Humane AI Pin review roundup: an undercooked flop that’s way ahead of its time

The Humane AI Pin is a fascinating little device for gadget fans. If you missed its reveal in November 2023, it's a tiny wearable computer with a built-in AI assistant, camera, and a little projector that blasts its UI onto your hand. Unfortunately, it's also pretty terrible, according to the internet's first reviews, which have landed in the past few days.

It's rare for tech reviews, from both traditional media and YouTubers, to be so unanimous in their criticism of a much-hyped product. “The worst product I've ever reviewed… for now” concluded Marques Brownlee. Ouch. Meanwhile, Engadget branded it “the solution to none of technology's problems”, while The Verge simply said that the AI Pin was “not even close”.

Naturally, these scathing verdicts create some added fascination about a $ 699 device that also requires a $ 24-a-month subscription. Yet few of the reviews think the AI Pin is completely without merit. Many praise its hardware design, which is solid aluminum and clips to your chest thanks to a magnetic 'battery booster' that goes inside your clothing. On the few occasions that it did work seamlessly, it also gave reviewers a little glimpse of a refreshingly screen-less future.

A person wearing the Humane AI Pin on a camouflaged jacket

(Image credit: Humane)

But beyond the specific features – many of which don't seem to work reliably enough yet – the most interesting thing about these Humane AI Pin reviews is their broad conclusions about AI gadgets. In short, our phones aren't going anywhere for a long time, and, as Bloomberg's review concluded, “the AI device revolution isn't going to kill the smartphone”. We haven't yet reviewed the Rabbit R1, but that will probably hold true for a while yet.  

This doesn't mean that the Humane AI Pin isn't a fascinating (if deeply flawed device) today. Here are all of the internet's thoughts on the boldest tech launch since the Apple Vision Pro

Humane AI Pin: the key reviews

Marques Brownlee: “The worst product I've ever reviewed…for now”

Despite the scathing headline, Marques Brownlee's report on his time with the AI Pin is typically fair and even-handed. Unfortunately, he simply couldn't find many positives, aside from the design. “The build of this thing is actually impressive”, he says of the solid, aluminum gadget. Unfortunately, it's also “bad at almost everything it does”.

That list includes answering your voice queries, where it's either painfully slow (given most requests go to the cloud) or “just wrong all the time”. The battery life was also strangely inconsistent, and the device was worryingly warm a lot of time. But the fundamental issue, a theme across most of the reviews, is that everything the AI Pin does, a “modern smartphone does better and faster”. Without connecting to your smartphone or offering any apps, the AI Pin is strangely adrift.

The Good

  • Solid build quality
  • Translation feature has promise
  • Impressive engineering

The Bad

  • Too slow at giving answers
  • Poor, inconsistent battery life
  • Overheating issues
  • Wrong all the time
  • No apps

Mrwhosetheboss: “It's not good”

Tech YouTuber Arun Maini, AKA Mrwhosetheboss, was clearly conflicted in his review between the “small twinges of something magical” he could see in the Humane AI Pin and the unworkable reality of using it. “As of right now, the Human Pin is an incredibly poor proposition” he concluded.

As other reviews noted, it all goes downhill after you see the hardware. The price (which works out at $ 1,700 over two years, when you factor in the subscription, accessories, and taxes), slow responses to voice requests, lack of integration with existing phone apps, and impractical projector interface were all black marks. 

As Maini notes, a more sensible setup would surely be for the AI Pin to connect to your phone – like the best smartwatches – rather than act as a standalone device. All of this led him to conclude that he can't see “a single angle from which it makes sense”.

The Good

  • Construction is top-notch
  • No wake words needed
  • Vision feature is satisfying

The Bad

  • Too expensive
  • Requests take too long
  • Doesn't talk to existing apps
  • Projector not bright enough

CNET: “Futuristic but frustrating”

CNET's hands-on review of the AI Pin contains a nice nod to the Star Trek Communicator badge that the pin is seemingly inspired by, but that's one of the few moments of levity in a review that cautions, you “definitely not” consider buying it in its current form.

The video is more of a whistlestop tour of the AI Pin's features – including the built-in camera for taking photos and 15-second videos – than a real deep-dive into living with it. But there are lots of useful real-world examples of using the wearable, including its promising translation feature and uncut takes of how long it often takes to respond.

There are also some familiar conclusions; overheating, the laser display not being bright enough in daylight, underwhelming AI features, and the hand-tracking interface being frustrating and worse than on a VR headset. In short, it's frustrating and CNET said there are times when the AI Pin has driven it crazy.

The Good

  • Sleek design
  • Well-conceived accessories
  • Decent battery life

The Bad

  • Overheating issues
  • Too frustrating for everyday use
  • Can't connect to your phone
  • AI is unreliable 

The Verge: “Not even close”

Frequent bouts of hysterical laughter aren't usually a good sign for a tech review –and sure enough, The Verge found that the AI Pin's promise is completely undermined by its unreliability and its “single biggest problem – it is so, so slow”.

Cue a 13-second wait for it to mis-identify the Brooklyn Bridge and other unintentionally hilarious gaffes. The Verge actually still came away “sort of impressed” by the AI Pin's technology, including the fact that it doesn't need a wake word and promises a world where you can sometimes leave your phone at home.

