TIME hospitals

This Website Is Basically Yelp for Hospitals

Empty Hospital Bed in a Ward
Getty Images

You can check the grade of your hospital to see how it stacks up against others

Using websites like Yelp, people can look up ratings and reviews for virtually any restaurant or bar. But what about hospitals, where the quality of treatment is far more important than checking whether the Caesar salad is any good.

On Wednesday, a new website premiered that lets you check how good a hospital is. But instead 0f relying on reviews by the public, it rates hospitals based on data from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, which collects information about all medical facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid funds.

People can pull up the profile of most any hospital in the country to see its strengths, weaknesses, and overall grade. Most of the information is focused on three areas: the hospital’s emergency room, patient satisfaction, and in-patient cost efficiency.

For example, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles got a C+ overall grade, and ranks in the 34th percentile in the country. Massachusetts General Hospital, located in Boston, fared a bit better, earning a B- and ranking in 44th percentile.

Brent Newhouse, co-founder of analyticsMD, the startup that created the index, explained that he chose to narrow the focus to a few areas like emergency rooms, for example, because “emergencies are often the first place we interact with hospitals.” Doing so also made it easier for his company to create the index and for regular people to navigate it.

Similar ratings are also available through iVantage’s Hospital Strength Index, which also uses data from CMS, among other sources.

AnalyticsMD, a two-year-old startup from Palo Alto, Calif., has built software that helps hospitals make their operations more efficient. It uses data to provide hospital administrators and staffers with suggestions like how to avoid patient bottlenecks and schedule staff. Among the company’s handful of paying hospital customers are El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, Calif., and Mercy Health Hospitals, which haw several locations in the US.

For analyticsMD co-founders, Newhouse and Mudit Garg, building the hospital index has two purposes. One goal is to provide a yardstick for hospital administrators to not only take a step back and see how they’re doing, but also compare their performance to their peers. The other goal is to make hospital quality and efficiency a priority for both patients and health care providers.

“If we can get this out to folks, we can get a conversation started,” Newhouse said.

 

TIME Gadgets

Are Smart Thermostats Worth Buying?

Google To Buy Smart Thermostat Maker Nest For 3.2 Billion
George Frey—Getty Images In this photo illustration, a Nest thermostat is being adjusted in a home on January 16, 2014 in Provo, Utah.

And 4 of the best on the market

For the most part, I’m an early adopter. In my opinion, Launch Day should be a holiday, right up there with May the Fourth and St. Patrick’s Day. But when it comes to smart home technology — at least, home electronics that are expensive or require complex installation — I tend to move at the reluctant pace of a dedicated laggard. That’s because today’s tech is as much about the ecosystem as it is the product. Gadget makers aren’t necessarily trying to peddle you a gadget; they’re selling an upgrade cycle.

Homeowners don’t want this — not even tech-laden kings of the castle like myself. So, when smart thermostats started hitting the shelves years ago, rather than being the first on my block to install one, I sat back and watched. Last year, Nest co-founder Matt Rogers told me the company isn’t worried about getting people to upgrade yet.

“When we get to 50 million U.S. households, then we’ll start worrying about turnover,” Rogers said. In the meantime, the company has continually improved its product, currently in its second generation, with dozens of free software updates. “We’ve been able to update even to the first generation unit,” he says.

From the sidelines, I confess that I’m late to the game. The fundamental technologies in these devices (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, light sensors, thermometers) are not only refined, but they’re also timeless, or at least backwards compatible. I’m convinced the smart thermostat of yesterday will still be an ample energy-saving gadget tomorrow. So, on the eve of getting a heat pump installed at my home — I’m switching from a gas furnace to a year-round, climate-controlled utopia — I’m faced with the question of how to best manage my HVAC system.

These four options are the best contenders.

Allure Eversense

You might not have heard of the Allure Eversense, but it’s quite possible you’ve listened to it. Part smart heating controller, part media center, this clever $249 device takes advantage of the thermostat’s central location in your home to do double-duty as a small speaker system. With just a 1.0 gigahertz processor and eight gigabytes of storage, this unit is ripe for obsolescence, but it really doesn’t take much computing power to kick out some tunes. And with Wi-Fi connectivity, it can stream directly from your Android or iOS device, anyhow.

Its 4.3-inch touchscreen is able to display the weather (including an animated radar) or your photos with its Picture Frame app. But the big deal is the the smarts in this unit, with its ability to track your location, both inside and out of the house, turning off the heat or air conditioning when you’re away, and starting it when you’re on your way home. Since I work from home, this isn’t very helpful for me, not to mention the privacy concerns I have over being monitored like that. But it’s probably no worse than the location tracking that Find My iPhone already does.

Ecobee3

Every home is different. With that in mind, Ecobee3 offers a versatile solution to temperature control by connecting to remote sensors all over the house, detecting the conditions where you actually want your heat or cool air to reach. Detecting movement and temperature, these sensors feed data to the main thermostat, a Wi-Fi-connected fixture that packs motion, proximity and humidity sensors itself. Basing its smarts on what kind of HVAC equipment you have (conventional, heat pump, gas, or dual fuel) and the weather, the $249 smart device ($313, for a package that comes with a pair of extra sensors) can sense if you are home and control the climate accordingly.

On the plus side, Ecobee3’s ability to heat and cool far-flung rooms makes this a good option for my home (and my attic workspace). But by catering to the far corners of my house, it will probably over-heat or over-cool the main living area — as well as wipe out any savings I might get from being more energy conscious.

Honeywell Lyric

A longtime giant of the HVAC industry, Honeywell isn’t giving up control of the world’s heat to anyone, especially not these digital upstarts. And in pairing up with Apple (and its upcoming HomeKit smart home initiative), Honeywell has a great opportunity to continue on as a force in this space. But the Lyric — at least this version of it — might not be the device to do that. Using geofencing to know when to turn your system on, the $249 thermostat monitors your location like the Eversense. But it also takes into account the relative humidity in your home to make sure 72 degrees actually feels like 72 degrees (and not like 80 degrees, which is how it feels when the air is humid). Lyric’s Android and iOS app let you create shortcuts to change your temperature settings to particular preferences as well as to schedule them to come on and off, automatically.

This is a fresh change from learning thermostats because it offers the homeowner more granular control. But the reason to hold off is this product’s unclear HomeKit compatibility. As far as I’ve been told, HomeKit-compatible products will require a special chip that has not yet become available. So, if Lyric is to be HomeKit compatible, it probably won’t be the model currently on store shelves.

Nest Learning Thermostat

The smart thermostat that started it all ends this list. Gorgeous to look at, and making your home energy bill pretty too, this $249 game-changer has stood up well since it was first released in 2011, due to continual updates (as mentioned above) and timeless good looks.

