Podcast #346 - Intel Compute Stick, ASUS X205TA, Samsung PCIe SSDs and more!

Subject: General Tech | April 23, 2015 - 03:02 PM |
Tagged: podcast, video, Intel, compute stick, baytrail, asus, x205ta, SM951, NVMe, XP941, windows 10, SSD 750, acer, XR341CKA, gamebench, ios, Android

PC Perspective Podcast #346 - 04/23/2015

Join us this week as we discuss the Intel Compute Stick, ASUS X205TA, Samsung PCIe SSDs and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

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Hosts: Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano, and Sebastian Peak

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Ahead of MWC, 2015 Is Shaping up to Be a Good Year for Low-Cost Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | February 28, 2015 - 04:42 PM |
Tagged: smartphones, MWC 2015, MWC, Moto E, LG Magna, ios, Android 5.0

Last year my favorite smartphone became the 2014 version of the Moto G. This was (and still is) a $179 unlocked Android phone that shipped with 4.4.4 KitKat, but recently received an OTA update to 5.0 Lollipop (and subsequently 5.0.2 via a second OTA update). Motorola’s aggressive pricing made the phone compelling on paper, but using the device was even more impressive. It looked good, with a 5-inch 720p IPS display and the same design language as the Moto X and later Nexus 6, and ran a virtually untouched stock Android OS. It was never going to win any awards for raw speed, but the quad-core Snapdragon 400 SoC was plenty fast for daily use. The main drawback was a glaring one, however: the Moto G was not LTE capable. Enter the new Moto E.

Screenshot_2015-02-28-16-19-06~2.jpg

The Moto E 2nd Edition

Here are some quick specs from Motorola:

Moto E 2nd Edition (LTE capable)
4.5” 540x960 display
Android 5.0.x
Snapdragon 410
Quad-core 1.2GHz Cortex-A53/Adreno 306
1GB RAM/8GB storage
2390 mAh battery
Unlocked, $149

We are already off to a solid start in 2015 with a great option from Motorola in the new 2nd edition Moto E. This LTE capable smartphone might look a little chunky, but the specs make it more that just a compelling option at $149 (unlocked) as it could have the disruptive impact on price that Microsoft just couldn’t make last year with their inexpensive Lumia phones. With 2015’s Mobile World Congress (MWC) fast approaching the Moto E has already been making some noise in the affordable phone space that last year’s Moto G played a big part in, and this time the message is clear: in 2015 a smartphone needs to have LTE, regardless of price.

To be fair Microsoft has already addressed need for LTE with their low-cost Windows Phone devices like the Lumia 635 (which is actually selling for just $49 on Amazon now), but the app ecosystem for the platform is just too restrictive to make it a viable solution compared to Android and iOS. Honestly, I love the Windows Phone OS but there are too many missing apps to make it a daily driver. So, since Windows clearly isn’t the answer and Apple won’t be selling a sub-$200 unlocked smartphone anytime soon (the cheapest unlocked iPhone is the 8GB 5c at $450), that leaves Android (of course).

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LG's 2015 mid-range smartphone lineup

Another possibility comes from LG, as ahead of MWC there was a press release from the company showcasing their new “mid-range” smartphone lineup for 2015. Among the models listed is another phone that matches the specs associated with a $200-ish unlocked phone, but pricing has not been announced yet.

LG Magna (LTE capable) - Unreleased
5.0” 720x1280 display
Android 5.0.x
Quad-core 1.2/1.3GHz
1GB RAM, 8GB storage
2540 mAh battery

We await the announcements from MWC and there are sure to be many other examples of low-cost LTE devices, but already it’s looking like it won’t take more than $200 and a SIM card to avoid the endless device upgrade cycle in 2015.

Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 06:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android

Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.

microsoft-mobile-keyboard-universal.jpg

Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.

Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.

...

So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.

There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.

The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).

