Introduction and Design
As headlines mount championing the supposed shift toward tablets for the average consumer, PC manufacturers continue to devise clever hybrid solutions to try and lure those who are on the fence toward more traditional machines. Along with last year’s IdeaPad Yoga 13 and ThinkPad Twist, Lenovo shortly thereafter launched the smallest of the bunch, an 11.6” convertible tablet PC with a 5-point touch 720p IPS display.
Unlike its newer, more powerful counterpart, the Yoga 11S, it runs Windows RT and features an NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad-Core system on a chip (SoC). There are pros and cons to this configuration in contrast to the 11S. For starters, the lower-voltage, fanless design of the 11 guarantees superior battery life (something which we’ll cover in detail in just a bit). It’s also consequently (slightly) smaller and lighter than the 11S, which gains a hair on height and weighs around a quarter pound more. But, as you’re probably aware, Windows RT also doesn’t qualify as a fully-functional version of Windows—and, in fact, the Yoga 11’s versatility is constrained by the relatively meager selection of apps available on the Windows Store. The other obvious difference is architecture and chipset, where the Yoga 11’s phone- and tablet-grade ARM-based NVIDIA Tegra 3 is replaced on the 11S by Intel Core Ivy Bridge ULV processors.
But let’s forget about that for a moment. What it all boils down to is that these two machines, while similar in terms of design, are different enough (both in terms of specs and price) to warrant a choice between them based on your intended use. The IdeaPad Yoga 11 configuration we reviewed can currently be found for around $570 at retailers such as Amazon and Newegg. In terms of its innards:
If it looks an awful lot like the specs of your latest smartphone, that’s probably because it is. The Yoga 11 banks on the fact that such ARM-based SoCs have become powerful enough to run a modern personal computer comfortably—and by combining the strengths of an efficient, low-power chipset with the body of a notebook, it reaps benefits from both categories. Of course, there are trade-offs involved, starting with the 2 GB memory ceiling of the chipset and extending to the aforementioned limitations of Windows RT. So the ultimate question is, once those trade-offs are considered, is the Yoga 11 still worth the investment?
Subject: General Tech | June 5, 2013 - 02:48 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: computex, notepal u2 plus, mobile, laptop cooler, laptop, cooler master, computex 2013
Cooler Master has released a new notebook cooler called the NotePal U2 Plus that is the latest model in the NotePal U-series. This cooler supports up to 17" laptops and allows you to move the two included fans for optimal cooling (ie, actually put the fans over the vents).
Other features of the NotePal U2 Plus include raised feet that lift up your laptop at a slight angle to make long typing or gaming sessions more comfortable, according to Cooler Master. The cooler feet also aid in cable management by allowing you to loop your long cords around the included hooks. Finally, the NotePal U2 Plus can attach to your laptop and be carried with along using an elastic strap and the cooler feet to hold your notebook in place.
The new Cooler Master notebook cooler is available now with an MSRP of $29.99.
A Reference Platform - But not a great one
Believe it or not, AMD claims that the Brazos platform, along with the "Brazos 2.0" update the following year, were the company's most successful mobile platforms in terms of sales and design wins. When it first took the scene in late 2010, it was going head to head against the likes of Intel's Atom processor and the combination of Atom + NVIDIA ION and winning. It was sold in mini-ITX motherboard form factors as well as small clamshell notebooks (gasp, dare we say...NETBOOKS?) and though it might not have gotten the universal attention it deserved, it was a great part.
With Kabini (and Temash as well), AMD is making another attempt to pull in some marketshare in the low power, low cost mobile markets. I have already gone over the details of the mobile platforms that AMD is calling Elite Mobility (Temash) and Mainstream (Kabini) in a previous article that launched today.
This article will quickly focus on the real-world performance of the Kabini platform as demonstrated by a reference laptop I received while visiting AMD in Toronto a few weeks ago. While this design isn't going to be available in retail (and I am somewhat thankful based on the build quality) the key is to look at the performance and power efficiency of the platform itself, not the specific implementation.
Kabini Architecture Overview
The building blocks of Kabini are four Jaguar x86 cores and 128 Radeon cores colleted in a pair of Compute Units - similar in many ways to the CUs found in the Radeon HD 7000 series discrete GPUs. Josh has written a very good article that focuses on the completely new architecture that is Jaguar and compared it to other processors including AMD's previous core used in Brazos, the Bobcat core.
