There’s one setpiece-and-superhero packed flick to watch this week—Batman Ninja

Box-office figures and passionate Internet comment threads be damned. If you want dizzying and varied action set-pieces, a laundry list of beloved characters within a single adventure, and everything from time travel to quips about miso to giant robots juxtaposed against feudal Japan… well, there’s only one recently released blockbuster superhero flick for you.

Batman Ninja—the first theatrically released (in Japan at least), full-length anime film in the Dark Knight’s repertoire—finally hit streaming and VOD services (Amazon, iTunes, Google Play) in the US this week. The new title from DC Animation and Warner Bros. comes available in Japanese with English subtitles or as a straightforward English-language anime. And while its combination of highly stylized art, over-the-top story, and anime’s-greatest-hits touches won’t be for everyone, those with an affection for at least part of that recipe will be extremely pleased with what they’ve ordered.

Tale as old as time

To briefly set the stage, Batman finds himself investigating a Gorilla Grodd experiment in modern-day Gotham. The brainy primate has evidently been building a time machine with sinister, not scientific, intent. Unbeknownst to him, Catwoman’s in the vicinity looking for a quick score, all while other local heroes and villains have been centralized near city hall. So when things go awry as Batman storms the lab, everyone finds themselves transported back to feudal Japan.

The machine doesn’t instantaneously send everyone back, however. Travel has been staggered. By the time Batman wakes in the street, he finds a pamphlet at his feet with his face on it (can’t read it, though, it’s in Japanese). A pack of samurai in familiar clown masks quickly surround him, and the Dark Knight must dispatch of them to get any sense of what’s happening: “We were sent to find a man dressed as a bat, and we were ordered to kill him on sight,” the samurai say. “He cannot be allowed to live.”

Batman luckily runs into a disguised Catwoman next, and she catches him up while suggesting Bruce Wayne take on his own era-appropriate garb. It turns out, all the villains of Gotham have landed and taken over various feudal regions of Japan. They’ve been feuding with each other as they all hope to unify the country under one evil ruler—the Joker stands as the current clubhouse leader.

“They call me the Demon King, the most powerful man in Japan, but you can call me Lord Joker,” he says when we get the inevitable first encounter between the old foes. “It wasn’t always an aspiration, but if life throws you time travel, you have to make travel-ade.”

Thus, Batman must round up whatever heroes have also made this trip to save the citizens of feudal Japan, maintain the correct historical timeline, and bring down the Joker et al. before getting these characters back to present-day Gotham. Batman Ninja may lack Infinity Stones, but you can’t call its premise any less world-shaking. (Plus, our hero does at least have to round up five in-villain-possession power converters to make the time machine work.)

The English-language trailer

Anime by numbers? Still fun

I am no anime expert, but I have dabbled in Afro Samurai and grew up enjoying the infusion of Japanese-influenced-or-exported pop culture entities (Power Rangers, Dragon Ball Z, Pokemon, and various Miyazaki films) that characterized ’90s pop culture. Batman Ninja’s loving genre homages all strike the right tone.

via Ars Technica
There’s one setpiece-and-superhero packed flick to watch this week—Batman Ninja

The best and worst laptop brands 2018

BW Brands

Whether you’re purchasing a $1,500 gaming laptop or a $200 Chromebook, the brand matters. That’s why we rate the top 10 laptop brands each year, based on their support, design, innovation, value/selection and, most of all, product quality.

For 2018, Lenovo retained its place for a second year as the best laptop vendor, but it just barely edged out second-place HP and third-place Dell. Apple, which used to dominate this contest, fell all the way to seventh place, down from fifth last year.

1. Lenovo (86/100)

Lenovo takes first place again this year, on the strength of the company’s fantastic product lineup. From the beautiful ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which was the only product to get a perfect, 5-star review in the past year, to the versatile Yoga 920, Lenovo’s laptops earned the most Editors’ Choice awards of any brand. And a full 53 percent of the company’s laptops scored 4 or higher. However, Lenovo’s tech support scores declined from last year, and stiff competition from HP and Dell made this a nail-bitingly close race.

Best Lenovo Laptops | See Lenovo’s Full Report Card

2. HP (85/100)

After a banner year, filled with compelling laptops such as the gorgeous HP Spectre x360, the powerful ZBook 17 and the affordable HP Envy 13t, HP jumped ahead two places from its spot in 2017 to finish second. With great design marks and the second highest review score, HP gave Lenovo a run for its money.

Best HP Laptops | See HP’s Full Report Card

3. Dell (82/100)

Dell’s product portfolio is a mixture of fantastic premium systems, like the Dell XPS 13 and the awesome Alienware 15, and ho-hum mainstream and budget products. The company earned high marks for its improved tech support, which assigns users personal tech support people who follow up with them.

