro photo samples
- Read our full Huawei Mate 10 Pro review
The only phone on our list from 2016, the iPhone 7 Plus gets into the mix by adding in some of the fanciest Apple photography skills into a more affordable package.
Don’t get us wrong - this phone still isn’t cheap. But at the same time, it’s got two sensors that allow you take portrait-mode snaps that come out cleanly and crisply most of the time.
The day-to-day snapping is very impressive too, even after a year - yes, it’s not quite got the visual clout of the 8 Plus, or the iPhone X, but it’s better than the single sensor on the iPhone 8, and for that reason alone we’ve got it on the list.
The selfie camera could be a touch better, especially compared to some of the rivals, but the ‘screen flash’ capability helps mitigate that by offering sharp self-images on low light.iPhone 7 plus photo samples
- Read our full iPhone 7 Plus review
People can easily forget that HTC is one of the best brands for photography on a smartphone, leading the way for so many years.
The HTC U11 is another strong smartphone photography performer, with clear snaps, the ability to shoot in RAW and some of the nicest night-time shots we’ve ever captured with a smartphone.
However, the way to get those is to take them in RAW mode and then enhance afterwards - it takes a while but the results can be awesome.
The thing that irks the most about this camera is that there’s a touch of shutter lag in the mix, which gets tiresome every time you want a quick picture.
But we can forgive that thanks to the selfie capabilities - the sheer capability of HTC’s proprietary UltraPixel technology to get a great front-facing picture in low light is magnificent.HTC U11 photo samples
- Read our full HTC U11 review
BT and Huawei have teamed up to form a research group at the University of Cambridge. The project, set to last five years, is going to focus on a range of areas including photonics and access network infrastructure.
In addition, the group, comprising experts from the two companies as well as academics from the university, will be looking at how communications impact on society. The aim of the project is to explore ways to reduce overheads for UK business, either by reducing the cost of network infrastructure or by boosting operational performance.
One area that the researchers are hoping to explore is in the role that new technologies have to play in delivering positive impacts for society, either by reducing inequality or by using ICT technologies to improve resilience of communities to climate change.
The two companies have signed a memorandum of understanding, setting out future plans. The new project is set to get under way in the first half of 2018 with five to ten researchers from BT and Huawei working alongside their University collaborators.Research on impact of technology
Prof Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor at the University of Cambridge, said: “The world of telecommunications has advanced rapidly over the last two decades. However, there is still work to be done to improve the technologies we use on a daily basis and to ensure that they are long-lived. By working with BT and Huawei we will be able to demonstrate that the insights delivered through our research have a broad impact.”
Gavin Patterson, BT Group chief executive added: “BT’s infrastructure is the engine of the UK economy, so it is essential that we continue to innovate in this space to enhance the UK’s competitiveness on the world stage towards and through Brexit. BT currently invests around £500m every year in R&D, and over the last ten years we’ve been the third biggest contributor to the UK’s R&D efforts.”
As well as short term projects, the research group is also looking well to the future, by using the funding to support longer-term, ‘blue skies’ research projects being progressed by postgraduate students.
- Best Huawei Mate 9 deals
With exactly one week to go before the world erupts into a Black Friday sales frenzy, Mobiles.co.uk has served up an early cracker of a Galaxy S8 deal. In fact, it's the best price we've seen yet on Samsung's brilliant 2017 flagship phone and will run until the end of Black Friday itself.
And we've worked with the retailer to offer TechRadar readers an exclusive discount to knock a further £30 off the upfront cost. That means it's £60 at the start and then only £26 per month, with 4GB of data and unlimited everything else on O2. All you have to do is follow the link and then type in the voucher code TRBLKFRIS8 at the checkout.
This is the first time that we've ever seen the Galaxy S8 burst under the £700 mark for the two year contract. It's miles ahead of everything else on the market, with the next best deal giving you only 2GB of data and costing around £85 more in total.
This isn't the only excellent deal that Mobiles.co.uk is offering on the Galaxy S8. If you need some extra data to stream, surf and download with, then keep scrolling to see what else is on offer from the Carphone Warehouse brand.Samsung Galaxy S8 mega deals in full:
Apple has delayed its long-awaited smart speaker, the HomePod, until 2018.
The speaker, which was announced at WWDC 2017, was previously due to be released in December 2017.
A spokesperson confirmed the delay to TechCrunch, saying “We can’t wait for people to experience HomePod, Apple’s breakthrough wireless speaker for the home, but we need a little more time before it’s ready for our customers. We’ll start shipping in the US, UK and Australia in early 2018.”
You might think, given that most ISPs no longer provide direct access to it and the majority of the free providers online have disappeared, that the venerable Usenet service has died a death. But that's not entirely true; there are still many active discussion areas in the bigger groups.
But let's be realistic: the real reason to lean towards Usenet in the current age is for file sharing – the groups below alt.binaries.* are very active, carrying many downloadable files of all kinds. But to gain access to the large amount of Usenet bandwidth you'll need in order to collect these files, you'll have to pay.
The key if you're looking at binary newsgroups is, due to Usenet's distributed server architecture, in finding a provider whose servers are fast, and who retains copies of binary files uploaded to Usenet for as long as possible. So with that – and many other – considerations in mind, here’s our breakdown of the best Usenet providers.
- Also check out our best free download managers of 2017
If you want a strong all-rounder of a Usenet service, then look no further than this provider. Newshosting sports ample retention, and runs its own server farms in the US and Europe, offering more than a hundred thousand newsgroups.
You also get some high quality client software not just for Windows and Mac, but Linux as well. You can add Newshosting’s VPN offering to your package, for extra privacy and security online beyond the basic SSL encryption which you get by default.
In terms of performance, this Usenet provider impressed us with fast download speeds. It also passed our tests in retrieving old binaries with flying colors, as well. Are there any negatives at all here? There’s very little to complain about, save for the VPN client being a little basic, but that doesn’t actually reflect on the core Usenet service anyway.
Newshosting is competitively priced, particularly with the deal in place at the time of writing, and you can try it out for yourself before committing with a 14-day free trial.
Eweka is an impressive operation indeed, running its own data centre in Amsterdam, and the firm has its own trans-Atlantic backbone, too (although no US servers as yet).
There’s a lengthy 3,356 days of retention offered here, which is among the strongest Usenet offerings in that respect, and while you only get up to 20 connections maximum, which is less than many rivals, we found performance to be very speedy in our tests. And really, that’s what counts.
There’s plenty more to like with Eweka besides, including the fact that the service performed well when it came to our retention testing (grabbing old files). There’s also an unrestricted seven-day trial to give the service a whirl, and this doesn’t require you to enter any payment details, either. Considering what you get here, the service is reasonably priced, too.
- [$8.69 a month] Prepaid (50Mbps, 8 connections)
- [$8.69 a month] Subscription (300Mbps, 20 connections)
Supernews is a veteran Usenet provider having been in operation since the mid-90s, and it has servers across the US and Europe. You get 2,357 days of binary retention and 5,021 days of text retention, and access to over 110,000 newsgroups.
What’s more, Supernews keeps multiple copies of articles across its network, and the firm claims that this helps to ensure a 100% completion rate. And on the performance front, you get unlimited speed, with the provider guaranteeing that your connection won’t be throttled in any way, shape or form.
Supernews keeps things pleasingly simple when it comes to plan choices, as well, because there’s only one: a straightforward unlimited plan with a monthly fee. It’s not the cheapest subscription around, but this is a quality service, and you get a three-day trial to test it out first. Also note that with the TechRadar Pro offer in place at the time of writing, you get your first month at half price.
Newsgroupdirect offers an impressive retention level of 3,370 days, and maintains its own network. As with the previous provider, it makes a big promise on the completion rate front, guaranteeing users 100% completion. And furthermore, 100% uptime is also promised.
You get a plentiful 50 connections even with the most basic plan, along with SSL encryption, and access to the Ghost Path VPN service for extra security and privacy on top. Again, the VPN comes bundled with all plans, which is good to see. Customer support is another strong suit here, as well.
While there is no free trial, Newsgroupdirect does offer a seven-day money-back guarantee, so if you’re not satisfied in the first week, you don’t lose anything – although note that you must not have used more than 15GB of bandwidth.
Subscription plans are competitively priced, although it’s slightly disappointing that you don’t get much better value for signing up to the annual plan compared to the six-month option.
Easynews is a slick operator that differentiates itself by offering the ability to access Usenet directly from within your web browser. That’s obviously a commendably hassle-free way to do things, and the web interface is well crafted, plus it also means you can access the service across all your devices (with no software installation necessary).
