Nintendo has ruined my life, and all our lives, by announcing Super Mario Maker 2, the sequel to the level-constructing game on Wii U that produced thousands of devious levels for those who think the “real” games aren’t hard enough. Gamers have been asking for this basically since the Switch was first rumored.
Mario Maker 2 looks like it’s been updated in a number of helpful ways apart from being on a console that will actually be supported long-term. The interface needed some sprucing up for the lower precision players, who will have to use their fingers instead of a stylus on the touchscreen.
No doubt this will be a huge draw for Nintendo’s Switch Online service, which will likely not only allow you to share your levels and try those of others, but — if Nintendo listened to its player base — compete with ghosts and other multiplayer features. Here’s hoping we can build whole worlds, but let’s not get greedy. But we definitely have slopes now!
Honestly, I could play NES and SNES-era Mario games forever on repeat, and the re-releases of other Marios on Switch has made the newer ones even more accessible. Probably between those and Mario Maker I’ll never leave the house again.
Details are truly scant for now except that the game will come out in June of this year, just in time for summer to arrive — and be shut out with blackout curtains so glare doesn’t get on my greasy Switch. I’ll update this post if any new information becomes available.
The Raspberry Pi Foundation just unveiled a brand new project — an actual store. If …
Not too long after reviewing the Anda Fnatic and Secretlab Omega gaming chairs, I began getting offers of review samples for other chairs. The most curious of the bunch was the one we’re reviewing today: the $599 All33 Backstrong C1.
The Backstrong C1 touts itself as chiropractor-designed—the chiropractor being Dennis Colonello. Colonello teamed up with industrial designer Jim Grove to build a chair that supports and allows movement of “all33” of the vertebrae in a sitter’s spine. Colonello, based in Beverly Hills, has served as a sort of chiropractor to the stars for decades—which perhaps helps explain the new chair’s laundry list of A-list celebrity endorsements.
Design and appearance
The design itself is eye-catching and perhaps even a little visually befuddling. The seat and lower back are mounted on a pivoting horizontal axis, independent of the upper back of the chair, with open space visible in an arc separating the two. The overall effect is reminiscent of mod furniture—the late sixties and early seventies’ vision of futuristic design.
Nothing in the literature I’ve seen for the Backstrong explains the actual function of the independently pivoting lower seat—and just looking at the pictures, I didn’t have the foggiest idea, beyond it being different from anything I’d seen before. Actually sitting in the chair provides the answer—it’s all about lumbar support.
Basically, you can’t really slouch in the Backstrong C1. You can sit however you like—but the seat itself follows your butt as you do, and the weight of your own legs positions the lumbar support firmly into the curve of your spine. The Backstrong C1 is a one-trick pony—more on that later—but that one trick is amazing.
A six-year hitch in the Navy followed by a career in systems administration has left me with a much-abused lower back that won’t tolerate a lack of lumbar support for long. There’s absolutely no chance of getting that lack of support in this chair. If your butt is in it, your lumbar region is getting support, and in my experience with this chair, that’s all there is to it.
So far, so good. Unfortunately, there’s very little in the way of ergonomic adjustment possible with the C1. The seat height is adjustable via the usual gas lift, and the chair has about 30 degrees of recline available… and that’s pretty much it.
Head, arms, and dining room
There’s no headrest for the chair—the back ends at roughly neck height. My wife actually likes that, since it means she can put her hair in a bun without feeling like there’s a clenched fist being shoved into her skull. But it’s double-plus-ungood for the typical gamer posture, reclined to the max with a controller propped on your chest.
The armrests can be flipped up entirely, getting them out of the way if you like to roll your chair up extremely close to the desk—but they aren’t otherwise adjustable in height, width, or angle. And the tilt lock is extremely limited—the mechanism only engages when the chair is fully upright, so you can’t (for example) lock the tilt at five or 10 degrees reclined.