Best Dell Laptops | See Dell’s Full Report Card

4. Acer (81/100)

With laptops like the Spin 1 and Aspire E 15 in its lineup, Acer knows how to provide premium features at bargain-basement prices. The company can also make bold premium products, as evidenced by the $9,000 Predator 21X.

Best Acer Laptops | See Acer’s Full Report Card

4. Asus (81/100)

Thanks to innovative systems like the Zephyrus, Asus is a leader in gaming. With stunning blue models like the ZenBook UX331UN, indestructible laptops like the Chromebook C213S and great bargains like the ZenBook UX330UA, Asus is also a leader in design and value.

Best Asus Laptops | See Asus’ Full Report Card

6. Microsoft (77/100)

Microsoft makes only a handful of laptops, but all of its systems are first-rate. The company’s innovative Surface Book 2 convertible and the colorful and comfortable Surface Laptop are highlights.

See Microsoft’s Full Report Card

7. Apple (72/100)

Oh, how the mighty have fallen! Apple just doesn’t seem as focused on its laptop business as it used to be. The company did nothing to innovate or even tweak its designs in the past year, and only one of the company’s laptops earned an Editors’ Choice award. However, Tim Cook’s company still has the best tech support you can get.

Best Apple Laptops | See Apple’s Full Report Card

8. Razer (70/100)

If you’re looking for a premium gaming laptop and you have a generous budget, you should look into Razer, which has some really compelling laptops. Those include the Razer Blade and Razer Blade Pro. However, if you need something more affordable, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

See Razer’s Full Report Card

9. MSI (67/100)

MSI is one of the premiere gaming-laptop companies, but it still finds itself in a tie for 10th place, primarily because of very weak tech support. However, the company still has some very compelling products, including the MSI GT75VR Titan Pro, which had the best keyboard of any gaming laptop.

Best MSI Laptops | See MSI’s Full Report Card

9. Samsung (67/100)

If Samsung gave its laptops half the amount of love as it gives its phones, the company would probably fare better. As it stands, Samsung offers a small lineup of laptops that just don’t stack up to the competition. It also has, by far, the least-attractive designs in the industry. However, the tech support is excellent.

Best Samsung Laptops | See Samsung’s Full Report Card

How We Rate Brands

Each laptop brand is assigned a score based on a 100-point scale. Points are awarded in five categories: Design, Reviews, Tech Support/Warranty, Innovation and Value, and Selection. Here’s what each means.

Reviews (40 points): The most important aspect of any brand is the quality of its products. To determine a company’s Reviews category score, we used the ratings we gave its laptops between March 1, 2017, and Feb. 28, 2018. We took the average laptop rating for each brand (Laptop Mag rates on a scale of 1 to 5), converted that average rating to a 40-point scale and then added a 0.75-point bonus for each Editors’ Choice award.

Design (15 points): We absolutely will judge a notebook by its cover — and its sides, deck, bezel and base. Though no two notebooks look exactly the same, each brand has a design language that cuts across its product lines.

Brand Reviews (40) Design (15) Support & Warranty (20) Innovation (10) Value & Selection (15) Overall (100)
Lenovo 38 13 14 7 14 86
HP 35 14 15 7 14 85


31 11 18 9 13 82
Acer 33 12 14 7 15 81
Asus 30 15 15 6 15 81
Microsoft 34 12 14 8 9 77
Apple 33 11 19 3 6 72
Razer 33 12 14 5 6 70
MSI 31 11 11 6 8 67
Samsung 27 9 17 6 8 67

Tech Support and Warranty (20 points): When you buy a laptop, you want to know that the manufacturer is going to stand behind that machine and help you with technical problems. We base this category’s score primarily on the ratings from our annual Tech Support Showdown, in which we go undercover and pose questions to all of the companies, using their phone, web and social channels. However, 2 out of the 20 points were awarded based on the quality of the company’s standard warranty coverage.

Innovation (10 points): The laptop market is moving fast, and if you stand still, you’ll get rolled over. For the Innovation category, we awarded points based on the brand’s ability to move the market forward by implementing or developing new technologies, as well as by taking risks.

Value and Selection (15 points): How many different kinds of shoppers does the manufacturer address, and do the products provide good bang for your buck? For this category, we awarded points for offering a wide range of laptop types (budget, business, gaming, etc.) and for providing aggressive pricing.

Scorecard and Winners

via Engadget
The best and worst laptop brands 2018

The Best Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

An assortment of black plastic UPS's.
Photo: Mark Smirniotis

We started by considering 93 models from three leading companies: APC, CyberPower, and Tripp Lite. We’ve tested uninterruptible power supplies and surge protectors from these companies in the past, and all the power-product companies have long histories and reputations as reliable. Since a UPS is designed to be used in an emergency, choosing from a reliable brand is crucial to avoid buyer’s remorse at the worst possible time.

