Medtronic rolls out latest device to treat pain with electricity

With medical device companies across the nation hustling to find ways to treat pain without addictive opioid drugs, Medtronic is launching a system called the Intellis that uses electricity and can be securely controlled with a Samsung tablet.

The Intellis is a latest-generation spinal-cord stimulation system that uses electric pulses to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. The system was designed with features that address issues with older devices, including a new design that allows patients to fully recharge the device battery in one hour, and an interface that lets a doctor use a Samsung Galaxy S2 tablet to quickly adjust device settings and view past performance.

“The Intellis platform was designed based on what is most important to patients and physicians,” Dr. Marshall Stanton, president of Medtronic’s pain therapies division, said in a news release.

More than 20,000 Americans a year die from overdoses of prescription pain drugs, a toll that has shifted public attention toward ways of treating pain without creating addiction. Last May, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb wrote online that his highest priority is to take immediate steps to reduce the scope of the opioid addiction epidemic.

Implanted medical devices offer some promise in that regard, and a potentially large commercial market, but pain-relief devices also have their own drawbacks, including the need to charge batteries and the difficulty in adjusting device settings in response to subjective pain sensations.

Medtronic competitor Abbott Laboratories, which acquired Minnesota-based St. Jude Medical and its line of devices to treat chronic pain in January, has worked to churn out its own new devices with novel features to treat pain without opioid drugs.

“Spinal cord stimulation offers chronic pain patients a meaningful alternative to opioids, and our market leadership position is a direct result of Abbott offering patients two superior options not offered by competitors, including BurstDR stimulation for chronic back pain and Dorsal Root Ganglion stimulation for chronic focal pain,” Abbott spokesman Justin Paquette wrote on Monday.

The latest Abbott devices use controllers made by Apple, and in addition to a rechargeable battery, Abbott offers a non-rechargeable primary-cell that “eliminates the recharge burden on patients,” he said.

Boston Scientific, which employs thousands of Minnesotans, has a line of devices to treat pain as well.

“The entire field is growing,” Boston Scientific CEO Mike Mahoney said in an interview last year. “Ideally, us, Medtronic, St. Jude all offer products there. The opioid epidemic’s a big deal. And clearly we like our product position. But, even with competitors, it is an important societal problem that these spinal cord stimulators help with. … We could all agree that it’s a problem and we’re trying to help it.”

Medtronic’s updated Intellis system was approved in July via a supplement to the original FDA premarket approval application.

Indicated for treatment of chronic intractable pain, the Intellis system includes an implantable pulse generator that looks like an older-style pacemaker, but with wires called leads that deliver mild current to the epidural space in a spinal vertebra. The system includes a feature that standardizes suggested medical guidance and balances high-dose and low-dose settings. The system also can track a person’s physical activity and can be managed from the Galaxy tablet.

Other companies in Minnesota that are making devices include AtriCure and Smiths Medical, which are taking part in a legislative roundtable in St. Paul spotlighting pain-management technology developed in the state.

The session is being organized by Golden Valley-based trade group the Medical Alley Association.

“As Minnesota and the nation tackles the opioid crisis, one significant part of the conversation we are not having is on pain management and specifically, alternatives that can be utilized to ensure that a patient never even is exposed to an addictive opioid,” the trade group wrote in an introduction to the Oct. 2 meeting.

T-Mobile and Sprint are in active talks about a merger

John Legere, T-Mobile US. T-Mobile, Sprint in merger talks: Sources  John Legere, T-Mobile US. T-Mobile, Sprint in merger talks: Sources  16 Hours Ago | 04:43T-Mobile and Sprint are in active talks about a merger, according to people close to the situation.

Both companies and their parents, Deutsche Telekom and Softbank, have been in frequent conversations about a stock-for-stock merger in which T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom would emerge as the majority owner.

People close to the situation stress that negotiators are still weeks away from finalizing a deal and believe the chances of reaching an agreement are not assured. The two sides have not yet set an exchange ratio for a deal, but are currently engaged in talks to hammer out a term sheet.

The companies declined to comment on the report.

T-Mobile and Sprint have had a seemingly endless dalliance over the years since Softbank took control of Sprint, pushed by the prospect of billions of dollars in cost synergies that a merger would bring. The last time the two companies held meaningful talks earlier this year, Softbank’s Masayoshi Son indicated a willingness to sell Sprint to T-Mobile.

This time, given the all-stock nature contemplated, Softbank would emerge as a large minority holder in any combination. While T-Mobile CEO John Legere is expected to lead any combination that results from a merger, Son has made it clear he wants a say in how the company is run. That desire adds another layer of complexity to an already difficult transaction.

T-Mobile has not begun due diligence on Sprint, yet another step that could change current price expectations or the willingness to move forward.

The biggest issue is whether any merger between the No. 3 and No. 4 wireless carriers in the nation would be approved by antitrust regulators. The risk of rejection by the Department of Justice will play an important role in the final decision made by both sides as to whether they will proceed with a deal.

Given Softbank’s high level of engagement on a Sprint-T-Mobile deal, its quixotic campaign to try to buy Charter Communications has slowed considerably. The effort is on hold. CNBC has reported it involved the creation of a new company infused with vast amounts of equity and debt to buy Charter at a premium and the 17 percent of Sprint that Softbank does not own. Dutch telecom company Altice has been actively soliciting funds to mount its own bid for Charter should Softbank make a move.

The Best Gaming Laptop

This post was done in partnership with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology. When readers choose to buy The Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work.

