CES 2012 Day 3 Podcast - 1/10/2012

Subject: Editorial | January 11, 2012 - 05:36 PM |
Tagged: ssd, podcast, ocz, nvidia, Intel, gpu, CES, amd

PC Perspective CES 2012 Day 3 - 1/10/12

Join us tonight as we talk about our third full day of CES 2012 - including a new entry level Corsair Case, a Thunderbolt external GPU enclosure, and Ivy Bridge motherboards!

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Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Josh Walrath, Matt Smith and Allyn Malventano

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

 

Source:

Razer Shows Gaming Laptop, Prototype Gaming Tablet and More at CES

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 02:02 PM |
Tagged: tablet, razer, mouse, laptop, keyboard, gaming, CES

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Gaming peripheral company Razer is already well known for its gaming mice, keyboards, headsets and other gadgets. But if CES 2012 is any indication, they’re far from content making products that go along with gaming devices.

You’ve probably already heard of the Project Fiona gaming tablet. It made quite a splash at CES when it was announced last night, and today I had a chance to inspect it up close and personal. 

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Unfortunately they’re keeping the prototype in a glass case to protect it, but handling it would not reveal much information anyway. Razer has made it clear that the device is only a prototype and will be revised significantly before release. Everything from the display resolution to the controllers could change, and the company is encouraging feedback to help them refine the final concept. 

The only thing that seems concrete is the pricing. Razer is very confident that the final product will be sold for under $1000. I doubt it will provide amazing hardware at that price, but this was never going to be the system of choice for playing Battlefield 3 regardless of what’s inside. The finalized version of Project Fiona is targeted for release this year.

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Another system being built by Razer is the Blade laptop, a product that was announced several months ago but is now finalized and should be on store shelves in February. The Blade is a thin and portable 17-inch laptop built for mobile gaming. Despite the large display it weighs about 6.5 pounds and is less than an inch thick. 

Unlike a normal laptop, the blade doesn’t have a touchpad below the keyboard. Instead the Blade replaces the numpad with a multi-touch display and ten programmable LCD keys. Mouse navigation takes place using the multi-touch display, but if you’d like it can also be used for other tasks including web browsing and recording macros. Razer is also working with game developers to make it possible for games to display customized information and controls.

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The Blade comes equipped with a Core i7 dual-core processor, Nvidia GeForce GT555M graphics and 8GB of RAM. These specifications are disappointing in light of the $2799 price tag. Razer tried to play down the hardware, insisting that hardcore gamers looking for a mobile machine will be more concerned with the laptop’s portability and customizable mutli-touch display than raw power. 

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Also shown was a full set of new Star Wars: The Old Republic peripherals. Of these the most notable is the keyboard, which features Star Wars design ques and a multi-touch display identical to the one on the Razer Blade laptop. Players will be able to bind abilities to the customizable LCD keys and see game information via the display. There’s a lot of possibility here, but it doesn’t come cheap – you’ll have to part with $249 to snag this keyboard.

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Last is Razer’s new Hex mouse. It is similar to the Razer Naga, but six larger buttons in a hex format have replaced the columns of programmable buttons. Razer says that this design works better with action-RPGs and specifically referenced Diablo 3 as a game they had in mind when designing the mouse. The Hex will use Synapse 2.0, Razer’s cloud device profile service. An unlimited number of custom profiles can be stored on remote servers (hosted by Amazon) and they are automatically downloaded to the Hex when it is plugged in to a new computer. Pricing is set at $79.99 with availability expected in February. 

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Razer

A look at CES 2012 through other peoples eyes

Subject: Shows and Expos | January 11, 2012 - 12:33 PM |
Tagged: yoga, ultrabook, tablet, ocz, micron, Lenovo, kilimanjaro, CES

By now you should have hit our CES 2012 page, where all of our news coming out of CES is aggregated for you.   The sad truth is that PC Perspective has yet to conquer time and space, so we can only be in one place at a time which leads to missed appointments with vendors.  However, we are not the only tech site represented at CES 2012; for instance The Tech Report is running around Las Vegas as you read this.  So far they've seen a Lenovo laptop/netbook which knows Yoga, seen the heights that the combined team of OCZ and Micron can climb to and tablets with better than 1080p resolution.  They also weigh in on the similarities between Ultrabooks and a certain Apple product, as they are one of Intel's main focuses at this CES.

