New Cinematic Trailer for Fan-Made Halo PC Game

 

The world of video game fan projects never ceases to amaze, as gamers everywhere continue to show-off their creativity and imagination by developing the kind of experiences that many of us wish would get an official release.

The latest in this long line of “I can’t believe someone is doing that” projects is called Installation 01, and it intends to give PC players everywhere a proper modern-day Halo multiplayer experience to call their own. You can check out this project’s progress in the developer diary video below:

Installation 01 is currently being developed by a group of 30 fans with various talents that intend for their game to be a largely unique experience in the style of previous Halo titles rather than a direct port of those games.

As part of their compliance with the content usage rules set forth by Microsoft, the Installation 01 team is developing nearly everything in the game (including assets that were previously included in Halo games) from scratch. That means that every character, every animation, every level, and every weapon has been hand-designed by the team. While much of the game is still made to resemble elements of the Halo franchise, the developers are also working on unique levels and weapons that will be exclusive to this release.

By going to such lengths to create everything themselves, the hope is that Microsoft will not shut down the game such as how Nintendo has shut down a few recent fan projects based on their properties. Given the sheer amount of work that appears to have gone into the project (it’s even set to feature its own level creation toolset), it certainly would be disappointing if this was ruled to be a license violation, especially since there have been no talks of porting the Halo franchise to PC since the release of Halo 2 for Windows in 2007.

The group behind this project have made some incredible progress since we last checked in. It’s clear that there’s still a ways to go before its completed, but the Installation 01 developers certainly prove their resolve in this Q&A video about the project:

If that’s not enough to convince you that the team behind this project is dedicated to bringing a complete Halo experience to PC users everywhere, then perhaps this impressive homemade cinematic trailer for Installation 01 may just get the job done with its look at how visceral classic Halobattles can get.

It’s time for PC game demos to make a comeback

 

I’ve been privately lamenting the lack of PC game demos lately. There was a time when demos were commonplace: a chunk of a brand new game you could try out for free before you bought the full game. Demos gave us a chance not only see what a game had to offer and whether or not we enjoyed it, but also allowed us to continually tweak the settings and try different graphics options to see how our PCs handled it. Plus, instead of waiting months for a sale to try the game without a lot of risk, you could play right when the game came out, while everyone else was still talking about it.

While I was at PDXCon this past weekend I spent a few minutes talking with Kim Nordstrom, former general manager of Swedish game company King and current leader of Paradox Interactive’s mobile initiative. We chatted about PC and mobile games, and especially about Introversion’s Prison Architect, which is making an unlikely appearance on mobile platforms with Paradox as the publisher. Nordstrom’s plan for Prison Architect provide a few lessons PC games could learn from with its unusual, almost shareware-era approach to pricing.

Mobility

Big, meaty mobile games have a challenge when it comes to sales. The roots of mobile are in free games, or exceedingly cheap ones: 99 cents, maybe a couple of dollars. Pricing a mobile game at $15 or $20 is a dubious prospect, which is why so many are free-to-play with microtransactions: get the game into players’ hands first, and try to get money out of them later. The issue is that ‘microtransaction’ has become something of a dirty word, and that’s mostly true on PC as well. While there are a number of great free-to-play games on PC like Dota 2 and League of Legends, there are scores more that have left us highly suspicious of the F2P model, with gated progress and gameplay designed around making you so damn impatient you’ll pay just to advance at a reasonable pace.Image result for It's time for PC game demos to make a comeback

On mobile, Prison Architect will cost around $15. That feels like a fair price for what you get—it’s a complex management simulation and a great gameone of my favorites from 2015—but Nordstrom knows simply plopping it on mobile stores with that price tag probably won’t fly. So it will be free to download, and unlocking the complete game lands somewhere between free-to-play and full-price.

“It’s not a free-to-play with microtransactions, nothing like that, it caps at $15 right now,” Nordstrom told me. “But we basically just made it so anyone can install it, and it’s a try before you buy.”

Nordstrom holds out his hands a few inches apart, then widens them as he describes how the game unlocks more content for those who purchase it in chunks. “And the game size is this big, we offer you this much for free, and then we’re very clear on if you pay whatever dollars, you get the sandbox, if you pay [more] you get the chapters, and if you pay the full price you get the full game.”