To whittle down such a massive list of candidates, we considered the most important factors that go into a great UPS:

Power management: We insisted that any UPS we tested use line-interactive topology, or automatic voltage regulation (AVR), a more advanced form of power management than that used by less expensive “standby” UPS models. AVR means that when power from a wall outlet briefly dips or surges outside of a specified range, a small transformer in the UPS acts like a buffer to compensate without relying on the battery; the UPS switches to battery power only when the transformer can’t handle the variation. This reduces wear and tear on the battery during frequent brownout conditions, prolonging its overall life and providing more-reliable power to sensitive gear like hard drives. Since AVR is available without a huge price premium, it’s a sensible feature to have to get the most from a UPS in the long term.

A UPS without some type of AVR is generally referred to as a “standby” UPS. That’s because the battery is always on standby, ready to jump in anytime the voltage from the wall outlet fluctuates outside a small predetermined range. A standby UPS is fine for many applications, but the battery inside may need to be replaced sooner, and it may not correct voltage fluctuations as quickly as an AVR model. We dismissed any standby models without testing them.

Battery capacity: Most UPS batteries are small, sealed, lead-acid batteries, not so different from a car battery. That makes them much cheaper than the lithium-based batteries in smartphones and laptops, but it’s also why they’re heavier and store less energy.

Two Leoch sealed lead-acid batteries side by side; the plastic connectors on the tops seem to be the only difference.
The batteries inside our top pick (left) and upgrade pick (right) are almost identical. Photo: Mark Smirniotis

Manufacturers often publish run-time ratings that outline how long a UPS can keep various wattages running. Since most ratings are based on ideal conditions, we tested our top candidates at two different loads, 50 W and 300 W, to see how they managed in real-world use. Our 50 W load was meant to simulate powering a cable modem and Wi-Fi router. Our 300 W load is closer to a full workstation, as it adds a modern desktop (around 150 W), a 27-inch monitor (88 W maximum), and network-attached storage hard drives (60 W maximum).

Since the batteries will likely start to hold less energy at the three-year mark (and may hold noticeably less energy after the five years) most models we considered have replaceable batteries to extend the life of the UPS. Prices for name-brand replacements range from $30 to $60, and the process is simple enough for a novice to complete in just a couple minutes.

Power output: While battery capacity and runtime measure how long a UPS can supply power, the power output tells you how much it can power at any one time. Most models explicitly include their output in the name or model number in volt-amperes (VA). The smallest UPS models we found with the AVR feature we require output 650 VA, more than enough to run a modem and Wi-Fi router at home. For an upgrade pick, we looked for models with at least a 1,000 VA rating. VA ratings aren’t common in most people’s lives, but they’re power ratings along the same lines as the more-familiar watts (W). For a quick estimation when shopping, you can assume that a UPS’s wattage rating will be about 60 percent of its volt-amp rating. So a UPS rated for 685 VA can probably handle about 400 W. That’s plenty to keep a cable modem (25 W), Wi-Fi router (30 W), and laptop charger (65 W) up and running for a while.

Outlets: All outlets on a home UPS provide surge protection, limiting the amount of extra voltage that could reach and potentially damage anything plugged into them. But generally only half of the outlets will be connected to the battery backup in case of an outage—and are prominently marked as such. That’s why we focused on models that had at least eight outlets total, since you’ll have only four of them in a power outage. In most home offices, this shouldn’t cause a problem, but it does require some planning in terms of making sure the right things are plugged into the right outlets.

Power Quality: For each model we tested, we looked at the power output using a digital oscilloscope provided by Bitscope. This let us see how well the inverters in each UPS converted the DC energy stored into the battery into the AC power provided by the outlets. Specifically, the oscilloscope let us look at two aspects of power quality: which models introduced the least amount of electrical noise into the line, and how well the modified sine wave inverter in each model imitated the kind of power that comes out of a standard wall outlet. For our upgrade pick, we also required a pure sine wave inverter (see the next item).

A small circuitboard with two lights on it, hooked up to two cables.
We used a Bitscope Micro and digital oscilloscope software to look at the waveforms on each UPS. Photo: Mark Smirniotis

Pure sine wave power: A modified sine wave (MSW) inverter turns the DC power stored in the battery into the AC power you need coming out of the outlets. Because MSW inverters are less expensive to make and work well for most devices, they’re the the most common type of inverter used in UPS units (including our top pick). But MSW inverters create only a close approximation of the kind of AC power that comes out of a wall outlet—it’s not quite the same. Most gadgets that charge with a power brick (including smartphones, tablets, and laptops) won’t care much, since the power brick does extra conversion anyway. But anything expecting AC power for moving parts like motors won’t work normally on an MSW inverter, and audio equipment can pick up buzzes of interference from them. And some home medical devices just won’t work with MSW power. In any of those cases, you need pure sine wave (PSW) inverters instead.