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Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Hands-on With the Dell XPS 13 Ultrabook

Subject: Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 11:00 AM |
Tagged: xps, ultrabook, dell, CES

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There are many ultrabooks, but not all of them are given a specific introduction by Intel’s CEO, Paul Otellini. That honor was reserved for Dell’s new XPS 13 during Tuesday's Intel keynote. So what’s so special about it?

To find out, we meet with Dell representatives packing not only the new XPS 13 but also a number of competing ultrabooks. One of the main points that Dell made during the Intel keynote was that the XPS 13’s Gorilla Glass display allows for thin bezels, in turn reducing overall display size and allowing for a reduction in the laptop’s dimensions. Though it has a 13” display, it is much smaller than many other thin laptops such as the MacBook Air and the ASUS UX31.

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The use of Gorilla Glass combined with the XPS 13’s machined aluminum lid creates a rigid structure. Some ultrabooks available today have problems with display flex, as Dell demonstrated with a Toshiba Protégé ultrabook they brought along. Another smart decision is the XPS 13’s display hinge, which is nearly as wide as the chassis. A large hinge such as this reduces display wobble, a problem that can occur when typing on some ultrabooks.

The bottom of the XPS 13 is made of carbon fiber covered with soft-touch paint. I asked Dell’s representatives if the entire bottom of the chassis was carbon fiber, something I doubted due to reasons of cost. They insisted that it was. 

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Using carbon fiber of course saves weight, but in this case it isn’t used to provide an ultrabook that is lighter than anything else on the market. At about 3 pounds, the XPS 13 is only on par with the competition. Instead, the weight savings appears to have been re-invested in the use of sturdier materials, such as the wide hinge that I mentioned earlier.

Open the XPS 13 and you’ll be introduced to a black interior coated in soft touch paint identical the bottom of the chassis. The contrast between the interior and the silver aluminum creates a complimentary aesthetic that reminds me of a tuxedo. Using the soft touch paint also gives the laptop a warmer, more inviting feel. I am a little worried that the paint will end up absorbing oils from your hands over time, but it looks and feels great when new. 

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As for the keyboard, well – it’s average. It uses plastic keys with a semi-touch coat in the typical island style, creating the laptop’s least attractive feature. Mind you, key feel is okay and there’s nothing functionally wrong, but I do think flatter keys with a completely matte finish would have been more appropriate. Backlighting is standard and turns on automatically when the webcam detects a low-light environment. Quality was a bit hard to judge during my time with the device because we were in a brightly lit area. 

Touchpad quality struck me as excellent. It’s large and integrates the left/right buttons into the touchpad itself. Materials match the surrounding palmrest in color. I had only a few chances to try multi-touch scrolling, but it seemed to work well.

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Standard equipment includes a Core i5 low-voltage processor and a 128GB solid state drive. As a result, the laptop boots within about 10 seconds and can resume in between 1 and 2 seconds. These are not Dell’s official claims, but rather what I observed personally. Display resolution is the standard 1366x768. I can’t say much about quality as I didn’t have the chance to view test images. 

Dell has included a 47Wh battery in the XPS 13, which should provide up to 9 hours of battery life. This claim is made during testing with WiFi off and should be viewed as a best-case scenario. I anticipate that we’ll see about 6 hours of life during standard usage with WiFi on. If the XPS 13 can manage that, it will be above average for the category. 

Pricing starts at $999, which is less than I expected given the quality of this device. Because ultrabooks all have extremely similar hardware it is traits like design and battery life that will distinguish the winners from the losers. From my brief time with the XPS 13, it seems Dell may have one of the winners. I will be looking to grab a review unit over the next few weeks so the laptop can be tested in full.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Dell

LucidLogix Announces XLR8 Tech To Improve Embedded and SoC GPU Performance

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 11, 2012 - 12:48 AM |
Tagged: virtualization, tegra, Lucidlogix, gpu, gaming, game, embedded, CES2012, CES

Earlier today Lucid (LucidLogix), the company behind quite a few GPU virtualization technologies, announced yet another piece of GPU virtualization software. This time; however, instead of wrangling as much performance as possible from multi-GPU beasts, this technology- codenamed "XLR8"- is aimed at the mobile market of tablets, smartphones, and laptops with integrated graphics. Such products are powered by integrated GPUs in AMD's APUs and Intel's Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge processors, and by the GPUs in mobile SoCs (system on a chip) like Nvidia's Tegra and ARM's Mali graphics processors. XLR8 uses "unique CPU multithreading" to feed the mobile GPUs as efficiently as possible.