But Nest is also popular because it doesn’t take any programming whatsoever. Just put it on the wall while you go about your business. Nest’s auto-scheduling feature takes over from there, turning up when you typically like it warmer, down when you tend to want it cooler, and off when you head off to work. But if you can’t keep your hands off the brushed metal device, turning it below a certain point will prompt a leaf to pop up on the screen, a sign that you’re saving energy. The most cost-saving feature of Nest it its ability to detect when you’re home or away, but since I’m here more often than I’m not, that’s not likely to help me much. And, since my thermostat sits right next to the stairs to my office, it may just be a constant reminder of a bad decision. Perhaps I should continue to hold out on this purchase, after all.

TIME Video Games

5 Things I Love About The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

How does Polish developer CD Projekt Red's long-awaited fantasy three-quel stack up? Here's what we think so far

Let’s talk about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, an obscure sounding fantasy roleplaying game you’re either here reading about because you’re a bona fide Witcher wonk, or that you stumbled into after President Obama unexpectedly namechecked the series while visiting Poland last June (no really, he did).

For those in the latter column, a quick review. The Witcher games stem, some might say improbably, from several fantasy novels and short stories written by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski in the early 1990s. The series concerns a potion-drinking mutant named Geralt, the eponymous “Witcher,” who hunts monsters for a living. Though Geralt is portrayed as apolitical, elaborate political plots eventually emerge in both the novels and games, forcing Geralt (and in the games, therefore, players) to grapple with ethical dilemmas that mirror contemporary real world ones.

Think Western fantasy, but through an Eastern European lens—more folkloric Brothers Grimm than epically biblical Tolkien. Think political intrigue, character depth and world building on par with HBO’s Game of Thrones. And in The Witcher 3‘s case, with CD Projekt Red finally jumping the series to a fully open world, think grand on a scale that surpasses the term. Think post-Skyrim.

I’ve had the game for less than a week, and don’t ask me how far along I am, because at two dozen hours, I’ve yet to see its middle. But I’m having a blast. It’s not perfect, and at points (see below) it can seem obtuse, but hour for hour, I’m happier with it than I was Skyrim—and at the 24-hour mark I was still pretty chuffed about Skyrim.

My impressions of the game so far, running the PlayStation 4 version:

The engine under this hood is pretty sporty

You think I’m talking about the graphics? In a moment. I’m referring to load times—the time it takes for a game to cycle up—because they’re crucial when you’re restarting from save points, say you keep whiffing fighting a mini-boss. The Witcher 3‘s load times are partly obscured by narrative recaps, but still unusually quick. When you figure the game’s juggling a play-space bigger than either Skyrim or Grand Theft Auto V‘s, one that’s seamless once it’s up and running (there’s no scenery pop-in) whether you’re wandering in and out of buildings or plumbing underground dungeons, it’s no small triumph.

And it’s visually stunning

I don’t mean technically, since we’re accustomed to games that deftly model bosky sandboxes with resplendent cities and chaotic ruins and endless subterranean haunts. I’m talking about who made the game (CD Projekt Red, headquartered in Poland) and what informed their visual worldview. Put it this way: The Witcher 3 looks nothing like Skyrim or Dragon Age: Inquisition.

Speaking as someone who’s spent months in Poland, the Baltics and Russia, it feels more like that. Light cuts chiaroscuro columns between swathes of stormy blackness draped over fir and oak forests punctuated by meticulous medieval structures and grass-choked wagon wheel roads. The wind knocks stands of trees and patchy scrub around like shaken springs, and cloud-fog hangs off foothills and mountains in wispy skirts. It feels older and creepier, but also elegiac and incredibly beautiful, if that makes sense (speaking as an American who’s probably doing the whole romanticizing-the-other thing).

CD Projekt Red

How do you convey to someone what a blood-red, storm cloud framed, lighting-flanked sunset looks like if you happen to come across one tromping through Poland’s Lower Silesian Wilderness? Show them a sunset in The Witcher 3.

Deceptively conventional quests morph into delightful rabbit holes

Tired of running delivery boy errands and “go kill X monsters” treks designed to fill out space in games like this? You’ll still find them here, but the design team threw in heaps of meaningful wrinkles, upending tropes by extending the backstories to quests and folding in deductive sequences that drawn upon your extrasensory abilities (some can be over a dozen steps long). And when they can’t do that, they’ll just send you on quirky goose chases with surprise denouements to keep you off balance.

And that’s what it’s really about when you’re crafting challenges for players, isn’t it? Preserving an air of mystery and situational novelty? Developer CD Projekt Red has worked to thwart conventionality since it launched the series, and you can see it shining through any one of The Witcher 3‘s idiosyncratic missions.

The scripted encounters soar

Someone needs to write about the real war, says Geralt at a point early in the game, “not colorful banners or generals making moving speeches, but rape, violence, and thoughtless cruelty.” He’s chatting in a tavern with an academic who’s just explained what’s driven him out to the front, to chronicle the war.

“Rape and cruelty are details of no import to the war’s course, trinkets on the garment of conflict you might say,” replies the academic, betraying a kind of dangerous, elite romanticism, as well as callous disregard for Geralt’s vaguely antiwar position.

It’s an uncomfortable moment that could stand for any other in the game, an exchange that’d feel at home in a George R.R. Martin novel, and one that’s still sadly unusual in a video game, where incisive much less subversive writing takes a backseat to anodyne platitudes about war, or whatever else (one of gaming’s great mistakes has been its cooption of the false dichotomy between authorial intention and player control).

But not The Witcher 3, where beautifully voiced and philosophically provocative interactions are the norm for virtually every encounter in the game, be it part of the main quest or any of the secondaries. True, The Witcher 2 already showed us that CD Projekt Red could write, but The Witcher 3 pulls that level of depth off in a game world that’s exponentially bigger. It’s like stumbling into a strange, baroquely ornamented wine cellar stuffed with vintage bottles, every one.

And each location feels unique

Every rutted path, split-rail fence, thatch roof, copse of trees, bricked ruin, walled village and corpse-haunted battlefield feels handcrafted and one-of-a-kind, and you can wander for hours without repeats. Imagine the time it must have taken, given how vast The Witcher 3‘s play space is, but what a visual payoff and triumph. You could write plausibly poetic travelogues about the game’s distinctive vistas, whether sloshing through Crookback Bog, taking in the heart stopping view from Kaer Gelen castle, hiking around the craggy monster-thronged foothills of Bald Mountain, or getting lost in the wonderfully nuanced architecture of metropolitan Novigrad.

