From hedgehogs on Microsoft's Redmond campus to Phil Spencer surprising us with a major Final Fantasy announcement at this year's Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival, it's been an eventful week. Thankfully for anyone wanting to catch up on Microsoft, Xbox, and Windows news, we have a roundup of the biggest stories.
Final Fantasy 14 on Xbox
After years of waiting, Final Fantasy 14 is finally on its way to Xbox consoles. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer made a surprise appearance at this year's Final Fantasy 14 Fan Festival to share the news. Spencer and Square Enix CEO Takashi Kiryu also discussed further plans to get games on to Xbox consoles.
The Xbox version of Fantasy 14 will have quick load times that are on par with the PC version of the popular game. It will also support 4K resolution and have content throughout the upcoming Final Fantasy 14: Dawntrail expansion.
Final Fantasy 14 will be released on Xbox Series X and Xbox Series S in Spring 2024. Before that time, there will be an open beta for the game.
Surface Duo mystery
Stop me if you've heard this before, Microsoft has communicated poorly regarding the Surface Duo. The company has said to our Senior Editor Zac Bowden that it has "nothing to share" regarding if the Surface Duo and Surface Duo 2 will receive any more major Android updates. The foldable phones still run Android 12L despite the fact that Android 13 has been out for months.
Sources told Bowden that the Surface Duo 2 has been discontinued. The phone is still supported in terms of security updates, but it's unclear if it will receive an update to Android 13 or Android 14 at any point.
Microsoft has reportedly moved the majority of the Surface Duo OS team to work on Teams Rooms on Android. As of a few months ago, there weren't any plans to ship Android 13 for Surface Duo, though plans are subject to change.
Since Microsoft said it had "nothing to share" rather than flat out denying future updates are on the way, there's a chance that the company could surprise us. I'd suggest against holding your breath, however. Microsoft has a poor track record with shipping updates to the Surface Duo and I don't see that changing.
If you have a Surface Duo, your best bet for a major update may be through the unofficial project to get Android 13 onto the device.
AMD's impressive 3D V-Cache technology is on its way to gaming laptops. The company unveiled its Ryzen 9 7945HX3D at the China Joy event this week. That chip features 16 cores, 32 threads, and a boost frequency of 5.4GHz. It also has a 144MB Cache that's possible due to 3D V-Cache.
That technology allows AMD to stack layers of cache together, which improves power and efficiency. 3D V-Cache made its way to desktops earlier this year in the Ryzen 7 7800X3D, Ryzen 9 7900X3D and Ryzen 9 7950X3D. Now, that same tech is on the way to gaming laptops.
The Ryzen 9 7945HX3D will power the ASUS ROG Strix Scar 17 X3D, which will launch on August 22, 2023. We'll have to see how the chip performs in the real world, but based on its specs, the Ryzen 9 7945HX3D could be the best gaming processor of 2023.
If you follow Microsoft Edge on Twitter, or rather X as it's now called, you'll have spotted a change to the browser's profile photo. Rather than the Edge logo, the page now shows an adorable tiny hedgehog. That same spiny creature was seen on Microsoft campus in Redmond recently.
sorry we missed your pings, we were busy today pic.twitter.com/pUKLvWGc33July 25, 2023
As far as we can tell, this is a cute marketing tactic rather than a hint at anything more substantial. But that didn't stop our Managing Editor Jez Corden from breaking down the possible conspiracy surrounding the hedgehog. Corden joked, or at least I think he was joking, about an overarching conspiracy about Microsoft buying SEGA.
New Xbox dashboard
Xbox consoles received a new dashboard this week that better shows off backgrounds and artwork. Microsoft worked on the new dashboard and received feedback on what to improve for quite a while before shipping this version of the Xbox home screen.
The new Xbox home experience has a dedicated quick access menu at the top of the screen and smaller app tiles that get out of the way of your beautiful background or set dynamic backgrounds.
Despite the dashboard being based on feedback, it still features a bunch of ads and promotional material, so I'm not sure Microsoft is listening to all the feedback it receives, but hey, you gotta pay the bills. Xbox revenue increased 1% year-over-year in FY23 Q4. Maybe ads on the dashboard are the key to Xbox bringing in money.
Microsoft banning emulators
There are thousands of games to choose from on Xbox consoles, but you can expand that library greatly with the use of an emulator. If you have the right tools, you can play PlayStation and GameCube games through emulation on your Xbox Series X or Xbox Series S. But Microsoft has started suspending community members that use certain methods to emulate games.
While you can sideload apps onto your console if it's set to developer mode, there are downsides to that setup. Some community members prefer to set their console to retail mode, which until earlier this year also supported sideloading apps. Microsoft shut that functionality down in April 2023, but people found a workaround.
