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So your [friend, partner, kid, parent] wants to be a Twitch streamer… – TechCrunch

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Though many people still scratch their head at the idea of watching people play video games, Twitch and its content creators have proven that the platform is attractive to (even beloved by) tens of millions of people.

Got a friend or loved one who believes they have the skill, personality and wide open schedule to be successful on Twitch? The right gift might get the ball rolling.

(Note: It should go without saying that there is one piece of gear that a Twitch streamer truly needs, and that’s a computer or console to play the game on. Generally, this will either be a gaming PC, a PlayStation 4 or an Xbox One. Chances are if someone wants to stream games, they’ve already got a platform of choice, so we’re not going to go into detail on what type of PC or console to buy.)

Microphones

The best place to start when investing in a streaming setup is the mic. Yes, webcams are important (and we’ll get to that), but it’s really taxing to listen to poor audio for any lengthy amount of time, and most gaming headphones just won’t cut it.

Our top choice for a reasonably priced, high-quality mic is the Blue Yeti Pro ($250). It’s a relatively simple plug-and-play product that sounds great. It supports both USB and XLR, giving users plenty of flexibility if they want to use it for multiple purposes (like, say, podcasting) or across various audio interfaces.

It’s not cheap — the Blue Yeti Pro costs $250 on Amazon — so folks looking for a less flexible mic that will simply work with a PC or console, the stepped-down Blue Mics Yeti ($130) should get the job done.

Webcams

Logitech C922 HD Pro StreamWhile the point of streaming is arguably to watch the game, and not the gamer, there is something special about seeing someone’s reactions to the game or to the Twitch chat on a stream.

General consensus among the community points to the Logitech C922 HD Pro Stream ($99). It captures 1080p/30fps or 720p/60fps video and offers a 78-degree field of view, with particularly good low-light capabilities and solid autofocus. Oddly, streaming under the blue light of the monitor in complete darkness is pretty common, and this webcam can handle just that. As a bonus, the C922 offers background replacement, letting users green screen out everything behind the streamer to show even more of the game. The lower-cost alternative is the Logitech HD Pro C920 ($79), which doesn’t offer background replacement or some other bonus features, like 720p/60fps capture or autofocus.

The C922 also comes with a three-month free trial of XSplit (broadcasting software that will likely be necessary for PC gamers/streamers, but is less necessary for console streamers).

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Monitors

ASUS VG245H 24” Full HD 1080p gaming monitorMost people think of a couch and a TV when they think of playing video games, but that is most certainly not ideal for a streamer. For one, where does the webcam go? Secondly, your vision just isn’t as good from 10 feet away on a 40-inch+ screen. Many pros tend to use a 24- to 27-inch monitor roughly two feet from their face — so sitting at a desk is often preferred.

Super high-performance gaming monitors are very expensive, and there are very real trade-offs each time the price comes down. But the ASUS VG245H ($190) is a solid contender at a reasonable price point, managing to pack a punch where it counts.

The 24-inch monitor comes with a TN type panel (which can wash out colors more than ISP) but has a 144Hz refresh rate at a 1920×1080 resolution. At $190 on Amazon, this monitor is a bargain.


Beyond strictly streaming equipment, there are plenty of gadgets that can take a skilled gamer to the next level. Here are a few suggestions:

Inputs

A gamer that dominates the competition with entry-level inputs (be it a mouse or controller) will absolutely crush it with a gaming-specific mouse or controller.

Finalmouse Ultralight Pro gaming mouseThere are many schools of thought when it comes to PC gaming mice — some think customization is king, while others are drawn to RGB lighting or wireless functionality. At the end of the day, personal preference plays a huge role. For folks switching over from a standard mouse, the best option might be the Finalmouse Ultralight Pro ($70).

It acts and feels like a standard mouse, but happens to be just 67 grams, with the Pixart pmw3360 eSports sensor, integrated illumination, enhanced tracking and a higher framerate. And as a bonus, this is the same mouse that streaming star Ninja uses. If it’s good enough for him, it’s probably good enough for your dear recipient.