Retention rates vary, but with the top-end plan you get 2,950 days retention via the web interface (3,364 days retention via NNTP), although considerably less on some of the more basic plans. That Big Gig Plan also gives you a bundled VPN service (albeit with a rather basic client).
Also handy is a 14-day free trial which lets you experience the service before you pay for a subscription (note that there is a 10GB bandwidth limit). However, this provider isn’t cheap, particularly if you want unlimited data, and in that case things get pretty expensive.
- [$9.98 a month] Classic Plan (20GB per month)
- [$14.97 a month] Plus Plan (40GB per month)
- [$29.94 a month] Big Gig Plan (150GB per month plus VPN, unlimited data via NNTP)
Resellers are quite common in the Usenet world, and for good reason: by purchasing a large amount of bandwidth from a major service provider, they can negotiate better terms and sell on that access to you for a vastly discounted rate. One of the biggest providers to resellers is HighWinds, which counts nearly 30 clients operating from its vast server backbone.
HighWinds reseller NewsDemon is our pick of the bunch, offering 50 simultaneous connections and unlimited SSL-secured transfers from European and US servers for a more-than-reasonable £3.60 ($4.70) per month – or perhaps less, we've seen different prices listed during different visits. There are also block accounts available.
There's the bonus of a VPN connection if you're willing to spend a bit more, or transfer-capped block accounts for a little less. If you're employed in education, charitable work, or certain media outlets NewsDemon will even offer you free access – though in the interests of disclosure we should be clear that we've not taken advantage of this offer.
- [$4.70 a month] 50GB data
- [$5.60 a month] 75GB data
- [$6.55 a month] 100GB data
- [$7.50 a month] 200GB data
- [$8.40 a month] 500GB data
- [$9.40 a month] Unlimited data
- Blocks from: $3.75 for 10GB
GigaNews is amongst the most expensive Usenet providers, but its price reflects the sum of its parts. Alongside access to newsgroups – naturally – a $24.99 (£19) per month Diamond subscription gets you the use of GigaNews' own Mimo Usenet browser and search engine, SSL access to its servers, and the pro version of Golden Frog's multi-faceted VyprVPN service.
Whatever you're using it for – and even if you're doing something else online entirely – the extra layer of privacy offered by a quality VPN has to be reassuring.
GigaNews' server availability is another plus, with multiple redundancy on US and EU servers owned and run by the company itself. The real question, however, is whether you plan to use all of the features GigaNews offers. If you're looking to Usenet access for the conversations this is absolutely overkill, and for binary downloads it's still rather expensive, but if quality is your top priority, then it’s a good choice.
- [$4.99 a month] 5GB data
- [$9.99 a month] 10GB data
- [$14.99 a month] 50GB data
- [$14.99 a month] Unlimited data
- [$19.99 a month] Unlimited data
Astraweb is another of Usenet's big mainstays, having run since 1998. Sign up and you're actually gaining access to two distinct services – its download servers in the US and the Netherlands are run as separate companies, and one server may contain files that the other does not. Essentially Astraweb gives you a main server and a backup server for the price of one.
Users have reported that its quality has declined over the years. Whether or not you believe this is up to you, but Astraweb's longevity in the market does earn it some brownie points, and it does not resell its services meaning you should see a consistent download rate from its servers.
Retention is one of the highest we've seen at over 3,000 days, with a claimed 99% availability. Seeing as the 1% that's missing could be the one critical part of a binary you need, Astraweb – even with its dual servers – is probably best used with a block account on hand.
- [$10 a month] 10Mbps speed
- [$6.66 a month] - $20 for 3 months; 10Mbps speed
- [$15 a month] Unlimited speed
- [$13 a month] - $39 for 3 months; Unlimited speed
- Blocks from: $10 for 25GB
This is a European Usenet provider which offers solid core features, and it’s a fairly priced service to boot. One interesting point to note is that there is a VPN bundled here, although it only comes with the most expensive plan.
We found performance to be impressive with Tweaknews with fast download speeds, and it was also good to see that the included VPN (which is Highwinds-based) managed a commendable turn of speed. In fact, it was comparable to a good specialist VPN provider.
On the downside here, retention isn’t great, and when we encountered an issue with the service, we found that tech support was on the sluggish side.
In terms of cost, there’s plenty of flexibility, and if you sign up for annual billing, there are some good value deals to be had – and you can benefit from block subscriptions, too, if that’s the route you prefer to take. There’s also a free trial which gives you 10GB of data to play with (but it has a limit of eight connections).
- [$9.23 a month / $6.77 a month billed annually] Fast (50Mbit, 30 connections)
- [$11.55 a month / $8.70 a month billed annually] Lightning (100Mbit, 40 connections)
- [$15.04 a month / $10.53 a month billed annually] Ultimate + VPN (Unlimited speed, 40 connections, VPN)
If you want a dependable Usenet offering with a good core service, then look no further than this affordable provider – although be warned, it isn’t for newsgroup novices.
UsenetServer gives you plenty of retention at 3,363 days, a promised 99% completion rate, and no restrictions such as data limits or throttling of your download speeds. A slight weak point is that you can only have a maximum of 20 connections, which is less than many services, but that said, in testing we found UsenetServer to offer good performance levels anyway, so this likely won’t matter.
What may matter for beginners is that UsenetServer is rather shaky when it comes to help and tech support, and while it does offer a bundled VPN for extra security, the Windows client for the latter is a poor piece of work. But if you’re an experienced user who knows what they’re doing, all this is likely moot, because you’ll find your own way around the service just fine anyway.
The other strength here is that this is a relatively wallet-friendly provider, particularly when you consider that with the annual plan, the VPN service is bundled in. There’s also a free 14-day trial (with a 10GB data transfer limit).
- [$10 a month] 1 Month Plan (Unlimited downloads)
- [$7.95 a month] 12 Month Plan (Unlimited downloads plus bundled VPN)
AMD revealed its Ryzen mobile CPUs a few weeks back, and now the first laptop that has one of these processors has gone on sale in the UK.
The HP Envy x360 (model number: 15-bq100na) is powered by the Ryzen 5 2500U and is on sale at both Amazon and Very, although the bad news is that it seems to be out of stock at both retailers as of the time of writing. Hopefully that situation will change very soon, though.
The other not-so-great news is that this laptop doesn’t come cheap, and it will set you back £930 at both retailers.Cushty convertible
So what do you get for the money? A convertible 15.6-inch notebook with the aforementioned Ryzen 5 2500U quad-core (eight-thread) processor with a base clock of 2GHz and boost to 3.6GHz, along with integrated Radeon Vega M graphics.
The display has a Full HD resolution, and you get 8GB of system RAM and a 128GB SSD plus 1TB hard drive for storage. Battery life is claimed at up to 10 hours.
The Ryzen-toting HP Envy x360 went on sale in the US at the start of the week (at Best Buy), so it’s good to see the UK is not far behind – that isn’t always the case when it comes to hardware winging its way across the Atlantic.
- Some of the best laptops could soon use Ryzen processors
Garmin Pay is now available on the Vivoactive 3 allowing you to make contactless payments while you're out exercising without your cards or your phone.
The service is powered by a white-label payment platform called FitPay that allows you to attach your Mastercard or Visa to the service and then use NFC inside the watch to pay on contactless terminals.
Whether you'll be able to use Garmin Pay on your Vivoactive 3 is a different question though - you'll have to look at the list of supporting banks here. Only some cards will be able to support it and so far it's just available in the US, Australia and a few other countries.
When the service will be launching in the UK is unclear, but we've asked Garmin for news of a start date.Sweaty payments
The Vivoactive 3 has an NFC chip inside that allows you to make the payments, much like you can with Android Pay or Apple Pay. At the moment there aren't any other Garmin devices that support the service.
We can likely expect future wearables from the company to support the tech, but so far there has yet to be any rumors about new devices from the firm.
The rollout of this feature comes soon after the Fitbit Ionic smartwatch brought its own payment solution that works in a very similar way too.
We've yet to finish our full review of the Vivoactive 3, but we had positive thoughts about it so we'd recommend checking out our hands on Vivoactive 3 review.
Whether you're getting up before dawn to hike up mountains for that one special sunrise shot, or commuting with your camera in tow, every photographer needs to keep their kit safe and protected, and from backpacks and day-sacks to holsters and rollers, photographers can now carry their kit, accessories (and even some lunch) in all kinds of luggage.
Most of bags featured here are for DSLR cameras, whose interchangeable lenses, some of them mighty in size, demand some thought when you're mobile. Most also now find room for a laptop – as big as 17 inches in some cases – or at least a tablet; with post-processing so integral to digital photography, who wants to wait until they get home to see how a photoshoot turned out?1. Thule Aspect DSLR Backpack
As well as a DSLR, various lenses and flashes, the long, slim Aspect can house a giant 15.6-inch laptop in a side-opening sleeve, as well as an iPad. It has the premium look and feel of a hiking backpack, and while it’s not a top hiking pack per se, it’s hard-wearing enough for all kinds of photography expeditions.