With its light weight and easy rolling, fantastic comfort, and eye-catching looks, the Backstrong C1 would in my opinion make a great conference room chair. If it were less expensive, I’d want six of them at my dining room table right now. But its lack of ergonomic adjustability and support beyond the lower back should probably exclude it from serious consideration for the kind of “everything chair” I think most people are looking for in a home office.
Unboxing and assembly
The Backstrong C1 comes in a significantly smaller and lighter box than either of the gaming chairs we reviewed last month—the specifications on the box claim a net weight of 47 pounds, which is about right, and a gross of 61, which must have included a wooden pallet that we didn’t receive. Although the box says “team lift,” most able-bodied readers can be a team of one if they try hard and believe in themselves.
On opening the box, I was greeted with an absolute mess—a heap of random cardboard sheets, a plastic sleeve that had come loose from the adjustment arm it was supposedly protecting, and a mysterious rolled-up hunk of cardboard I’m still scratching my head about greeted me when I pried the glued-together top flaps loose. Luckily, I don’t actually care about unboxing, and none of the components themselves were damaged.
Better yet, there was a large sheet of lightweight foam folded into the box, which served as an excellent place to set the seat back on my concrete carport floor while I worked—an enormous improvement over trying to set it on the remains of a clear plastic bag, which is what I needed to do with both the Anda and Secretlab gaming chairs.
As unimpressed as I might have been with the “unboxing experience”—scare quotes intended—the actual assembly was fantastic. This is probably the only piece of furniture I’ve ever assembled that genuinely didn’t need its instruction manual. This is how you assemble the Backstrong C1:
press the casters into the starfish-shaped base
sit the gas lift in the hole in the center of the base
bolt the seat plate onto base of the seat (using provided hex driver and four bolts)
lift seat, and guide the central hole in the plate onto the gas lift
cut zip ties, and unfold the seatback until it audibly locks into position
That’s it. There are even extremely obvious red-on-white labels on the seat plate and seat which demonstrate the orientation of the plate. There were no gotchas, no “but this part was tricky,” and I have no complaints. There is no easier assembly outside a one-piece lawn chair.
The manual said assembly of the chair would take about 11 minutes, but according to the timestamps on my photos, I only needed nine—and at least four of those were me taking photos along the way.
I really like the All33 Backstrong C1—its lumbar support is out of this world, and I am desperately in need of as much lumbar support as I can get. Unfortunately, it won’t let me love it the way its $599 purchase price demands. It’s a fantastic (if oddly styled) chair for the dining room table—especially for folks who tend to get lost in a good book and stay at the table for longer than a solo breakfast (or lunch, or dinner) really demands. In that setting, the flip-up armrests also mean you can scoot all the way belly-up if you don’t want soup in your lap.
But in the office, I find the C1 just too limited to be a serious contender. Nonadjustable armrest height and width means this chair won’t support keyboard and mouse hands properly for many, if not most, people. The lack of tilt lock in any position other than fully upright is a real downer, and the lack of a headrest makes the full 30-ish degree recline feel downright weird.
I really hope to see a follow-on design from this company with a full range of ergonomic adjustments and features. In the meantime, it’s difficult to wholeheartedly recommend the Backstrong C1 as a high-end, full-purpose office chair—because despite the price, it really isn’t one.
Absolutely out-of-this-world lumbar comfort and support
Slouchers OK—instead of forcing your posture, the Backstrong follows your spine wherever you put it
Lightweight and good-quality casters make this chair unusually mobile
You can flip up the armrests entirely, if you want to belly-up tightly to a desk or table
Eye-catching, retro-futuristic good looks
No obnoxious branding (or any visible branding at all)
275-pound user-weight limit
Lots of exposed plastic
Minimal padding, of moderate quality
The “vegan leather” upholstery we tested is best described as “acceptable” (there’s also a fabric option we did not receive or test.)
Can’t adjust armrest height
Can’t adjust armrest width
Can’t adjust armrest angle
Can’t lock tilt anywhere but fully upright
Shenanigans with the asking price—currently listed as “$1,199 / $799 / use code 2020 for an additional $200 off.”