CD Projekt Red

But the world’s also stuffed with vacuous nobodies

Cities and towns are choked with citizenry going about their scripted business, and you can chat with any of them. Trouble is, almost no one has much more than a catchphrase to work with. Wander through a village and you’ll be assaulted by “talk” prompts, but tap to do so and you’ll be treated to a barrage of boilerplate-isms: “Yes?” “Erhm?” “Step away.” “Nordling?” “Hm?” “What do you want?” “Tidings from Vizima?” Et cetera.

Conversational window dressing just wastes precious time in ginormous games like this. Better to disable that level of interactivity outright and let the ambulatory props shuffle through their subroutines. Save talking for situations that involve actual talking, in other words.

And the interface needs work

Getting Geralt to properly interact with something, say another person or chest of goods, feels a little fiddly, requiring too much sidling up or scooting backwards to conjure the prompt.

The way things are labeled also feels a little lazy: When you’re out gathering flora for The Witcher 3‘s alchemy game, for instance, the prompt you’ll see is generically “Gather Ingredients,” instead of a more helpful “Gather [name of ingredient].” Why ask players to stop and pull up a dialogue box, when you could more readily specify what they’re looking at as they wander by?

Combat can be quirky

I love The Witcher 3‘s third-person battle ideas for the most part–a mix of swordplay and tactical spellcasting that mostly works–but two things stand out as sore spots.

The game binds your ability to “parry” in battle to the same button that triggers “Witcher Sense” out of battle (it’s an extrasensory ability Witchers use to “see” thing others can’t). The problem is that you’re sometimes shuffled out of, then back into, combat mode so fast that you grab the button to parry, but invoke the other ability instead, laying you open to blows.

The other issue, a little more serious, is the way targeting works. The system as it stands lets you focus your attention on different opponents by flicking the right thumbstick while you maneuver with the left one. But the game’s enemies often reposition themselves so quickly, and often assault you in close-in rows, that it’s all too easy to accidentally target the guy right behind the one you want to hit, which causes you to attack past the front line and open yourself up to unblockable flank damage.

CD Projekt Red

The world itself, though gorgeous, has shortcomings

Spatial physics? Who needs ’em! Instead of building off basic line of sight principles, where you might use ledges or walls or giant trees to sneak up on an opponent, enemies simply “sense” you through plainly obfuscating geometry. They’ll even brokenly fire arrows through trees, either a glitch or collision detection oversight that outs the environment as a facade in combat. Less ambitious open-world games manage to pull this stuff off competently, so why not The Witcher 3?

(For that matter, why can’t Geralt sneak? I’m not asking for Thief or Dishonored or Assassin’s Creed here, but Witchers aren’t tanks, and Geralt’s surely capable of creeping up on squads of foes, so why can’t he at least attempt to here?)

And despite its delays, the game still has bugs

My first two matches of Gwent (a semi-interesting collectible card game you can play with other characters in the game for money) crashed the game hard. And while hanging out in a tavern, a horse (not mine) outside wandered over and stuck its head through the tavern wall—creepy for all the wrong reasons.

TIME Smartphones

HTC’s Lead Designer Explains How Smartphones Get Made

htc-one-m9-global-phone-listing
HTC HTC One M9

"You can make the wildest predictions, but it will always surpass your imagination"

trustedreviews-logo

TrustedReviews sat down with Daniel Hundt, HTC’s passionate Creative Director and now Lead Designer, to ask him about the design of HTC’s latest flagship – the HTC One M9. He explains honest design, how materials affect the process and why the world isn’t yet ready for modular phones.

Trusted Reviews: What’s changed on the One M9 and why?

Hundt: A common question we get is: “Why does it look similar to the One M8 and M7?” It’s really important for us that we keep the lineage. We’ve built a strong brand with the One and we want to continue that strong DNA. I tell my team all the time that we need discipline – we can’t get bored of what we’re doing, we have to stay true to who we are what we feel is HTC. We have to keep what’s good and improve on what’s not working.

We’re always striving to make the perfect product. Sometimes we’re pretty close, other times we’re further away, but we always seek greatness combined with consistency.

What we did with the M8 was shrink down the size to make it more pocketable and feel better in your hand. We made the M8 rounder than the M7 to attract more female customers, but also to make it more ergonomic. One interesting thing that we learned from making it round was that, as you use it, the texture changes, so it becomes more slippery. People said, “Hey, it’s really hard to hold, can you guys go back to something that has a little more of an edge feel?”. We ended up with something in between the M7 and M8 because that’s what people want.

How do you decide what materials to make a phone out of?

Craftsmanship is really important to us. When we talk about our products, we talk about our inspiration. We think of ourselves as makers – like shoemakers, watchmakers, instrument makers – and get inspired by attention to detail. That’s the level of perfection that we try to apply.

The HTC One M9 is a premium phone, a premium device, with premium materials. We invested heavily in making a phone with a metal unibody and bringing that to life, and over the last three years we’ve been looking to improve that.

On the M7 we had a metal unibody with some plastic on the sides. We improved the design on the M8 where we had 95% metal content. As competitors started to catch up it was important that we push ourselves again and bring the metal finish, and the way we work with metal, to another level. That’s why we introduced not just the dual tone, but also the dual finish – two processes in one phone.

First we machine the back from one block of aluminum – 95% of the aluminum gets machined away, but of course we recycle that into new blocks. Then we anodize it and then machine it again, treat the edge and put another really fine hairline and anodize it again. It’s a pretty crazy process and one of the reasons I love working for HTC is that we’re doing those things.

We sit down with our CEO and present ideas we feel have a consumer benefit and people really love. If we present an opportunity that can make a real emotional connection with the user, then we go for it, and I really think as a company we have our heart in the right place. We think about the consumer before the bottom line.

You use metal for the One M9, but do other materials provide more design benefits?

Whenever you deal with a conductive material like metal, you have to deal with the antennas so the phone almost designs itself. There’s a beauty in that. As a designer you sort of guide the process rather than trying to shape it into what you want. You’re almost not designing it as a designer, you’re there to guide the process rather than to try to steer it. You have to let go of control and let the material and technology do its thing, and you just make sure it stays on track. It’s a fascinating process.

Can a flagship phone made of plastic ever compete with the likes of the metal One M9?

No. You’ve seen other brands play in that space before [with phones] that were completely made out of plastic and tricked people into thinking they had a metal frame. Obviously the market has shown that you can be successful if you put enough marketing knowledge behind it, but I fundamentally believe that’s the wrong thing to do. When we use a material, we want to be honest about it. We try not to fake things; we’re totally against that.

So the problem isn’t plastic, the problem is making plastic look like another material?