Pure sine wave inverters, and the UPS models that use them, replicate the smooth wave of power that comes from a wall outlet powered by a utility company. These inverters are more expensive to make and thus less common when it comes to inexpensive or occasional-use power sources. We’ve come across multiple online discussions discussing how to provide backup power for CPAP machines and whether MSW or PSW were better. We reached out to ResMed, makers of a variety of home respiratory care devices, to find out what they recommend. Amy Cook, the company’s marketing director, told us that many of the company’s newer products have power converters or even lithium-ion battery backups available. But if you plan on using a different power source, “older-generation PAPs (S8 and earlier) that are using modified sine wave inverters cannot power their respective humidifiers.” Given the importance, not to mention cost, of equipment like CPAP machines, we’d recommend you opt for a battery backup made by the same manufacturer, if available. If not, we prefer to stick to PSW inverters—like the one included in our upgrade pick—to avoid any problems.

Extra features: A basic UPS doesn’t need a lot of features to do its job, but other features we considered include status displays that show battery charge and remaining runtime right on the unit and power-management software that lets you monitor and manage a UPS (over USB) from your computer. Neither feature is crucial for a UPS in most homes—the power goes out and you know you have limited network or computer time to do what you need to do. But a status display is a nice-to-have feature that can help calm power anxiety, and power management software that works on any operating system future-proofs changes in your setup so that your UPS can be just as useful years down the line as it is the first day you plug it in.

Every UPS from a reputable brand comes with some basic surge protection built in, which is good because you can’t plug your UPS into a surge protector or plug a surge protector into a UPS. Unfortunately, most affordable UPS units don’t offer much protection compared with a dedicated surge protector. In previous tests, electrical engineer Lee Johnson took apart our UPS samples to examine their guts. Based on his assessment, we found that our picks should protect your equipment about as well, if not for as long, as basic surge protectors we’ve tested before.

via Wirecutter: Reviews for the Real World
The Best Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)

[Review] Radical Firearms Upper: Best Cheap AR Upper or Total Bust?

If you’re always hunting deals (make sure you like and follow us on Facebook, we post 3-4 every day) you probably have seen something from Radical Firearms for sale on the cheap.

I’m talking, complete rifles selling for $500-$600, uppers for $200…that kind of cheap.

Of course, when you’re looking at something that uses an explosion to fire a 55gr projectile out at 3,200 feet per second, is it really the best idea to go cheap?

That’s what I wanted to find out.  

I found a Radical Firearms upper for sale for the rock-bottom, the you-gotta-be-kidding-me price of $190.  This was an assembled upper minus BCG and charging handle, for less than $200 even with shipping

Radical Upper and Aero Bolt
BCG and Charging Handle not included.

How did it shake out?  Is a $200 upper worth it?

Let’s find out.

Specs of the Radical Firearms Upper

  • 16” 4140 Chromoly Barrel With Melonite Coating
  • 5.56 SOCOM Profile
  • M4 Feed Ramps
  • 1:7 Twist Rate
  • A2 Flash Hider
  • 1/2×28 TPI
  • Low Profile Gas Block
  • Carbine Length Gas System
  • Radical Firearms Forged MIL-STD Upper Receiver
  • MIL-STD Upper Parts Kit
  • RF Dimpled Forward Assist
  • Radical Firearms 15″ MHR Hybrid Rail System
Radical Firearms 16" 5.56 NATO M-Lok Upper Assemble

Radical Firearms 16" 5.56 NATO M-Lok Upper Assemble

Prices accurate at time of writing

A Little Background on Radical Firearms

Radical Firearms is a relative newcomer to the AR-15 world.  I first heard about them when they brought some of their work to SHOT Show in 2016 or so, but they’ve been around for about five years now.

In that half-decade, they’ve expanded rapidly and carved out a niche for themselves as one of the best budget manufacturers in the business.  

How did they do that?

They decided to start making as many parts as they could in-house.  

radical firearms rifle
Be sure to check out the awesome article from Breach Bang Clear about Radical’s business.

This afforded them the opportunity to exercise a high degree of control over their manufacturing, while also allowing them to cut out a lot of the middleman markup that gets slapped on rifles by “manufacturers” that just assemble guns from third-party parts, rather than making everything in-house.

And make no mistake, they are a manufacturer.  They make every part of the rifles they sell, other than barrels, pins/springs, and LPKS.  Their site also says they don’t make BCGs but I think that info is a bit out of date as I’ve seen a number of Radical Firearms branded BCGs out there.

They are also an American manufacturer, which I know is important to a lot of folks, and best of all they prefer to hire vets and LE personnel when they can, like many in the firearms industry.