For console gamers, there is a clear favorite if you’re looking to upgrade beyond the standard Xbox or PlayStation controller. Scuf Gaming controllers (starting at $150) allow players to use paddles on the underside of the controller. This means that gamers can use their middle and ring fingers instead of multitasking with their thumbs, meaning their thumbs never leave the joysticks.

Headset

Stealth 700 Headset - PS4Switching from standard headphones to high-quality gaming headphones feels like cheating. Suddenly, you can hear everything around you. I’ve personally played with a variety of headphones, and my favorite by a mile is the Astro A50 wireless headset with base station ($300). Tech specs aside, these are some of the most comfortable headphones out there, perfect for those hours-long streaming sessions.

For folks looking for something more affordable, Turtle Beach also has a nice selection of wireless headphones, including the Stealth 700 ($150).

Smaller stuff

Once they’re streaming, then what? The best thing you can do for your new favorite streamer is interact with their new channel. Subscribe. Watch the broadcast and chat in the stream. And if you have a little extra cash to spare, gift subs to the channel so folks who show up and want to subscribe have no barrier to entry when they get there.

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Google Pixel 6 Pro Review

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The Google Pixel 6 Pro is the best Android phone in the world today – but is it right for you? This is really the first time Google has created a smartphone that’s meant to battle the top-tier handsets in the industry, and it shows. But do you need the features that make this device cost more than its non-Pro companion?

Hardware

The Pixel 6 Pro works with a generous 6.7-inch LTPO AMOLED display with a centered punch hole for its front-facing camera. The display supports HDR10+, has a 120Hz variable image refresh rate, and boasts a healthy 1440 x 3120 pixels across its face, for a total of approximately 512 PPI density (pixels per inch).

This device has a curved-edge display panel with Corning Gorilla Glass Victus cascading off the left and right of the front. Because of the glass up front and around back, this device is quite slippery. That’s generally true of mostly-glass devices, and as usual, I’d recommend you get a protective case, if only to stop this Pixel from floating off the table every time you set it down.

The cases Google makes take account of the Pixel Camera Bar at the back, adding a bit of a bump above and below said bar for added protection. If you’ll take a peek at our Pixel 6 vs 6 Pro vs 5 hands-on guide, you’ll see how extremely similar the devices are – especially given their inclusion of the Pixel Camera Bar on both 6 and 6 Pro models.

The big differences come in the display and the power of both the front and back-facing camera arrays. The display on the Google Pixel 6 Pro is extravagant. If you’ve ever used a 120Hz display before, it’s difficult to go back to anything less. With the Pixel 6 Pro, you’re getting every bit the most powerful and good-looking Android 12 experience on the market today as a result of this panel.

The Pixel 6 Pro is 6.5 height x 3.0 width x 0.4 depth (inches) in size with a weight at 210g (7.41 oz). Exterior color options include Cloudy White (the one you see here), Sorta Sunny, and Stormy Black. The black model has a dark gray edge, Sunny has gold, and white has a reflective chrome edge. The front bezel is the same regardless of backside color.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro has an in-display fingerprint reader that works as well as I’ve ever seen an in-display fingerprint reader work. I’d still rather it be housed at the back or the side of the phone, as it feels most natural to me to scan my finger at either of those positions – but if it had to be in the display, I’m glad it works as well as this.

Having a Pixel with as large a display as this reminds me of using one of my favorite phones ever – the Nexus 6P. That device was announced back in 2015 with a 5.7-inch display, and it seemed overly-massive at the time. Now, with the Pixel 6 coming with a 6.4-inch display, and the Pixel 6 Pro coming with a 6.71-inch display, the smartphone experience at this size feels far more natural.

It’s important to note, here, that you’ll NEED to pay attention to the model you buy when you’re looking for 5G coverage. Make sure your chosen carrier has the Pixel 6 Pro you need to get sub-6 5G and/or mmWave 5G coverage, as the differences are significant.

Software

It’s thanks in a big way to Android 12 that this large smartphone feels so natural to use. I’ve used the default settings for the most part, but Android 12 on this Pixel 6 Pro has the option to change sizes and arrangement of elements to a degree beyond what I’d ever consider needing.