It also concluded that the Pin “might still be the future, or something like it”, with its camera-based descriptions of real-world objects being “easily the most futuristic thing” about the device. But it's also a “$ 700 gamble” and the damning conclusion is that a cell-connected Apple Watch is a much more capable and functional device, while being a lot cheaper.

The Good

  • Sturdy and nicely made
  • No wake word needed

The Bad

  • Many features not yet available
  • Very slow at responding
  • Doesn't always work

Bloomberg: “The design and interface are fatally flawed”

The Humane AI Pin on a shirt

(Image credit: Humane)

Bloomberg's Mark Gurman is an Apple reporter who notes that Humane's co-founders are former Apple staffers who worked on the iPhone and iPad, which gave them a leg-up when it came to investment. But despite its promising backstory, he concludes that the AI Pin's “fundamental design and interface are fatally flawed”.

Gurman's conclusion is that the bugs and slow response times aren't the AI Pin's main problem. Instead, the voice control and laser projection system make it “a nonstarter for most people”. He notes that smart speaker and voice assistant hype has died down because they're not a “practical user interface”.

So while Gurman concludes, like most of the early reviews, that Humane deserves credit for creating something new and creating a system that “aggregate data from several AI engines”, the concept is ultimately doomed to failure and is “never going to work”.

What next for the Humane AI Pin?

The Humane AI Pin on an orange background

(Image credit: Humane)

Understandably, Humane has defended its new gadget from the wave of scathing reviews. Ken Kocienda, the company's Head of Product Engineering and the inventor of the iPhone's autocorrect, posted a lengthy statement on X (formerly Twitter) about why he's a “happy AI Pin user” and why his “intuition tells me that we are on track”.

Kocienda admits that the AI Pin can be “frustrating sometimes”, but apparently no more than a laptop or smartphone. That isn't the conclusion from the internet's first reviews from multiple sources, but the Humane designer also blames the social media landscape for encouraging “hot takes” and encouraging people to “jump on the skepticism bandwagon”.

So what next for the AI Pin? Humane does have a roadmap for new features, with timers, gesture unlock, photo sharing via SMS, and more coming in software version 1.2, which is scheduled for “Summer”. Other features like number sharing, visual shopping, and an SDK for apps are also in the pipeline, but don't yet have a date.

As it stands, the current consensus for the Humane AI Pin is that it's simply too ambitious for its form factor and current technology – including the problem that AI tends to 'hallucinate' or confidently give incorrect answers. For now, the Ray-Ban Meta Smart Glasses and Rabbit R1 look like more promising examples of AI gadgets, but we'll be keeping an eye on AI Pin to see if it can overcome its inauspicious start. 

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Apple Vision Pro review roundup: here’s what everyone thinks of the Apple headset

The first batch of Apple Vision Pro reviews has dropped, giving us a look at what it’s like to use the headset beyond the 20 to 30-minute demos Apple has run for it previously.

The Vision Pro preorders aren’t set to arrive for weeks after the headset releases on February 2 – and we strongly advise you not to buy one of the preorders being sold on eBay for ridiculously high markups. But if you’ve been on the fence about buying Apple's mixed reality device, now is a good time to find out more about it and decide if it’s worth the $ 3,500 asking price.

Interestingly, a lot of the reviewers seem to be in agreement so far. The capabilities of the headset are apparently superb, with 3D spatial video and the intuitive eye and face-tracking control system being standouts. But the price does feel steep, especially as the Vision Pro is only at its best if you’re already deep in the Apple ecosystem with gadgets and peripherals like a Mac, Magic Keyboard, and Magic Mouse.

Here’s our round-up of all of the full Apple Vision Pro reviews published so far.

Apple Vision Pro reviews

Tom's Guide: “A revolution in progress”

For Mark Spoonauer, the global editor-in-chief of our sister site Tom's Guide, the standout features of the Vision Pro are its eye and hand-tracking interface – which he called “amazing” – and the 3D spatial video playback, which our own Lance Ulanoff called an “immersive trip”.

Design-wise the Vision Pro was also solid, though Spoonauer noted that he had to take regular breaks from wearing the device because of the Vision Pro’s weight. The tethered battery that powers the Vision Pro could also be “annoying at times.”

Some of the software also feels like it's “still in the early stages,” with the App Store missing several notable apps at launch, and Personas (a digital stand-in for Vision Pro wearers) are “a bit unnerving to look at.”

He added that the expensive price limits the headset's initial appeal, though Spoonauer hopes Apple has a lower-cost version on the way as the Vision Pro is “the most innovative Apple product since the original iPhone.”

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Eye and face-tracking “puts the competition to shame” 
  • It’s a “multitasking champ” 
  • Immersive environments full of detail 

The Bad

  • Had to take periodic breaks because of the weight 
  • Very expensive
  • Tethered battery is “annoying” at times

WSJ: “All the characteristics of a first-gen product”

The Wall Street Journal's review is a very real-world summary of the Vision Pro's current strengths and weaknesses, with reporter Joanna Stern wearing it “nearly nonstop” for one of the testing days.

The main takeaway is that the Vision Pro is a very first-gen product that “you’re probably not going to buy”. As the review concludes, “it’s big and heavy, its battery life sucks, there are few great apps and it can be buggy”. 

Okay, so is it actually good at anything yet? Broadly speaking, feeling very sci-fi in a Minority Report sense and also being, as Stern states, “the best mixed-reality headset I’ve ever tried”. That seems to be broadly due to experiences like watching films and or your own home 3-D movies, rather than real-world productivity. 