The Primary & Secondary Kerfuffle and Rumors of Poor Quality

Primary and Secondary banner
Image Source: Primary and Secondary

Also back in 2016, there was a bit of a mixup between Radical Firearms and Primary and Secondary (an excellent forum focused on providing info to MIL/LEO folks who use rifles and such at work) when there was a misunderstanding regarding an NDA, a prototype rifle, and a visit to an employees workplace.

Now, without going into a lot of detail here, it turns out that there was some confusion on both sides, and a rifle that was actually a prototype was reviewed as if it was a finished product, and there were some issues about on whose behalf the review was being conducted.

It all created a bit of a mess, but thankfully the folks at Radical Firearms and the folks at Primary and Secondary are all professionals, and they got everything sorted out.

You can read Primary and Secondary’s full statement on the issue if you want to know more, but the gist of it is, everybody said sorry and moved on.  Radical Firearms got a properly working rifle to them, and in the end, the Radical Firearms Carbine received a solid review.

Why I Bought The Radical Firearms Upper

This all leads me to this review and why I bought a Radical Firearms upper of my very own.

Now, like I said, Radical and PS buried the hatchet over the misunderstanding and everyone moved on.  But it left a wonky taste in my mouth. I know the smell of PR spin when it passes my nostrils, and this felt a little…off.

So I decided to see for myself, and I didn’t want to contact Radical about getting a T&E upper in to check out.   I wanted a regular ole upper off the warehouse shelf, just like the one you would get if you ordered one.  

Radical upper
I was worried about the handguard screws, but so far I haven’t had any issues.

I searched around and found one at Optics Planet and snapped it up during last year’s Black Friday sale.  

I did this for two reasons.

  1. I wanted to be as unbiased as possible, and avoid getting a T&E/review upper that might get looked over a little more on the way out the door.  Not that I don’t trust the folks at Radical Firearms, I just don’t trust anybody, especially not when they’re offering me cheap prices.
  2. I needed another upper, and I’m at that age now where I have to buy Christmas presents for every-freaking-body in the world, so money is tight around our house from about Halloween to Valentine’s Day and the Radical Firearms upper was cheap.  Cheap is good.  Me and the missus like cheap. 

So, is Radical Firearms another in a long line of fly-by-night machine shops turning out AR parts with sloppy standards and poor practices?

Or are they something else?  Maybe even a sorely needed quality, American manufacturer offering good rifles at great prices?

I wanted to know, and I sure found out.

The Upper Itself

The upper I bought had a 15” MLOK rail, and A2 flash hider, and not much else going for it.  I like the shape of the handguard, it has a sort of quasi-rounded thing going on with a flattish bottom.

Radical fitment
The finish on the pivot pin hole is a little lacking and seems to be more like a paint than an actual anodized finished, but I suppose corners have to be cut somewhere, and it shouldn’t be an issue.

Machining is totally adequate.  I noticed no rough edges, file marks, burrs, or other machining imperfections.  Everything is totally in spec and I had no problems fitting the upper to a variety of lowers, including two Aero lowers, a Spikes lower, and an Anderson lower.  

Testing the Radical Firearms Upper

Now, the upper I received was sans BCG and charging handle, so I added my own until I could get a Radical Firearms BCG, which I’ll talk about it a minute.

For now, I threw in a spare Aero Precision BCG and a generic charging handle that came from…somewhere.  I throw BCM Gunfighter handles on all my guns, so this one probably came off a complete upper or something.  

Aerp Precision BCG

Aerp Precision BCG

Prices accurate at time of writing

With that, I inspected the upper, daubed a little Dykem layout/machining fluid on the screws holding the handguard in place so I could see if they were turning or working themselves out under recoil, lubed everything that needed lubing, slapped the upper on an Aero complete lower, and hit the range.

I packed a little over 250 rounds on that first outing, a mix of Federal American Eagle, range-quality handloads, and a box of Federal Gold Medal, all with 77gr bullets to take maximum advantage of the 1:7 twist barrel.

I also slapped a Bushnell TRS red dot, my personal favorite cheapo optic, on top of the upper’s full-length rail. I chose this because I figure most people who buy these aren’t going to be putting something super expensive like the absolutely amazing Aimpoint PRO on top of it.

Bushnell TRS-25

Bushnell TRS-25

Prices accurate at time of writing

And again, there’s nothing wrong with a budget rifle, as long as it works.  If you aren’t a precision shooter, the difference between a sub-1” group and a 2.5” group isn’t a big deal, but you will pay through the nose for the former and can throw together a rifle that’ll do the latter for about $600.  

I zeroed this setup in at 25 yards, and then stepped over to the 100, 200, and 400 yard stretches to see what it could really do.