Yes. That’s bottom-line thinking. You take the cheapest available material and then you try to make it look like something else. Fundamentally I don’t agree with that. When you show a person a product in a picture you’re giving them a promise, and I think you have to be true to yourself. If you tell them that you’re going to give them metal, you give them metal. If you want to give them a different material then you have to be honest about that as well. Plastic can be beautiful, it’s a matter of how you use a moulding technology to bring it to a new level, like we’ve done with the Desire Eye and Desire 820.

Do you think some manufacturers compromise battery life too much in the pursuit of thinness?

Yes, but we don’t look at what other people do and how they make trade-offs. For us it’s about finding the right balance. We study that a lot. You wouldn’t believe how many mock-ups of the HTC One M9 we have with different batteries in. We put everything on the table and think about battery life and see what effect it will have on the form factor and make those smart tradeoffs. We don’t just say “this is the battery it has to have.” We do tons of mockups and put ourselves in the role of the consumer and decide what will really benefit them.

It’s very tempting to play the spec game, but we try not to get ourselves caught up in that. What’s the user benefit to have a phone 0.1 or 0.2mm thinner? It’s a strong statement to say you have the thinnest phone available, but we try not to get caught up in that.

What will the phone of 2020 look like?

I stopped making predictions so far out. Just looking back in the history of mobile phones, technology exceeds your imagination. You can make the wildest predictions, but it will always surpass your imagination.

What about modular phones then? Will they ever be as successful or be as good as a well-designed all-in-one phone?

It might be as technology advances. It’s about tradeoffs. If you have something modular you have wall thicknesses to consider. Once technology reaches a certain size why wouldn’t it be successful?

I don’t think it’s marketable yet, though. I think the tradeoffs on an everyday level for a product like that, because of its size, mean it’s not justifiable yet. It’s more for novelty’s sake. It’s very interesting and it will happen, but technology has to adapt.

[Making a modular phone] is similar to choosing a material for a phone. You will have to guide the process. Technology will set the rules, the outline, and our job as designers is to create a function by which those rules are applied. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in that space. I’m not clawing onto the fact that this [One M9] has to be in this package or sit in this form. If there’s a consumer benefit then we’ll look at it.

How are bezel-free designs and curved and flexible screens going to change the design of phones going forward?

Well, the bezel-free design we’re all driving for has a clear consumer benefit, which is size. You have maximum screen-to-form ratio and that’s something I’m really excited about.

Curved displays always take me back to the question of consumer benefit. Is it just for novelty’s sake, is it to be interesting, have something to talk about, or does it have a long-lasting benefit to the user?

At the moment where do you think curved displays sit?

I haven’t seen an application yet where it’s for true user benefit. So far, curved screens are for novelty’s sake.

What makes a design stand the test of time and can another truly iconic phone ever be made with annual refresh cycles?

I don’t see this as a limit. It’s important for us to have discipline. We felt like we had something special when we were working on the HTC One M7 three years ago, the first completely unibody phone with the strong iconic look. As a design team we felt we’d found something. This is HTC moving on. We want to maintain that.

It’s important for us to have the discipline and not react to the marketing team saying, “Hey, we need something new, we need to be the thinnest.” We want to keep what’s good and what’s recognizable for us and work on the elements that don’t work so well for us.

If you have an icon and create something good, you should hone it and refine it rather than doing something revolutionary.

This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article above was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

TIME Retail

Amazon Is Suing Sites That Sell Fake Reviews

Amazon Unveils Its First Smartphone
David Ryder—Getty Images Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos presents the company's first smartphone, the Fire Phone, on June 18, 2014 in Seattle, Washington.

Sites offer to fill seller's product pages with 4 and 5-star reviews

Amazon is cracking down on sites that it says sell fake reviews to bolster products sold on the retailer’s website.

The online retail giant filed suit Wednesday against buyamazonreviews.con and buyazonreviews.com, according to The Seattle Times. The suit accuses the websites of false advertising, trademark infringement and violating consumer protection laws.

Buyamazonreviews.com did not immediately respond to a request for comment. However, the website’s owner, Mark Collins, told the Times that Amazon’s claims were without merit, saying his site offers “unbiased and honest” reviews, not fake ones.

On its home page, buyamazonreviews.com offers “unlimited” four and five star reviews to its customers. “Our skilled writers look at your product, look at your competitor’s products and then write state of the art reviews that will be sure to generate sales for you,” the website states.

The case marks the first time Amazon has brought a lawsuit against a company said to be shilling fake reviews. Amazon is seeking triple damages and attorney’s fees, as well as a court order to stop the other sites from using the retailer’s name.

TIME Video Games

Bloodborne’s 10 Quirkiest Ideas So Far

From Software's PlayStation 4 exclusive does just enough to walk the studio's unique action-roleplaying ideas forward, but it could have done more

That I’m nowhere near finished with Bloodborne says as much about From Software’s PlayStation 4 lycanthrope-mauler as anything. I’ve had the game since late last week and clocked at least 40 hours through Monday night — just shy of what some claim it takes to beat the game. I’m still working through the first few areas. Chalk my sluggishness up to being a slower, more methodical player.

But it’s also because Bloodborne carries forward the Souls’ series back-breaking pedigree: this is a game about pushing the proverbial ball up something more like a mountain, millimeter by grueling millimeter, looking for meaningful perspective on your progress. From Software’s great triumph as a studio — and Bloodborne epitomizes this — is in making that feel like something you want to do, not that you have to.

Here’s what I think of Bloodborne so far, absent the multiplayer angle, which I’m waiting to futz with until the game’s launch tomorrow, March 23.

The new “regain” system changes everything

From Software’s entire developmental oeuvre trades on simplistic sounding gameplay ideas that wind up having monumental depth. To wit, in Bloodborne the studio’s added what it calls a “regain” system to combat.

It sounds trivial: after an enemy damages you, you have a few crucial seconds to strike back and, if you connect without taking further damage, replenish your flagging health bar. They hit, you hit. On paper, it’s as nuanced as a pugilism seminar.

But Bloodborne packs its Grand Guignol zoo with deft, spontaneous enemies who make it incredibly difficult to land reciprocal blows before the regain timer runs out and the damage to your health bar becomes permanent. Regain is thus another dare (in a game about daring), goading you to act recklessly, to make split-second tactical choices that, if you’re not thoroughly versed in an enemy’s attack patterns, often result in your taking even more damage.

Multiply by the barrage of new enemy types, each with unique attacks, and how you dispatch them — the crux of these games, requiring methodical thought — is easily the most nuanced of any of the prior Souls installments.