Stern states in the review that she only “started getting real work done once I paired the Vision Pro with a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse”, rather than using the built-in virtual keyboard. In other words, it feels more like a face-mounted iMac than a next-gen computer right now.

While “getting around is intuitive”, there are lots of niggles. For example, “at times, the Vision Pro’s eye tracking didn’t respond to my movements” and Stern had to “charge every two to three hours”. During FaceTime calls, friends and family concluded that the reporter looked “awful” and “frightening”. Like all mixed-reality headsets then, the Vision Pro is very much a work in progress.

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Best AR/VR headset so far
  • Intuitive interface
  • Great built-in speakers

The Bad

  • Headset is heavy
  • Virtual keyboard is limited
  • Few great apps

The Verge: “the best consumer headset anyone’s ever made” 

The Verge’s editor-in-chief Nilay Patel gave the Apple Vision Pro a score of seven out of 10 in its review, calling it “an astounding product” with “a lot of tradeoffs”

App-wise, Patel says it’s “not totally wrong” to call the Vision Pro an iPad for your face. Most of the software that’s currently available are ported over from iPadOS, and most of them work like iPad apps, too. As Patel notes this means the Vision Pro is lacking when it comes to “true AR” software – that is software that has AR elements blend in and interact with the real world like, say, First Encounters on the Meta Quest 3.

Patel adds that the “iPad for your face” comparison continues to the weight of the thing – pointing out that at 600 to 650 grams it's not far from the weight of the 12.9-inch iPad Pro (at 682 grams). Wearing the dual loop strap can help, but he says you can’t “reduce the overall sensation of having all that headset on your face.”

The heavy package does come with some impressive specs, however, with an “incredible display,” “convincing” video passthrough, and an M2 and R1 processor for handling any apps you throw at it. But at the end of the day, Patel doesn’t believe that using a computer in the “inherently isolating” world of VR is better than using a regular computer that doesn’t cut you off from the world around you.

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Fantastic display
  • Best passthrough on a headset
  • “Stunning” design

The Bad

  • Isolating
  • Tracking “works until it doesn’t”
  • A lot of tradeoffs

CNET: “A mind-blowing look at an unfinished future”

CNET's lengthy Vision Pro review is one of the more misty-eyed ones so far, which isn't surprising given reporter Scott Stein has been writing about mixed reality for over a decade. The conclusions about Apple's headset are familiar though; “parts of it are stunning, others don't feel entirely finished”.

Despite its many impressive moments, CNET concludes that the Vision Pro is “clearly not a device you need to get on board with now”. After only 30 minutes, “the headset feels top-heavy and pushes in on my cheeks a bit”, although it apparently works fine for short sessions.

The apps selection is also very limited right now. While “the App Store shows Vision Pro-optimized apps” the “pickings are slim”. Still, “the closest thing to a killer app the Vision Pro has is its cinema-level video playback” the review concludes. Stein says that The Way of Water looks lovely and “sometimes gives me chills”.

While the Vision Pro is “most advanced blend of mixed reality in a standalone device that I've ever experienced”, it's also blighted by the limitations highlighted by other reviews. These include some inconsistent hand- and eye-tracking, a “limited battery life” and a field of view that “feels a bit smaller than the Meta Quest 3”.

So while the Vision Pro is a “stunning look at the future”, it's also “still essentially an iOS computer inside a mixed reality VR headset”.

In a nutshell

The Good

  • Amazing micro-OLED display
  • Blends real and virtual well
  • Personal 3D memories

The Bad

  • Not many apps
  • Interface isn't always perfect
  • Extremely pricey

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I review VR headsets for a living and trust me, get a Meta Quest 3 this Black Friday

This year’s Black Friday deals include some truly amazing Oculus Quest 2 discounts that offer major savings on the already budget-friendly VR headset but trust me – you want to get a Meta Quest 3 this Black Friday.

Yes, in the US Amazon is selling Meta’s Quest 2 for $ 249 and giving you $ 50 Amazon credit for free (saving you $ 100), and in the UK Very has the Quest 2 for £249 and is giving you £50 cashback with code VKEXL (a £100 total saving). But if you have the funds to spare, please get a Meta Quest 3.

It is about twice as expensive but in my opinion, it’s worth the extra cost if you plan to use your VR headset plenty – that’s why it got five stars in our Meta Quest 3 review.

Today's best Meta Quest 3 deals

Meta Quest 3: $ 499 & get a free game at Amazon
The Meta Quest 3 isn’t currently discounted, and likely won’t be for Black Friday as it’s so new, but you can get a free digital copy of Asgard’s Wrath 2 when it launches later this year.
If you’d rather not shop at Amazon the same offer is available from Walmart, Best Buy, and Target as well as others. View Deal

Meta Quest 3: £479.99 & get a free game at Amazon
The Meta Quest 3 only just launched so it was extremely unlikely it would see much of a discount for Black Friday. There is still a deal on though; if you order the headset before January 27, 2024, and activate it before February 9, 2024, you’ll get Asgard’s Wrath 2 for free when the game releases.
If you’d rather shop elsewhere the same deal is available at Very, Currys, and Game among others. View Deal

There are reasons to get an Oculus Quest 2 instead. If your budget is tight, then the cheaper headset is the one to go for – even over three years after its launch the Quest 2 offers some excellent bang for your buck. I’d also recommend it if you’re not sure you’ll actually use VR all that much or if it’s a gift for someone who’s a little rough with their toys. If it starts gathering dust or gets broken, it’ll sting a lot less than if it was the more expensive Meta Quest 3.