Source: Microsoft

One More Thing from Apple... the Apple Watch

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: apple, smartwatch, ios

After Apple announced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Pay, they unveiled their smart watch project: the Apple Watch. Technically, they actually announced three families, the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition, with a combined total of 34 different models. They will launch early next year with a base price of $349. About half of the 34 models are a few millimeters smaller, 38mm vs 42mm, although both are unisex.

apple-watch-regular.jpg

Apple Watch

The main feature is its "Digital Crown". It is basically a mouse wheel which can be clicked as a Home button. This wheel can be adjusted to zoom in, adjust meters, and so forth (like a mouse wheel). Below the "Crown" is a Contacts button which, well, brings up your contacts. It has a touchscreen with force sensors, to differentiate between touch and press. The screen also provides haptic feedback for tactile sensations, which actually interests me (in terms of what developers learning what it can do if it is accessible).

apple-watch-sport.jpg

Apple Watch Sport

Each model charges with a magnetic attachment on the back, although battery life is not described. I would be surprised if it was anything less than a full, woken day, but it is possible that it will not stay awake as long as you are. We just do not know at this point. This is probably the best reason to wait for a review before purchasing, if you have any level of interest. That could easily be a deal breaker.

apple-watch-edition.jpg

Apple Watch Edition

The watches are all basically the same from a technological standpoint. Every model, besides the Apple Watch Sport, has a Sapphire-protected screen (the Sport uses "Ion-X glass" which we currently know nothing about). The bands are replaceable via a button latch on the back, allowing the strap to slide off of the face. The "Watch Edition" (that name...) is created from 18-karat gold. Specifically, "Each has a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold that our metallurgists have developed to be up to twice as hard as standard gold". Yes Apple, because gold is a soft metal... but I digress.

The Apple Watch will arrive in early 2015 and will start at $349. It is currently not certified by the FCC, although I am sure that the major tech blogs will announce when that happens. It requires iPhone 5 (or later).

Source: Apple

Computex 2014: Corsair Announces Voyager Air 2 Wireless Storage Drive

Subject: Storage | June 2, 2014 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: wireless storage, ios, Hard Drive, computex 2014, Android, airplay

Today Corsair annouces the Voyager Air 2, a wireless hard drive with 1TB of storage which can connect to iOS and Android devices, as well as PCs and Macs.

Voyager_Air2_hero.png

The Voyager Air 2 is battery-powered and rechargeable (Corsair estimates 7-hour battery life from the high-capacity rechargeable lithium-ion battery), and the included software syncs with Dropbox and Google Drive and supports AirPlay streaming to an Apple TV. It supports 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi connections for multiple users within a 90 foot range, and can stream 720p high-definition video to up to five devices at once.

Voyager_Air2_media_side_angle_blue.png

And the Voyager Air 2 has quite a bit more functionality than just streaming content over Wi-Fi. It can serve as a wireless hub to share internet access via wireless passthrough, and it also functions as a USB 3.0 drive for fast data transfers when connected to a computer.

Voyager_Air2_straight_on_back_blue_drive.png

 The Voyager Air 2 will be available this month with a suggested price of $179.99.

Source: Corsair
Author:
Subject: Editorial
Manufacturer: Quakecon

The Densest 2.5 Hours Imaginable

John Carmack again kicked off this year's Quakecon with an extended technical discussion about nearly every topic bouncing around his head.  These speeches are somewhat legendary for the depth of discussion on what are often esoteric topics, but they typically expose some very important sea changes in the industry, both in terms of hardware and software.  John was a bit more organized and succinct this year by keeping things in check with some 300 lines of discussion that he thought would be interesting for us.
 
Next Generation Consoles
 
John cut to the chase and started off the discussion about the upcoming generation of consoles.  John was both happy and sad that we are moving to a new generation of products.  He feels that they really have a good handle on the optimizations of the previous generation of consoles to really extract every ounce of performance and create some interesting content.  The advantages of a new generation of consoles are very obvious, and that is particularly exciting for John.
 