By Cyber Monday, most of us have been through the home-office setup phase of working from home but, with lengthening timelines to return to the office, Cyber Monday might be a good time to grab some of the essentials or upgrades you’ve been eyeing. Maybe the time has come to finally get the office chair that makes you feel like you’re floating or the desk that floats, er, stands up with you. Or perhaps you’re starting to run out of desk space or disk space and need something to organize or offload the clutter.
Whatever the case, we’ve found deals on some of our top picks for work-from-home gear, as well as a few high-value deals on Macs, Surface devices, iPads, noise-canceling headphones, and much more.
Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.
Best Cyber Monday office chair deals
Steelcase’s Gesture made our top pick for office chairs for offering serious comfort and adjustability at a similarly serious price. It’s not the type of comfort you melt into, but rather the kind that keeps you feeling comfortable and supported while effortlessly avoiding fatigue, thanks to it’s wide-ranging adjustability which works well with different body types and your various posturers and positions throughout the day. If that all sounds nice, but you just can’t justify the price, Fully’s Desk Chair gets all the basics done well, while the company’s Tic Toc chair provides an outlet for bored or nervous energy while working thanks to its balanced “rocking stool” construction.
Best Cyber Monday standing desk deals
Standing desks can make work, at home or elsewhere, a much more comfortable and less fatiguing experience. We put Fully at the top of our picks for standing desks thanks to the desk’s solid build, wide-ranging customizability, and dearth of accessories that make working from home easier. If you already have a desk that doesn’t elevate, you can top it with one of Fully’s standing desk converters with keyboard and mouse trays.
Fully Jarvis bamboo standing desk for $475.15 at Fully (normally $559).
Fully Cooper standing desk converter for $254.15 at Fully (normally $299).
Fully Cora standing desk converter for $126.65 at Fully (normally $149).
Best Cyber Monday laptop deals
Perhaps the pièce de résistance of your WFH setup (if not already provided for you) is the computer you’re working on. Whether you’re in the market for one of the impressive new M1 Macs seeing modest $50 discounts or a Surface device with a few hundred dollars of savings there’s plenty to choose from this Cyber Monday.
The MacBook Air and Surface Book 3, discounted by $100 and $300, respectively, both earned our recommendations for working from home in our home office setup guide. These are the biggest savings you can expect throughout the year on Surfaces, and likely MacBooks, as well. If gaming-level power is something you need Razer’s 15-inch Blade ($300 off), HP’s Omen 15 ($350 off), and Dell’s G5 15 SE ($200 off) represent some of the best grabs currently available.
Apple computer deals
Microsoft laptop deals
Microsoft Surface Laptop 3 laptop—Intel Core i5-1035G7, 13.5-inch 2256×1504, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD for $979.99 at Microsoft and Amazon (normally $1,300).
Microsoft Surface Book 3 2-in-1 laptop—Intel Core i5-1035-G7, 13.5-inch 3000×2000, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD for $1,299.99 at Microsoft (normally $1,600).
Lenovo Yoga C940 2-in-1 laptop—Intel Core i7-1065G7, 14-inch 1080p, 12GB RAM, 512GB SSD for $999.99 at Microsoft (normally $1,200).
HP Spectre x360 13t 2-in-1 laptop—Intel Core i7-1165G7, 13.3-inch 1080p, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD for $883.49 at HP (use code: 5STACKBFCM21—normally $1,100).
HP Envy x360 15 2-in-1 laptop—AMD Ryzen 7 4700U, 15.6-inch 1080p, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD for $788.49 at HP (configure specs at checkout, select Intel AX 200, and use code: 5STACKBFCM21—normally $1,000).
HP EliteBook 840 G7 laptop—Intel Core i5-10210U, 14-inch 1080p, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD for $716.80 at HP (configure specs at checkout, select backlit keyboard, 720p webcam, and 65W adapter—normally $1,200).
HP Omen 15 (15-EN0013DX) gaming laptop—AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, 15.6-inch 1080p 144Hz, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, GeForce GTX 1660 Ti 6GB for $849.99 at Best Buy (normally $1,200).