Now, members of the community are being temporarily suspended or banned for using that workaround to sideload apps onto Xbox consoles in retail mode.
For now, you can still use emulators by setting your Xbox console to developer mode, but it's unclear if that will remain to be the case.
Reviews & Editorials
Spec sheets and photos are fine for first impressions, but to really get a feel for a game or device, you have to go hands-on. From massive, curved gaming monitors to handheld PCs you can take on the go, our experts look at devices large and small. Here's a quick roundup of our reviews from the past week:
- Xbox's biggest crisis right now isn't games. It's hardware.
- This $30 gadget transformed working from home for me
- Microsoft's dubious positioning of the Surface Duo killed an ambitious vision
- Lenovo Legion Slim 7i (Gen 8) gaming laptop review: Slick hardware outperforms baffling design choices
- AYANEO 2S review: An impressive gaming handheld with a price that's hard to swallow
- Double Dragon Gaiden: Rise of the Dragons review — An expertly reimagined classic for the modern age
- Dangbei Neo Smart projector review: A refreshing cinematic experience for video games
- Alienware 34 Curved QD-OLED Gaming Monitor (AW3423DWF) review: Does it all with ease
Gadgets are great, but they can also be expensive. Our team hunts for the best deals on laptops, monitors, more. Over the last week, our experts spotted discounts on versatile 2-in-1s, gaming PCs, and gaming monitors. Here are the best deals of the week that are still live.
Robo & Kala 2-in-1 Laptop |
was $799 now $599
This new hardware maker has knocked it out of the park with its first 2-in-1 device, which is powered by a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 8cx Gen3, 16GB RAM and 512GB SSD, all housed in a premium, thin aluminum chassis and topped off with a superb 12.6-inch OLED display.
HP ENVY x360 15 |
was $800 now $500
This laptop is worth its normal price of $800, but at $500 it's a steal. It features a 15.6-inch FHD display that supports touch and runs on an AMD Ryzen 5 7530U processor. Pair those with a sleek design and a thin body and you have a perfect laptop for back-to-school.
Alienware x17 R2 |
was $4,300 now $2,300
With a discount of $2,000, this is one of the best gaming laptop deals you can take advantage of right now. Several models of the Alienware x17 R2 are on sale, but arguably the best deal is the version featuring a 12th Gen Intel Core i9 CPU and an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Ti. It has a 17.3-inch FHD display with a refresh rate of 480Hz to help deliver smooth gameplay.
Dell 22 Inch Monitor - SE2222H: was
$129 now $89 at Dell (save $40)
This 21.5-inch FHD LCD monitor offers a 60Hz refresh rate and displays imagery with plenty of color. It's flicker-free and anti-glare to make it easier to look at for long stretches without straining your eyes. The wide screen is perfect for helping you work on office work, school projects, or whatever else you might want. Connection-wise, it has both an HDMI 1.4 and a VGA port to work with other compatible devices.
Price Check: Amazon $102
✅Pros: 60Hz refresh rate, budget buy
Dell 24 Inch Monitor - SE2422H: was
$149 now $99 at Dell (save $50)
With its beautiful 1920 x 1080 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate, and compatibility with AMD FreeSync this monitor is ready to handle anything from simple office tasks to elaborate creative projects and even gaming. It has a 5ms response time and features both an HDMI 1.4 port and a VGA port for your connection needs.
Price Check: Amazon $129
✅Pros: 120Hz refresh rate, AMD FreeSync compatibility
Dell 27 Inch Monitor - S2721HN: was
$189 now $129 at Dell (save $60)
With its large 27-inch IPS display, tilting stand, and 1080p resolution this popular monitor is adept at displaying a wide range of tasks while being convenient to use. It also offers a 75Hz refresh rate, is compatible with AMD FreeSync, and has two HDMI ports to meet your connection needs. Plus, its wide color gamut allows it to show off imagery to beautiful effect with great color accuracy.
Price Check: Amazon $169
✅Pros: 75Hz refresh rate, great color accuracy
Dell 27 Inch Gaming Monitor - G2723HN: was
$259 now $129 at Dell (save $130)
At 50% off, this impressive 1080p gaming monitor is a great buy. Its 165Hz refresh rate and 1ms response time make it plenty fast to keep up with the latest and greatest games. Plus, it's compatible with both NVIDIA G-Sync and AMD FreeSync to upscale your gaming graphics and reduce stuttering. The two HDMI 2.0 ports and DisplayPort 1.2 connection make it great for connecting to other devices.
✅Pros: 165Hz refresh rate, 1ms response time, G-Sync and FreeSync compatibility
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at email@example.com.