So, you get to play a portion of the game as much as you want for free, just like a PC demo. Inside the game itself there’s a store that lets you unlock the rest of the features at certain price points. While that sounds suspiciously like microtransactions, there’s a difference: the total amount you can spend is capped. You won’t be nickel-and-dimed forever. If you decide to spend money, you’ll know exactly how much, in advance, it will cost you, and once you’ve spent it, you’re done. You own everything, and you’re never prompted or even tempted to spend more.

The demo, man

As Tyler concluded recently, big-publisher games can cost a lot on PC, especially when you factor in their many special editions, and that along with having no way to try a game before buying it has kept me away from a lot of games in the past few years. With Steam refunds, you can play a game for two hours before returning it or deciding to keep it but as we pointed out recently with Prey, which had a console demo but irritatingly none on PC, that’s nothing like a proper demo at all. (The reason given by Prey’s co-creative director Raphael Colantonio was “It’s just a resource assignment thing. We couldn’t do a demo on both the console and on the PC, we had to choose.”)

Sometimes there are free weekends for games, which are great, but that’s usually well after launch (this weekend’s Rising Storm 2 beta excepted) and usually long after people are actively talking about the game and your friends are still playing it. I’ve never bought a game just for a pre-order bonus, because pre-purchasing isn’t a great idea and the bonuses aren’t much to speak of (what am I really going to do with a digital art book, besides either flip through it once and forget it, or completely forget to flip through it at all). And pre-orders don’t always include a discount, so there’s rarely any real reason to pre-purchase anything.

We do get a few demos nowadays—though most often they don’t arrive as a game is released, such as Dishonored 2’s demo which came months after launch—but we need more, and more games with something like Prison Architect’s mobile model. If Deus Ex: Mankind Divided had been downloadable for free on day one, with a nice chunk of it playable indefinitely (like Prison Architect’s mobile version), players who were undecided about purchasing it for $60 could have gotten a good long look at what it has to offer. It would have given players like me time to play with a selection of augs and try out different playstyles. And it would’ve provided us with a good chance tweak the settings to see how well the it ran on our PCs, something the two-hour Steam refund window simply doesn’t allow for (and really shouldn’t be used for anyway).

If a potential customer such as myself ultimately decides not to buy the rest, what does the publisher really lose? I know creating game demos means more work, and that it’s not as simple as cutting off a slice of the game and plopping it in a folder. But in addition to demos being beneficial to gamers, developers and publishers can gain valuable information from making free demos available. As Kim Nordstrom told me, there’s value not just in the sales a company makes but in having information about the sales they didn’t make.

“The problem is that we as a company, we would never learn if we [had] a $4.99 price point in a storefront, or even a $14.99, because we wouldn’t know,” Nordstrom said. “We would just know who bought it, [but] we wouldn’t know who didn’t [buy] it.”

Information on who didn’t buy your game is useful. How many people were interested enough to download it but were turned off by something in the opening hours? How many people were willing to pay some, but not all, of the full price? Plus, it could whet the appetite of some customers who would then buy later during a sale instead of simply forgetting about it. This strikes me as a net positive for both developers and players.

Even if people don’t buy Prison Architect on mobile after trying it for free, Nordstrom says, “…they’ll play the game and if they enjoy it they might get interested in the company, or the brand, or Introversion’s games, and such. And they might spread it in terms of [word of mouth], and some people say ‘Holy crap, this is a great game, I’m going to buy it.'”

For publishers and developers, demos put a game in front of more players on launch day, provides them with additional information on how their game is being played and received, and can increase interest in their games even if not everyone who tries them, buys them. They can even get more technical feedback if their game is having problems on launch day. For players, they’re given a chance to sample more new games, to properly try before they buy, and less incentive to abuse Steam’s refund policy or wait months for a sale. PC demos are good for everyone, and it’s time for them to make a comeback.

Tekken 7 PC Performance Review

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Tekken 7 on PC is cheaper than it is on PS4 or Xbox One
  • Its graphical settings are barebones
  • Tekken 7 PC specifications are lenient

Tekken 7 is the first mainline entry in the long-running fighting game franchise to see a release on Windows PCs. With its debut on the PS1 in 1995, developer Bandai Namco has kept the PC gaming community waiting almost 22 years. Has the wait been worth it for PC gamers? We tell you everything you need to know about Tekken 7 on Windows.