After 20 hours of new research and testing—plus 150 hours over the past few years—we found that the Acer Predator 17 G9-793-79V5 is the best gaming laptop for most people because it has the best performance for the price without any major flaws. The Predator 17 stays cool, has a comfortable, responsive keyboard, and sports a great 17-inch 1080p IPS screen with G-sync. Its fans are loud, and that keyboard is ugly and looks cobbled together, but these flaws are worth the trade-off for excellent performance at a low price (for a gaming laptop, anyway). If you’re looking for a less expensive alternative, head over to our budget gaming laptop guide.

Why you should trust us

I’ve tested, lived with, and reviewed hundreds of laptops in my career, and I’ve spent hands-on time with countless other models while covering the CES trade show, attending events, and visiting stores. I’ve reviewed most gaming laptops released in the past five years, and I’ve spent thousands of hours gaming on laptops since high school.

Who is this for

Gaming laptops are a tough sell. To provide the power to play games at decent settings, they sacrifice portability, battery life, and value compared to non-gaming laptops. At the same time, a $2,000 gaming laptop is less powerful and less upgradeable than a $1,200 desktop gaming PC. And a $1,000 ultrabook will handle non-gaming tasks just as well at a third the weight and with four times the battery life, much better build quality, and a better keyboard and trackpad.

A gaming laptop makes sense only if you’re a serious gamer but still want to travel with your machine. Gaming laptops tend to be popular with students, deployed soldiers, and road warriors—people for whom a gaming desktop isn’t feasible.

What makes a good gaming laptop

The attributes that impact a gaming laptop’s performance are, in order: graphics card (GPU), processor (CPU), the chassis’s heat management, memory (RAM), and storage. Other important features include noise management, keyboard, display, and (to a lesser extent) the speakers and trackpad.

Our ideal gaming laptop has an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070 graphics card or better, an Intel Core i7-6700HQ or i7-7700HQ processor or faster, at least 16 GB of RAM, and at least a 256 GB SSD and 1 TB hard drive. We would prefer that it cost less than $2,000, but we’re less strict about price in gaming laptops provided the machine is worth the cost.

Powerful hardware isn’t the only consideration. A gaming laptop’s processor and graphics card produce a lot of heat, and if the laptop doesn’t have an effective cooling system, it can overheat. The laptop also needs a good keyboard and solid build quality. Even though Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1070 can run games on high settings at 4K resolution, we still recommend 1080p displays because 4K screens are currently too expensive for most of our readers.

Some features that are must-haves in non-gaming laptops aren’t quite as important here. Poor speakers can be bypassed with a good pair of headphones, and most people use a mouse instead of the trackpad while gaming. Battery life and portability have never been the strong suits of gaming laptops, which spend most of their lives plugged in and stationary.

How we picked and tested

After picking our hardware criteria (see above), we scoured the websites of major gaming-laptop manufacturers like Alienware, MSI, Asus, Razer, Samsung, Acer, HP, and Lenovo, and we browsed boutiques like Xotic PC, iBuyPower, Clevo, iBuypower, Origin PC, Digital Storm, and others. Then we put together a list of the laptops that fit our requirements and have positive reviews from trusted sources like CNET, AnandTech, Engadget, Laptop Mag, PCMag, and Notebookcheck, and eliminated those that didn’t.

For this update, that left us with three finalists: the the Acer Predator 17, the Asus ROG G752VS, and the MSI GT72VR Dominator Pro.

We tested the laptops using BioShock Infinite’s benchmarking mode and by playing half an hour of The Witcher 3 on ultra with VSync off. We measured the laptops’ internal temperature using HWMonitor and measured the surface temperature at various points on the keyboard and underside using an IR thermometer. We tested each laptop’s screen using some of the Lagom LCD monitor test pages, and used each for several workdays to get a feel for its keyboard, trackpad, screen, and speakers.

Of the gaming laptops we researched and tested in 2017, the Acer Predator 17 G9-793-79V5 has the most powerful specs for the price, without any dealbreaking flaws. The Predator 17 keeps its WASD keys, underside, and components cool, and it has a comfortable, responsive keyboard and a great 17-inch 1080p IPS display with G-sync. Its biggest flaws are loud, distracting fans and an ugly, haphazard-looking keyboard. Most important, the Predator 17 will be able to play most modern games on ultra settings—it offers great performance for the price. (If you want to know how it will handle a specific game, take a look at Notebookcheck’s benchmarks database.)

As an added bonus, the Predator 17 has hella ports: Ethernet, HDMI 2.0, DisplayPort 1.2, Thunderbolt 3, four USB 3.0, an SD card slot, jacks for headphones and a microphone, and a Kensington lock slot. And like most gaming laptops, this model is easy to upgrade: Two small screws and a panel stand between you and installing two more sticks of RAM. Our pick doesn’t have any open drive slots, but you can access the included hard drive and solid-state drives if you need to replace them.

What to look forward to

Gaming laptops is a tricky category. Components—graphics cards, processors, solid-state drives, wireless cards, and the like—are refreshed at various points throughout the year. Some gaming-laptop makers release only one new line per year, while others update their offerings and prices year-round to reflect new components and tiny design tweaks.

Such high product churn means there isn’t really a best time of the year to buy a gaming laptop, but here are some things that might be worth looking forward to: Intel’s first eighth-generation Core processor and quad-core ultrabook chips, Nvidia’s Max-Q approach to designing thinner and quieter laptops, MSI’s new gaming laptops, Lenovo’s Legion Y920 laptop, Acer’s Predator Triton 700 laptop, and Samsung’s Notebook Odyssey laptop.

Also, this year marks the first time that a number of 15-inch gaming laptops are available with powerful GTX 1070 graphics cards. Two-thirds of our survey respondents told us they would prefer a 15-inch gaming laptop, so we’ll be looking into 15-inch options for our next round of testing.

This guide may have been updated. To see the current recommendations or availability updates, please go here.

Note from The Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.