Dell G5 15 SE gaming laptop—AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, 15.6-inch 1080p 144Hz, 8GB RAM, 512GB SSD, Radeon RX 5600M 6GB for $849.99 at Best Buy (normally $1,050).
Razer Blade 15 (2020) laptop—Intel Core i7-10750H, 15.6-inch 1080p 144Hz, 16GB RAM, 256GB SSD, GTX 1660 Ti GPU for $1,299.99 at Amazon (normally $1,600).
Best Cyber Monday monitor deals
We rated a number of Dell monitors highly in our home office setup guide thanks to their ease of use, solid detail and color representation, and wide-ranging adjustability for different lighting situations and visual needs. If you don’t require super high refresh rates for gaming, the deals below look to be great value in the 24- and 27-inch category. Upping refresh rates a bit, you can snag a 144Hz IPS gaming monitor from LG with more than a $50 discount.
27-inch Dell UltraSharp 27 (U2719D) monitor—2560×1440, 60Hz, IPS + $150 Dell e-gift card for $359.99 at Dell (GC good for 90 days—normally $540).
24-inch Dell P2421 monitor—1920×1200, 60Hz, IPS for $149.99 at Dell (normally $260).
24-inch Dell UltraSharp 24 (U2417H) monitor—1080p, 60Hz, IPS for $159 at Amazon (normally $230).
27-inch LG 27GL850-B gaming monitor—2560×1440, 144Hz, IPS, FreeSync for $446.99 at Adorama and B&H (normally $500).
23-inch Lenovo L23i-18 monitor—1920×1080, 60Hz, IPS for $99.99 at Lenovo (normally $130).
Best Cyber Monday storage deals
Often times, employer-provided computers don’t come with a ton of storage. Adding a fast backup solution or external storage drive saves you from having to mix up your personal drives with your work ones and, particularly In the case of the Samsung T5 SSD, it can probably do it a lot faster than the drives you have now. If speed isn’t as important as vast amounts of storage, Western Digital’s 6TB external HDDs provide great value, and even more with $20 off.
Best Cyber Monday dock and adapter deals
Whether you’re juggling multiple computers, monitors, or other peripherals, a great dock can help keep things in order. Instead of having to plug in multiple cables each time you need to swap computers or use an external hard drive, just use one of these port-heavy alternatives. While CalDigit’s TS3 Plus dock retains its top sport for our favorite docks, the CalDigit Pro UCB-C dock is a bit more universal since it can work on either Thunderbolt 3 or USB-C through the same cable. If you need a smaller or more portable option you can hook up two displays with the Thunderbolt Mini dock or ethernet, USB-A, HDMI, and more with Anker’s 7-in-2 MacBook-specific adapter.
CalDigit TS3 Plus Thunderbolt 3 dock—2x Thunderbolt 3, 5x USB-A, USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, USB-C 3.1 Gen 2, DisplayPort 1.2, Ethernet, SD for $199.99 at Amazon (clip $20 coupon—normally $245).
CalDigit Pro USB-C dock—1x Thunderbolt (backwards compatible with USB-C), 3x USB-A, USB-C 3.2 Gen 1, USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, 2x DisplayPort 1.2, Ethernet, SD for $179.99 (normally $200).
CalDigit Thunderbolt 3 mini dock—dual DisplayPort 1.2, ethernet, USB-A 3.0 for $79.99 at CalDigit and $119.99 at Amazon (normally $150).
Anker 7-in-2 USB-C adapter for MacBooks—1x USB-C data port, 2x USB-A ports, HDMI, SD, and microSD card at Amazon for $39.99 (normally $59.99).
Best Cyber Monday iPad deals
When you’re working from home, sometimes you just need to change up the monotony of sitting (or standing) at your desk. iPads are often well-supported for use within organizations, so you may be able to get away with lying down and tapping through some work tasks. Alternatively, iPads make an excellent wireless secondary display for MacBooks through Apple’s Sidecar feature, so there’s more than one way for an iPad to make work easier.