But if you are planning to use the headset a lot, have the budget, and want a superior VR experience (that doesn’t require a PC), then the Meta Quest 3 is the VR headset you need. The graphics are a massive improvement over what the Oculus Quest 2 is capable of, the comfort is slightly improved, and the Quest 3’s mixed-reality features are finally worth using.

If you've been convinced to buy a Meta Quest 3, I'd recommend just getting the 128GB version. You might have to do some digital library management (deleting and redownloading games as necessary) if you decide to pick up lots of games, but for most people, 128GB should be more than enough given the file size of VR software.

If you decide to pick one up, check out this guide to the Meta Quest 3 games and apps you should download first. There’s some great software for the system but these are my personal favorites.

More US Black Friday deals

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I review VR headsets for a living, and I’ve never seen a better Oculus Quest 2 deal

Amazon is offering a fantastic Oculus Quest 2 deal that not only scores you the impressive VR headset for $ 51 off, but you’ll also get a $ 50 gift card. It’s one of the best Black Friday deals I’ve seen.

Right now the Meta’s Quest 2 (128GB) model is down to $ 249 at Amazon – instead of its MSRP of £299. But if you act fast the holiday bundle will score you the discount and a free $ 50 Amazon voucher; effectively, this will save you $ 100 on the popular VR headset which we gave four–and–a–half stars in our Oculus Quest 2 review

I say you should act fast, because an identical deal was available in the UK for a few days – but it has now sold out. If history repeats itself in the US you don’t have long left to nab yourself one of the best Oculus Quest 2 Black Friday deals this year. 

I've been writing about VR for years and I haven't seen a better deal; so there's no point waiting for something better to come around this Black Friday if you're after a VR headset.

Get the best ever Oculus Quest 2 deal here:

Meta Quest 2 + Amazon Gift Card: was $ 349.99 now $ 249.00 at Amazon
Right now you can save $ 51 on the Meta Quest 2 (128GB) and get a free $ 50 Amazon gift card as well as part of this holiday bundle. I’ve never seen a better Meta Quest 2 deal, and I expect this may sell out before Black Friday, so act fast.View Deal

The only VR headset deal I think you should consider instead of this Oculus Quest 2 offer is the Meta Quest 3 deal that's available everywhere. That is you get the Meta Quest 3 for $ 499 and a free copy of Asgard's Wrath 2.  Alongside Amazon, you can find the same deal at  WalmartBest Buy, and Target among others.

While this isn't the best deal (the headset is full price) I think the Meta Quest 3 is a massive step up over the Quest 2; that's why I awarded it five stars in our Meta Quest 3 review. Yes, it's pricier, but it's worth the extra cost if you can afford it.

If you are on a tight budget then Meta's Oculus Quest 2 is still fine, and the above deal is a fantastic offer to take advantage of. But if you can afford to splash out on a Meta Quest 3 then I'd strongly suggest doing so.

For more on this topic, check out my guide to whether you should buy an Oculus Quest 2 or Meta Quest 3 this Black Friday.

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Amazon’s new AI review summarizer could help you empty your pockets even faster

Have you ever been shopping on Amazon, but found yourself too lazy to read the user reviews at the bottom of a product listing? Well, you’re in luck because Amazon has recently implemented a generative AI to its platform that will summarize reviews.

The company states the AI tool will offer short paragraphs “on the product detail page” highlighting key features as well as overall “customer sentiment”. Customers can quickly scan the short block of text to get an idea of whether a product is good or not instead of having to read dozens of reviews. Amazon states in its announcement you can direct the AI a bit by having it focus on specific “attributes.” Say you want a smart TV that’s easy to use. Users can select the “Ease of use” tab to have the summarizer specifically talk about that attribute or something else like its performance is while streaming content.  

Work in progress

Unfortunately, the AI feature was unavailable to us as we were excluded from the rollout, but The Verge had access. In their report, The Verge claims it saw the tool show up on listings for “TVs, headphones, tablets, [plus] fitness trackers.” It isn’t very consistent either. They state the summarizer is available on the Galaxy Tab A7, but not the Galaxy Tab A8. Also, it appears Amazon’s AI heavily favors writing positive content, as it spends “less time on the negatives.”

We reached out to Amazon with several questions about the new tool, including if there will there be a desktop version and if the company plans on providing links directing users to the AI's source reviews. Google’s SGE tool does this for the generated content it produces. It’d be nice to see sources in the paragraph. However, Amazon has nothing more to share at the moment.

Analysis: Remaining skeptical

Amazon has been dabbling in AI for a while now. Back in May, Amazon listed a job listing for a “machine learning focus engineer,” revealing the company is looking for someone to help develop an “interactive conversational experience” for its search engine. We could see the Amazon search bar one day offer a ChatGPT-like experience where you talk with the AI when looking for a product.

It would be wrong of us not to add a little asterisk to all this AI talk. As you may know, generative AIs are known to “hallucinate”, which is to say, they sometimes provide inaccurate information. It’s gotten to the point some experts believe this problem will never be fixed. So read the summarizer’s text with several grains of salt. As it turns out, you just can’t beat good old-fashioned human opinion – like the kind TechRadar provides every single day.