Sensibly, the camera can be accessed from a side pocket, there are lots of dividers that move easily and fit securely, and zips feature large plastic tags that can be easily tugged open with cold hands – handy for sunrise sessions or a northern lights hunt.2. Manfrotto Advanced Camera and Laptop Backpack
This backpack zips up a 13-inch laptop and a tablet in a front pocket, while the main compartment for camera gear is accessed under a padded, zipped lid on the back-facing side. It fits one DSLR body and three lenses, including a 70-200mm, and there are some useful design flourishes – as well as a roomy top section for accessories (and perhaps even a packed lunch), there’s a pull-out rain cover in the base, and an expandable tripod pocket. It's also sized to house a DJI Mavic Pro drone.3. Case Logic Kontrast KDH101 DSLR Zoom Holster
Despite there being some great backpack out there, no-one has yet produced a decent curved-back backpack for high-grade hiking that also stores a DSLR. The Kontrast doesn’t quite fill that niche, but it does act as a stop-gap – large enough to take a reasonably big lens (a 105mm fits fine), it can be stuffed into a backpack or slung over a shoulder while out on the trail.
Inside there’s a ‘hammock system’ halfway down for cradling and securing the lens, while the sides also have pockets for accessories and memory cards. Solid and good value, the Kontrast impresses.4. LowePro Streetline 140
This pocket-packed shoulder bag somehow manages to squeeze in both an 11-inch laptop and a tablet, as well as camera gear, while the padded kit compartment flat-packs when empty. Inside, three snap-shut pouches spring open to grip a compact mirrorless camera or DSLR (though it's best for smaller entry-level models).
It’s probably not rugged enough for landscape photographers, but it does well around the city – and it makes for a great carry-on bag for flights. It's even got a pass-through for a telescopic handle, so it can piggy-back on rolling luggage at airports.5. Moshi Arcus multi-function backpack
There’s something exceptionally streamlined about the Moshi Arcus. It's Japanese-inspired to the core in its neat, compact and modular design, with some discreet zippered body-facing pockets that are ideal for travel documents. However, you need to add the optional camera insert to allow it to store and protect DSLR camera gear – it can then take three lenses and one DSLR body (with handy side access), while without the insert the Moshi Arcus can store a 15-inch laptop. With additional padded pockets sized to take a smartphone and tablet, and with microfibre used throughout, this is a compelling proposition.6. ONA The Camps Bay
It's luxury choice for sure, but this retro-styled waxed canvas-and-buckles backpack is both outdoorsy tough, and has an incredible capacity for holding – and disguising – a lot of camera gear. The main compartment can store a DSLR with a 70-200mm lens attached, itself a rarity, but has room for six or seven additional lenses if the moveable dividers are carefully placed. There’s even space for a 17-inch laptop, it has a leather undercarriage for setting it down outside. However, with all that kit plus 2kg of canvas, The Camps Bay could get pretty heavy.7. LowePro Pro Roller X200 AW
Ideal for professional photographers or anyone flying off on a landscape photography expedition, a safari or an eclipse-chase, this TSA-approved roller can take two DSLRs and up to eight lenses sized up to 600mm. Its MaxFit padded dividers are adjustable, and there are plenty of pouches for accessories, including a 17-inch laptop. It’s got a tripod clasp on one side, and a couple of wheels so to roll through airports on, but this one is nevertheless best used for when you have a vehicle to take you to your next shoot.8. Thule Perspektiv M Toploader
Wearing a DSLR on your back has distinct disadvantages when it comes to extracting a camera quickly, so Thule has come up with this top-loading protective tube that's worn almost like a harness. Rigid and completely waterproof, including the zips (but also with an additional raincoat in a pouch on the undercarriage), it can hold a high-end DSLR camera with a 70-200mm lens, but no other accessories. However, there is also a waterproof pouch for a phone, and a couple of handy stash pockets on the outside that could be used to attach a reasonably small tripod. Great for an outdoors expedition in dodgy weather.9. Manfrotto Holster XS Plus
Designed for compact mirrorless APS-C cameras like the Sony A6500, Fujifilm X-T2 and Panasonic's Lumix G85/G80, this holster-style case makes good use of space. A camera fitted with an 18-50mm lens can easily fit inside the main compartment, while there’s a zip-around section attached to the bottom for another lens. It’s compact, sturdy and offers a lot of protection, but it's worth trying it out with your specific camera and lens to make sure it all fits neatly. As well as a shoulder strap and belt loops, the Holster XS Plus includes a few zipped pockets for SD cards and accessories.10. LowePro Taho BP 150
Looking more like traditional urban luggage than a camera bag, this bug-shaped backpack has a hard yet padded front lid that zips all around, and drops down for easy access. The dividers inside are easy to move and secure, and make it simple to configure for a DSLR and four or five lenses.
If used in that configuration there's just a small zipped area for other items, but an UltraFlex divider can be used to make the bag half for camera gear and half for other stuff, making the Tahoe BP 150 handy for anything from street photography to a serious hike. There's also an organizer area in the lid with a tablet pouch, and a couple of mesh side pockets.
For decades, the DSLR (digital SLR) has been the top choice for anyone who wants to take their photography to the next level. Whether you're a beginner or a pro, a DSLR offers three key ingredients: manual controls, excellent picture quality and interchangeable lenses.
Mirrorless cameras are another option of course. They're smaller, mechanically simpler and, like DSLRs, they take interchangeable lenses. If you want to know more about how they compare, read this: Mirrorless vs DSLR cameras: 10 key differences. Or, if you want to know more about different camera types in general, check out our step-by-step guide: What camera should I buy?
In between entry-level and full-frame DSLR are a whole range of models aimed at different users
A DSLR is still the cheapest way to get a camera with interchangeable lenses and a viewfinder (entry-level mirrorless cameras don't have viewfinders) and, at the other end of the scale, almost all professional sports, press and wildlife photographers choose full-frame DSLRs over every other camera type.
In between entry-level and full-frame DSLR are a whole range of models aimed at different users, different levels of experience and different budgets. Here's our pick of the standout DSLR cameras you can buy right now:
If you're looking for the ultimate DSLR right now, then the Nikon D850 is it. This full-frame monster of a camera might be pricey, but for the cash you get a stunning camera. The huge 45.4MP sensor delivers images with stunning detail and noise performance, while the sophisticated 153-point AF is borrowed from Nikon's flagship D5. Add in 7fps burst shooting and a host of advanced features, wrap it in a durable magnesium alloy body and you've got a camera that's pretty much at the top of its game for any subject you want to shoot. A brilliant piece of kit.
Read our in-depth Nikon D850 review
Canon's EOS 5D series of cameras has a rich heritage – the original EOS 5D bought full-frame photography to the masses, the Mark II unleashed Full HD video capture for the first time on a DSLR, and while the Mark III became a firm favourite amongst photographers. The EOS 5D Mark IV pretty much tweaks and improves on everything before it, with a new 30.4MP sensor and advanced 61-point AF system. A brilliant DSLR that was until recently our top pick, but the arrival of the D850 means it slips a place.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 5D Mark IV review
Nikon has taken its flagship D5 DSLR and most of its high-end features and distilled all of this into a smaller, but still very durable metal body. The full-frame sensor is replaced by an 20.9MP APS-C sized chip that allows the D500 to shoot at a rapid 10fps and deliver a great high ISO performance. A brilliant all-rounder with a brilliant 153-point AF system means it excels at fast action like sports and wildlife photography, but still has the chops to shoot landscapes and portraits. If the cost is a bit steep, then take a look at the D7500. It sits below the D500 and inherits many of its tech, including the 20.9MP sensor.
Read our in-depth Nikon D500 review
Cheaper than the D500 and while it doesn't offer quite the same pro-spec performance, the Nikon D7500 packs in the same excellent 20.9MP sensor, but in an even more compact and affordable body. The new camera may not get the 153-point AF system from the D500, but the enhanced 51-point system in the D7500 still puts a lot of rival systems in the shade, while the 4K video capture, tilt-angle touchscreen display and 8fps burst shooting are some of the highlights. The D7500 is bound to be a tempting prospect for both new and existing users. Alternatively, take a look at the 24.2MP D7200 - it may have been surpassed by the D7500, but it's still one of the best enthusiast DSLRs out there.