So does the game’s loot-hunt twist

The Souls games are basically risk-reward abattoirs wrapped around hack-and-slash chutes. You haul around souls (the games’ version of cash), but drop them if you die, after which you have just one shot to bash your way back to the spot you croaked and reclaim your booty. Die before you get there, and those dropped goods vanish forever, forfeiting all your hard work to that point.

Bloodborne continues in the same vein (instead of souls, it calls your cha-chings from enemy kills “blood echoes”), but with a fascinating wrinkle: now, if you die in the vicinity of enemies, they can snatch up your lost treasure and go for a stroll.

Return to the spot of your demise, and you’ll often find it bare. Instead, you have to scan nearby enemies until you identify one with glowing eyes — the telltale sign it’s the creature schlepping your goods. And the only way to retrieve them is to defeat the creature in combat. Suffice to say I’ve lost a lot of hard-earned moola overzealously rushing blood echoes thieves flanked by lethal helpers. (Woe to anyone who loses their trove in battle with a deadly mini-boss, and has to fight it to get their blood echoes back.)

From Software

It’s all about crowd control

The Souls games generally involve engaging enemies one and sometimes two at a time. Bloodborne by contrast opens the battlefield up to whole squadrons of horrors, each creature bristling with different weapons, hit ranges and attack sequencing, making them pretty much phalanxes of anarchic insanity.

Figuring out how to break down a crowd, maybe by luring away one or two enemies at a time (you can toss pebbles, Shadow of Mordor-like), is thus as crucial as leveraging the game’s new arsenal of crowd control weapons. If you’re into observation-related strategizing, and I am, Bloodborne forces you to pause and study groups of enemies before engaging them far more than in From Software’s prior games.

You can scan enemies from a distance — and you’ll need to

Demon’s Souls and both of the Dark Souls games opened on vast panoramas, but blurred their beautifully bleak far-off scenery for technical reasons. Bloodborne makes no such compromises, spotlighting ever exquisite distant detail of its Boschian nightmare-scapes, allowing you to eyeball enemy mobs (and their shambling trajectories) from several stories up, so you can plot your approach vectors accordingly.

It’s the apotheosis of From Software’s ultra-creepy visual aesthetic

I’ve loved the bleak, convoluted, almost Peake-ian feel of the Souls games for years, but Bloodborne ratchets that up another order of magnitude. In the starter areas, you’ll prowl gorgeously macabre coffin-choked cobblestone streets, observing flamboyant gothic tableaus framed by cathedral structures with coruscating stained glass windows and knuckled spires, while a fat, apocalyptic star baptizes the landscape like something out of a Jack Vance yarn.

I imagine you’re going to see the adjective “Lovecraftian” slung around a lot here, and fair enough, since he’s clearly an influence. But after reading Jeff Vandermeer’s hypnotically weird Southern Reach trilogy last year (if you’ve read it, I’m thinking specifically of the tunnel/Crawler sequences), I have a new word to describe how these games work on me: Vandermeerian.

From Software

Access points are just access points (again)

Dispensing with Dark Souls’ “campfires-make-it-all-better” approach to vitality replenishment, where you could heal by tagging the nearest bonfire, Bloodborne’s lantern-lit checkpoints are simply I/O ports to and from the game’s safe hub (that is, they’re more like Demon’s Souls’ bonfires). If you want to heal, you instead have to quaff blood flasks swiped from defeated enemies.

The only problem: so far, those blood flasks are pretty easy to come by. You can carry up to 20 on your person off the bat, and store another 100 in the safe hub (they’re a lucrative business, too: I’ve probably sold half as many as I’ve gulped). I have yet to run short of flasks during the toughest boss battles, where when I’ve died, it’s because I didn’t drink them fast enough.

And the levels cross-connect in fascinating ways

I’m not sure we’ll ever see an open-world From Software game (or that we’d even want to), nor is Bloodborne in so much as the same hemisphere as those sorts of games. But the levels I’ve plumbed are far more intertwined, and in cleverly concealed ways, offering, among other things, the option to take on certain bosses out of sequence. If you enjoy hunting for secret avenues or byways, some that lead to secret items, others that open up shortcuts or ways of cutting ahead, Bloodborne is flush with them.

But some of the boss fights are too pattern-enslaved

Maybe this changes further along, but all the end-area creatures I’ve battled have been tediously bipolar: you’re either destroyed quickly for lack of pattern recognition, or winning almost effortlessly once you’ve sussed the latter.

The most interesting thing about Bloodborne (so far, for me) is the crowd-control dynamic that coalesces spontaneously in the midst of a level, defying rote approaches. The boss fights, by contrast, come off too much like the same old static puzzles: once you’ve solved for X, you’re just going through the motions.

From Software

It really is Dark Souls with shotguns (but they’re not the main attraction)

That’s what a Sony community manager called it. It sounds glib, but only because it misses Bloodborne’s real star: its transformable arsenal of melee weapons. Brandish the game’s cane, for instance, and you’ll execute a series of fast, nominally damaging hits at short range. But pull one of the gamepad’s triggers and, after rapping the cane on the cobblestones (transformations aren’t instantaneous), it’ll change into something Castlevania’s Simon Belmont would appreciate: a jangling whip that, while slower to strike, deals pain at much greater range and lets you tag entire swathes of enemies.

Projectile weapons, by contrast, are more adjuncts to your melee armory, used offhand to stun or drive back enemies before you launch the coup de grace from your main hand. They’re helpful, in other words, but only as blowback tools. There’s no ballistic finesse involved, and since the main action’s happening in your other hand, that’s as it should be.

The chalice dungeons are kind of boring

The idea with chalice dungeons is that you stumble on goblets in the main game, then perform a “chalice ritual” in the game’s safe zone to spawn mini-dungeons from random seeds, which you can then visit at leisure to practice or level up. Each time you perform the ritual, the layout of the dungeons — including creature placement, trap arrangements and boss finales — gets rejiggered.

Random generated dungeons are already dull by design, but here they feel doubly so. After slogging through Bloodborne’s handcrafted main levels hundreds (and eventually thousands) of times, who wants to plow through haphazardly computer-built ones?

As an alternative to grinding out the same choreographed battle maneuvers in the primary areas to level up, introducing optional mini-dungeons isn’t a terrible idea. And the way the game mashes up enemy types and difficulty levels makes for a curiously asymmetric (and in that sense, unique) experience. But so far, they’re too arbitrary to hold my interest, though perhaps that’ll change once I’ve had a chance to try them in cooperative or player-vs.-player modes.

TIME Smartphones

Review: HTC One M9 Chooses Evolution Over Revolution

Front and rear views of the HTC One M9 smartphone.
HTC—AP Front and rear views of the HTC One M9 smartphone.

The HTC One M9 shows how far HTC has come in the last few years

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This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

What is the HTC One M9?