Labor Day is coming up and that means savings. Be sure to check out TechRadar’s guide for Amazon’s Labor Sale for 2023. Price cuts for certain electronics are already live.

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Microsoft in 2021: year in review

In the year in which Microsoft brought Clippy back to Windows – if only as a replacement for the paperclip emoji – Microsoft’s big play was the release of Windows 11.

In this article, we’re going to look extensively at how the new operating system was received – and its teething troubles, naturally – and also at what else Microsoft was up to in 2021. That included the usual clutch of new Surface hardware, and admirably striding ahead on the accessibility and eco-friendly fronts, as we shall see. But first, let’s dive in and examine how Windows 11 has panned out…

WhatsApp running on Windows 11

(Image credit: WhatsApp)

Windows 11: The good, the bad, and the compatibility

The launch of Windows 11 as a free upgrade for Windows 10 users was the biggest development for Microsoft in 2021, without a doubt. The operating system that was never meant to be – remember that Microsoft said Windows 10 would be the final ever Windows version (not that we believed it) – was swirling around in preview for the latter half of 2021, before finally being unleashed and rolling out from October 5, billed as a “new era for the PC”.

But even before its official release in October, Windows 11 got off to a shaky and confusing start around its system requirements. The stipulation for TPM 2.0 – a security measure Microsoft insisted on for tighter defenses with Windows 11 – caused confusion, which was compounded by the wonkiness of Microsoft’s own PC Health Check tool. The latter didn’t provide any details of why a system might be incompatible, and just left a lot of users scratching their heads (before it was pulled down for that very reason).

In a nutshell, the compatibility problems for some PCs are easily enough solved by a BIOS tweak or update to turn on TPM 2.0 – the tech being present, just not enabled on some modern systems – but the whole affair left a bad taste in the mouth before Windows 11 was even out.

The fact that some relatively modern CPUs from just five years ago – namely Intel’s 7th-gen range (or later) – aren’t compatible was frustrating news for owners of those kind of PCs, again compounded by the revelation that Windows 11 can actually (unofficially) run on something as old as a Pentium 4 (Cedar Mill) CPU from 15 years ago.

That’s another oddity with Windows 11, that Microsoft made it so you can upgrade to the OS on non-TPM 2.0 compliant machines via various loopholes, but that this isn’t recommended, and really you shouldn’t do it, plus you might not get vital system updates in the future (even if you do now, at least anecdotally).

So, there were unfortunate slips and general vexation around Windows 11 compatibility before and after release, and these weren’t the only elements causing a degree of bewilderment around the operating system – we’ll come back to that later, but first, let’s look at the initial reaction to Windows 11.

Broadly, the atmosphere around Microsoft’s big redesign for its desktop OS was pretty positive. We felt it was a big step forward visually, and plenty of folks agreed. With the new streamlined desktop – and the likes of simpler File Explorer menus – everything is tidier and neater, and more modern-looking to boot (with those rounded corners for windows and menus, of course).

The new Microsoft Store turned out to be a big improvement – and crucially is going to incorporate third-party stores, and already does this with the Epic Games Store – plus there are ongoing welcome updates to various core apps and fresh widgets.

Okay, so there was flak fired at the new Start menu, which appears to have taken a leaf out of the Chrome OS playbook – not everyone likes its new centrally-aligned Launcher style vibe – and it’s a bit of a clunky fudge. There was also disappointment at there being no support for running Android apps on the desktop from the off (this is now in testing, though).

Windows 11 File Explorer on a PC in an office

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Also, scratching under the surface of the shiny new desktop, much remains the same, really, and as we pointed out in our full review of Windows 11, it’s really akin to a reskin of Windows 10. This is more like a good start of a redesign than a whole new operating system, but then we wouldn’t expect Microsoft to totally shift away from Windows 10 – in some ways, the OS which launched in 2015 hasn’t gone away, in actual fact. At least not yet.

Perhaps the thorniest issue of all for us regarding Windows 11 is that it appears to be following suit with Windows 10 when it comes to bugs. As you’re likely aware, Microsoft’s ham-fistedness around bugs is well-established with Windows 10, sadly, with repeated scenarios demonstrated where bug fixes fail or even cause other unintended problems.

Windows 11 has continued in the same vein as Windows 10 with printer woes, something which has been an unfortunate ongoing mess since the launch of the new operating system.

Other serious bugs have been floating around, for example one where some NVMe SSDs are running way slower than they should (which has just been fixed, at least for most folks), and more still with File Explorer. The latter is a core part of the OS, or rather, the core part, given that it’s the very files and folders you interact with on the desktop – with some users experiencing slow performance with the right-click menu, for example, and various memory leak gremlins that caused further sluggishness.

Now, we realize that revamping an entire desktop operating system is a mammoth task fraught with all sorts of nuance and complexity, but breaking the core part of the interface in these kind of ways – at least for some users – doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in Microsoft’s implementation and troubleshooting skills.

The bugs (which, let’s face it, we’ve got used to with Windows 10 – though we hoped Windows 11 might have been something of a new leaf for Microsoft) were also accompanied by some odd design decisions. For example, the removal of the ability to drag and drop app shortcuts onto the taskbar, or messing with default browser settings to make them frustratingly clunky. Fortunately, these are decisions which Microsoft is in the process of reversing, with the software giant apparently listening to feedback (at least in some cases).