Read our in-depth Nikon D7500 review
Just like D500 above, the EOS 7D Mark II borrows much from its big brother, the EOS-1D X (that's now been replaced by the EOS-1D X Mark II), bringing 10fps shooting and a professional autofocus system to the amateur market. Now you can shoot action and sports like the pros, but at a price within the reach of enthusiasts. The EOS 7D Mark II isn't just a high-speed specialists, it's a terrific all-round camera. It's tough, with an alloy body and weather-sealed controls, it has a great sensor with an advanced dual-pixel hybrid autofocus system, and it's a powerful video camera too.
Read our in-depth Canon EOS 7D Mark II review
Like the looks of Nikon's D810 further up the top, but don't want to shell out quite that much, then look no further than the 24MP full-frame D750. It doesn't have that magnificent 36-megapixel sensor that the D810 does, but its 24-megapixel alternative still delivers top quality results, especially at high ISO settings. The D750 is also a bit more versatile than the D810, with a faster 6.5fps continuous shooting speed, a handy tilting screen and a lower price – and you still get the enhanced autofocus system and Picture Control 2.0 options of the D810.
Read our in-depth Nikon D750 review
At the opposite end of the spectrum to some of the full-frame DSLRs here, the D3400 is cheap as chips, has one of the sharpest APS-C sensors there is and a neat retracting kit lens. It's proof that you don't have to pay a fortune to get a great camera, and we say its sheer value for money makes it just as impressive as much more advanced (and much more expensive) alternatives. It has a great 24MP sensor and although the controls are designed to be simple for novices, in the right hands the little D3400 is a match for cameras costing far more. A great DSLR for the first-time user.
Read our in-depth Nikon D3400 review
Costing a bit more than the Nikon D3400, but offering quite a bit more in the way of features, the Canon EOS Rebel T7i (known as the EOS 800D outside the US) is a great entry-level DSLR. The new sensor impresses, as does the 45-point autofocus system backed up by excellent live view AF, while the newly designed graphical interface will certainly make this camera even more appealing to new users. The absence of 4K video and the quality of the exterior materials disappoint, but this aside, if you're looking for a well-rounded and easy to use camera for your first DSLR the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D is certainly a very good bet.
Now overshadowed by the D850, the D810 is still a great buy. It's built like a tank, it handles beautifully and it doesn't cost the earth - well, when compared to competition that is. While the 36.3MP resolution has been eclipsed by the Canon EOS 5DS and Sony Alpha A7R II, it still delivers stunning results with huge amounts of detail. If you're into sports, action and wildlife photography, the modest 5fps burst shooting might be a bit restrictive, but otherwise, the D810 is still a great DSLR that's now better value than ever.
Read our in-depth Nikon D810 review
The K-1 offers a rugged build and a full-frame sensor at a relatively affordable price. It's not cheap, but it compares favourably with the likes of the Nikon D810, Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Sony Alpha 7R II. Pentax's Pixel Shift Technology is clever, and it's great that the company has managed to produce a mode that can be used when the camera is handheld, although the impact is subtle. Less of an all-rounder than the 5D Mk III, the K-1 makes an excellent camera for landscape, still life and portrait photography, or any genre that doesn't require fast autofocus and which benefits from a high pixel count for detail resolution.
Read our in-depth Pentax K-1 review
PDFs don’t always convert perfectly to Word format – particularly if they use fonts that aren’t installed on your PC, or lots of images – but these free PDF to Word converters will give you the best possible results.
Portable Data File (PDF) documents are designed for sharing information, and look the same regardless of which hardware and software is used to view them.
PDFs aren't designed for editing though, so if you need change or extract text or images, the easiest way is to convert it to a Word document, which you can then open with the office software of your choice (whether that’s Microsoft Word or a free alternative like LibreOffice Writer). There are several free programs that can do the job, using different techniques to identify and extract
WPS PDF to Word Converter is a brand new tool from the developer behind one of our favorite free office suites, WPS Office.
It’s incredibly easy to use – just drag the file onto the software’s main screen and pick the export format (options include DOC, DOCX, and RTF) and click ‘Start’.Document converted using WPS PDF to Word Converter
Because it’s a desktop app, WPS PDF to Word Converter is noticeably faster than online tools, and can process files in batches. The free edition will convert PDFs up to five pages long, so if you want to convert larger documents you’ll need to divide it into chunks first using a tool like PDFSAM. Alternatively, the premium version of WPS PDF to Word Converter costs £22.95 (US$29.95, AU$39.95), with no limit on pagination.
The exported Word documents are very impressive – easily the best of all the PDF to Word converters we tested. Images were preserved and aligned correctly, text formatting was retained, and font styles and weights were accurately reproduced. If you want to convert a PDF to an editable Word document, WPS PDF to Word Converter is the best tool by far.
Download here: WPS PDF to Word Converter
As the name suggests, Free Online OCR is a web app uses optical character recognition to identify text in PDFs. This means it works with scanned documents as well as original files – essential if you want to convert and edit a printed handout from a lecture, for example.Document converted using Free Online OCR
Free Online OCR can only convert one file at a time, up to 5GB in size. Select your PDF, pick a language, choose a format (Microsoft Word, Excel, or plain text), and then enter a Captcha to start the conversion.
After a few seconds you’re provided with a link to download the converted file. Unlike some web apps, there’s no need to provide an email address, then wait for the link to be delivered.
In our tests, Free Online OCR did a great job of preserving our PDF’s formatting, presenting text in editable columns. We were particularly impressed that the image was formatted as a header, and locked in place.
The limitations of OCR were visible in a few places – text on colored backgrounds wasn’t always identified, and there were a few rogue tabs and line breaks – but it wouldn’t take much tweaking to get the Word document looking almost identical to the PDF. Free Online OCR is very impressive – we just wish it was available as a desktop app so we didn’t have to upload files one at a time.
Try it online: Free Online OCR
There are two versions of Nitro PDF to Word Converter – a desktop app for Windows and an online version – but only the latter is free to use forever.Document converted using Nitro PDF to Word Converter
You can upload multiple files, and there’s a good choice of import and export formats (including Word, PowerPoint and Excel), but there are some significant drawbacks. Unlike Free Online OCR, Nitro PDF to Word Converter emails your converted file to you, and each email address is limited to five file conversions per month – a pretty severe limit that severely restricts its usefulness.
Text was maintained quite well in our converted document – including the keylines between columns, which was a pleasant surprise – but the main image didn’t survive the change of format. There were also some rogue spaces and line breaks, though these wouldn’t take long to correct manually.
Try it online: Nitro PDF to Word Converter
UniPDF is a desktop app, which means it avoids the issues of slow upload and download speeds associated with online tools, and means you don’t have to trust your documents to a third party that might keep them cached.Document converted using UniPDF
The trial edition of UniPDF can only convert three pages – to convert more you’ll need to either upgrade to the paid version, or split your PDF using a tool like PDFsam, then recombine the resulting Word documents.
In our tests, UniPDF preserved the overall look of our magazine page, including images, but struggled with complex text formatting. Columns ran into one another, and in some cases the converted text was a dramatically different size to the original, making it tricky to adjust. A few letters were also missing here and there, leaving us with quite an extensive cleanup job to get the Word document to a functional state.
Download here: UniPDF
Free File Converter is another online-only tool, and it’s capable of much more than just PDF to Word conversions; it can handle a huge range of formats, and its key selling point is its ability to save files from video sites including DailyMotion and eHow.Document converted using Free File Converter
You can only convert one file at a time, but the process is simple – click ‘Convert file’, choose an output format and click ‘Convert’. As with OnlineOCR, there’s no need to provide an email address and wait for a message – the download link appears on-screen immediately.
Unfortunately, the results were disappointing. The text from our PDF was converted well enough. But all images and formatting were lost, including headings, columns and font styles.
Line breaks also appeared in awkward places, so even if you just wanted the text, you’d need to spend some quality time with Find and Replace, or your backspace key. If you only want the words, you’d be better off converting the document to plain text format.
Try it online: Free File Converter
We've teamed up with EditShare, the creator of the brilliant Lightworks video editing suite, to offer TechRadar readers 40% off a monthly license to Lightworks Pro using the discount code TECHRADAR_LW_PRO_MONTH_2017.
Rather than the usual price of US$24.99/£17.99 (about AU$35), you'll pay just US$14.99/£10.79 (about AU$20).
To use your discount code, register for a Lightworks account, sign in and visit the Lightworks shop. Paste the code TECHRADAR_LW_PRO_MONTH_2017 into the input field above the shopping card and click 'Submit'. The field will only be visible if you're signed in.Professional video editing for everyone
Lightworks has been used to create films including The King's Speed and Road to Perdition, and EditShare has just won a 2017 Emmy for Technology and Engineering for its work in pioneering post-processing.