Introduction and Design
While Lenovo hasn’t historically been known for its gaming PCs, it’s poised to make quite a splash with the latest entry in its IdeaPad line. Owing little to the company’s business-oriented roots, the Y500 aims to be all power—moreso than any other laptop from the manufacturer to date—tactfully squeezed into a price tag that would normally be unattainable given the promised performance. But can it succeed?
Our Y500 review unit can be had for $1,249 at Newegg and other retailers, or for as low as $1,180 at Best Buy. Lenovo also sells customizable models, though the price is generally higher. Here’s the full list of specifications:
The configurations offered by Lenovo range in price fairly widely, from as low as $849 for a model sporting 8 GB of RAM with a single GT 650M with 2 GB GDDR5. The best value is certainly this configuration that we received, however.
What’s so special about it? Well, apart from the obvious (powerful quad-core CPU and 16 GB RAM), this laptop actually includes two NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M GPUs (both with 2 GB GDDR5) configured in SLI. Seeing as it’s just a 15.6-inch model, how does it manage to do that? By way of a clever compromise: the exchange of the usual optical drive for an Ultrabay, something normally only seen in Lenovo’s ThinkPad line of laptops. So I guess the Y500 does owe a little bit of its success to its business-grade brethren after all.
In our review unit (and in the particular configuration noted above), this Ultrabay comes prepopulated with the second GT 650M, equipped with its own heatsink/fan and all. The addition of this GPU effectively launches the Y500 into high-end gaming laptop territory—at least on the spec sheet. Other options for the Ultrabay also exist (sold separately), including a DVD burner and a second hard drive. The bay is easily removable via a switch on the back of the PC (see below).
Subject: General Tech | March 3, 2013 - 04:49 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Seagate, mobile, laptop, hard drives, 7200 rpm
Seagate Technology, the world’s second largest hard drive manufacturer (by market share), recently announced that it will be ceasing production on notebook hard drives featuring 7200 RPM spindle speeds. According to X-Bit Labs, Seagate Director of Marketing and Product Management David Burks stated that “We are going [to] stop building our notebook 7200rpm hard disk drives at the end of 2013.”
Stopping production of high-end notebook hard drives is a curious move for a company that is still dependent on hard drives to survive--with just a toe in the Solid State space with its hybrid hard drives. On the other hand, the market for such high-end notebook drives is likely feeling pressure from Solid State drives for pure performance at any price, cheap hard drives paired with a small mSATA caching SSD, and high-capacity 5400 RPM drives at extremely cheap prices. Users that would have traditionally favored 7200 RPM drives for an extra price during laptop configuration are now faced with more choices on the performance at modest price increases front with caching options. Further, with the advent of interfaces like Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, it is now more acceptable to go with a low capacity, cheaper, Solid State Drive for the operating system and applications while using external hard drives for your storage needs without incurring a transfer speed bottleneck that USB 2.0 exhibited.
Reportedly, Seagate will stop production of its Momentus 7200.4, Momentus 7200.2, and Momentus Thin notebook drive lineups. Further, the storage company will put more focus into further fleshing out its Momentus XT drives. The XT series features a spindle hard drive and small bit of SLC NAND flash for caching frequently accessed files. Hopefully the renewed focus on its hybrid hard drive series will result in drives with larger caches. That may necessitate the move to MLC flash to keep costs down, but I think a HHD with 32GB+ of MLC or TLC flash would be an acceptable compromise.
What do you think of the move? Customers will likely be able to get their hands on 7200 RPM mobile drives well into 2014 thanks to stock on hand at the various OEMs and retailers (and alternative options from other HDD manufacturers), so the fallout is likely to be minimal. Still, is it the right move for Seagate?
Subject: General Tech | November 27, 2012 - 01:31 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: razer orochi, razer, PC, mouse, mobile, laptop, gaming
Razer has been on an updating kick this month with a number of its gaming mice being refreshed with better hardware and support for Synapse 2.0 (cloud syncing) software. This time, Razer is turning to its mobile lineup and giving the Orochi an upgrade for a 2013 release.
The ambidextrous mouse can be used in a wired or wireless configuration. While the original Orochi featured a 4000 DPI laser sensor, the updated model upgrades the sensor to 6400 DPI. Further, Razer has bumped up the Bluetooth radio to one rated at Bluetooth 3.0 specifications. Powered by two AA batteries, Razer has reportedly improved battery life by a significant margin. The company rates the mobile gaming mouse at up to 30 hours of continuous gaming, and three months of normal use.