As we’ve said before, Windows 11 does still feel like a work in progress a few months after launch, but at least in the main, the operating system appears to be moving in the right direction. As the end of 2021 rolls around, the pieces of the desktop OS feel like they’re coming together in a more cohesive and logical manner, so we’re optimistic for the future. Microsoft has also promised to concentrate on making Windows 11 faster in 2022 (we should think so, too, given that nuts-and-bolts interface performance on the desktop really shouldn’t be an issue with any compatible PC configuration).

It bodes well that Microsoft felt confident enough to open the floodgates for Windows 11 upgrades in mid-November, and we’ve already seen a big uptick in the popularity of the operating system.

Age of Empires IV army seiges stone gate of enemy town

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Gaming gladness – with a cloud on the horizon?

It’s worth considering what Microsoft has done for PC gaming this year, and that’s principally wrapped up in Windows 11. The good news is that Windows 11 delivered some nifty gaming features, such as the built-in Xbox app with tighter integration in the OS, and the Auto HDR feature which gives non-HDR games a similar level of added pep with contrast and vibrancy. DirectStorage will also make a big difference to SSD loading speeds and general performance in the future, when games support it.

Crucially, gaming performance is on a par with Windows 10, and in some cases a touch better. The one cloud on the horizon is Virtualization-Based Security or VBS, which as the name suggests is a security feature that considerably strengthens your PC against malicious intruders, but it comes with a gaming performance hit.

Now, you don’t have to turn on VBS – and PC gamers likely won’t want to, even if the performance hit isn’t that big in some cases (it varies depending on the game, though it’s pretty hefty in some titles from testing we’ve seen) – but the trouble is that Microsoft is set to make it compulsory with certain OEM systems over the next year.

So, while this isn’t happening now, it could be that before too long, prebuilt PCs from the likes of HP or Dell come with VBS turned on, and less tech-savvy users won’t even know they’re getting lesser gaming performance with their rig. They will, however, be more secure, which is the flipside… but the crux really is how far this compulsory enablement will go, and whether it’ll come to gaming PCs. We’d hope not in the latter case, for sure, because Microsoft needs to be careful how it treads here.

Further notable gaming news came in December 2021 when Google revealed that it will bring titles from the Google Play Games store to Windows 10 and 11. Google will have its own Windows app to facilitate this experience, allowing mobile games to be played on Windows PCs with seamless continuity, so it’s possible to pick up where you left off on your phone when playing on the desktop. In other words, you could be enjoying Candy Crush on your PC come 2022 when this feature rolls out (though it’s still early days, and it isn’t clear which mobile games will be supported).

Microsoft Edge browser on laptop

(Image credit: / monticello)

On the Edge of annoyance?

Early in the year, Microsoft finally pulled the plug on the legacy version of Edge, and fully concentrated on pushing forward with the Chromium-based incarnation of the browser. And the company did lots of great work with Edge in 2021, including moves to help with online shopping and saving money, minimizing resource usage (with things like sleeping tabs), and becoming the master of PDFs.

Not to mention seriously bolstering its security, and even pulling tricks on the gaming front in that Edge now works better with Xbox’s cloud gaming service, providing clearer and more detailed visuals when streaming via the browser.

The end result is that Microsoft Edge is turning into an impressively streamlined, performant and feature-packed browser. It’s making progress in terms of adoption, having overtaken Firefox in July and generally carving out a niche for itself quite successfully (albeit with there still being a gaping chasm between top dog Chrome and Edge).

Given that Edge stands relatively well on its own merits these days, it’s a shame that Microsoft has felt the need to continue to push it (and other services) so hard with various shenanigans and pop-ups in Windows throughout this past year (as it did in 2020 also). These are heavy-handed measures which we believe are in danger of being counterproductive and putting folks off, rather than getting them to consider switching to Microsoft’s browser as is intended.

So, quit the nagging, Microsoft – and that goes for Windows 11, as well, which follows in the footsteps of Windows 10 with some unfortunate ads appearing in places like File Explorer (pushing other Microsoft services like OneDrive).

Surface Pro 8 outside on a table showing Windows 11 desktop

(Image credit: Future)

The usual Surface highs and lows

Plenty happened with Microsoft’s Surface range this year, including what we’d been awaiting for so, so long – a meaningful refresh of the flagship Surface Pro. The new Surface Pro 8, which was released on October 5 (alongside Windows 11), represented a breath of fresh air for the device, giving punters a great-looking, more modern design, much better performance levels than its predecessor, and Thunderbolt 4 connectivity. Oh, and a bigger gorgeous screen with a 120Hz refresh rate.

Sadly, the display wasn’t the only thing to get bigger, and the fly in the ointment was the price tag becoming something of a towering affair, starting at $ 1,099 / £999 / AU$ 1,649 rather than $ 749 / £799 / AU$ 1,249 as seen with the Pro 7. Still, that doesn’t stop the Pro 8 from being an impressive step forward, albeit a much-needed one given how much the series was stagnating in recent iterations.

There were several other compelling Surface launches in 2021, including the Surface Laptop Studio, a truly innovative premium option for creatives – seemingly replacing the Surface Book – but not without flaws, most notably in lackluster performance levels, and an eye-watering price tag (again).

There was disappointment away from the high-cost hardware, with no sight of a Surface Laptop Go 2, and while we did get a new affordable Surface Go 3, it turned out to be underpowered, suffering in terms of battery life, and difficult to recommend in all honesty. All of these devices arrived later in the year, alongside the Surface Pro 8 – oh, and the Surface Duo 2 phone, which made a middling impression.