Tekken 7 PC price

Unlike most new releases on Steam that have been priced similar to their console counterparts, Bandai Namco seems to have taken a more generous approach. Tekken 7 PC price for Indian gamers is Rs. 989, while the Tekken 7 PC Deluxe Edition costs Rs. 1,608. The latter comes with the base game, a new character called Eliza, and access to the game’s Season Pass that brings a host of cosmetic items. In the US, the game costs $50 for the standard edition and $75 for the deluxe edition. This makes Tekken 7 cheaper in India, especially when compared to Bandai Namco’s previous releases such as Dark Souls 3 and Tales of Berseria that were priced at Rs. 4,299 and Rs. 3,284 respectively.

 Tekken 7 PC Performance Review

Tekken 7 PC minimum system requirements

•CPU: Intel Core Intel Core i3-4160 @ 3.60GHz or equivalent
•GPU: GeForce GTX 660 or 750 Ti, or equivalent
•RAM: 6GB
•OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (64-bit versions)
•HDD: 60GB free space
•DirectX: Version 11

Tekken 7 PC recommended requirements

•CPU: Intel Core i5-4690 3.5 GHz or equivalent
•GPU: GeForce GTX 1060, or equivalent, or higher
•RAM: 8GB •OS: Windows 7, Windows 8.1 or Windows 10 (64-bit versions)
•HDD: 60GB free space
•DirectX: Version 11

tekken 7 settings pc tekken_7_pc_review

Tekken 7 PC graphics options

It’ll be clear from the above-mentioned specifications that you don’t need the latest and greatest to run Tekken 7 on PC. Nonetheless, the level of customisation on offer isn’t that huge as recent releases such as the excellent Prey. As you can see from our screenshot of Tekken 7’s in-game settings, it seems to have the bare minimum you’d expect from a game on Steam. There’s nothing out of the ordinary and in some cases with just three options of anti-aliasing (off, low, and high); while the lack of support for the 21:9 aspect ratio being down right anaemic.

Tekken 7 PC frame rate and image quality

On our test PC consisting of an Intel core i5 3470 at 3.2GHz, 16GB RAM, 500GB SSD, and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 8GB, obtaining a fluid 60 frames per second at 1920×1080 (1080p) was easily achieved at Ultra settings. Ramping it up to 3840×2160 (4K) we saw a consistent 45 to 47fps with minor dips to the high 30s when special moves were being executed. Be it fur on characters like Panda, or the coat on the game’s central character Jin Kazuma, Tekken 7 looks good enough with very little out of place. Even the stages, ranging from the icy almost desolate Arctic Snowfall to Arena – a vibrant octagonal ring complete with a vociferous audience are graphically superb. However, the level of detail and difference between Tekken 7 PC at 4K and 1080p wasn’t tremendous and we found ourselves reverting to 1080p for a consistent 60fps experience.

One crucial option that’s nestled in the display options and not the graphical settings is motion blur. Switching it off nets you additional frames. Useful if your gaming PC is on the lower side of Tekken 7’s PC requirements.

Tekken 7 PC controller support

We tried Tekken 7 with three different controllers and came back with mixed results. As you’d expect, the Xbox One controller worked fine, as it does with most PC games. Our PS4 controller, however, was not fully recognised. While button presses register, navigating with the use of the directional pad or analogue stick did not work. Surprisingly plugging in a Nacon Revolution Pro PS4 controller worked just fine. But much like most PC games, controls are displayed only for the Xbox One controller. This means you won’t see the familiar set of cross, triangle, circle, and square icons, only A, B, X, and Y. You’d think that with Steam supporting the Dual Shock 4 natively, more game creators would as well, but evidently this is not the case.

tekken 7 rage mode tekken_7_pc_review

Is Tekken 7 worth buying on PC?

Given how cheap the game is in India (starting at around $15), it would seem like a no-brainer purchase if you live in a country where Tekken 7 is more affordable than what it costs in the US (starting from $50). Having said that, there are some strings attached if you decide to get it on PC.

