In many ways, the Google Nexus 7 has long been the standard of near perfection for an Android tablet. With a modest 7-inch screen, solid performance and low cost, the ASUS-built hardware has stood through one major revision as our top selection. Today though, a new contender in the field makes its way to the front of the pack in the form of the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C). At $150, this new 7-inch tablet has almost all the hallmarks to really make an impact in the Android ecosystem. Finally.
The MeMO Pad 7 is not a new product family, though. It has existed with Mediatek processors for quite some time with essentially the same form factor. This new ME176C model makes some decisions that help it break into a new level of performance while maintaining the budget pricing required to really take on the likes of Google. By coupling the MeMO Pad brand with the Intel Bay Trail Atom processor, the two companies firmly believe they have a winner; but do they?
I have to admit that my time with the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C) has been short; shorter than I would have liked to offer a truly definitive take on this mobile platform. I prefer to take the time to work the tablet into my daily work and home routines. Reading, browsing, email, etc. This allows me to filter though any software intricacies that might make or break a purchasing decision. Still, I think the ASUS design is going to live up to my expectations and is worth every penny of the $150 price tag.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has a 1280x800 resolution IPS screen. This 7-inch device is powered by the new Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core SoC with 1GB of memory and 16GB of on-board storage. The front facing camera is of the 2MP variety while the rear facing camera is 5MP - but you will likely be as disappointed in the image quality of the photos as I was. Connectivity options include the microUSB port for charging and data transfer along with 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz WiFi (sorry, no 5.0 GHz option here). Bluetooth 4.0 allows for low power data sync with other devices you might have and our model shipped with Android 4.4.2 already pre-installed.
The rear of the ASUS MeMO Pad is a pseudo rubber/plastic type material that is easy to grip while not leaving fingerprints behind - a solid combination. The center mounted camera lens takes decent pictures - but I can't put any more praise on it than that. It was easy to find image quality issues with photos even in full daylight. It's hard to know how disappointed to be considering the price, but the Nexus 7 has better optical hardware.
Subject: Processors | May 28, 2014 - 05:09 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: tablet, SoC, Rockchip, mobile, Intel, atom, arm, Android
While details about upcoming Haswell-E processors were reportedly leaking out, an official announcement from Intel was made on Tuesday about another CPU product - and this one isn't a high-end desktop part. The chip giant is partnering with the fabless semiconductor manufacturer Rockchip to create a low-cost SoC for Android devices under the Intel name, reportedly fabricated at TSMC.
We saw almost exactly the opposite of this arrangement last October, when it was announced that Altera would be using Intel to fab ARMv8 chips. Try to digest this: Instead of Intel agreeing to manufacture another company's chip with ARM's architecture in their fabs, they are going through what is said to be China's #1 tablet SoC manufacturer to produce x86 chips...at TSMC? It's a small - no, a strange world we live in!
From Intel's press release: "Under the terms of the agreement, the two companies will deliver an Intel-branded mobile SoC platform. The quad-core platform will be based on an Intel® Atom™ processor core integrated with Intel's 3G modem technology."
As this upcoming x86 SoC is aimed at entry-level Android tablets this announcement might not seem to be exciting news at first glance, but it fills a short term need for Intel in their quest for market penetration in the ultramobile space dominated by ARM-based SoCs. The likes of Qualcomm, Apple, Samsung, TI, and others (including Rockchip's RK series) currently account for 90% of the market, all using ARM.
As previously noted, this partnership is very interesting from an industry standpoint, as Intel is sharing their Atom IP with Rockchip to make this happen. Though if you think back, the move is isn't unprecedented... I recall something about a little company called Advanced Micro Devices that produced x86 chips for Intel in the past, and everything seemed to work out OK there...
When might we expect these new products in the Intel chip lineup codenamed SoFIA? Intel states "the dual-core 3G version (is) expected to ship in the fourth quarter of this year, the quad-core 3G version...expected to ship in the first half of 2015, and the LTE version, also due in the first half of next year." And again, this SoC will only be available in low-cost Android tablets under this partnership (though we might speculate on, say, an x86 SoC powered Surface or Ultrabook in the future?).
Subject: Mobile | May 2, 2014 - 12:06 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, Intel, Clover Trail+, atom z2560, Android
Acer is introducing a new 7-inch tablet due for release in June. The upcoming Iconia One 7 is an Intel-powered tablet running Google's Android 4.2 operating system. It is a budget device that cuts corners on the operating system and hardware so that it can reach a starting price of $129.99.
The Iconia One 7 tablet will be available in black, blue, red, pink, and white, and features a 7-inch IPS display with a 16:10 resolution of 1280x800, a 5 megapixel rear camera, and a 0.3 megapixel webcam. The tablet has rounded corners and edges (especially on the back panel).