The offer applies to a monthly license, not a subscription or recurring payment, and the code is valid until January 31 2018.
BT has today announced its Black Friday internet offers, and they're a bunch of belters. Sign up to BT broadband by midnight on Cyber Monday (November 27) and get a hefty Reward Card (worth up to £125), free activation and access to the BT Sport app for the duration of the 18-month contract. Lovely jubbly!
Our top pick is the super fast BT Infinity 1 fibre broadband deal. It costs £29.99 per month, but you get a whopping £100 pre-paid Mastercard, free access to BT Sport and the only thing you'll pay at the outset is £9.99 to cover the delivery of your new router. You also get free calls to UK landlines at the weekend.
If that's still a little pricey for you, or if you're one of the unlucky folk that can't get fibre broadband, then standard 17Mb ADSL costs a mere £23.99. You still get free set-up and BT Sport, but the Reward Card you get is worth £50 instead of £100.
The Reward Card that BT sends out is a pre-paid credit card that you can use anywhere that accepts Mastercard. In short, that's around a million shops, cafes and restaurants around the world, so you shouldn't find it difficult to find places to spend, spend, spend.
It's an old-fashioned chip and pin card, rather than contactless. But do make sure that you claim your Reward Card within three months of installation, otherwise you'll lose out on all that cash.Best broadband deals
If you're still um-ing and ah-ing over whether to go for one of these BT broadband offers, or if you want to see what other TV or phone options there are, then check out our BT broadband deals page - our bespoke price comparison table will help you choose, with packages that include unlimited calls and cheap BT Sports subscriptions. And if you want still more internet alternatives, then head on over to our main broadband deals comparison page.
Forget Game of Thrones, how about a gaming throne? That would come courtesy of Secretlab, which has just launched updated versions of its sporty Throne and flagship Omega lines of PC gaming chairs.
Both new versions of the Throne and Omega (pictured above) have better inner cushioning, to allow for a more even distribution of the player's weight across the seat, and therefore improved comfort levels.
Also contributing to the comfort is a new memory foam lumbar pillow, designed to mold to the body and effectively support the lower back.
Furthermore, Secretlab has worked on the arm rests of both chairs, improving their ergonomics and making them wider, again to make things more comfortable for the user. The hydraulic lift now offers a more extensive range of height levels, too, to suit more people.
Meet your new PC gaming throne: the Secretlab, well, ThroneBack benefits
On top of all this, the Omega 2018 has been given a new design with a more modern look, complete with back rest wings which are positioned lower down, and are more prominent, with the aim of reducing stress on the back.
The Omega has a multi-functional tilt mechanism, as before, and is padded with a layer of cold-cured foam for better comfort, and is finished in stain-resistant leather. It retails at £400 (around $525, AU$695) in the UK but will be reduced to £279 (around $370, AU$485) as a launch offer – think of it as an early Black Friday deal.
The Throne 2018 (pictured above) has been redesigned to an even greater extent, moving away from the traditional bucket seat to a contemporary design that will be more at home in your average study or even office.
The ‘go-faster’ style striping has also been dropped for similar reasons, with solid blocks of color being adopted instead (albeit still more vibrant coloring for a ‘sporty’ feel: you can choose from red or purple).
The Throne 2018 is pitched at £350 (around $460, AU$605), but again a special launch offer will see it reduced to £249 (around $330, AU$430). Pre-orders for the chairs go live today, so you can move now to snag one of the aforementioned discounts.
We’re planning to take a look at these chairs soon, so keep an eye on our best gaming chairs roundup to see if they make the cut.
- Maybe you'll need one of the best gaming PCs to go with your new chair
Boston Dynamics, the robotics firm that was owned by Google/Alphabet for a while but then got sold to Softbank in June, has come a long way since BigDog.
The company has just released a video of its humanoid robot Atlas. In it, the bot jumps from the ground to crates, from one crate to another, and even from a crate to the floor while doing a backflip in the process.
Yes, you read that right - a backflip. Here's the video to prove it:Center of gravity
I probably don't need to tell you that this is impressive. But the reason why it's impressive is because the robot is able to maintain its balance on landing despite its very high center of gravity and unstable legs.
Most of the time, anyway. Keep watching and you'll see the robot take a tumble at the end of the video. But the robot can now get back up on its own, so it has even less need to keep humans around.
"Atlas' ability to balance while performing tasks allows it to work in a large volume while occupying only a small footprint," says Boston Dynamics on its website.
"Stereo vision, range sensing and other sensors give Atlas the ability to manipulate objects in its environment and to travel on rough terrain. Atlas keeps its balance when jostled or pushed and can get up if it tips over."
The best bit of the video? It's got to be the little celebratory hand-raise after the backflip. Cute!
The mobile market is a very competitive one. As we brace ourselves for Christmas, we can expect to ourselves showered with special offers as vendors and providers try to make sure that their product is the one under the tree.
That’s certainly the case for the consumer market: we’ve see initiatives this month from O2 and Vodafone that have been aimed at attracting new customers – and, more pertinently, keeping their old ones. But what of the business market? Are business buyers being left out of things? Are the mobile phone producers doing enough to encourage them to make purchases?
Most definitely says Vodafone UK’s director of small business, Stuart Rowley. “We’re constantly innovating: whether that’s by bringing new technology such as unified communications or IoT to businesses or by creating offers and plans that mean firms both large and small can get the most out of their mobile service. As an example, earlier this year we launched a new range of mobile solutions custom-made for those running small businesses with up to nine employees, many of whom rely on mobile services to keep connected to their customers, suppliers and staff. “
In some ways, businesses are already ahead of the game. They will have much savvier purchasing departments, run by people who cognizant with all aspects of contracts. So, it’s not likely that, for example, we’d see the same amount of over-paying that was reported by Citizens Advice last month, or see examples of holiday-makers hit by bills for thousands of pounds as they have not understood the implications of roaming,
“I think the business market is less dependent on, or attracted by drama,” says Bryan Betts, analyst with Freeform Dynamics, “Sure, drama gets headlines but it's a consumer thing. Plus the biggest rip-offs have been linked to individual contracts that bundled in handsets, which isn't necessarily how businesses buy phones.
It’s also true that while consumer plans are highly price sensitive, business deals may be more dependent on other factors. For example, says Rowley, customers can select the support which is right for their business. The plans offer a range of business-focused features such as: damage insurance with Vodafone Rapid including 4-hour phone replacement, or there’s the Business Premier tariff, where a data-share SIM is included.”Businesses can still change
As can be seen from these sort of products, what’s more important to these customers is the variety of services on offer – there’s little mention of price. While it’s true that no business is going to pay more than it has to – and small businesses In particular will keep a tight grip on the bottom line - savings of a few pounds won’t be high on the CFO’s agenda: parents may be able to turn off their teenagers’ international roaming when they go abroad, but that’s not going to be appropriate for a C-level executive.
Individuals can go without a phone for a few days , even teenagers -although in normal circumstances they have to be surgically detached – but for businesses, mobiles are a lifeblood. “A mobile is no longer just used to call or text a customer or colleague on the go. It’s possible to run your business from a mobile device and from anywhere, and there are a huge range of cloud-based business apps out there to help businesses do just that,” says Rowley
Given this dependency, there would need to be pressing reasons to make a change. That’s not to say the companies will always be happy with the way that things are. There will always be deals or a better range of services on the table: the knack will be finding them.
As Betts points out “Business users should benefit too but it's going to happen slowly - or slower - not least because businesses are usually tied into longer-term contracts. It's also harder for businesses to change than it is for consumers, whether because of the bureaucracy or simply because it's seen as somebody else's problem.”
Vodafone is looking to address this issue by offering a degree of flexibility. “We’ve adapted the One Net Business solution so SMEs can buy the fixed communication element of the service first, depending on where they are with their mobile contract. This means it’s easy for businesses to link their mobiles into the system when the time is right for them,” says Rowley.
Although companies such as Vodafone are looking to extend their offerings, it’s not to say the business purchasers should be complacent. While we’re not going to see business deals bandied about this Christmas, it could be time to take stock and look what’s around.
And just because you’re an established business. it doesn’t mean everything is as good as it could be. as Betts explains, there’s always room for improvement. “If you've got a good purchasing department and a serious number of phones you should have a pretty good deal already. But this is a good opportunity to see if there's more savings to be had.”
Maybe Father Christmas will be calling at a few businesses after all.
- What are the best business mobiles?
Next to a telephoto zoom lens, a super-wide-angle optic is one of the most popular accessories for a DSLR.
Most kit lenses offer a widest focal length of 28mm equivalent, or sometimes even 24mm at their wide end. This does give your camera a pretty wide angle of view, but sometimes that's not quite enough.