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According to Lucid, many of the PC graphics issues are magnified when it comes to embedded GPUS including visual tearing, pipeline inefficiencies, power management, and artifacting. Offir Remez, president of Lucid further stated that most of the big, popular PC games have playability issues on mobile platforms and on computers with integrated graphics. "If it's got a GPU, we can improve the end user experience."

The company further expanded that the XLR8 technology works by disabling unnecessary and redundant processes in addition to "unique multithreading" to improve system (gaming) responsiveness up to 200 percent. The XLR8 software monitors battery drain and power draw while shutting down background processes to increase CPU frame generation and minimizing redundant GPU rendering processes.

If this sounds a lot like marketing speak, it certainly does. On the other hand, Lucid has been able to push some useful virtualization technology into desktops, so maybe mobile platforms are just the next step for the company. The company is currently demonstrating the XLR8 software in private at CES and is being tested by hardware partners.  Mobile SoC are getting faster and more powerful, and on battery powered devices there is always room for efficiency improvements.  Once reviewers manage to get their hands on some actual hardware, and XLR8 is past the concept/testing stage you can bet that people will have a better understanding of what exactly XLR8 is capable of.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Intel Aims For ARM With New x86 Smartphone Reference Design

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 10:46 PM |
Tagged: x86, smartphone, Intel, CES, Android

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What do you do if you’re a big company with lots of money, but are having trouble convincing manufacturers to adopt your technology in their products because your competitors are already established in the market?

You build the product yourself.

That’s what Intel has done with its new smartphone reference platform. Revealed at the company’s keynote by CEO Paul Otellini, the reference platform is a fully functional smartphone running an x86 port of Android. It was demonstrated at the keynote and used to play games, watch video and output video to a monitor via HDMI.

Intel has been down this many times before, of course, but never had much success. That was before a fully functional reference platform was made available, however.  The device shown today could potentially be put on store shelves as-is (after a few more months of testing, perhaps). It is thin, it is light, it has a 4-inch display with a resolution of 1024x600 and it runs Android.  This is no thick and bulky test mule – it’s a functional example that can be used by vendors as a starting point so they don’t have to build a device from the ground up.

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Such a strategy can help get Intel’s foot in the door, and in fact already has. After showing the reference design, Otellini announced a multi-year “strategic partnership” with Motorola. If things go as planned, Motorola should be shipping out phones with Intel processors inside them in the second half of this year. 

Lenovo showed another phone even closer to release. Known as the Lenovo K800, it should be out within months. There’s just one problem (for us) – it’s China only. 

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Inside the reference design is an Intel Atom Z2460 running at up to 1.6 GHz. This is not an Atom in brand name only - the architecture is basically the same as any other Intel Atom processor. Unlike almost every other modern smartphone processor, this is a single-core part (for now). 

Though down a core to the competition, Intel suggested that the reference design is generally quicker than all current smartphones. Some early CPU benchmarks from Anandtech seem to back up that assertion. However, the graphics component isn’t up to par with today’s best, a fact that became evident when Intel showed a game demo using the reference device. It looked okay, but was clearly inferior to games running on Tegra 3.

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While the hardware seems to be coming together, software remains a potential roadblock. Intel showed their smartphone running Android 2.3 ported for x86. Because of how Android handles code, most Android apps are compatible despite the change in processor architecture.

Just one problem – some apps make specific references in their code to ARM features, and these apps will not function on x86. Intel is attempting to compensate for that using on-the-fly ARM to x86 code conversion.  It’s hard to judge how well that works without testing it first-hand, but at least Intel has a plan for dealing with the issue. 

My excitement about this announcement is tempered by the lack of available products. Timing is critical. The reference hardware might be quicker than today’s most popular smartphones, but new designs are constantly emerging, each quicker than the last. Releasing this product six months from now may result in a competitive product – but a delay forcing it into the holiday season could yet again spoil Intel’s dreams of smartphone dominance.

But even if Intel’s partners don’t translate this reference platform into products quickly, it at least shows that Intel is headed in the right direction. ARM is entrenched, but Intel has the resources and the engineers required to provide serious competition. CES 2013 could end up being the conference where x86 and ARM devices go toe-to-toe.  

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Intel

Hands-on With a Giant Smartphone - or Small Tablet - The Samsung Galaxy Note

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 09:04 PM |
Tagged: tablet, Samsung, mobile phone, galaxy, CES

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One of the more unusual products debuted by a major manufacturer this CES has to be the Samsung Galaxy Note. It’s a 5.3” device that runs Android 2.3 with the Samsung TouchWiz interface.