The refreshed mouse maintains the traditional LED-lit scroll wheel, mouse buttons, and two side buttons of the original Orochi. Interestingly, it comes in a shinier "chrome" colored variant in addition to the standard black blade addition.
The refreshed Orochi 2013 is available for pre-order now for $69.99. According to the Razer website, the blade edition will ship in 1-2 weeks and the chrome variant will ship in a little over a month.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 28, 2012 - 03:18 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: zenbook, windows 8, ultrabook, nvidia, laptop, Ivy Bridge, GT650M, GT620M, asus
Asus has announced a refresh of its Zenbook lineup of Intel-powered ultrabooks to accompany its new VivoBooks and VivoTabs running Windows 8. Available next month, the PC OEM is introducing six new laptop SKUs with Ivy Bridge processors and dedicated graphics cards from NVIDIA. Specifically, the Asus Zenbook UX21A, UX31A, UX32VD, UX42VS, US52VS, and U500VZ ultrabooks are coming soon with the refresh.
The UX31A Ultrabook with touch display
The new Zenbooks will have Ivy Bridge processors, up to 10GB of memory, and up to NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M graphics. They maintain the aluminum chassis of Asus’ previous generation ultrabooks but up the hardware ante. The company has expanded the lineup to include models with 11.6,” 13.3,” 14,” and 15.6” IPS displays, backlit keyboards, and multitouch trackpads. The U500VZ and UX31A can even be outfitted with capacitive touchscreen displays.
The ASUS UX42VS Zenbook
The VX42VS further includes an optical drive, but otherwise the Zenbooks source of storage lies in solid state or hybrid hard drives. Interestingly, the UX32VD and U500VZ can even be configured with two 256GB solid state drives in RAID 0 (Ryan’s favorite kind of RAID).
The ASUS UX52VS Zenbook
The following chart outlines all the known specifications. Note that several of the ultrabooks are not listed on Asus’ website yet so exact dimensions are unknown for the UX52VS and U500VZ in particular.
|Dimensions||299 x 196.8 x 3 ~ 17 mm||325 x 223 x 3 ~18 mm||325 x 223 x 5.5 ~18 mm||14" tapers to 6mm||~15" tapers to 6mm||~15"|
|Weight||1.1 kg||1.3 kg||1.45 kg||1.5kg||2.2kg||2 kg|
|Processor||i5 3317U or i7 3517U||i5 3317U or i7 3517U||i5 3317U or i7 3517U||i3, i5, or i7 IVB||i5 or i7 ULV IVB||i7 std voltage|
|Storage||256GB SSD||256GB SSD||2 x 256GB SSD (RAID 0)||1TB Hybrid Hard Drive||1TB Hybrid Hard Drive||2 x 256GB SSD (RAID 0)|
*onboard + 1 x SODIMM
All of the new Zenbook laptops will be available in November and will come with Windows 8. Pricing will range from $699 to $1999 for the premium model (The U500VZ). Specific pricing details should become available closer to launch.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 26, 2012 - 01:05 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows 8, vivobook, laptop, asus
Asus has launched a line of VivoBook laptops to accompany its series of convertible Vivo Tab Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets. Initially, there will be two VivoBooks available around Windows 8’s October 26, 2012 launch date that will come in 11.6” and 14” screen sizes with the VivoBook X202 and S400 respectively.
The VivoBook series will focus on multitouch input available on a lightweight laptop chassis. They will have a similar tapered design as the company’s Zenbook laptops, and will use metal for the chassis and a glass screen rather than plastics. SonicMaster audio, and 32GB of Asus WebStorage space (for three years) also come standard with all VivoBooks models.
The X202 VivoBook
Interestingly, the specifications put the laptops just out of ultrabook territory, which should mean cheaper starting prices. Both the X202 and S400 will have processor options spanning Intel's lineup from lowly Celeron 847s to its Core (Ivy Bridge) series. However, the X202 will be limited to a top end of Core i3 while the S400 will be able to utilize up to a Core i7 processor. Both further feature 5400 RPM hard drives, though the S400 will have a 24GB caching SSD option to speed up general performance. Also, the X202 and S400 will come with multitouch displays and large trackpads. While Asus made no claims on the S400, they have stated that the X202 will have a trackpad normally used on a 14” laptop despite the X202 being a smaller 12” model. The larger trackpad will allow for easier gesture control of Windows 8, according to the company.