Finishing on a brighter note, Microsoft also unleashed the Surface Laptop 4 in April 2021. This scored highly in our review, and made a good case for itself thanks to a gorgeous display, stylish design, excellent keyboard, and a relatively affordable price tag for what you’re getting with this machine.

Microsoft’s Surface Adaptive Kit shown on a Surface laptop

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Forging ahead with accessibility

Microsoft has continued to do good work on the accessibility front in 2021, which is of course highly commendable. In the past, Windows 10 has received some great capabilities to make the OS more accessible, like eye tracking for example, and various updates to its assistive tools, most recently with Windows 11 getting voice control features in testing at the close of the year.

Those voice controls appear to be the result of drafting over much of the functionality of excellent speech recognition app Dragon – remember, Microsoft bought Nuance in April 2021 – and they’re very in-depth, allowing for control over all sorts of elements of the OS. This looks like the start of Microsoft turning voice controls into something big with Windows 11.

Also, Microsoft started selling its Surface Adaptive Kit in December, which provides a host of nifty ways to make a large range of its Surface devices easier to use for people with disabilities. These kind of kits are something which will hopefully catch on with other PC makers.

Microsoft dunking servers in liquid to keep them cool

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Thinking environmentally

In October, Microsoft made a laudable pledge to ensure its devices are more easily repairable – and therefore better on the sustainability front – albeit following pressure from a non-profit shareholder advocacy group drumming up support on the environmental responsibility front. Microsoft had already been making its hardware easier to repair, as seen with the Surface Pro X in the past, and we can expect more progress along these lines in the future.

Further pledges towards an eco-friendlier future include Microsoft firing up a new foundation to promote making greener software, and developing new ways to make data centers more energy-efficient (and to use less water). All of this is good progress towards the goal Microsoft announced last year of going carbon negative by 2030.

Windows 11 running on a laptop

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Concluding thoughts

If we had to call it – and we do have to call it, that’s the point of this article – we’d give Microsoft a thumbs-up for this year. The software giant is doing a lot right, but there are still caveats and serious issues which represent multiple winged creatures stuck in the ointment.

Of course, some of those nasty bugs pertain directly to Windows 11, and really worrying flaws around core bits of the interface like File Explorer, along with problems with SSD sluggishness. All the confusion around Windows 11 upgrade compatibility really didn’t help, either (though to be fair, TPM does up the ante with security as Microsoft has shown us).

Microsoft still needs to address the issues the company continues to have in terms of quality assurance and bug squashing with its operating systems, and also quit with the nagging on the Edge front.

But on the whole, despite problems with bugs and glitches, Windows 11 made a positive impression on us, even though the OS still feels much like a work in progress. It’s definitely a more modern and better-looking piece of software, nicely streamlined in many ways compared to Windows 10, and Microsoft is slowly making good progress across a number of fronts here.

Hardware was a mixed bag, with some sterling Surface offerings coming out this year – the Surface Pro 8, Surface Laptop 4, and Surface Laptop Studio in particular – even if the company charged an arm and a leg for these admittedly premium devices. Wallet-friendly offerings disappointed, however, with the Surface Go 3 really missing the mark, and the Surface Laptop Go 2 failing to emerge.

Microsoft definitely gets some pats on the back for its progress with accessibility in 2021, and also being greener, as well as the firm apparently starting to listen to user feedback more (this was a big drive with Windows 10, which we felt was waning as Windows 11 went through testing – but Microsoft now seems to be correcting course again).

So, Microsoft is much like Windows 11, in that it’s moving in the right direction, but there’s still more work to be done.

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TouchBistro Inc point of sale (POS) review

TouchBistro Inc. is an all-in-one mobile Point of Sale (POS) and restaurant management system that helps to streamline the running of your restaurant. 

It often comes up in conversations about the best POS systems for restaurants, thanks to its ease of use. Although, some online reviews suggest that it might not be quite as good as it appears at first glance. 

In the rest of this TouchBistro review, we analyze every aspect of this company to help you determine if it’s a viable option for your next restaurant POS solution. We evaluate TouchBistro prices, main features, user interface and support, plus more, so you don’t have to. 

TouchBistro POS system for restaurants

TouchBistro POS system offers customizable, mobile POS solutions just for restaurants (Image credit: TouchBistro )

TouchBistro POS plans and pricing

TouchBistro POS

POS software licenses start at $ 69 per month (Image credit: TouchBistro)

How much does TouchBistro cost? Good question! Expect to pay into triple figures each month to get the best from TouchBistro's restaurant management systems. 

The TouchBistro website provides a small amount of pricing information, but there isn’t nearly as much transparency as we would have liked to see. According to the company’s website, POS licenses start from just $ 69 per month, which is comparable to the entry-level plans of most other companies.

This includes:

  • Various menu management
  • Table management
  • Analytics tools
  • 24/7/365 customer service support

Unfortunately, though, there’s no readily available information about what higher-end plans are available or what they include. 


There are various TouchBistro POS add-ons, shown below. 