Internally, Acer has chosen to use a dual core SoC based on Intel's previous generation Clover Trail+ architecture (2-wide, in order cores that support Hyper Threading). The chip features two CPU cores clocked at 1.6 GHz, 1 MB of cache, and a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. THe chip is paired with 1GB of system RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of internal flash storage. The internal storage can be expanded with up to a 32GB microSD card. The tablet is powered by a 3,700 mAh battery.
The tablet hardware is reportedly compatible with Android 4.4, but Acer has yet to outline an upgrade path.
Acer has obviously cut corners here, both on the hardware and software. However, these sacrifices have allowed the company to offer up a tablet at a base price of $129.99. It will not be the fastest device, but it should be a good-enough web browsing and reading tablet for those that prefer the portable 7-inch form factor. (Personally, I would have liked to see a Bay Trail-powered variant at a slightly higher price point.) The Iconia One 7 will be available in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East by the middle of this month and will hit US shores in June.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | April 30, 2014 - 07:06 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, clover trail, Bay Trail, arm, Android
While we are still waiting for those mysterious Intel Bay Trail based Android tablets to find their way into our hands, we met with ARM today to discuss quite few varying topics. One of them centered around the cost of binary translation - the requirement to convert application code compiled for one architecture and running it after conversion on a different architecture. In this case, running native ARMv7 Android applications on an x86 platform like Bay Trail from Intel.
Based on results presented by ARM, so take everything here in that light, more than 50% of the top 250 applications in the Android Play Store require binary translation to run. 23-30% have been compiled to x86 natively, 20-21% run through Dalvik and the rest have more severe compatibility concerns. That paints a picture of the current state of Android apps and the environment in which Intel is working while attempting to release Android tablets this spring.
Performance of these binary translated applications will be lower than they would be natively, as you would expect, but to what degree? These results, again gathered by ARM, show a 20-40% performance drop in games like Riptide GP2 and Minecraft while also increasing "jank" - a measure of smoothness and stutter found with variances in frame rates. These are applications that exist in a native mode but were tricked into running through binary conversion as well. The insinuation is that we can now forecast what the performance penalty is for applications that don't have a natively compiled version and are forced to run in translation mode.
The result of this is lower battery life as it requires the CPU to draw more power to keep the experience close to nominal. While gaming on battery, which most people do with items like the Galaxy Tab 3 used for testing, a 20-35% decrease in game time will hurt Intel's ability to stand up to the best ARM designs on the market.
Other downsides to this binary translation include longer load times for applications, lower frame rates and longer execution time. Of course, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 is based on Intel's Atom Z2560 SoC, a somewhat older Clover Trail+ design. That is the most modern currently available Android platform from Intel as we are still awaiting Bay Trail units. This also explains why ARM did not do any direct performance comparisons to any devices from its partners. All of these results were comparing Intel in its two execution modes: native and translated.
Without a platform based on Bay Trail to look at and test, we of course have to use the results that ARM presented as a placeholder at best. It is possible that Intel's performance is high enough with Silvermont that it makes up for these binary translation headaches for as long as necessary to see x86 more ubiquitous. And in fairness, we have seen many demonstrations from Intel directly that show the advantage of performance and power efficiency going in the other direction - in Intel's favor. This kind of debate requires some more in-person analysis with hardware in our hands soon and with a larger collection of popular applications.
More from our visit with ARM soon!
Subject: General Tech | April 8, 2014 - 01:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: streaming box, Netflix, media streaming, html, fire tv, Android, amazon
Amazon is making a play for the living room with its new Fire TV. The tiny box offers up mobile gaming along with movie and music streaming. Users will be able to tap into Amazon’s own Prime Instant Video collection in addition to various streaming video and music services from partners (see below). The box runs an operating system based on Android and HTML and is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC which makes it about as powerful as today’s mid-range smartphones. At $99, the Fire TV is, ahem, a shot across the bow of devices from Apple, Roku, and Ouya.
The box measures 4.5" x 4.5" x 0.7" and comes bundled with a remote small remote control. Amazon provides hardware ports for HDMI, optical audio output, Ethernet, and USB. The remote has basic playback controls along with a microphone used for the voice search functionality. The Fire TV is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC with four Krait 300 CPU cores clocked at 1.7 GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of DDR2 memory at 533 MHz, and 8GB of internal flash memory. Networking includes wired Ethernet and a 802.11n + Bluetooth 4.0 radio. A large heatsink is used to passively cool all of the components.