The Note is unusual because of its size. The 5” to 7” range is a bit of a no man’s land in the world of mobile devices. Such products are considered too small to be a real tablet, but also too large to be a decent phone. Though there have been attempts to enter products in this range, they haven’t sold in huge numbers.

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Apparently, Samsung thinks the market is worth some serious effort. They’re making a big deal of this device – to my eye, it looked as if there were more of these available on the show floor than any product the company offers. And as if to drive the point home, the CES bus I took back from the convention center today – like most of the buses at CES – was wrapped in Samsung Galaxy Note advertisements.

So what’s it like? Well, it’s like a big phone. Or a small tablet. Since it runs Android 2.3 and uses TouchWiz, the interface is basically identical to the rest of Samsung’s massive line of Android phones. Plastic is the material of choice in the construction of the chassis, which doesn’t lend the product a premium feel. 

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It does make the Samsung Galaxy Note light, however. Official numbers put it at 178g (about .4 pounds) which is less than half the weight of your typical 7” tablet.  The thickness of 9.25mm (about .4 inches) doesn’t seem outstanding, but the curved rear cover helps reduce perceived thickness. 

Samsung is known for its mobile displays, and the Note doesn’t disappoint. It uses a Samsung AMOLED with a resolution of 1280x800. This allows the small Note to offer as many or more usable pixels then much larger tablets, and it also contributes to an extremely sharp image. Unfortunately there wasn’t streaming video available to view at the time I used the device, but games look excellent. Maximum display brightness was high, as well. 

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Like the ASUS MeMO, the Note includes a stylus. Useful? Not so far as I can tell. Sure, it does a fine job of accepting handwriting, but I have a hard time seeing this smaller device used as an electronic notepad. Is there really an audience for that outside of some enterprise environments? 

Inside there is a 1.5 GHz dual-core processor as well as 1GB of memory and 16 or 32 gigabytes of internal storage. In my use the device felt smooth, but no more so than most other high-end smartphones I looked at both during CES and before.

The Note is equipped for use with cellular networks including HSPA, 4G LTE and EDGE. North American availability will come via AT&T. Pricing is not announced - $199 is of course typical for high-end handsets, but Samsungs have gone for higher prices before. The $249 to $299 price range (with contract) seems more likely.

Will the Note be a success? Perhaps. Samsung has already sold over a million units in Europe, where the Note was introduced late last year. However, the Note so far is planned to ship in North America without Ice Cream Sandwich support built in (an upgrade will bring it, but there’s no release date). That could be a major knock against the Note. Availability will be in spring, so we’ll soon find out the Note’s fate.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Source: Samsung

Panasonic Launches Ruggedized ToughPad A1 and B1 Tablets

Subject: Mobile | January 10, 2012 - 08:52 PM |
Tagged: toughpad, tablet, ruggedized, Panasonic, mobile, CES, Android

Panasonic dropped a new tablet on us at CES. Literally, they dropped the tablet on stage to show just how tough their new ruggedized ToughPad really is. The A1 and B1 ToughPad tablets are Android powered 10" and 7" tablets rated to be dust and water resistant. Both tablets are MIL-STD-810G and IP65 rated and ready to perform in very extreme work environments.

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The ToughPad A1 is Panasonic's 10" Android tablet and brings some decent hardware to bear. On the outside, the ruggedized exterior and rubberized edges absorb shock and keep dust and water out. The front of the tablet includes a 10" multi-touch display with a resolution of 1024 x 768 and 500 nit brightness. The touchscreen can be used by either finger gestures or an included digitizer. Further, the front of the tablet houses a 2 megapixel front camera as well as microphone, ambient light, accelerometer, and digital compass sensors. The tablet internals include a 1.2 GHz Marvell dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, 16 GB of internal memory, Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR, and optional 3G or 4G modems. A lithium Ion battery rated at 7.4 volts, 4690 mAh is also nestled inside. A microSDHC card slot, micro USB 2.0, and micro-HDMI connector as well as a stylus holder are also present. The device runs Android 3.2 and supports TPM chips and hardware encryption. It weighs 2.1 pounds (the price of going rugged, I suppose) and has an MSRP of $1200 USD.

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The B1 model is the 7" version and will be available in the fall. Exact specifications on this model are not yet known; however, expect it to follow closely in line with it's bigger sibling's dual core processor, 1 GB of RAM, ruggedized exterior, and hefty price tag.