Again, this is with a mix of ammo, and honestly, I didn’t expect much out of the upper.  At $190, if I could hit pie plates at 100 yards, I’d have gone home happy.  I set out to build a beater gun after all.

But holy shit did I underestimate this upper.

I was hitting 6” steel plates at 100 yards with absolutely boring regularity, the staccato pingpingping of rapid-fire impacts setting the plate swinging on the chains.

At fifty yards, I was left with one ragged dime-sized hole.  

Reaching out to 400 yards, I was able to fairly easily smack a steel pig silhouette target, though I was pushing myself more than the rifle, and I’ll take credit for any misses.

Punching paper with the Gold Medal ammo was equally surprising.  I swapped in a Vortex Strike Eagle 1-6x scope and after a quick bore sight and about a third of a mag to really dial the scope in, I was getting easy 2 MOA groups at 100 and 200 yards, and a best group of 1.8 inches (measured center to center with calipers) at 100 yards.


Best Bang-For-The-Buck Scope
Vortex 1-6x Strike Eagle

Vortex 1-6x Strike Eagle

Prices accurate at time of writing

I noticed no keyholing or other weirdness, and I shot the full 250 or so rounds without a single issue (this was with beat up PMAGS and one steel GI mag).

Now, is any of that matching accuracy?  No, of course not.  I have AR’s that’ll punch ¾ MOA groups all day.  

But those rifles have an extra digit on their price tag.  Nowhere do I see Radical Firearms claiming to make the most accurate guns in the world for $600.  I see them saying they make guns that work for $600, and their upper certainly reflects that.

Since November, I’ve put about a thousand rounds through this upper, cleaned it once, lubed it three or four times, and I’ve experienced precisely two malfunctions, both from the same mag.

That mag also had problems feeding in a $2,500 rifle where it actually causes a double feed (and some swearing).

Overall Impressions

Overall, I was very impressed with the Radical Upper I received.

The rumors and the gossip and the snide remarks are all just hot air.  I think Radical Firearms is a good company that makes great products, and they are definitely a manufacturer to keep your eye on.

When I was researching them beforehand, I saw a lot of comments from others about the low quality of their products, and machining issues, and “Chinesium” and on and on and on.  

But I noticed that these were always comments from people who had a “friend” who owned one.  Or somebody was quoting somebody that overheard somebody that…was full of it.

I haven’t seen very many complaints ( none, really) from people who own Radical Firearms products, and I can say, since I purchased this thing with my own money, that I also have no complaints about the upper I bought and tested for this review, and others are saying the same.

Will it knock the wings off a fly at a thousand yards?  Not unless you get very lucky, but not every rifle needs to be that accurate.

For me, for this rifle, I wanted something I could abuse and knock around, and still count on it to hit what I was aiming at inside 400 yards or so.  And this does that.

If you’re looking for a reliable beater gun, an entry-level upper for a new build project, or even something that’s competition-ready on a tight budget, I can’t think of a better value for your dollar than these uppers.

And they’re available in everything from 7.62×39 to the hot new .224 Valkyrie, so you can get one for every occasion.

Parting Shots

I’m happy with my purchase, and anyone who complains about a $200 upper that goes bang every time and puts rounds on target is probably just looking for something to complain about.

What do you think of the Radical Firearms upper?  Would you put one on your gun? Drop me a line in the comments below!  Check out the rest of our favorite guns & gear at Editor’s Picks.

The post [Review] Radical Firearms Upper: Best Cheap AR Upper or Total Bust? appeared first on Pew Pew Tactical.

via Pew Pew Tactical
[Review] Radical Firearms Upper: Best Cheap AR Upper or Total Bust?

Anker Upgraded Our Readers’ Favorite Bluetooth Earbuds, and They’re Just $22 Today

Anker SoundBuds Slim+ Bluetooth Headphones | $22 | Amazon | Promo code ANKER411

Our readers voted Anker’s SoundBuds Slims as their favorite affordable Bluetooth headphones, but we may need a recount, as Anker recently released the upgraded SoundBuds Slim+, on sale for just $22 today with promo code ANKER411.

The biggest change from the original model is the inclusion of AptX encoding, which should improve sound quality with compatible devices. Anker also claims that waterproofing has been improved, though they’re both still rated as IPX5, so any change on that front is likely modest. One thing that hasn’t changed: the seven hour battery, which is excellent for earbuds of this size.

via Lifehacker
Anker Upgraded Our Readers’ Favorite Bluetooth Earbuds, and They’re Just $22 Today

Rev1 Ventures portfolio startups total $1.4B 5-year economic impact in Central Ohio

Rev1 Ventures invested in a record number of startups in 2017 and its portfolio companies brought a combined $201 million revenue and new capital to Central Ohio – bringing cumulative economic impact since 2013 to $1.4 billion.
Those companies will have to triple the flow of dollars in 2018 – maybe post a spectacular acquisition – if Rev1 is going to hit its goal of a $2 billion impact by year’s end. With $90 million under management, the Columbus venture capital firm investing in early-stage…

via Columbus Business News – Local Columbus News | Business First of Columbus
Rev1 Ventures portfolio startups total $1.4B 5-year economic impact in Central Ohio

The 5 Best VPN Routers

Everyone should be using a VPN by now. The news is consistently awash with articles detailing the abject destruction of your privacy. And once gone, it is gone forever. The trouble is that using a single VPN requires you to set up each device in your house.