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The two major consoles are very, very similar.  There are of course differences between the two, but the basis for the two are very much the same.  As we well know, the two consoles feature APUs designed by AMD and share a lot of similarities.  The Sony hardware is a bit more robust and has more memory bandwidth, but when all is said and done, the similarities outweigh the differences by a large margin.  John mentioned that this was very good for AMD, as they are still in second place in terms of performance from current architectures as compared to Intel and their world class process technology.
 
Some years back there was a thought that Intel would in fact take over the next generation of consoles.  Larrabee was an interesting architecture in that it melded x86 CPUs with robust vector units in a high speed fabric on a chip.  With their prowess in process technology, this seemed a logical move for the console makers.  Time has passed, and Intel did not execute on Larrabee as many had expected.  While the technology has been implemented in the current Xeon Phi product, it has never hit the consumer world.
 
Author:
Manufacturer: Futuremark

The Ice Storm Test

Love it or hate it, 3DMark has a unique place in the world of PC gaming and enthusiasts.  Since 3DMark99 was released...in 1998...with a target on DirectX 6, Futuremark has been developing benchmarks on a regular basis in time with major API changes and also major harware changes.  The most recent release of 3DMark11 has been out since late in 2010 and has been a regular part of our many graphics card reviews on PC Perspective

Today Futuremark is not only releasing a new version of the benchmark but is also taking fundamentally different approach to performance testing and platforms.  The new 3DMark, just called "3DMark", will not only target high-end gaming PCs but integrated graphics platforms and even tablets and smartphones. 

We interviewed the President of Futuremark, Oliver Baltuch, over the weekend and asked some questions about this new direction for 3DMark, how mobile devices were going to affect benchmarks going forward and asked about the new results patterns, stuttering and more.  Check out the video below!

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Make no bones about it, this is a synthetic benchmark and if you have had issues with that in the past because it is not a "real world" gaming test, you will continue to have those complaints.  Personally I see the information that 3DMark provides to be very informative though it definitely shouldn't be depended on as the ONLY graphics performance metric. 

Continue reading our story on the new 3DMark benchmark and the first performance results!!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple
Tagged: tablet, ipad 3, ios, apple

Introduction, Design and Ergonomics

Editor's note: You will find us calling this unit the "iPad 3" even though Apple doesn't really call it that. The confusion involved in calling it "the new iPad" over and over would just get slightly tedious.  Enjoy the review!!

ipad3review4.jpg

Apple’s iPad has been a roaring success. More than a few people had doubts that tablets could find a market, but the sneers shot in its direction at the launch of the original are now only memories. iPad has become a household name.

But it’s not easy being popular. Everyone is watching your next move. The iPhone 4S is a perfect example. Though it improved on the iPhone 4 it was still considered by some to be a disappointment. The bar had been set too high. 

That’s certainly a possibility with the iPad 3. Rumor-mongering went out of control prior to the release. Many were expecting a quad-core processor, while others suggested that the display would offer haptic feedback. Let’s have a look at what was actually shipped.

ipad3table.png

Only some of the hardware has been changed. The new iPad is still running a dual-core A5 at 1 GHz, but the graphics have been upgraded to the “quad-core” PowerVR SFX 543MP4, which is essentially a doubling of the iPad 2’s PowerVR SFX 543MP2. RAM has increased to 1GB, a necessary upgrade that Apple doesn’t speak of in press releases.

Continue reading our review of the new iPad (2012)!!

Apple Launching Quad Core Graphics A5X Powered iPad 3 With Retina Display

Subject: Mobile | March 7, 2012 - 04:10 PM |
Tagged: tablet, mobile, ipad 3, ipad, ios, apple

Apple officially launched the new Apple iPad 3 tablet today, and consumers will be glad to know that many of the rumors around the Internet are not far from the truth. The new iOS powered tablet will be packing a retina display, new A5X with "quad core graphics," and an optional 4G LTE radio. The retina display on the iPad 3 is 2048x1536 pixels, and works out to 264 PPI (pixels per inch).