You notice it most when you're photographing large buildings or other landmarks, and when you're trying to get group shots across a narrow street, for example. It can also be difficult to 'get everything in' when you're shooting indoors.
This is where a super-wide-angle lens comes into its own – but having the wider angle of view isn't just a practical benefit. With a super-wide lens you can get much closer to your subjects without cropping them off, and this produces some brilliantly exaggerated perspectives. It goes without saying that they're perfect for landscape photography as well.
Super-wide-angle lenses can give your pictures a real sense of depth. They produce strongly converging lines that help lead your eyes into the picture and they help to create a 'story' that links your subject to its surroundings.
You can get super-wide-angle lenses made by your camera manufacturer and by third-party lens makers, but here you need to make sure you get the right lens mount for your camera before you click on the 'Buy' button. Occasionally, lenses may be sold at different prices for different camera mounts.APS-C vs full-frame
There is something else to be aware of – it's really important that you choose super-wide-angle lenses designed for your camera's sensor size. You can use a lens designed for full frame cameras on those with smaller APS-C sensors, but you'll lose the super-wide-angle effect.
For example, on a full-frame Canon DSLR like the EOS 6D Mark II, a standard zoom or 'kit' lens will be in the range 24-70mm, so Canon's EF 17-40mm full frame lens gives a really wide angle of view.
But on a Canon with an APS-C sensor, like the EOS Rebel T7i / EOS 800D, the kit lens will typically be in the 18-55mm range, and you'll need a 10-20mm zoom, or thereabouts, to get a super-wide angle of view.
You can fit the full frame Canon 17-40mm lens to an APS-C Canon, but you'll be using a smaller part of the image created by the lens and you'll hardly be any better off than using the regular 18-55mm kit lens.
But don't worry. We've split these lenses up into APS-C and full-frame lists so that there's no danger of buying the wrong one – and we've done this for Nikon DSLRs and lenses too.Image stabilizers and filters
There's one more thing to explain. Super-wide-angle lenses often don't come with image stabilizers, especially those with a constant maximum aperture. This doesn't matter quite as much as it would with a regular lens since camera shake is less visible with short focal lengths – but we still mark this as a 'con'.
Second, many super-wide-angle lenses have lens hoods which are fixed permanently to the lens. This offers some protection for the large front elements, and from lens flare. But it does mean that you can't use conventional filters on the front of the lens, so, desirable as a lens hood is, we mark this down as a 'con' too.
Canon's entry-level and enthusiast cameras, right up to the EOS 7D Mark II, use an APS-C size sensor. This means you need wide-angle lenses designed specifically for this smaller sensor size and this is what we list here. Just bear in mind that you can't use these lenses on full-frame cameras if you decide to upgrade later on.
This lens is newer, bigger and better than Sigma's original 10-20mm, which is still on sale. This new one has a constant f/3.5 maximum aperture, yet it's now only a little more expensive than its predecessor. It's a professional-grade lens with fast and quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a seven-blade diaphragm. It's quite a chunky lens, though, and features a large 82mm filter thread. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, though, and it's also very consistent throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is very well controlled, and distortion is only really noticeable towards the shortest end of the zoom range. A superb lens that's also great value for money.
The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 (top) is a bit of a modern classic because of its specs, performance and price, but if you want a lens that's wider still, then take a look at this Sigma 8-16mm. It only has a 2x zoom range, but at these focal lengths the extra 2mm at the wide-angle end of the zoom range makes a big difference to the angle of view. The Sigma 8-16mm is quite long because the hood is built into the lens barrel, but the build quality is very good, with a smooth-acting zoom ring and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system. One downside of the ultra-wide angle of view is that barrel distortion at the short end of the zoom range is more noticeable but this lens is unbeatable if you're after the widest possible view.
Canon is rolling out more and more compact, lightweight lenses with its STM (stepping motor) autofocus system. The lightweight theme stretches to the mounting plate, unfortunately, which is made from plastic rather than metal, but the STM system delivers silent and fairly rapid autofocus, along with smooth autofocus transitions – very important when shooting video. The 'fly by wire' focus ring is very thin, which isn't great for handling, but it's very smooth and precise in operation. The 10-18mm zoom range makes sense, as it gives a wide angle of view at the short end, and matches the 18mm starting point of standard kit zooms at the long end. Another bonus is that this lens offers image stabilization, which is uncommon in super-wide-angle lenses. Sharpness is good and this lens outperforms Canon's long-established 10-22mm lens at some settings, despite costing a lot less.
With a minimum focal length of 12mm, this Tokina lens can't go quite as 'wide' as most of its rivals, but it does offer a longer maximum zoom setting which makes it more of an all-rounder that you could leave on the camera more of the time. It feels reassuringly robust and has Tokina's new SD-M (Silent Drive-Module) autofocus, which is based on a GMR (Giant Magneto Resistance) system. It still lacks full-time manual override, but you can quickly switch between AF and MF via a simple control in the focus ring. The amount of barrel distortion is disappointing at the shortest zoom setting, but it's practically non-existent at the long end of the zoom range. Sharpness is respectable, but it isn't quite as good as Tokina's own 11-16mm lens (below).
With its comparatively paltry 1.45x zoom range, both the minimum and maximum focal lengths offered by this Tokina lens look unimpressive. But the spec that sets it apart from the rest is its f/2.8 widest aperture, which remains constant throughout the zoom range – it's the one of the 'fastest' super-wide-angle lenses on the market. It's an update of an older model but the latest Mk II edition of the lens doesn't add much for Canon users, apart from revamped coatings to resist ghosting and flare. Sharpness is good throughout the zoom range, even at f/2.8, though colour fringing is a bit high and distortion levels are slightly disappointing.
When it was first launched, this Tamron lens set a new 2.4x zoom range record for a super-wide-angle lens. That's since been equalled by the Nikon 10-24mm, though, and the Tokina 12-28mm also comes close. The Tamron does have a built-in electric motor for autofocus but it lacks the refinement of ring-type ultrasonic or stepping-motor systems, and the focus ring rotates during autofocus so you have to keep your fingers clear. Sharpness at the centre of the frame is good, especially at the short end of the zoom range, although the edges and corners of images can look soft. Barrel distortion remains quite pronounced throughout the zoom range. The Tamron is still a decent buy, but the drop in price of the constant-aperture Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 makes the Tamron look less of a bargain and in both specs and performance the Tamron 10-24mm now looks average.
For a long time this has been the official Canon super-wide-angle zoom for its APS-C DSLRs, and although it's now been joined by the new EF-S 10-18mm STM lens, the 10-22mm remains the pricier, more upmarket option. Now 10 years old, the lens still feels like a quality item, and includes ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a focus-distance scale mounted beneath a viewing window. We have, however, experienced poor sharpness from this lens in the past. The sample we tested this time proved better at the frame centre with apertures around f/8, yet sharpness was still disappointing towards the edges and corners, especially at larger apertures, where vignetting was also noticeable.
If you have a full-frame Canon DSLR like the 5D Mark IV, then you'll need a full-frame super-wide-angle lens – you can't use a smaller lens designed for its APS-C cameras. Nikon full-frame DSLRs can use smaller format lenses in a 'crop' mode, but that's not possible with Canons.
Canon has some superb full-frame ultra-wide-angle zoom lenses, but until recently the only option shorter than 16mm was the EF 8-15mm f/4 – but that's a fisheye lens. The extra 5mm advantage of the 11-24mm lens may not sound very much, but even very small changes in focal length have a huge impact with ultra-wide-angle optics – every millimetre delivers a visibly wider angle of view. Although it may have a short focal length, the EF 11-24mm f/4L USM is a pretty substantial lens, with a bulbous front element shielded by a built-in petal-style lens hood. A lens cap pushes over the hood to protect the precious glass in transport – and you will want to protect it because the optical performance is excellent.
This Tamron lens doesn't go quite as wide as the Canon 11-24mm, but it's still wider than most. Tamron has developed a line of 'fast' zoom lenses that have a constant, wide f/2.8 aperture, complete with optical image stabilization or VC (Vibration Compensation), and this 15-30mm takes the lineup into super-wide-angle territory, continuing the themes of impressive build quality, weather-sealed design, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and image stabilization. It's a big lens, but it feels well balanced on Canon full frame bodies from the 6D to the 1D X and handling is excellent. Sharpness is exemplary from the centre to the extreme edges of images, throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is controlled well and the VC (Vibration Compensation) gave a four-stop benefit in our tests.