Luckily, there is an alternative method. Instead of painstakingly entering credentials on individual devices, why not upgrade to a VPN router and protect every device all at once? Here’s what you need to know about VPN routers.

What Is a VPN Router?

Before we delve into the best VPN routers, let’s quickly establish the difference between the VPN on your laptop or smartphone and a VPN router:

  • VPN client: A VPN client on your computer protects data transmissions for that system alone. Once you sign-up and download a client, the VPN protects the individual device. Many services offer protection for multiple devices under the same subscription, but you have to download the software/app for each device.
  • VPN router: A VPN router provides the security and privacy of a regular VPN

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    , but covers every device on the network. All of the devices in your home can simultaneously use and benefit from a VPN without fiddling around with masses of login credentials and app downloads. The tradeoff, however, is having to set up a VPN router.

VPN routers were once the sole reserve of security and network buffs. But as internet users seek to improve their privacy and security, VPN routers have become more accessible.

Different Types of VPN Routers

VPN routers come in a few different flavors depending on your requirements. Almost all require you to run a custom router firmware, like DD-WRT or Tomato. These Linux-based custom router firmware projects offer far greater customization than a standard OEM setup. Support varies from router to router, depending on manufacturer and device hardware.

In that, you have two options: purchase a router with your firmware choice preinstalled, or buy a compatible router and take matters into your own hands.

The Best VPN Routers

Without further ado, here are the best VPN routers you can lay your hands on.

the best vpn routers

ASUS AC5300 WiFi Tri-band Gigabit Wireless Router with 4×4 MU-MIMO, 4x LAN Ports, AiProtection Network Security and WTFast Game Accelerator, AiMesh Whole Home WiFi System Compatible (RT-AC5300)

ASUS AC5300 WiFi Tri-band Gigabit Wireless Router with 4×4 MU-MIMO, 4x LAN Ports, AiProtection Network Security and WTFast Game Accelerator, AiMesh Whole Home WiFi System Compatible (RT-AC5300)

Buy Now At Amazon

The Asus RT-AC5300 is a visually impressive router that will make your friends wonder about their inferior router choices. It has eight antennas and can blast wireless signal across 5,000 square feet, making it perfect for anyone with a large home or office.

The RT-AC5300 is a tri-band router that uses Asus’s Smart Connect feature to level out demand. This means the router switches between 5GHz bands to make sure there is no network congestion.

In addition, the router packs a decent 1.4GHz dual-core CPU with a similarly decent 512MB RAM, has eight Gigabit Ethernet ports for cable connections, and uses MU-MIMO for better speeds with multiple devices. Another bonus is the USB 3.0 port for external storage devices (as well as a USB 2.0 port too).

This VPN router is an excellent choice for network intensive environments, or even just large, bandwidth-hungry families, albeit at a high cost. The RT-AC5300 supports DD-WRT but not Tomato.

  • Purchase without VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon
  • Purchase with your choice of VPN service provider with DD-WRT custom firmware via FlashRouters

the best vpn routers

NETGEAR Certified Refurbished R7000-100NAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router with Open Source Support., Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa

NETGEAR Certified Refurbished R7000-100NAR Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wi-Fi Gigabit Router with Open Source Support., Compatible with Amazon Echo/Alexa

Buy Now At Amazon

The Netgear Nighthawk R7000 (our review) is one of the cheapest options on this VPN router list. But cheap VPN router status aside, the Nighthawk R7000 is well worth your time. The R7000 features a 1GHz dual-core processor with 256MB RAM, as well as four gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port.

The Nighthawk R7000 is a dual-band router, allowing it to switch seamlessly between bands. Also, the router has a number of Quality of Service (QoS) features to boost streaming and data throughput. For instance, you can optimize traffic for video streaming or online gaming, and so on. You also get some NAS functionality through Netgear’s ReadyShare technology, allowing you to use a large external drive as a basic NAS.

This isn’t the fastest or most powerful router on the list (most models have 802.11ac mode, but some only have “b/g/n”—do not buy any router without at least “n”). But the Nighthawk R7000 provides a cheap entry level VPN router experience, especially if you purchase the router and flash the firmware yourself. The Nighthawk R7000 supports DD-WRT and Tomato, as well as other custom firmware. It also looks cool.