The HTC One M9 is a crucial phone for the Taiwanese manufacturer. The One M8 and original One were fantastic handsets, arguably better than their Samsung and Apple counterparts. The competition has caught up, though. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have sold by the bucket-load and Samsung appears to have put its flimsy-design woes to rest with the glass and metal Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge.

How does the One M9 compare? HTC has opted for evolution rather than revolution this time. The design closely resembles its last phone and the screen is almost the same. A new camera, processor and larger battery provide the bulk of the hardware changes, while HTC’s version of Android has had a facelift with Sense 7.

This all leads to a great phone that still has some areas of improvement. The rear camera doesn’t live up to its promise, and neither does the One M9’s battery life. And that really is surprising.

However, this is still one of the best phones you can get and it just goes to show how far HTC has come in the last few years that we hold its products to such lofty standards.

Watch the HTC One M9 hands on video:

Related: HTC On M9 Tips, Tricks and Secrets

HTC One M9: Design

Think about the HTC One M9 like an S version of an iPhone. It shares the same basic design and screen as the One M8, but some minor tweaks differentiate it from last year’s model.

The first, and most evident, is the new two-tone design. Where the back of the previous One curved round to the screen, the M9 has a ridge that connects the front to the back. It looks as if the front of the phone has been shoehorned into the rear, the benefit being that HTC has managed to remove the thin plastic edge between the screen and frame.

It’s a fussier design and one that’s highlighted by the fact that the front metal is a goldish-silver (in this case), while the edge is gold. Turn the phone around and it changes again to – this time to a more traditional silver finish. Not all colors are as glitzy. The gunmetal grey version is dark and broody instead.

Related: HTC One M9 vs HTC One M8

Do any of these changes make it better? Not in our opinion. The HTC One M8 has a classier air about it – it’s like comparing an understated Breitling to a gold Rolex. Both are well-made, but which one you’d grace on your wrist depends entirely on your taste.

This is a little harsh on the M9. It’s a good-looking phone, full of slick design touches and craftsmanship – a word HTC keeps using, and with good reason – but we like the M8 more.

The one upside to the ridge is it makes the M9 easier to grip – it’s less slippery than the M8 and other curved phones like the iPhone 6. It’s easier to hold one-handed, too, though it’s a smidgen less comfortable to hold.

Related: 17 Best Smartphones and Mobile Phones

In every other respect the design of the HTC One M9 is a triumph. This isn’t a thin phone, but neither does it feel porky – it’s 0.2mm thicker than the M8, but almost 1mm narrower. The back curves into your hand and the metal feels solid – more so than the previous model even though it’s a few grams lighter at 157g. That weight gives it a good heft – the One M9 is well balanced, if a little bottom heavy. It feels like you’re holding a quality phone, not a toddler’s toy. We like that.

One major new design improvement is the feel and location of the volume and power buttons. Previously plastic and along the top, the power button was a struggle to reach. It’s now in a far more sensible position, on the right hand edge, just below the volume buttons. It’s also been upgraded to metal and comes with a light etch so you can tell the difference between it and the volume buttons. These have had a tweak too. The buttons are a mite firmer and feel that bit better to press.

Related: 10 Best Android Phones and Smartphones

This is a tall and narrow phone so the new button position means it’s easy to reach with your thumb, if you’re using it right handed, or with your left hand’s index or middle finger. What’s still an issue is reaching the top of the screen.

It’s a real stretch to get your thumb to the browser back button or search box. Apple has gone some way to solving the issues that come with handling a large phone by dropping the screen with a double-tap on Touch ID. Samsung has as well, to a lesser extent, with one-handed mode. HTC hasn’t addressed the problem at all. If you’ve got average or small hands, you will need to juggle the phone to reach certain areas of the screen when you’re using it one-handed.

In most other respects the HTC One M9 is what you’d expect from a flagship phone. The microUSB and 3.5mm headphone jack are at the bottom, while there’s a pair of fine grilles at the front which house the new BoomSound speakers – we’ll cover those in more detail later.

Almost the whole top edge is covered with translucent black plastic. This is there to accommodate the infrared blaster that lets you use the M9 as a TV or home cinema remote.

Related: The Best Android Apps

The only other difference between the One M9 and last year’s phone is on the back. Rather than a round camera that sits flush to the body the M9 has a square one that’s slightly raised. Rounded edges ensure the phone doesn’t snag when you’re sliding it into a tight pocket.

All in all the design changes HTC has made to the M9 are positive. The ergonomics have improved thanks to the new power button and narrower body, but some of the aesthetic alterations are less of a success. HTC could have left well enough alone, but there’s no denying that the HTC One M9 is dashingly handsome.

The M9 is available in three colors at launch: Gunmetal Grey, Gold on Silver, and Gold on Gold. Read on to find out about the HTC One M9’s screen.

For the rest, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

TIME Reviews

This Is the Best Tax Filing Software You Can Buy

TurboTax makes filing taxes simpler and more comfortable than other options

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a list of the best technology to buy. Read the full article below at TheWirecutter.com.

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The best tax filing software should do a decent impression of a human accountant, teasing out deductions and keeping your forms organized. After spending more than 30 hours over two years filing fake tax returns for four fictitious households—with the help of a professional tax preparer to test the hard return numbers—we found TurboTax to be the most conversational, fast, and comfortable way to file your return through a browser.

On top of running the hard numbers, we also spent time noting the interfaces of 14 competitors, and the upsell annoyances and year-to-year convenience of our five finalists. Our main pick, TurboTax, wasn’t always the cheapest for complicated returns, but it can also be actually, entirely free for very simple returns. It made entering your financial data simpler and more comfortable than anything else we tested. If, however, you don’t need your taxes explained, so much as a place to punch in the numbers, we have a stripped-down and (likely) cheaper pick for you, too.

How we tested tax software

Our four “fake filers” lived in different states, worked salary and independent jobs, had kids or rental properties or home offices, and ranged from a single guy in an apartment to a married couple with capital gains. We had their life details in a spreadsheet; we noted how TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxACT, FreeTaxUSA, and eSmart Tax differed in asking about their situations, and how they totaled out.

All of these online suites offer some version of a maximum refund guarantee, and, indeed, most produced the same results given the same numbers. We searched to find online tax suites that were known entities, and we focused on web options because they’re more accessible to everyone. So we also considered how fast you could safely move through each form, and how intuitive the interface made going forward and back, or saving and coming back later. We also looked for a known and backed name, because you’re handing over very sensitive data. And we wanted the pricing to be clear, fair, and not involve endless upgrade pitches. Check out our full guide to learn more about our criteria for narrowing down the field and testing.