On the face of it, the smaller maximum aperture of this lens compared to the 16-35mm f/2.8 version (below) might make it seem less desirable, but the build, weather sealing and handling are just as good and what this lens loses in the 'speed' of its widest aperture, it makes up for with the addition of a four-stop image stabilizer. Centre-sharpness is fabulous throughout the zoom range, even at the widest f/4 aperture. Sharpness is also well maintained away from the centre but it falls off towards the edges marginally more than in the Tamron 15-30mm lens. There's very little colour fringing and overall performance is excellent, making this lens better value than the Canon 16-35mm f/2.8.
Like other L-series Canon lenses in Canon's lineup, the 16-35mm f/2.8 is robust and features weather seals. Its ring-type ultrasonic autofocus is fast and quiet, and the zoom and focus rings are silky-smooth in operation. This latest version is optically a lot better than the Mark II version, delivering excellent sharpness across the whole frame, along with superb contrast, even when shooting wide-open at f/2.8. However, sharpness and contrast aren’t significantly improved over the EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM, and that lens also features image stabilization.
This is like the full frame equivalent of the APS-C format Sigma 8-16mm. With a 122-degree viewing angle at its shortest focal length, the maximum viewing angle is wider than anything else on the market, bar the Canon 11-24mm. This lens offers ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and delivers excellent center sharpness throughout the zoom range, though this does drop off at the extreme corners of the frame when using wide apertures at very short focal lengths. Barrel distortion is quite well controlled though – this is often quite strong in super-wide-angle lenses.
This is one of Canon Canon's L-series (Luxury) lenses and includes weather seals, with a rubber ring around the mounting plate to guard against dust and moisture entering the camera. It's not the widest super-wide-angle lens in the Canon range, but from a money-saving point of view, the 17-40mm is only just over half the price of the Canon 16-35mm. Autofocus is very rapid and the manual focus ring is smooth and precise, both in manual focusing mode and in full-time override of autofocus. The action of the zoom ring is similarly smooth. There is no optical stabilizer in this lens, and while the sharpness is mostly impressive, there's some vignetting (darkening of image corners) when combining the shortest focal length with the widest available aperture – but it's no worse than average.
This is a big, heavy lens weighing nearly a kilogram (2lb), due in part to that fast f/2.8 constant aperture. The Tokina employs a 'silent' DC autofocus motor and GMR (Giant Magnetoresistance) module, and the company claims this gives faster, quieter autofocus. It's certainly true compared with some of Tokina's older lenses. This lens has Tokina's trademark 'one-touch focus clutch' – essentially a push-pull mechanism coupled to the focus ring, for switching between autofocus and manual focus. It's slicker than some because you don't need to switch between AF/M on the camera body or lens. Handling and image quality are very good, with high levels of centre sharpness and restrained colour fringing, though the corners could be sharper. The built-in hood helps to avoid ghosting but precludes the use of filters.
Like Canon DSLRs, Nikon DSLRs split into two groups. The beginner/enthusiast models up to the D500 have APS-C sized sensors (Nikon calls them 'DX' format), while models from the D610 up have full frame sensors (FX format).
As with Canon DSLRs, you need to choose a lens to suit the sensor size, because a full-frame super-wide-angle lens won't give you such a wide angle of view on an APS-C format camera.
The difference here, though, is that you can use smaller DX format lenses on full frame FX bodies, albeit in a reduced resolution 'crop' mode. It's not ideal, but if you do get any of these lenses for your DX Nikon and then upgrade to an FX Nikon later, you'll still be able to get some use out of them.
This lens is newer, bigger and better than Sigma's original 10-20mm, which is still on sale. This one has a constant f/3.5 maximum aperture, yet it's now only a little more expensive than its predecessor. It's a professional-grade lens with fast and quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a seven-blade diaphragm. It's quite a chunky lens, though, and features a large 82mm filter thread. Sharpness and contrast are excellent, though, and it's also very consistent throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is very well controlled, and distortion is only really noticeable towards the shortest end of the zoom range. A superb lens that's also great value for money.
The Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 (above) is a bit of a modern classic because of its specs, performance and price, but if you want a lens that's wider still, then take a look at this Sigma 8-16mm. It only has a 2x zoom range, but at these focal lengths the extra 2mm at the wide-angle end of the zoom range makes a big difference to the angle of view. The Sigma 8-16mm is quite long because the hood is built into the lens barrel, but the build quality is very good, with a smooth-acting zoom ring and ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system. One downside of the ultra-wide angle of view is that barrel distortion at the short end of the zoom range is more noticeable but this lens is unbeatable if you're after the widest possible view.
As with many own-brand lenses, the Nikon 10-24 is expensive compared to similar spec third party lenses. In its favour, it has a class-leading 2.4x zoom range, which it shares with the Tamron 10-24mm lens, although the Tamron is little more than half the price. The Nikon's build quality and construction is good, though, with ring-type ultrasonic autofocus which delivers fast, snappy AF – and the handling is excellent. The medium-aperture sharpness is no more impressive than in most other rival lenses, but the Nikon does retain sharpness at wide apertures particularly well, and stays sharp into the corners of the frame. Vignetting is also quite well controlled. If you want to stick with Nikon and want a more affordable alternative, take a look at the new AF-P 10-20mm f/4.5-5.6G VR.
With a minimum focal length of 12mm, this Tokina lens can't go quite as 'wide' as most of its rivals, but it does offer a longer maximum zoom setting which makes it more of an all-rounder that you could leave on the camera more of the time. It feels reassuringly robust and has Tokina's new SD-M (Silent Drive-Module) autofocus, which is based on a GMR (Giant Magneto Resistance) system. It still lacks full-time manual override, but you can quickly switch between AF and MF via a simple control in the focus ring. The amount of barrel distortion is disappointing at the shortest zoom setting, but it's practically non-existent at the long end of the zoom range. Sharpness is respectable, but it isn't quite as good as Tokina's own 11-16mm lens (below).
With its comparatively paltry 1.45x zoom range, both the minimum and maximum focal lengths offered by this Tokina lens look unimpressive. But the spec that sets it apart from the rest is its f/2.8 widest aperture, which remains constant throughout the zoom range – it's the one of the 'fastest' super-wide-angle lenses on the market. It's an update of an older model but the latest Mk II edition incorporates an autofocus motor, so it will work with cheaper Nikon bodies like the D3300 and D5500 that don't have autofocus motors built in. Sharpness is good throughout the zoom range, even at f/2.8, though colour fringing is a bit high and distortion levels are slightly disappointing.
When it was first launched, this Tamron lens set a new 2.4x zoom range record for a super-wide-angle lens. That's since been equalled by the Nikon 10-24mm, though, and the Tokina 12-28mm also comes close. The Tamron does have a built-in electric motor for autofocus but it lacks the refinement of ring-type ultrasonic or stepping-motor systems, and the focus ring rotates during autofocus so you have to keep your fingers clear. Sharpness at the centre of the frame is good, especially at the short end of the zoom range, although the edges and corners of images can look soft. Barrel distortion remains quite pronounced throughout the zoom range. The Tamron is still a decent buy, but the drop in price of the constant-aperture Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 makes it look less of a bargain and in both specs and performance the Tamron 10-24mm now looks average.
Whereas the Nikon 10-24mm super-wide lens was launched back in 2009, this lens dates from 2003, preceding even the D70 camera which brought DSLR photography to the masses. Even relatively ancient lenses can still be extremely good, and you'd certainly have high hopes for this one, given that it's the most expensive DX-format ultra-wide lens on the market. Features include fast, quiet ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and a constant aperture. Even so, it's a stop slower than the Tokina 11-16mm lens, and the the maximum angle of view is reduced. Considering its high price, performance is disappointing for both sharpness and color fringing. Taking everything into account, the Nikon looks overpriced compared with independently made competitors, as well as its own 10-24mm stablemate.
While it is possible to use DX format super-wide-angle lenses on full frame Nikons, it's for emergencies only because the camera has to work in its crop mode, where it loses more than half of its resolution. So as with full frame Canon DSLRs, you need to invest in full frame super-wide-angle lenses to go with your full frame Nikon.
This is Nikon's top super-wide-angle zoom for its full frame DSLRs and it's a stunner. It doesn't quite deliver the widest angle of view, but it comes close, and it does this with a constant f/2.8 maximum aperture and superb image quality – and with a level of distortion and aberration control that's quite remarkable. Of course, this comes at a price, and not just in financial terms. It's not just expensive, it's also big and heavy, with a massively bulbous front element that requires a fixed, petal-shaped lens hood and prevents the use of regular filters. Autofocus is incredibly fast – faster than all its rivals.