  • Purchase without VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon
  • Purchase with your choice of VPN service provider with Tomato custom firmware via FlashRouters
  • Purchase with a NordVPN subscription with DD-WRT custom firmware via FlashRouters
  • Purchase without VPN provider with Sabai OS custom firmware via Sabai Technology

the best vpn routers

ASUS RT-AC86U Dual Band AC2900 WiFi Extreme Gigabit Wireless Router with 1.8GHz Dual-Core Processor, USB 3.1 Gen1 and AiProtection Network

ASUS RT-AC86U Dual Band AC2900 WiFi Extreme Gigabit Wireless Router with 1.8GHz Dual-Core Processor, USB 3.1 Gen1 and AiProtection Network

Buy Now At Amazon

Asus develop and release a considerable amount of routers with VPN capabilities. The Asus RT-AC86U is a powerful dual-band VPN router featuring 512MB RAM and a 1.8GHz dual-core processor. It comes with three high-power antennas that broadcast over a huge area, as well as packing in NitroQAM technology to boost your data transmission rates by utilizing extra wireless band capacity.

The RT-AC86U features four Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB 3.0 port, and a USB 2.0 port. You can use Asus’s AiPlayer and AiDisk as a media server and file server in conjunction with an external hard-drive, doubling up as a NAS of sorts.

But best of all, the Asus RT-AC86U is easy to setup with your own custom VPN router firmware, with support for Asuswrt-Merlin (a customized version of Asus’s existing firmware), Tomato, and DD-WRT variants. Unfortunately, I cannot find a retail option with a pre-installed VPN provider and custom firmware—but there are several tutorials online that will guide you through.

  • Purchase without VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon

the best vpn routers

Linksys WRT AC3200 Open Source Dual-Band Gigabit Smart Wireless Router with MU-MIMO, Tri-Stream 160 (WRT3200ACM)

Linksys WRT AC3200 Open Source Dual-Band Gigabit Smart Wireless Router with MU-MIMO, Tri-Stream 160 (WRT3200ACM)

Buy Now At Amazon

The Linksys WRT3200ACM consistently features in “best VPN router” lists and for a good reason. Like the RT-AC86U, it features a powerful 1.8Ghz dual-core processor with 512MB RAM.

As well as this, the WRT3200ACM uses MU-MIMO to keep those speeds high. In addition to MU-MIMO, the WRT3200ACM uses Linksys Tri-Stream 160 technology to boost Wi-Fi speeds across wireless bands (somewhat similarly to NitroQAM). The WRT3200ACM broadcasts using four antennas with an extensive range. You’ll also find a USB 3.0 port, along with a combined USB 2.0/eSATA port for plugging in peripherals.

Finally, the WRT3200ACM supports OpenWrt and DD-WRT custom firmware, allowing you to customize your VPN router as you see fit. However, pre-installed WRT32000ACM VPN routers are available, with the ExpressVPN/OpenWrt combination one of the easiest to use. This VPN router really does have a considerable amount of support, allowing you to fine-tune your setup.

the best vpn routers

D-Link Ultra AC5300 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router with 8 High Power Antennas, MU-MIMO and 4-Stream NitroQAM (DIR-895L/R)

D-Link Ultra AC5300 Tri-Band Wi-Fi Router with 8 High Power Antennas, MU-MIMO and 4-Stream NitroQAM (DIR-895L/R)

Buy Now At Amazon

The D-Link AC5300 DIR-895L/R (our review) comes with a 1.4GHz dual-core processor with 256MB RAM, broadcasting using eight antennas (dead spider robot, anyone?). The router is tri-band, using MU-MIMO to provide consistently high speeds to every device in your household or office, with a total theoretical combined throughput of 5,332Mbps (1,000 Mbps in 2.4GHz, plus 2,166 Mbps in 5GHz and 2,166 Mbps in 5GHz).

The DIR-985L/R also comes with four gigabit Ethernet ports, along with a USB 3.0 port and a USB 2.0 port. Like most of the other listed routers, the DIR-985L/R will function as a simple-but-effective NAS if you attach an external hard drive of sufficient size.

The AC5300 DIR-895L/R has extensive support for DD-WRT, with some support for other OpenWrt projects such as LEDE. This is a well-rounded VPN router that provides ample power for a large household with multiple devices (up to 20!), or even a small office.

  • Purchase with VPN provider or custom firmware via Amazon

Which VPN Router Will You Choose?

You have five excellent VPN routers to choose from. But if these VPN routers don’t suit your requirements, there are plenty more on the market to check out.

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of a regular VPN to your entire family. And with the range of online support available, setting up a VPN router

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is no longer a daunting task only network savants should attempt.

The 5 Best VPN Routers