For one, if you’re the sort looking to play it competitively, most of the fighting game community is on the PS4. Granted there’s the Tekken World Tour Mode that has events for the PS4, Xbox One, and PC but given how Street Fighter V and Killer Instinct have fared – it appears that the console version of fighting games tend to outlast their PC equivalent.

If you’re not a pro player, there are some other disadvantages. VR mode is exclusive to the PS4 and Xbox One owners get Tekken 6 free with purchasing Tekken 7. There’s no sort of uniqueness tied to the PC version of the game in terms of content. It doesn’t help matters that Tekken 7 on day one does not have Survival or Battle Modes, two well-received inclusions from previous games.

With threadbare customisation options, a lack of content, and questionable controller support, Tekken 7 PC’s price and performance are the only things it has going for it, making it feel like the best and worst version of the game at the same time. The lower price alone could be enough for many. If you’re a little more discerning though, you might want to give Tekken 7 on PC a miss.

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10 great PC games you may have missed in 2017

Now that we’ve taken a peek at the best PC games of 2017—so far, at least—it’s time for our other biannual tradition: Rounding up some of the top PC games of 2017 that might have escaped your notice. The smaller indie titles, the B-games, the ones that slipped between the cracks here at the site and maybe slipped through the cracks in your Steam library too. New PC game releases are a dime a dozen these days, after all.origin steam games

Some of these games have flaws, some are definitely suited for a niche audience, but they’re all interesting—and ultimately that’s what makes PC gaming itself interesting. All of these games can coexist on the platform. We’re living in a golden age for games. We’re spoiled for choice.

And here are 10 games that prove it—everything from a modern Where’s Waldo to a Monty-Pythonesque point-and-click to a sci-fi detective story, and more.

 

Akitio Node Cabinet review: Real, affordable graphics for your laptop

 

The Akitio Node external GPU cabinet is here to give your Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptop a big boost. This affordable unit—basically, a big steel box with a 400-watt PSU and a fan in front—lets you drop in most modern AMD or Nvidia graphics cards and then connect it to a laptop using PCIe over Thunderbolt 3/USB-C.

dsc04540

Gordon Mah Ung

The Akitio features one fan for the PSU, and one in front that offers plenty of airflow.

For the most part, when it works, it’s amazingly smooth. For example, we cracked open the Node, dropped in a Founders Edition GeForce GTX 1080 Ti card, then plugged it into a HP Spectre x360 13t. Once we had the latest drivers installed from Nvidia’s website, we were off and running. As these results from 3DMark FireStrike Ultra show, the tiny HP Ultrabook gives what-for to big, giant, fast gaming laptops.

spectre x360 egpu 1080 ti firestrike ultra overall

IDG

Yes, a sub-3lbs. laptop can hang with big fat gaming laptops–if you cheat like we did.

The score you see above, however, is the overall score for 3DMark FireStrike Ultra, which also counts CPU performance. The dual-core Kaby Lake chip in the tiny HP Spectre x360 13T isn’t going to compete with the quad-cores. In the 3DMark test that includes just the graphics performance, however, you’ll see a better spread from the GTX 1080 in the giant EON17-X laptop.

Yes, there’s a good chance the limited x4 PCIe Gen 3 could rob you of some performance over what you might get if the GPU were in a desktop. In fact, the same GPU will typically score in the 7,000 range when in a full x16 PCIe Gen 3 slot. But just remember: The alternative is being stuck with the integrated graphics in the laptop, unable to game at this higher level of performance.

spectre x360 egpu 1080 ti firestrike ultra graphics

 

The best laptops of 2017: Ultrabooks, budget PCs, 2-in-1s, and more

 

Choosing the best laptop can be difficult these days. With companies like Dell, HP, Acer, and Asus continually launching updates of popular notebooks and expansions of product lines, we’re all but swimming in options right now.

Summer has pushed even more convertibles, 2-in-1s, and traditional notebooks onto store shelves. The most interesting ones poke holes in existing assumptions about certain categories. Microsoft’s Surface Laptop, for example, is an attempt to revive the company’s battle with Chromebooks, while Dell’s Inspiron 15 7000 Gaming—our “Best budget gaming laptop” pick—offers 1080p gaming for just $850. Vendors also are serious about squeezing AMD’s new CPUs into their lineups, with Asus recently debuting the first Ryzen laptop at Computex.laptops

Given the number of choices out there, we’re hard at work evaluating more laptops. For our latest update, we’ve added “Best MacBook” as a category, in order to better help you compare the full range of laptops available.