The Fire TV is launching with a number of applications from partners. Users can stream video from Netflix, Hulu Plus, Vimeo, Vudu, Flixter, NBA, and YouTube among others. Music apps include Pandora, iHeartRadio, and Vevo. Finally, users can play back music and photos from their Amazon Cloud Drive storage. Amazon further offers up an app store for free and paid games. For example, users will be able to play Minecraft Pocket Edition, The Walking Dead, or Sev Zero using the included remote or optional $39.99 game pad.
For media junkies with children Amazon has added the FreeTime functionality from its Kindle tablets to the Fire TV. FreeTime restricts the device to kid-friendly programming and a new optional $2.99 per month FreeTime Unlimited subscription offers up a catalog of kid-friendly media for streaming. Other software features include X-Ray (in-media information, such as identifying an actor) and ASAP which attempts to determine what programs you are likely to stream next and begin caching it in the background. For example, it will begin to cache the next episode of a TV series so that when you go to watch the next episode you will not see any loading screens.
The FireTV is a compelling alternative to the Roku (latest being the $50 Streaming Stick) and Apple TV (so long as you are not already invested in the Apple / iTunes ecosystem) while also offering up mobile gaming on the living room TV in a more-polished way that the Ouya ever did. The $99 Fire TV is available from Amazon immediately.
I think the Fire TV has real potential to catch on with most consumers, though the real test for enthusiasts and readers of PC Per will be to see if the extra features and Amazon polish will be worth the price premium over cheaper options like the Chromecast and Raspberry Pi setups.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more information and hands-on experience with Amazon's latest bit of hardware.
Subject: General Tech | March 6, 2014 - 01:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: security, Android, antimalware, PUPs
Malwarebytes have recently updated their Android app to hunt down and slay PUPs, aka potentially unwanted programs or bloatware. These are the apps which harvest an excessive amount of personal data without making it clear why they do so as well as those which use questionable tricks to present ads to the user even when they are not actively using those apps. This is more than security, it will hunt down apps that drain the battery or simply demand more access that they reasonably should. This could be somewhat of a concern for developers who's apps are flagged as PUPs but the user will get the choice to allow the app to continue to run as it has in the past. Learn more at The Inquirer.
"ANTI-MALWARE FIRM Malwarebytes has updated its free mobile security app to protect users from the rise of what it calls "Potentially Unwanted Programs" (PUPs) affecting Android users."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Even HTTPS can leak your PRIVATE browsing @ The Register
- HANA on a minute – is that a 10PB RAM cloud server from SAP? IT IS @ The Register
- My Kronoz ZeSplash Smartwatch Prototype Review @ TechwareLabs
- HTML is a sexually transmitted disease, say many Americans @ The Register
- Exclusive interview with Thermaltake CEO Kenny Lin @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | January 21, 2014 - 04:14 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, Intel, Android, 64-bit
Given how long it took Intel to release a good 64-bit architecture, dragged ear-first by AMD, it does seem a little odd for them to lead the tablet charge. ARM developers are still focusing on 32-bit architectures and current Windows 8.1 tablets tend to stick with 32-bit because of Connected Standby bugs. Both of these should be cleared up soon.
Also, 64-bit Android tablets should be available this spring based on Bay Trail.
According to Peter Bright of Ars Technica, Android will be first to 64-bit on its x86 build while the ARM variant hovers at 32-bit for a little while longer. It would not surprise me if Intel's software engineers contributed heavily to this development (which is a good thing). I expect NVIDIA to do the same, if necessary, to ensure that Project Denver will launch successfully later this year.
The most interesting part about this is how the PC industry, a symbol of corporate survival of the fittest, typically stomps on siloed competitors but is now facing the ARM industry built on a similar Darwin-based logic. Both embrace openness apart from a few patented instruction sets. Who will win? Well, probably Web Standards, but that is neither here nor there.
Lenovo introduces a unique form factor
Lenovo isn't a company that seems interested in slowing down. Just when you think the world of notebooks is getting boring, it releases products like the ThinkPad Tablet 2 and the Yoga 2 Pro. Today we are looking at another innovative product from Lenovo, the Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10. While the tablets share the Yoga branding seen in recent convertible notebooks these are NOT Windows-based PCs - something that I fear some consumers might get confused by.
Instead this tablet pair is based on Android (4.2.2 at this point) which brings with it several advantages. First, the battery life is impressive, particularly with the 8-in version that clocked in more than 17 hours in our web browsing test! Second, the form factor of these units is truly unique and not only allows for larger batteries but also a more comfortable in-the-hand feeling than I have had with any other tablet.
Check out the video overview below!
You can pick up the 8-in version of the Lenovo Yoga Tablet for just $199 while the 10.1-in model starts at $274.