In Android 12 on the Pixel 6 Pro you’ll find a new sort of Style system. This system delivers a color scheme to the UI based on your wallpaper. This can be a Google wallpaper or your own, it doesn’t matter: It works by selecting colors based on your wallpaper automatically.

Because of this Style system, Android 12 on the Pixel 6 Pro creates an experience that is new to Google. In the past, Google delivered a stripped-down, vanilla (or near-vanilla) Android with their own-branded smartphones. Now, with Android 12 on Pixel 6 and 6 Pro, Google dares to present an experience that’s custom fitted to the Pixel in ways that are truly significant.

Camera

At the back of the Pixel 6 Pro is a 50MP Octa PD camera with a 1/1.31-inch sensor, 1.2um pixel capture, f/1.85 aperture, and an 82-degree field of view. There’s also a 12MP ultrawide camera with f/2.2 aperture, 1.25um pixel capture, and a 114-degree field of view.

The camera that sets this device aside from the Pixel 6 Pro is the third unit at the back of the phone. That is a 48MP telephoto camera with a 1/2-inch image sensor, 0.8um pixel capture, f/3.5 aperture, and a 23.5-degree field of view. This camera allows the array to reach 4x optical zoom.

The back-facing array also works with an LDAC (laser detect auto focus) sensor and OIS (optical image stabilization) for both wide and telephoto lenses.

Up front, this phone has an 11.1MP camera with 1.22um pixel capture, f/2.2 aperture, and a 94-degree ultrawide field of view. This front-facing camera is fixed focus.

The Pixel 6 Pro has the most professional set of cameras I’ve ever used on a smartphone. Google’s computational photography powers are at last paired with a set of cameras whose hardware meets the challenge of Google’s biggest competitors.

Above and below you’ll find a variety of examples of photos captured with the cameras of the Pixel 6 Pro. Among them you’ll find a few examples captured with Google’s new BETA camera features: Action Pan and Long Exposure.

Google includes both Action Pan and Long Exposure in a tab called “Motion” in the standard Google Camera app. Google is careful to tag both features as “Beta” releases, which is good, because they might need a bit of work before they’re ready to considered ready for prime time.

Both features are right on the edge of greatness, with what appears to be just a TINY bit of work left to do detecting the edges of a given subject. I’m glad to see Long Exposure, in any case – keeping the shutter open as long as I like (within reason) is a feature I’ve always like to have the option to use on whatever camera I’m using.

Battery

Inside this device is a 5,000 mAh battery (minimum 4,905 mAh), with fast charging capabilities. The Pixel 6 Pro has the ability to charge speedily with a Google 30W USB-C charger with USB-PD 3.0 (PPS). That’s sold separately from the phone, mind, but you might well have one at home already.

This device can also charge wirelessly, and reverse charge other devices. That’s also known as Battery Share – and it turns the back of the device into a Qi-certified charging panel. It’s useful for topping up wireless earbuds or a smartwatch in a pinch.

Android 12 and the Google Pixel 6 Pro offer a variety of options that allow us to go from quick-draining the battery all the way to extreme battery preservation. If I keep the “Smooth Display” active (120Hz “for some content”) and activate Increase touch sensitivity, turn off all battery saver options, keep the display at max brightness, and use only 5G mobile data to stream movies non-stop, I could potentially drain the battery in a matter of hours.

When using the device for standard activities – even capturing photos and videos and running games and tests for this review – it’s difficult to drain the battery in less than double-digit numbers of hours.

Google Pixel 6 Pro Verdict

Google seems to have moved beyond using the Pixel as a baseline experience for Android. Back when Google made Nexus smartphones for the public as effective demonstrations of the capabilities of the software, Nexus devices were not expected to compete with top-tier smartphones. Instead they were generally viewed as industry nudges, with the hope that other phone-makers would take the hint and shift things in the way that Google intended.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro, in contrast, is a masterpiece that stands on its own merits, coming correct with a hardware and software experience that delivers the best Google has to offer in a smartphone. This phone takes everything that works great in the Pixel 6 and adds features that elevate it to a true AAA hero phone that goes toe-to-toe with the best rivals on the market today.