Dell might be sticking to the adage of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” when it comes to the XPS 13, but that strategy keeps producing the best ultrabook of the bunch. The Kaby Lake XPS 13 shares the same design as its predecessors: a quality aluminium exterior and carbon-fiber top, and that wonderfully compact, bezel-free 13-inch screen.

Dell actually released two updates to the XPS 13 in 2016: The one at the start of the year swapped in a Skylake CPU, added a USB Type-C port that served as an alternative charging port, and offered upgraded storage options. The most recent refresh—and our new pick for Best Ultrabook—keeps the same chassis changes as the Skylake XPS 13, features a jump to Intel’s new Kaby Lake processor, and sports a slightly larger battery. You get improved performance across the board, with a nice bump of an extra half-hour of battery life during video playback.

Kaby Lake Dell XPS 13Gordon Mah Ung
The Kaby Lake version of the Dell XPS 13 maintains that balance between portability, compact size, and performance that we like so much.

Our only lingering complaint is the small keyboard, but overall, you can’t lose with the newest XPS 13. It’s a truly compact ultrabook that punches out of its class.

 

HP Spectre x2 review: It beats the Surface Pro on value, if not performance

 

Our review of HP’s Spectre x2 12.3-inch 2-in-1 tablet begins with a simple question: Can HP continue its tradition of being an elegant, yet durable alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Pro flagship?

The answer is Yes. HP took the best bits from its Elite x2 tablet and the first-generation Spectre x2 tablet (2015), then updated the new Spectre x2 with the latest Kaby Lake chips. The Spectre x2 gives you more features for the money than the Surface Pro: Our $1,300 review unit included both the keyboard and the stylus right in the box (hear that, Microsoft?). It’s a shame this solid value is let down by middling battery life and a pesky fan.

 HP Spectre x2 2017man / ID

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  • Specs: Kaby Lake and an outstanding display
  • Kickstand, pen loop anchor the productivity
  • Extra software
  • Performance: Marred by mediocre battery life
  • Conclusion: Good value despite a few flaws

Specs: Kaby Lake and an outstanding display

HP will offer one $1,300 retail version of the Spectre x2 (the one we tested):

  • Model name: Spectre x2 12-c012dx
  • CPU: Core i7-7560U
  • RAM: 8GB  LPDDR-1600
  • SSD: 360GB PCIe NVMe

Four more SKUs will be available via HP.com:

An entry-level Core i5 version for $1,150:

    • Model name: Spectre x2 12t
  • CPU: Core i5-7260U
  • RAM: 8GB LPDDR-1600
  • SSD: 128GB PCIe NVMe

An entry-level Core i7 version for $1,230:

    • Model name: Spectre x2 12-c052nr
  • CPU: Core i7-7560U
  • RAM: 8GB LPDDR-1600
  • SSD: 256GB PCIe NVMe

Two higher-end Core i7 versions have these starting configurations and can be upgraded. This one starts at $1,670:

  • CPU: Core i7-7560U
  • RAM: 16GB  LPDDR-1600
  • SSD: 512GB PCIe NVMe

The highest-end one starts at $1,970:

  • CPU: Core i7-7560U
  • RAM: 16GB  LPDDR-1600
  • SSD: 1TB PCIe NVMe

 

New 3D Chip Combines Computing, Data Storage

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • New chip uses multiple nanotechnologies to reverse data bottleneck
  • 3D architecture promises to address the communication “bottleneck”
  • The architecture features interleaving layers of logic and memory

At a time when computer chips’ ability to process a glut of data is slowing, researchers, including one of Indian origin, have developed a three dimensional (3D) chip to tackle the situation.

Computers today comprise a chip for computing and another for data storage. As increased volumes of data are analysed, the limited rate at which data can be moved between the chips is creating a communication “bottleneck”.

The new prototype chip, detailed in the journal ‘Nature’, uses multiple nanotechnologies, together with a new 3D computer architecture, to reverse this trend.New 3D Chip Combines Computing, Data Storage

“The new 3D computer architecture provides dense and fine-grained integration of computing and data storage, drastically overcoming the bottleneck from moving data between chips,” said Subhasish Mitra, Professor at Stanford University.