The Lenovo Yoga Tablet is available in both 8-in and 10.1-in sizes though the hardware is mostly identical between both units include screen resolution (1280x800) and SoC hardware (MediaTek quad-core Cortex-A7). The larger model does get an 8000 mAh battery (over the 6000 mAh on the 8-in) but isn't enough to counter balance the power draw of the larger screen.
The 1280x800 resolution is a bit lower than I would like but is perfectly acceptable on the 8-in version of the Yoga Tablet. On the 10-in model though the pixels are just too big and image quality suffers. These are currently running Android 4.2.2 which is fine, but hopefully we'll see some updates from Lenovo to more current Android versions.
Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 9, 2014 - 05:31 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: CES, CES 2014, gigabyte, brix, brix max, haswell, Android, NAS
While browsing the Gigabyte suite at CES I came across a very interesting new product from Gigabyte that falls into the Brix family. The Brix Max is a larger version of the Brix SFF chassis (taller) that includes support for four 2.5-in hard drives. Powered by a 4th Generation Intel Core (Haswell) Core i5-4250U processor, this system is aimed towards the NAS market. In particular, those that want tiny NAS devices.
With a total fluid capacity of 1.2 liters (please don't fill your Brix with liquid...), the Brix Max includes a USB flash port, 802.11n Wi-Fi, HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet and four USB 3.0 ports. Maybe more surprising is the fact that this unit was running Android and marks the first time we have seen a Haswell platform running the OS.
Gigabyte demoed the Brix Max powering a handful of networked devices and providing media content and backup storage for all sorts of other operating system. I am still not sure what kind of software was running on the Android OS to facilitate the NAS functionality but the Max includes the ability to set users, partition different share locations and more. Hopefully we'll be able to get a sample in at the offices to test out and let our readers know how an Android-based NAS can perform.
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2014 - 08:29 PM | Steve Schardein
Tagged: smartphone, PadFone Mini, padfone, LTE Advanced, HD Voice, CES 2014, CES, Carrier Aggregation, atom z2580, asus, Android
Asus’ PadFone is a cool idea that’s never yet made it stateside—but that’s all about to change with the advent of the PadFone X, which will be headed exclusively to AT&T at some point in the future (TBA). The PadFone was a concept first introduced in 2011 that involves a smartphone which docks with a larger tablet for seamless transition between screen sizes. Everything is also constantly and instantly synced between the two gadgets via independent Wi-Fi and cellular data connections without the need to manually invoke synchronization. Any applications which are currently running on either device will automatically resize to fit the other screen when the PadFone is docked or undocked.
It’s a really clever design that we’re happy to see is coming to the US. Pricing and detailed specifications are still up in the air, but here’s what we do know about it:
- 5-inch 1080p screen
- Docks with a 9-inch 1080p companion tablet station
- Brushed metal frame with soft-touch back cover
- Dual front speakers
A “large” battery in the companion tablet station also allows for charging of the 5-inch PadFone when docked, providing “2 times longer” battery life.
The PadFone X supports a couple of new technologies on AT&T’s network as well to help improve voice quality:
- Voice over LTE (VoLTE): This is a new technology which allows for much better quality voice transmission using a codec referred to as HD Voice (technically called Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband).
- Carrier Aggregation: A part of LTE Advanced, this allows for the grouping of up to five separate 20 MHz bands to produce up to a maximum aggregated bandwidth of 100 MHz. Essentially, it translates to better voice quality for the PadFone X.
More details about the PadFone X will be announced soon.
In the meantime, Asus also unveiled the PadFone mini, which is not tethered to any particular carrier. It’s essentially a more basic version of the PadFone X, and judging by the screen resolution alone (800x480 for the phone and 1280x800 for the tablet), it’s clear that it’s intended more for the mainstream market than tech enthusiasts.
The full specs are as follows:
- CPU: Intel Atom Z2560 processor
- RAM: 1GB LPDDR2 RAM
- Storage: 8 GB internal w/ Micro SD slot for expansion
- Phone: 800x480 IPS
- Station: 1280x800 IPS
- Camera: 8 MP rear camera (f/2.0) and 2 MP front-facing camera
- Phone: 4.5Wh, 1170mAh, non-removable polymer battery
- Station: 8.3Wh, 2100mAh, non-removable polymer battery
- Phone: 116g; 124.42 (L) x 61.44 (W) x 6.3-11.2 (H) mm
- Station: 260g; 199.85 (L) x 119.43 (W) x 13.91 (H) mm
- Five color choices: Black, White, Red, Blue, and Yellow
- Dual-SIM support
- New ZenUI interface layered atop Android OS, which provides new apps, visual tweaks, and some useful extras.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more on both devices as it’s announced!
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!