Unfortunately, all I can think about when looking at this tablet is how the heck Panasonic expects to sell this for $1200 bucks. This is definitely not a consumer tablet and moreso something businesses will invest in for workers in harsh (to electronics anyway) environments.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

A CPU Cooling Heatsink With Built In Computer From AMD

Subject: Cases and Cooling | January 10, 2012 - 05:43 PM |
Tagged: nano-itx, heatsink, e-350, cooling, cooler master, CES, APU

At CES today we saw what at first resembles a Cooler Master V6 CPU heastink and fan combo. The processor cooler features a red 120mm fan housed in a black shroud which is then attached to the heatsink itself. The heatsink is a tower design with six copper heatpipes attached to a copper CPU block. The heatpipes then lead into a tower of aluminum fins to dissipate heat.

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On the back of the unit; however, there's a little something extra in the form of a nano-itx motherboard and AMD E-350 APU based on the Brazos platform. The computer is self contained and provides a number of connectivity options. For more information on the Brazos platform and E-350 APU, see our preview and review articles. A quick run down of the E-350 specifications; however, is below.

  • Two Bobcat CPU cores at 1.6 GHz
  • A Radeon HD 6310 GPU with 80 processing cores running at 500 MHz
  • A TDP of 18 watts
  • DirectX 11 Graphics and DDR3 Memory Support

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The bottom of the rear of the CPU cooler is the location of the nano-ITX motherboard's rear IO panel. The motherboard features Wi-Fi, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA(?), and e-SATA(?) connections.

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A side view of the Cooler Master heatsink is available below.

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It's certainly a new idea, and it will definitely hit home for people that don't need or want to run their power hungry main desktop all the time. Because the system is self contained it does present some usability issues. Mainly that you will need to have a KVM or VNC connection to control it and the inside of the computer case is going to become a lot more crowded with cables. Further, it would be a pain to have to open up the main desktop system just to plug in a flash drive or cable. On the other hand, it'd make for a nice media or file server and would not require the desktop be on 24/7 without needing yet another box crowding my desk so I'd give it a shot. (The inside of my computer case is already a mess of wires so what do I have to lose?)

What are your thoughts on this somewhat strange CPU cooler?

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!

Victorinox SSD makes its debut at CES - 1TB thumb drive connected via USB or eSATA

Subject: Storage, Shows and Expos | January 10, 2012 - 05:39 PM |
Tagged: CES, usb, ssd, eSATA

Victorinox stopped me in my tracks while walking around the Pepcom Digital Experience last night. I'd heard there was a 1TB USB drive, but assumed it would be one of those things that was purely a concept and wouldn't be out for another year or two. Then I saw this:

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That larger drive (center left) is a *working* 1TB SSD in a thumb drive form factor. Sure it's on the larger side, but it's no bigger than the typical 32GB USB 3.0 thumb drives are at present. One side of the SSD contains a user-programmable e-ink display, which persists even with power removed. The other side shows the beginnings of a thick stack of PCB's and stacked flash memory:

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Pictured above is one of flash memory packages alongside the controller. Here's a side view:

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Within this package is a sandwich of 4 thin PCB's housing a total of 4 special flash memory packages. Each package can contain an interleaved stack of 16 (!) 2xnm dies. By interleaved I mean 8 dies make up a data channel to the controller, so each package provides 2 channels. This makes the assembled device physically equivalent to an 8-channel SSD - just neatly folded and shrunk into this relatively tiny device. Since all of you know I love ripping these things apart to see what makes them tick, well, Victorinox beat me to it and had one disassembled already:

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The last really cool and unique part of the design is right here:

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This is a picture of the underside of the *top* of the USB connector. This part is normally the standard steel top of a USB connector, but here Victorinox has engineered a 7-pin eSATA connector into it. Modern laptops typically have an eSATA connector that is also physically and electrically compatible with USB - using the USB portion of the connector to provide extra power when a powered eSATA device is connected. eSATA devices have a connector that can plug into this hybrid port, but not into a standard USB port. This device switches that concept around, in that it is physically compatible with both USB 3.0 and eSATA ports - and can function in eSATA mode when connected to the latter. This yields reduced latency when compared to USB, which introduces more overhead.

 

Victorinox expects to ship these in sizes from 64GB all the way up to the 1TB capacity later this year. Estimated cost of the largest capacity? $3,000.

PC Perspective's CES 2012 coverage is sponsored by MSI Computer.

Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!