The researchers integrated over one million resistive random-access memory (RRAM) cells, a new type of memory storage, and two million carbon nanotube transistors for processing, making a dense 3D computer architecture with interleaving layers of logic and memory.

By inserting ultra-dense wires between these layers, the 3D architecture promises to address the communication “bottleneck”.

“Logic made from carbon nanotubes can be an order of magnitude more energy-efficient compared to today’s logic made from silicon and, similarly, RRAM can be denser, faster and more energy-efficient,” added Philip Wong from Stanford.

A big advantage to the find is that the new chip is compatible with today’s silicon infrastructure, both in terms of fabrication and design.

“The technology could not only improve traditional computing, but it also opens up a whole new range of applications that we can target,” said Max Shulaker, Assistant Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

 

Kano Launches Pixel Kit DIY Light-Up Computer

Nearly a year after its successful Kickstarter campaign, Kano’s Pixel Kit is now available to the masses.

The LEGO-like light board boasts 128 pixels that bring to life your own games, data, artwork, and music.

For $79.99, you get a box of buttons, boards, batteries, books, and beyond. Build the Pixel Kit yourself, then connect it to a computer (Mac or PC) and download the Kano App.

Pixel Kit is the new reading-under-the-blanket-with-a-flashlight (via Kano)

Powered by Kano Code, the program uses storytelling and game mechanics to simplify coding; it features more than 40 challenges and access to a handful of tools (including the ability to track the International Space Station).

“[Pixel Kit] displays the weather, the news, or funny messages,” according to a Kano blog post. “It breaks the boundary between the digital and the physical.”

Each pack includes access to Kano World, an online community platform where millions of lines of code and DIY instructions are shared.

“We’ve developed the Pixel Kit to be playful, but also powerful. It is our brightest creation to date, and we think you will love it,” the London-based startup said.

Pixel Kit was introduced in September, alongside the 5-megapixel codable Camera Kit and programmable Speaker Kit—all powered by a single-board computer, dubbed the “Kano Brain,” that connects to other devices over Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

They also come with a Kano Sensor, which works with existing USB-compatible hardware like laptops and desktops.

Create artwork with Pixel Kit (via Kano)

The manufacturer made waves in 2013 with a crowdfunding project that made it easier for tinkerers to get started with the Raspberry Pi.

A year later, Kano raised more than $1.55 million to ship its $150 computer-and-coding kit. Powered by the pint-sized Raspberry Pi 2, the bundle comes with instruction booklets, an 8GB SD card with the Kano OS, a DIY speaker, Kano keyboard, and custom case mods and stencils, as well as HDMI and mini-USB cables, a smart power plug, and a Wi-Fi connector.

Toshiba launches Portégé Z20t enterprise laptop

Toshiba launches Portégé Z20t enterprise laptop at Rs 1,30,000
Portégé Z20t features a 12.5-inch Full HD anti-glare IPS screen with wide viewing angles. It weighs 730g and measures 8.8mm in tablet mode and weighs 1.51kg as a laptop.

NEW DELHI: Toshiba has launched its Portege Z20t ultra-portable 2-in-1 laptop at Rs 1,30,000 in the Indian market.

The laptop, aimed at business users, comes with a number of productivity and security features and has a battery life of up to 16 hours in laptop mode and 8 hours in tablet mode. It is available in India through B2B channels only.

Portege Z20t features a 12.5-inch Full HD anti-glare IPS screen with wide viewing angles. It weighs 730g and measures 8.8mm in tablet mode and weighs 1.51kg as a laptop. The device comes with a fanless body and a reversible dock that enables the tablet to be stowed backwards.

In tablet mode, the device has microHDMI and microUSB ports and microSD slot, while the keyboard dock adds RGB, HDMI, GBit LAN and two USB 3.0 ports. A cable lock port is part of the design in order to secure the keyboard to desks or other fixed points.

Portege Z20t is powered by Intel Core M processor with Intel HD graphics and 8GB DDR3 RAM. It has 256GB SSD and comes pre-loaded with Toshiba EasyGuard Suite, Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Intel Active Management Technology3 (AMT).