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The most popular stories of 2017

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If you thought 2016 was crazy, then you may have been prepared for all that came in 2017. There were catastrophic hurricanes in the US and Caribbean. There were more mass shootings in the US and terrorist attacks around the world. The FCC repealed net neutrality regulations. We found another solar system with eight planets. We got a new president in the US. And we at Ars said a sad goodbye to our colleagues at Ars UK.

As another year comes to a close, let’s look back at the top stories from Ars, both features and news stories.

Features

10. Early review: Mass Effect: Andromeda is Dragon Age: Inquisition in space

  • The game's opening screen, in what has to be a deliberate call-out to the iconic approach image from Alien.
  • The in-game menu—a familiar design.
  • Your journal—which will quickly fill up and overflow with sidequests, BioWare-style.
  • The familiar in-game Codex is back, though without narration.
  • I AM SAM. SAM I AM.
  • Your skills are in three categories: combat, biotics, and tech. You can put points anywhere you like and respec (with a price) at any time.
  • Points can be allocated to skills in each of the three area, and each skill has six levels.
  • Investing points in skills unlocks "profiles," which are kind of like different buffs you can turn on and off at will. You have to invest points to get access to and level up profiles.
  • Different profiles add different buffs.
  • Thew "Statistics" screen tracks your accomplishments in game…
  • … including how many of each conversation choice you've made.

If you’ve ever said “You know what would be awesome? If they took Dragon Age: Inquisition and reskinned it into a Mass Effect game,” then boy are you going to love Mass Effect: Andromeda. That was Ars Senior Technology Editor Lee Hutchinson's take on the latest Mass Effect. The game play was so rich that it took him six days—about 30 hours of play time total—to make it through 30 percent of the game.

9. iPhone X review: Early adopting the future

  • The iPhone X isn't actually "all screen," and it has that notch. But that doesn't make it any less dramatic. Samuel Axon
  • The iPhone X's rear cameras are now aligned vertically instead of horizontally.
  • Still no headphone jack. We're going to have to get over it.
  • The top of the iPhone X.
  • The volume controls are unchanged.
  • But the button on the other side now performs many of the functions that used to be relegated to the now-absent home button.
  • The taller display didn't actually add another row of apps like the iPhone 5s did a few years back. Samuel Axon
  • Side by side, the iPhone 8 (which is almost exactly the same size as the iPhone 7) and the iPhone X don't look dramatically different, but the iPhone X is a little bigger in every dimension.
  • The iPhone 8 Plus dwarfs the iPhone X.
  • That's in spite of the fact that the iPhone X's screen measures larger diagonally.

After years of building on previous iPhone designs, Apple just about threw away the iPhone template and started from scratch with the iPhone X. That may be a bit of an overstatement, but it is true that the iPhone X marked a radical departure from the design of its forerunners. TouchID? Gone. Facial recognition? Here to stay, apparently. As always, Apple's newest smartphone grabbed the attention of readers.

8. Pixel 2 and 2 XL review—The best Android phone you can buy

  • The Pixel 2 XL in all its slim-bezel glory. Ron Amadeo
  • The back is a nice metal with a matte finish. Ron Amadeo
  • Up top on the Pixel 2 XL we've got skinny bezels with one on the sizeable front-facing speaker grill. Ron Amadeo
  • On the back Google is ignoring the dual camera trend that has been popping up everywhere and instead goes with a single-lens solution. Ron Amadeo
  • On the bottom is the other speaker. Also check out the round corners. Ron Amadeo
  • On this side of the phone there's nothing but a SIM slot. Ron Amadeo
  • On the other side is a power button and volume rocker. Ron Amadeo
  • Cool dongle, bro. Ron Amadeo
  • From left to right: the Pixel 1 XL, Pixel 2 XL, and iPhone 8+. Ron Amadeo

If you want the best Android experience possible, our advice has usually been to buy Google. That was the case again in 2017, as we reviewed Google's latest smartphones, the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL. Hardware-wise, Google failed to push the envelope. Software, on the other hand? As Ron Amadeo put it, the Pixel phones sport "a killer software package that no other Android OEM can touch. It's got a great camera, the best Android UI performance, and three years of day-one OS updates packaged with hardware that's "good enough" for the high-end of the market.

7. iPhone 8 and 8 Plus review: The curious case of the time-traveling phone

  • The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. Samuel Axon
  • The iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. Samuel Axon
  • The glass back of the iPhone 8. Samuel Axon
  • There's a Lightning port, but still no headphone jack, on the bottom of the iPhone 8. Samuel Axon
  • A smooth aluminum band wraps around the top of the iPhone 8. Samuel Axon
  • The volume controls adorn the left side of the iPhone 8. Samuel Axon
  • The power button and the SIM card slot adorn the right side of the iPhone 8. Samuel Axon
  • The front of the iPhone 8 Plus looks almost indistinguishable from that of the iPhone 7 Plus. Samuel Axon
  • The Plus model's dual-camera setup returns. Samuel Axon
  • The glass back of the iPhone 8 Plus. Samuel Axon
  • There's a Lightning port, but still no headphone jack, on the bottom of the iPhone 8 Plus. Samuel Axon
  • A smooth aluminum band wraps around the top of the iPhone 8 Plus. Samuel Axon
  • The volume controls adorn the left side of the iPhone 8 Plus. Samuel Axon
  • The power button and the SIM card slot adorn the right side of the iPhone 8 Plus. Samuel Axon

Detecting a theme here? Readers really like our smartphone reviews, and the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus garnered more reader interest than did the iPhone X. Announced at the same time as the iPhone X, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus live in the now and the not yet simultaneously. For the now, Apple built on the tried-and-true design of the iPhone 7 and its predecessors, instead of pushing the form factor forward. The not yet is the stuff we're looking for: augmented reality and beautiful OLED displays.

6. Review: The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is much more “pro” than what it replaces

  • The 10.5-inch iPad Pro. Andrew Cunningham
  • The 10.5-inch Pro (left) next to the outgoing 9.7-inch version. Andrew Cunningham
  • 10.5-inch on the left, 9.7-inch on the right. Andrew Cunningham
  • From bottom to top: 12.9-inch Pro, 10.5-inch Pro, 9.7-inch Pro, iPad 5. This gives you an idea of how much larger the new tablet is. Andrew Cunningham
  • From bottom to top: 12.9-inch Pro, 10.5-inch Pro, 9.7-inch Pro, iPad 5. Andrew Cunningham
  • 10.5-inch on the left, 9.7-inch on the right. Andrew Cunningham
  • The new camera bump is slightly larger than before, but it doesn't change anything about what it's like to use the tablet. Andrew Cunningham

The 10.5-inch iPad Pro is the first device in what we'd call the second generation of the iPad Pro. Tablet sales have been slowing for Apple—and everyone else—over the past few years as users aren't finding the incremental updates too impressive. Apple attempted to change that trend with the launch of its latest tablet, which is paired with a really solid Smart Keyboard. The bigger and brighter screen were matched with more memory, a faster processor, and new display technology.

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