You can still grab the latest generation 11-inch iPad Pro for $569.99 for pro-level tasks, down from it’s usual $600 price tag or the previous generation iPad Air for a nice balance of lightness and heavy work. Add a keyboard folio case for protection or a detachable bluetooth keyboard with trackpad for laptop usability.
Apple iPad Air (64GB, latest generation) 10.9-inch tablet for $569.99 at Amazon (normally $599).
Apple iPad Air (64GB, previous generation) 10.5-inch tablet for $429.99 at Best Buy (normally $500).
$100 Apple gift card with purchase of an iPad Pro.
Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for 12.9-inch iPad Pro (4th gen) for $120 at Amazon (normally $189).
Apple Smart Keyboard Folio for 11-inch iPad Pro (2nd gen) and iPad Air (4th gen) for $129 at Best Buy (normally $170).
Brydge 7.9 Bluetooth keyboard for Apple iPad Mini for $79.99 at Amazon (normally $100).
Brydge 10.2 Bluetooth keyboard for Apple iPad for $79.99 at Amazon (normally $130).
Brydge 10.5 Bluetooth keyboard for Apple iPad Air (2019) for $59.99 at Amazon (normally $90).
Brydge 11.0 Pro Bluetooth keyboard for 11-inch Apple iPad Pro and iPad Air (2020) for $99.99 at Amazon (normally $130).
Brydge 11.0 Pro+ Bluetooth keyboard with trackpad for 11-inch Apple iPad Pro and iPad Air (2020) for $139.99 at Amazon (normally $200).
Brydge 12.9 Pro Bluetooth keyboard for 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro for $99.99 at Amazon (normally $170).
Brydge 12.9 Pro+ Bluetooth keyboard with trackpad for 12.9-inch Apple iPad Pro for $159.99 at Amazon (normally $230).
Best Cyber Monday noise-canceling headphone deals
Silence is golden, especially when you’re trying to focus. A good pair of noise-canceling headphones can drown out erroneous noises like construction or kids, allowing you to work in peace. If you can still hear them, you can try playing some lo-fi ambient music to focus since these headphones sound pretty good too. The Sony WH-1000XM4, Apple AirPods Pro, and Jabra Elite 75t all made our top picks for WFH gear in our complete guide.
Best Cyber Monday accessory and PC component deals
Growl, once a key part of the Mac desktop experience, is being retired after 17 years. Christopher Forsythe, who acted as the lead developer for the project for years, announced the retirement in a blog post on Friday.
Launched in 2004, Growl provided notifications for applications on Macs (it was also offered for Windows) before Apple introduced its own Notification Center. Notification Center was added to macOS (then styled Mac OS X) in the Mountain Lion update in 2012, but it first debuted on iOS a year earlier.
Here’s a snippet of Forsythe’s announcement:
Growl is being retired after surviving for 17 years. With the announcement of Apple’s new hardware platform, a general shift of developers to Apple’s notification system, and a lack of obvious ways to improve Growl beyond what it is and has been, we’re announcing the retirement of Growl as of today.
It’s been a long time coming. Growl is the project I worked on for the longest period of my open source career. However at WWDC in 2012 everyone on the team saw the writing on the wall. This was my only WWDC. This is the WWDC where Notification Center was announced. Ironically Growl was called Global Notifications Center, before I renamed it to Growl because I thought the name was too geeky. There’s even a sourceforge project for Global Notifications Center still out there if you want to go find it.
He went on to recall that Growl was developed in part because popular messaging app Adium and IRC client Colloquy needed different types of notifications than were available at the time. Generally, developers were designing and implementing their own proprietary solutions for notifications, which were not always ideal experiences for users.
When installed, Growl appeared in the Mac OS X system preferences pane, acting as the notifications service for the platform—that is, until the previously mentioned Notification Center debuted. As Forsythe noted above, the writing was on the wall as soon as Apple made that announcement.
It seems Apple’s new shift in architecture and other factors have led to the official sunsetting of Growl now, though Growl had been supported only at a basic level for some time.