The Google Pixel 6 Pro has a starting price of around $900 USD, and it is well worth the cash. Make SURE you get a case for this device right out the gate – the Google Pixel 6 Pro case we had here for this review is sold by Google for approximately $30 USD.

If you are looking for the newest in new Google Pixel smartphone action, but don’t need a device quite as large, with a display with 120Hz refresh rate, or that extra camera at the back, or the slightly better camera up front… there’s a Pixel 6 waiting for you at Google. That device has the same processor power, the same software, and every essential element of this Pixel 6 experience for several hundred dollars cheaper than this Pro model.

NOTE: If you’re reading this review on the 25th of October, 2021, you’ll need to wait just a short bit before our Pixel 6 Review (the non-Pro version) is posted. It’ll arrive on the 26th!

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Google Play Store cuts developer tax for subscriptions by half

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The industry practice of “70/30” revenue cuts between developers and app store owners have been put under a microscope in the past few years, especially after Epic Games made some big noise about it. It did force a few platforms to make changes to their policies, usually reducing the so-called “developer tax” under certain circumstances only. In general, however, storefront owners still take 30% of the profits by default, but Google is making a significant change in that policy to push subscriptions to the forefront.

Like many things in businesses, the 70/30 revenue split became a de facto standard without any explicit consensus among industry players. Giving store and platform owners 30% of profits might have worked well for the likes of Steam, where each product often sells in double digits, but it didn’t translate well to the mobile app market. Unfortunately, that has been the status quo for many years, which really hurt developers that sold their apps for an average price of $4.99 or even less.

It may be even worse for apps and services whose profits may come on a monthly or annual basis. At the same time, however, the likes of Google and Apple are trying to push the subscription model as a more viable and sustainable strategy compared to one-off payments for apps. In order to incentivize this model, Google is making it more attractive for developers to switch to subscription fees by lowering the tax they have to pay.

Starting January next year, the service fee or anything sold via Google Play Store will be reduced from 30% to 15%, meaning developers and publishers take away 85% of any of the revenue they make. Previously, Google allowed that same cut but only after 12 months of a recurring subscription. This change follows another big move last April when it cut the revenue cut to 15% for the first $1 million of a developer’s revenue.

Google is also adjusting some of the figures for ebook publishers and on-demand music streaming services. They can get their service fee reduced to as low as 10%, but only if they take part in Google’s Play Media Experience program. This program, the Android maker says, encourages publishers to target most or all of the devices where Android is available, making sure that the same experience and content is present in cars, TVs, and even smartwatches.

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Skype now works also on Firefox after two years

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When the video conferencing trend kicked up last year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was no surprise that Microsoft would jump on the bandwagon as well. What was a bit surprising, however, was that it prioritized bringing its younger Teams platform up to snuff instead of promoting the video conferencing service it has had for years. In fact, some might have almost forgotten about Skype at this point, including Microsoft. Two years after launching its new Web app, Microsoft has finally made Skype work on Firefox, though not without what might be an unnecessary warning.

Granted, there is a Skype desktop app anyway, so a Web browser experience might sound redundant. Not everyone, however, might want to install a separate app just for the occasional call, and not everyone might be keen on using Microsoft’s blessed browser. Depending on which browser you do prefer, however, you might have felt snubbed by Microsoft.

Switching Microsoft Edge from its homegrown edgeHTML engine to Chromium did mean that similar browsers like Chrome and Opera were able to support the new Skye for Web experience. Safari users on Macs, however, waited until May this year to be able to use Skype in their browser of choice.

Now it’s the turn of Firefox users to get equal treatment. According to Dr. Windows, going to the Skype landing page for browsers will finally let you use the communication platform’s functionality. There is still a warning that not all features might be available, but that might not actually be the case.

This compatibility with Firefox will be available on Skype 8.78, which is currently still in preview for Insiders. There’s no word yet on when it will roll out to the public, but until then, expect Skype’s official documentation to still believe that Firefox is the only browser that isn’t supported by Skype for Web.

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