This Tamron lens doesn't go quite as wide as Nikon's 14-24mm, but it's still wider than most. Tamron has developed a line of 'fast' zoom lenses that have a constant, wide f/2.8 aperture, complete with optical image stabilization or VC (Vibration Compensation), and this 15-30mm takes the lineup into super-wide-angle territory, continuing the themes of impressive build quality, weather-sealed design, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and image stabilization. It's a big lens, but it feels well balanced on full frame Nikon bodies. Sharpness is exemplary from the centre to the extreme edges of images, throughout the zoom range. Colour fringing is controlled well and the VC (Vibration Compensation) gave a four-stop benefit in our tests.
This was Nikon's first ultra-wide optic to feature an optical stabilizer. It's based on Nikon's second-generation VR (Vibration Reduction) system, and gives a four-stop benefit in beating camera-shake. It can't match the focal range and maximum aperture of the Nikon 14-24mm or Tamron 15-30mm, but it has proved a popular, lighter alternative for landscape photographers – especially since you can fit regular filters to the front. Other attractions include ring-type ultrasonic autofocus, a weather-sealed mounting plate and fast, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus which is practically silent and enables full-time manual override. Image quality is good although barrel distortion is very noticeable at the 16mm focal length.
This variable-aperture zoom is smaller and cheaper than the Nikon 14-24mm and 16-35mm lenses. You lose a little in angle of view and the variable maximum aperture is a cost saving that hints at a more amateur audience. This lens also lacks the VR (Vibration Reduction) facility of the Nikon 16-35mm lens, though the overall build quality feels of an equally good standard. Another downgrade is that the 18-35mm lens has Nikon's Super Integrated Coating rather than Nano Crystal Coating, but its resistance to ghosting and flare is still pretty good. Chromatic aberration is very well controlled for a lens in this price bracket and fine detail is generally retained very well even in the extreme corners of images, although overall sharpness at the short end of the zoom range isn't a match for the Nikon 16-35mm.
This is like the full frame equivalent of the APS-C format Sigma 8-16mm. With a 122-degree viewing angle at its shortest focal length, the maximum viewing angle is wider than anything else available for full-frame Nikon DSLRs without resorting to a fisheye lens. The Sigma 12-24mm offers ring-type ultrasonic autofocus and delivers excellent center sharpness throughout the zoom range, though this does drop off at the extreme corners of the frame when using wide apertures at very short focal lengths. Barrel distortion is quite well controlled though – this is often a weak point in super-wide-angle lenses. The variable maximum aperture isn't ideal and there's no image stabilizer, but if the maximum possible angle of view is your main requirement, you might want to put this lens up towards the top of your list.
This is a big, heavy lens weighing nearly kilogram (2lb), due in part to that fast f/2.8 constant aperture. The Tokina employs a 'silent' DC autofocus motor and GMR (Giant Magnetoresistance) module, and the company claims this gives faster, quieter autofocus. It's certainly true compared with some of Tokina's older lenses. This lens has Tokina's trademark 'one-touch focus clutch' – essentially a push-pull mechanism coupled to the focus ring, for switching between autofocus and manual focus. It's slicker than some because you don't need to switch between AF/M on the camera body or lens. Handling and image quality are very good, with high levels of centre sharpness and restrained colour fringing, though the corners could be sharper. The built-in hood helps to avoid ghosting but precludes the use of filters.
With an Xbox One console and a few good games, you're already looking at a pretty good gaming situation. But, add in a few optional extras and you could create an experience that's on an entirely new level.
While the Kinect failed to connect, the Xbox One isn't short of excellent accessories that will enhance your gaming experience. Whether you're looking for a new controller, a great gaming headset, a handy subscription, or a roomy external hard drive, you'll find an accessory here that will suit your needs.
- See also: Best PS4 accessories
The Xbox One controller is already a pretty solid piece of hardware, improving on the Xbox 360's controller that became the industry standard. Somehow, Microsoft managed even further improvement in the form of the Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller.
There's swappable thumbsticks and directional pads that offer up a better feel than the standard Xbox One controller, as well as quick-hit triggers to help out in the most high-impact shooters. While it's pretty pricy for a pad at almost three times the cost of a standard controller, you definitely get what you pay for with this premium piece of hardware.
Read the full review: Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller2. Xbox One Play and Charge Kit
Stop throwing away money on batteries and picking up dead controllers
While there is some benefit to having the Xbox One controller use standard batteries (like not having to worry about having a controller-free console in a few years when the other platforms controller batteries start dying and the platform manufacturers have moved on), the process of switching out AA batteries every few weeks can be maddening.
If you yearn for some simplicity, though, the Xbox One Play and Charge Kit puts the Xbox One Controller on the same playing field as the competition. Just put the simple battery back where you'd put the batteries and use a micro-USB cable to keep the controller fresh when you run out of juice.
Ever since the PlayStation 2 put a DVD player in the homes of millions, one constant has remained this millennium; using a controller to watch videos on consoles is the worst. If you're using your Xbox One as a streamer, Blu-ray player, and TV watcher, the Xbox One Media Remote is a great way to watch all of your favorite content without fumbling to remember the proper controller command to bring up closed captions or time remaining.
This remote is perfectly sized to fit every important command (including volume options that controllers and Xbox One Smartglass cant handle), is very sleek, and has a backlight that's perfect for home theaters and late-night video-watching.4. Turtle Beach XO Three
Turtle Beach is one of the biggest most well-established gaming headset manufacturers in the business. It takes pride in its products and that's something that comes across in the affordable but surprising XO Three.
This is a headset that does a surprising amount given its price. Yes, its 50mm drivers are basic but it's physically impressive. It feels robust and it doesn't look anywhere near as cheap as it is. Its headband and earcups are large and comfortable and you can easily wear it for hours at a time.
It also supports Windows Sonic which will bring a noticeable and welcome bass-boost.5. Xbox Live Gold 12 Month Membership
Live Gold isn't just about multiplayer anymore, get on-board
Over the last decade-plus, Xbox Live has been synonymous with Xbox consoles; if you want to get the most out of your Xbox 360 or Xbox One, having Xbox Live to play online with friends is tantamount. Even if you don't play games online regularly, there's still a lot of value that comes with this subscription.
On top of weekly discounts, Xbox Live members also get free Xbox One games (and another pair of backwards-compatible Xbox 360 games) to keep as long as their Xbox Live subscription stays valid. It's a great deal that ensures you'll rarely even have to pick up new games, given the breadth and depth of freebies that come to Xbox Live on a monthly basis.6. Xbox One Chatpad
Send messages in a snap
Sometimes, a voice message won't do and you've got to send some words to your Xbox cohorts. So what do you do? Painfully trudge through the UI keyboard to slowly...type...out... each... word? Pull up your phone and dive through a series of Smartglass menus to text your fellow players? Wouldn't it be great if you had a keyboard handy at all times?
That's why the Xbox One Chatpad is so darn handy. Sending messages is a snap, even in the dark thanks to the backlit mini-keyboard. Sending longer messages to friends or redeeming one of the Xbox One's insane 25-character redemption codes is a heck of a lot easier with this sweet add-on that fits flush with your controller.
Outside of sports apps, it's tough to keep up with live events via the Xbox One. If you're a cord-cutter who still wants to stay in the conversation when network shows, specials, and sporting events air, the Digital TV Tuner is key to connecting.
If you've got a halfway decent antenna, connecting it to this tuner will allow you to pull in over-the-air channels with the benefit of the Xbox One's snazzy UI to navigate through TV listings. If you've got hard drive space, Microsoft is promising the ability to DVR programs later this year, making this little piece of tech even more valuable.
Whether you've got an old reliable headset that saw you through some Xbox 360 battles or want your PC gaming headset to pull double duty, you'll need something to get a non-official headset working with the Xbox One's proprietary controller connector.
Thankfully, there's the Xbox One Headset Adaptor that allows one to plug a standard wired gaming headset on the Xbox One console. It also helps things out by centralizing the headset commands right underneath the controller. No longer will you have to feel around on your headset's wires to find the volume and muting controls; it's all right there on the controller no matter what headset you've got connected.10. Seagate Game Drive
The guaranteed a solution to your storage ills
Even with the streamlined simplicity that consoles offer, sometimes storage can be tricky, especially given the sheer variety of external hard drives on the market. Will a hard drive get enough power from the console to run properly? Is the speed up to snuff enough to play full games at a proper clip? Sometimes reliability and peace of mind is worth spending a little more for, which is why Seagate's official external drive is worth seeking out.
Beyond the snazzy look and logo, you're guaranteed a solution to your storage ills and a hard drive that will work right out of the box. If you've ever had to futz around formatting your drive and crossing your fingers that your console will recognize it, the Game Drive is a breath of fresh air.
- Make sure you check out the best Xbox One games too