Ipad3.jpg

The iPad 3's hardware will further include an updated A5 SoC that also includes a quad core graphics aspect, whatever they mean by that. Phil Schiller states that the new A5X chip "has four times the performance of NVIDIA's quad-core Tegra 3 chip." Apple has also updated the camera in the iPad 3 such that it has a 5 megapixel camera with image stabilization, hybrid IR (infrared) filter, and backside illuminated senor capable of recording 1080p video.

On the 4G LTE front, both AT&T and Verizon will carry the iPad 3 in the US, and the 4G radio will also work on Rogers, Bell, and Telus' networks in Canada. In other markets, the iPad 3 will still be able to connect to 3G networks. According to Ars, the new Apple tablet will maintain the same physical dimensions, and will enable 10 hours of battery life while on 3G or Wi-Fi and 9 hours of battery life when the 4G LTE radio is in use.

The iPad 3 will come in either black or white colors, and will be available for purchase March 16th in the US, Canada, UK, France, and Germany (among others), and March 23th for the rest of the world. The iPad 2 will also stay around at a lower price point of $399 for the 16 GB Wi-Fi model and $529 for 3G.

The iPad 3 will come in at the following price points:

Apple iPad 3 Model Price point (USD)
16 GB Wi-Fi $499
32 GB Wi-Fi $599
64 GB Wi-Fi $699
16 GB 4G LTE $629
32 GB 4G LTE $729
64 GB 4G LTE $829

Lastly, despite rumors, the iPad 3 will not be getting Siri access, and the physical home button is still present.  Pre-orders for the new tablet start today, and more information on the pre-order is available over at apple.com/ipad.  What do you guys think of the new tablet, will you be picking one up when it launches?

Source: Ars Technica
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple
Tagged: iphone, iOS5, iOS 5, ios, 4S, 4, 3GS

Down to Business

Introduction:

While I'm mostly a PC guy, I favor iPhones. My friends always jab at me because I'm a fairly die-hard techie, and they expect me to be sporting the latest overclocked super-smartphone with eleventy-thousand gigs and a built-in dishwasher. While my phone used to be included in the list of things I tinker with endlessly, I eventually came to the point where I just wanted my smallest mobile device to 'Just Work' for those tasks I needed it to. I just didn't have the time to tinker endlessly with the thing that handled more and more of my work-related duties, yet as a techie, I still enjoyed the ability to cram a bunch of functionality into my pocket. That led me to the iPhone, which I've used since 2008.

Like many iPhone users, I've upgraded through the various iterations over the years. The original, 3G, 3GS, 4, and most recently the 4S. I've also witnessed nearly every iteration of Apple's iOS (including many of the betas). Throughout all of these, I feel Apple did their best to prevent new versions from breaking application functionality, and while they did their best to keep bugs under control, every so often a few would creep in - typically with cross-compatibility of new features that could only be tested in a limited capacity before being released into the wild.

Apple's iPhone 4S introduced some added features to their line-up - enough to get me to bite the bullet earlier than I typically do. I was a bit of an iOS 5 veteran by then, as I'd been using it to test applications for a developer friend of mine. While some of the iOS 5 betas were a bit unruly in the battery life category, those problems appeared to be sorted out by the last and final beta prior to release. With my reservations against the new OS put to rest, the only thing holding me back was the possibility of the new dual core CPU drawing more power than the iPhone 4. The iFixit teardown (which revealed a higher capacity battery - presumably to counter power draw of the additional CPU), coupled with the improved camera and witnessing the endless toying around with Siri finally got me to bite the bullet.

iphone4s.png

I picked up a 4S from my local Apple Store, restored from the backup of my 4, and off I went. I enjoyed the phone for a few days, but quickly realized there was some sort of issue with battery life. The most glaring indicator was one night where I forgot to plug the 4S in before bed. The next morning I was surprised to find that nearly 40% of the charge was lost while I slept - almost enough to completely shut down the phone (and failing to wake me with the alarm I'd gleefully set via Siri the night before).

Continue reading our detailed analysis of the iPhone 3GS / 4 / 4S battery life testing.