TouchBistro Inc POS pricing add-ons
Add-on Cost
Online ordering From $ 50/month
Reservations From $ 229/month
Gift card support From $ 25/month
Loyalty From $ 99/month
Self-serve kiosk From $ 69/month
Digital Menu Boards From $ 20/month
Kitchen Display System Hardware costs only
Customer Facing Display Hardware costs only

On top of this, you can expect to pay some sort of card processing and/or transaction fees. However, these will vary according to your country/region, and the TouchBistro website provides no information about exactly what you will pay. 

How does TouchBistro's POS system work?

TouchBistro POS software

Is TouchBistro POS cloud-based? Yes, partly. Although their software is hosted through an on-site server, the data in the POS application is stored in the cloud. Not only does this mean you can continue with customer sales without an internet connection, it  also allows you to access company data from any browser. 

The user interface itself is quite attractive and functional, if a little clunky. There are various add-on integrations available, including a kitchen display system, a self-ordering kiosk display, and a customer-facing display. 

TouchBistro POS hardware

TouchBistro uses an iPad-based system that’s designed for ease of use and flexibility. Getting started is quite simple, and, in many cases, you'll be able to access professional technical assistance to ensure you’re up and running as soon as possible. 

Small businesses will benefit from a streamlined single-iPad POS system, suitable when you have one terminal to take payments and manage orders. Medium-sized systems with up to five iPads can be used with a sixth iPad acting as the central terminal, for seated table transactions. 

Larger systems can be custom-built with a more powerful computer as the central hub, allowing you to connect as many mobile devices as required. 

TouchBistro iPad interface

TouchBistro’s POS interface is simple and easy to use (Image credit: TouchBistro)

TouchBistro POS features and services

Like most restaurant-specific POS systems, TouchBistro offers a range of features designed to help you maximize occupancy, efficiency, and customer satisfaction. 

✓ TouchBistro table management tool

One of our favorite features is TouchBistro’s table management tool. Sure, this isn’t unique by design, but it does let you create a unique floor plan that mirrors your restaurant to make order management easier everyday. 

✓ TouchBistro Tableside ordering and payment

TouchBistro’s tableside ordering and payment tools stand out as excellent. Each feature provides staff with everything they need to maximize order value, ensure accurate order placement, and process payments fast and flexibly. 

✓ TouchBistro analytics and reporting

There’s nothing worse than being forced to make important business decisions without knowing what you should be doing. TouchBistro POS systems assist you in making informed business decisions, by providing a range of powerful reports and in-depth analytics. 

✓ TouchBistro's staff management and scheduling tools

Save time and simplify the scheduling process with TouchBistro's in-built tools. Easily create new rosters with the click of a button, track employee working hours and labor costs, and communicate directly with employees if there are any concerns.

✓ Inventory management

Calculate basic stock inventory at speed and monitor beverage costs with ease, thanks to TouchBistro's user-friendly inventory management feature. 

✓ TouchBistro application integration

From WorldPay to Xero, 7shifts and QuickBooks, TouchBistro POS systems easily integrate with many of the restaurant industry's favourite applications. 

✓ TouchBistro's Kitchen Display System (KDS)

With real-time performance feedback, order accuracy improvement and communication transparency between back of house and front of house staff, TouchBistro's KDS is one not to miss. Your team can minimise human errors and optimise every order without a blink: TouchBistro's POS will do the thinking for you!

TouchBistro POS reporting and analytics

TouchBistro’s analytics tools stand out as excellent (Image credit: TouchBistro)

TouchBistro POS support and customer care

Contact Us

There are various self-help resources, but reports suggest that things might not be as good as they appear (Image credit: Oatawa / Shutterstock)

TouchBistro provides a a great range of support services, including multinational phone support and email service through its online contact form. They also have local offices in the United States, Canada, the UK, and Mexico, which have their own local phone numbers and contact information. 

So, wherever you are, help is easy to reach anytime. And we do literally mean anytime: you can contact TouchBistro 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days of the year. 

From the very start of your experience with TouchBistro you are supported. Their “one-box POS solution” is can be setup fast so you can start using your POS system straight away. If you prefer in-person help, they can also delegate an expert installation specialists to assist you remotely. 

Their online self-help resources are plentiful too, and available through the Support & Training centre. There, you'll find various setup tutorials and user guides. There are even useful videos detailing specific actions. 

However, online customer reports don’t paint a mixed picture of TouchBistro’s support and post-sales customer care. The company receives a commendable rating of 4.2/5 stars (from 308 reviews) on Capterra, but its customer service rating is slightly lower at 3.9/5. 

A large proportion of reviews touch on poor customer care and support services, which is a major concern.

TouchBistro's POS competition

TouchBistro has the hospitality industry pretty well covered when it comes to point of sale systems. They cater for every business from the humble food truck to the fancy fine dining restaurant. 

However, if you’re looking for a higher-rated restaurant POS service provider, we’d recommend checking out Upserve POS. Its software prices start from $ 59 per month, it uses a very flexible system, and its customer service is reported to be excellent. 

Another great option is Square POS, which offers flexible POS services tailored to various industries. It doesn’t charge any monthly software fees, but you will be hit with 2.6% + 10c transaction fees. 

Final verdict

All things considered, TouchBistro provides excellent restaurant POS solutions. Its customer service receives poor online ratings, but reports suggest that this is largely because its agents are slow and response times can be long. 

At the end of the day, the company’s feature-rich software, competitive prices, and simple setup process more than outweigh these negatives. We’d recommend checking out TouchBistro if you’re looking for a powerful, customizable, data-driven POS program that’s designed specifically for restaurants.

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