Our pick

TurboTax makes entering your tax data more simple and comfortable than anything else we tested. The account creation, login, and state-saving processes are smooth and sport lean, modern designs. The questions and categories are organized in a coherent flow, with live chat help available if you’re lost, even for free filers. TurboTax can automatically fill in salary and charitable donation amounts, and handles the new Affordable Care Act requirements ably. TurboTax makes taxes feel less like spreadsheet data entry and more like signing up for a new social app.

A good interface and smooth interview flow matter for more than just style points. While the amounts of each return turned out more or less the same with every tax suite we tested, TurboTax made it easier to avoid potential mistakes and head back to double-check figures and results.

TurboTax could be the cheapest or most costly online tax software for you, depending on your needs. If you make less than $100,000, and have absolutely no itemized deductions, non-salary income, or other complications (meaning attached “schedules”), your taxes could cost nothing under TurboTax’s Absolute Zero offer. Otherwise, state and federal filing under “Deluxe,” “Premier,” or “Home & Business” cost from $72-$117.

The runner-Up: FreeTaxUSA

If you don’t qualify for TurboTax’s Absolute Zero offer, but your taxes are still simple and consistent year to year, consider FreeTaxUSA. It’s a minimal, straightforward set of boxes and some help to get your numbers in and send them out.

FreeTaxUSA is faster than TurboTax, remarkably cheap (free federal, $13 for one state filing, $19 for a slight Deluxe upgrade), and it gets the job done for those who know exactly what they earned and what they owe. It doesn’t have the same smooth flow of TurboTax, and its text-focused screens can cause some motivational drag, but it does move quick and gives you a big-picture view of your income and deductions.

If you’re under 22, FreeTaxUSA is free to use entirely. And FreeTaxUSA’s pricing includes all the schedules and deductions an individual might need: rental or independent contractor income, home ownership and energy credit deductions, and more. As a final sweetener, you can see and download your returns in PDF form, as they would appear on a standard tax form. That’s helpful for getting tax advice from another human, if you’re not sure you’ve got everything right.

The other option: a human accountant

When our tax professional—Mark Francis, EA, of Lapidos, Leung & Francis, Inc. in San Francisco—ran our fake filers through each tax suite in 2014, he ended up with the same exact federal and state refund amounts for each. In 2015, when I ran a moderately complicated individual (home, rental property, investments) through each suite, I ended up with four different amounts. And none of the suites raised major red flags. If something has changed with your life or money in the past year, or you ever feel adrift while clicking through online tax forms, consider finding a local tax professional.

Is TurboTax actively allowing fraudulent tax returns?

The 2015 tax season has been heavy with news about TurboTax “fraud” or “hacks.” Most notably, respected security journalist Brian Krebs detailed the allegations of two former TurboTax officers that TurboTax’s parent company, Intuit, willfully ignores fraud concerns. The FBI and IRS may be investigating; TurboTax, for its part, denies the officers’ claims and has a detailed response on security concerns.

These are (as of early March 2015) unproven allegations and, in some cases, misrepresentations of TurboTax’s part in the problem. TurboTax, with 29 million customers in 2014, is by far the largest target for fraudulent filers, armed with sensitive data obtained through other breaches. In other words, avoiding the use of TurboTax to file your return this season will not protect you from potential fraud, especially if your data is already out there (or you’ve clicked a bad email phishing link). The IRS’s unwieldy and insecure refund processes play a significant role, too.

Does this affect our recommendation of TurboTax? For those who want to file online, no—we still see TurboTax as the best tool for putting your return together and filing it online. And, as noted by Ars Technica, the other major tax suites are no better as securing your account; none of the major four we tested even verified your email address before allowing you to carry on toward filing. Choosing to avoid TurboTax over security concerns will not make you more or less of a potential fraud target.

In closing

If you’ve got all your forms and figures and want to file yourself, TurboTax is the best conversation you can have with an online server about your financial life. For those with more experience, or remarkably simple taxes, FreeTaxUSA is the fastest way to get to done. But leave yourself enough time this year for a back-up option: a human.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendation, please go to The Wirecutter.com.

TIME Reviews

The New MacBook Is Perfect for the iPad Generation

The new MacBook is the hybrid iPad that Apple will never make

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This post is in partnership with Trusted Reviews. The article below was originally published at TrustedReviews.com.

First you’re in awe of how thin and light it is. Then you’re amazed that it’s totally fanless. Next you’re floored by its beautiful screen. You’re intrigued by its innovative Force Touch trackpad; envious of its flawless design; impressed that it’ll still last nine to ten hours on a full charge.

But then you start to think about the practicalities of Apple’s new MacBook, announced Monday. It doesn’t have a normal USB port. There isn’t even a microSD slot, let alone a proper SD card slot like almost every other laptop on the planet. If I wanted an iPad, I’d buy an iPad. In fact, I already own one! What am I supposed to do with this?

 Apple Inc. began showing off features and applications for its first new device in five years, a smartwatch designed to put information on peoples' wrists and break open the fledgling market for wearable technology
David Paul Morris—© 2015 Bloomberg Finance LPThe new gold edition Macbook laptop is displayed during the Apple Inc. Spring Forward event in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Monday, March 9, 2015.

And there’s the key point. The new MacBook will replace the iPad for some people. Indeed, when you look at it closely, it has as much in common with an iPad as it does a laptop.

It has a Retina screen like an iPad. It has a single connection for power and video out like an iPad. Its only other connection is a headphone jack just like an iPad. Here’s a great stat for you: the new MacBook is only 0.1mm thicker than the original iPad! Yes, seriously.

Now let’s flip that around – what similarities does the new MacBook have with a typical laptop? It looks like a laptop. It has a keyboard like a laptop. It runs a laptop operating system and, well, that’s all I have. By my count, that’s a draw.

That’s why I think the new MacBook is, in effect, an iPad-MacBook hybrid. It’s just not a hybrid in the way the Surface Pro 3 is a hybrid. It combines the spirit of the iPad and MacBook into one, not their incompatible designs. It is, in other words, the perfect laptop for the iPad generation.

Some of you are probably thinking I’ve drunk the Apple Kool-Aid, that I’m a rabid Apple fanboy and my opinion isn’t worth jack. I urge patience. It’s true that all the things that make the new MacBook wrong for me (and you) are deeply annoying. Just try and remember that there’s a large body of people out there for whom none of those things matter.

Let’s start with that SD card slot business. Have you seen camera sales recently? Every month the good folks at Gfk UK send me a report that shows the sales trends across various markets. I can’t remember the last time the photography market wasn’t 20% to 30% down year on year. That 20% to 30% are the people for whom a phone is the only camera they need, and whose photos sync wirelessly as they go.

