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Five cheap laptops that are worth a gander

We're showcasing some of our favorite cheap laptops, perfect for anybody shopping on a budget.

Whether you need a spare PC for tinkering, a laptop for the kid that can be stand getting busted with minimal heartbreak, or you're just keeping an eye on your budget and need a passable computer, we've assembled some of the most promising options available. We're setting the threshold for under $350 for these picks, and many are well below that. Keep in mind that you likely won't be playing graphics-intensive games on these machines, but browsing, daily work, and moderate photo editing shouldn't be a problem.

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Back in December, Windows Central streamed a downloadable Xbox and Windows game from Capcom called Strider. The game became one of my favorites of 2014 thanks to its sleek style, fast pace, and rewarding sense of exploration. We've been wanting to come back to Strider on the stream ever since, and at last we're doing just that.

Why just play the newest Strider though? Last year's Strider is actually the latest in a long-running series. Seeing as how many readers and viewers probably haven't played the previous games, we've decided to turn back the clock a bit. Tonight we're playing the original Strider, Strider 2, and Strider (2014) all in one historic Twitch stream. Join us to see why the series is so beloved with hardcore gamers and have a blast chatting with the Windows Central crowd!

Update: The stream has ended. Continue reading to learn about the Strider series and see our full playthroughs of Strider 1 and 2!

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The Microsoft Band is not widely available, but lucky owners got treated to an update earlier this week. Some of the new features include the Bike Tile, virtual keyboard, Quick Read, and much more. It also lets Microsoft Band users integrate their data with two additional services: HealthVault and MapMyFitness. The Microsoft Band originally included just two integrated services: RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. We'll show you how to integrate your Microsoft Band with these services.

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Earlier today, Windows Central ran a story regarding a potential Pebble app coming to Windows Phone. Evidence for the claim comes via a Store listing for an internal app that demonstrates a Pebble watch syncing with Windows Phone 8.1 devices.

At the time, my position was that this app represents a proof-of-concept approach. If Pebble were pleased with the performance and feature-set, a contract to build the actual app and partnership would likely take place.

Speaking with various people familiar with the situation, I have been able to learn the full context of the Microsoft-Pebble state of affairs. The news is fascinating, but the outcome will cause some weeping and gnashing of teeth.

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Another carrier has (surprisingly) beat AT&T to the punch for the Lumia Denim update. T-Mobile US is now pushing out the update to its small but dedicated base of Lumia 925 owners, bringing some new firmware and an OS upgrade.

T-Mobile themselves have not updated their support page, but Microsoft has, and tips from users tell us the update is live. Indeed, we have checked on two of our Lumia 925s for the US carriers and have updates waiting.

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Have you heard the news? Google does not care for Microsoft nor Windows Phone. In fairness, this is not news, but if you need more evidence of their antagonism, look no further than Softcard.

On Monday, Google announced that they had purchased "technology and intellectual property" from Softcard, essentially acquiring the core of that company's product line. The effort is likely a desperate move to catch up to Apple Pay, which is picking up commercial adoption by many banks and retail outlets.

Softcard is also available in the US for Windows Phone, specifically with Verizon and AT&T being supporters. In fact, the apps only recently became available (although our personal experience with their service was not exactly awe-inspiring). The fate of Softcard for Windows Phone though was not known until now.

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Is there a Pebble app coming to Windows Phone? Maybe.

Recently, an internal listing for what looks to be a Pebble synchronization app for Windows Phone was found in the Store. Pebble is one of the most prevalent and well-known smartwatches on the market, so official support for it on Windows Phone would be a big win for the platform.

Unfortunately, the evidence is mixed, at best. We'll try to explain what is going on.

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Last night, WhatsApp out of the blue pushed out a semi-rare update for their popular messaging app. Unfortunately, no changelog was included, so it was left to the masses to discern what is new.

We should have caught the change, as it has been rumored for months now, but alas we have been playing with shiny, new tablets lately. The change in 2.11.670 is rather straightforward: how the messages appear in the notification center.

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For the last few days, many tips have been rolling in about 6tin, Rudy Huyn's Tinder client. Huyn's apps have had a hit and miss record with some companies who's IP is involved with his creations. This is why when 6tin went missing recently, people started to fear the worst.

Luckily, in this case at least, 6tin is missing merely due to some Store problem.

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Windows Phone puzzle games can be an enjoyable way to pass the time. Some games are fast paced to challenge your reflexes and sense of timing. Then other games require a little more thought in finding a solution. Rote is a relatively new Windows Phone game that falls more into the latter category.

The puzzle game has you guiding a ball down a path that is blocked by a series of boxes. You will have to shuffle the boxes around to create a path the ball can use to continue its travels. The concept is simple but as you will find, the solutions are not. Available for low-memory Windows Phones, Rote comes across as a quality addition to the Windows Phone puzzle game genre.

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Update: A new report in The Intercept claims that Gemalto is drastically downplaying the effects of this attack. In the report, several security researchers came to the conclusion that "the company made sweeping, overly-optimistic statements about the security and stability of Gemalto's networks, and dramatically underplayed the significance of the NSA-GCHQ targeting of the company and its employees."

Original story: Digital security vendor Gemalto revealed its findings today following last week's report of an incursion by the NSA and the GCHQ into the vendor's SIM card encryption keys. While Gemalto noted that an operation by NSA and GCHQ "probably happened" in 2010 and 2011, the intrusion could not have resulted in a "massive theft" of SIM card encryption keys as the breach affected the company's office network and not its secure networks.

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The Witcher 3 is set to be one of the year's biggest role-playing games when it arrives on Xbox One, Windows, and Playstation 4 this May. The third game in the Witcher series differentiates itself from other open-world action-RPGs with its dark and mature storyline filled with meaningful player choices and memorable sidequests.

To help prepare our readers for The Witcher 3, Windows Central has begun a new weekly Twitch series focused on The Witcher 2. Every Tuesday night at 8pm Central (9pm Eastern, 6pm Pacific), we play through another section of the game while you guys watch the stream at Twitch.tv/Eastxtwitch. Join us and engage in our social take on this epic Witcher adventure!

Did you miss the previous episode of our Witcher Twos-day series? Don't worry; we've got a full write-up that will get you up to speed – complete with screenshots from the stream!

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