Next, let’s talk USB. USB is great and this new USB Type-C connection is a special thing – I recommend you read Edward Chester’s guide to USB Type-C when you get a spare moment. But even I don’t need USB ports that often – I most often use them to access press kits I’m given on a flash drive.

For many people, a USB flash drive is a quaint tradition, though. They also don’t use printers, or at least use them wirelessly. They don’t have external hard drives. For the once in a blue moon that they’ll need a USB port, Apple will sell an adapter that includes video and USB connections. It’ll sit in a drawer for most of its life, I’ll wager. It’ll probably cost $70 or so, but does that matter when you’re buying a $1299 laptop? It’s a bit like agonizing over spending pocket change on a mobile app.

It’s a similar story for video out. I bought a Mini DisplayPort-to-HDMI cable when I bought my MacBook Air back in oh, 2011/12. I still haven’t used it. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I just don’t need to plug my MacBook into screens anymore. Ordinary users need to do so even less than I do.

And this is why the new MacBook is Apple’s hybrid. Anyone who’s ever bought a keyboard for their iPad is looking at the new MacBook very hard right now. If you can live with an iPad paired with a keyboard, you can live with a proper laptop with iPad-like restrictions.

Moreover, so much of the software on Macs is now just like it is on iPads – the new Photos app, currently in public beta, is a near carbon copy of the iPad version. It’s increasingly true across the whole operating system, and that integration and homogenization is only going to increase.

Related: Intel Core M: How it makes the new MacBook possible

So, when a friend or relative expresses an interest in buying the new MacBook, remember that the things you care about probably don’t matter to them anymore. They’re a member of the iPad generation. They are, to use Steve Jobs’ brilliantly ambiguous term, “Post-PC”. And, for them, the new MacBook is everything they need in a laptop.

For the original article, please go to TrustedReviews.com.

Read next: Hands-On With Apple’s Stunning New Gold Laptop

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TIME Reviews

Hands-On With Apple’s Stunning New Gold Laptop

It’s a complete—and very desirable—overhaul

Apple had a trick up its sleeve during Monday’s special event. And no, it wasn’t the Apple Watch.

(Though you ought to read my initial review of that device here.)

The company announced a new laptop, which it calls simply MacBook, that looks more like a MacBook Air that went on a diet. How slim, you ask? It measures just 13.1 millimeters at its thickest point, and weighs in at a mere 2.03 pounds.

And then you put your hands on it and realize. Gosh, it’s small. Incredibly small. Unbelievably small.

I repeated a similar phrase during the keynote that introduced it, which I live-blogged for this very publication. It’s easy to think dwell on size when the device is the sole item on a sweeping black stage. It’s another thing to walk into Apple’s demo area, lay your eyes on the sold, silver, and grey varieties, and think the same thing all over again.

Apple’s new MacBook is indeed all-new, and it’s a complete overhaul of the device, from components on out. It lacks fans of any sort and relies on an energy-efficient Intel Core M processor to keep it cool and prolong battery life, which Apple claims lasts an entire day. Its screen, the so-called high-resolution Retina display, measures 12 inches on the diagonal, situating the new laptop in between Apple’s two models of MacBook Air, at 11 inches and 13 inches. The difference: That Retina display packs 2304 pixels across by 1440 pixels down into that diminutive picture.

Each key features a new “butterfly mechanism” that provides for a unique typing experience. It’s one that I struggled with during my hands-on time with the new MacBook. It’s not that the keys are hard to press, or even awkwardly placed. If anything, the keys are almost too easy to press. A touch-typist will fall in love with it after just a few minutes of tapping away. Others will take long to adjust to a keyboard that stretches to the very edges of the MacBook’s housing. I’m in the latter camp.

A new trackpad offers the same “Force Touch” technology found in the Apple Watch. Push past the marketing and you’ll find a trackpad that doesn’t move when pressed, no matter how hard you do so. (Well, within reason—don’t shove the thing off a table.) Its immobility allows it to differentiate between amounts of pressure, and by extension, intent to accomplish different tasks. For example, moving the mouse pointer over a file icon and Force Touching on the trackpad prompts Quick Preview to open. See an address in an e-mail? Force Touch on it and a dialogue box with Apple Maps appears to reveal its exact location.

Similar shortcuts are present throughout the updated Mac OS X operating system. You can adjust the degree of pressure in the System Preferences area. And try as I might on the floor of the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, I still couldn’t believe that the new MacBook’s trackpad wasn’t actually moving. Apple assured me it’s not. The “Taptic Engine” underneath the aluminum pad leaves the user with the impression that it’s traveling in space. Color me impressed—or confused.

There is a notable lack of ports on the new MacBook. In fact, there’s only one. (Well, two if you want to make the argument a headphone-jack is a port.) On its left flank is a USB Type-C port. Think of it as the more capable, younger sibling of the Lightning adapter on your iOS device. Through this single port you can charge the MacBook, transfer content, and connect it to an external monitor.

It’s the Swiss Army Knife of connectors, though for now at least, external monitor functionality will require a series of adapters. Why? USB Type-C is a new standard—one that most accessory manufacturers have yet to fully commit to, let alone release products with it incorporated. So for now, adapters will be a necessity for MacBook owners.

As someone who works primarily from an iPad, I can’t complain about the lack of ports. For me, adapters are a way of life and something I’ve come to accept. But that’s not for everyone, and Apple’s minimalism will be a break in how we’ve come to think about the desktop/laptop computer. I asked several attendees at the Apple event what they thought about this issue; reactions ranged from excited to discouraged. (The concerns of the latter group: what’s the point of ultraportability if I need to carry around a bunch of adapters? Fair point.) That Apple’s adapters are priced as high as $79 won’t help.

But back to the new MacBook. Its Intel M Core processors clock in at a lowly 1.1GHz and 1.2GHz respectively, which is cause for concern. I wasn’t able to fully test either version outside of Apple’s demo area, unfortunately, so I can’t comment on their overall performance. I can say that during the limited time I used the new MacBook—to watch videos, browse through a Photos library, and accomplish other miscellaneous tasks—I was left with the impression that comparatively slow processors wouldn’t adversely impact performance too much.

But that’s not the real point. Apple’s new MacBook is transformative based on its size alone. To put it into perspective, the new MacBook is only slightly heavier (and far thinner) than my iPad-plus-keyboard setup, but it’s a full-fledged content creation device.

Which has me, and I suspect many other people, wondering: Laptop. Tablet. Now what?

Jason Cipriani is Fortune’s personal technology columnist and the author of its weekly “Logged In” column.

This article originally appeared on Fortune.com.

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