The specifications for the X202 and S400 VivoBook touch-enabled laptops are as follows:
|VivoBook Model||VivoBook X202||VivoBook S400|
Intel Core i3
Intel ULV Pentium 987
Intel ULV Celeron 847
Intel Core i3, i5, or i7
Intel ULV Pentium 987
Intel ULV Celeron 847
|Display||11.6" @ 1366 x 768||14" @ 1366 x 768|
|Graphics||Integrated (Intel)||Integrated (Intel)|
|Memory||1333MHz DDR3 up to 4GB||1600MHz up to 8GB|
|Hard Drive||320GB/500GB 5400RPM HDD||
320GB/500GB 5400 RPM
+ 24GB SSD (cache drive)
|Ports||1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI, 1 x SD Card Reader||1 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0, 1 x Ethernet, 1 x VGA, 1 x HDMI, 1 x SD Card Reader|
|Wireless||802.11n Wi-Fi||802.11n Wi-Fi|
|Dimensions||30.3cm x 20.0cm x 2.17cm||33.9cm x 23.9cm x 2.1cm|
|Weight||1.4Kg (with 38W/h Li-Po battery)||1.8Kg (with 44W/h Li-Po battery)|
|Operating System||Windows 8||Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro|
|Starting Price||$599 (for Core i3-3217U)||$699.99 (for Core i5-3317U)|
Of course, the laptops will come pre-loaded with either Windows 8 or Windows 8 Pro. The X202 measures a bit over 0.85-inches and the S400 is slightly thinner at approximately 0.82-inches. On the other hand, while the S400 is thinner, it weighs more at approximately 3.96 pounds versus the X202's 3.08 pounds.
The X202 is in stock at Amazon now, and should be availabe at other retailers soon. The Core i3-3217U (1.8GHz) version has a listed price of $599. On the other hand, the S400 with an Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7GHz) has a list price of $699.99. Unfortunately, pricing on the other models is still unknown, though you can expect the Pentium and Celeron powered X202 and S400 VivoBooks to be cheaper – it is jsut how much cheaper they will be that is still up in the air.
These do appear to be interesting machines if you are considering a new Windows 8 computer and want more of a traditional laptop form factor than the dockable tablet announcements that have dominated the news.
What do you think, would you use a touch panel on a laptop?
Subject: General Tech | October 20, 2012 - 09:40 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: xe303c12, Samsung, laptop, google, Exynos 5250, Chromebook, chrome os, arm
While Android gets most of the attention, it is not the only operating system from Google. Chrome OS was released two years ago, and despite the rising popularity of smartphones and tablets, it is still very much alive and kicking on the cloud-connected “Chromebooks.”
In fact, earlier this week Samsung announced a brand new Chromebook powered by its own Exynos 5250 ARM System of a Chip (SoC). The new system is lighter than the company’s previous Chromebook offerings at 2.43 pounds and is less than an inch thick. The specifications are not impressive for a laptop, but in the context of a Chromebook where much of the processing is done on Internet-connected servers the internals should ensure that you get good battery life – up to 6.3 hours – out of the mobile machine.
The 11.6” Chromebook has a display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, 1.5W stereo speakers, and a full physical keyboard with trackpad.
External I/O options include:
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB 2.0
- 1 x Headphone/Mic combo jack
- 1 x SD card slot
The USB 3.0 option is interesting, and should allow you to hook up fast external storage should you need more caching space for offline use.
On the outside, the Chromebook very much resembles a standard laptop, but on the inside it is closer to the specifications of a smartphone or tablet. Interestingly, Samsung has chosen its Exynos 5250 system on a chip to power the XE303C12 Chromebook. That processor is packing two Cortex A15-based ARM CPU cores and an ARM Mali T604 GPU. While the Exynos 15 is capable of clocking up to 2GHz, it is unclear whether or not the Chromebook will feature chips clocked at that speed or not. It is certainly a possibility though, since the laptop form factor would provide ample cooling versus a more constrained smartphone or tablet. Beyond the SoC, Samsung has packed in 2GB of RAM and a 16GB solid state drive (SSD). Additionally, the XE303C12 Chromebook includes a Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip – useful for business uses – and 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi radio with a 2x2 antenna configuration.
The new Samsung Chromebook is available for pre-order now, and will be officially available for purchase at Best Buy, Amazon, Newegg, and other retailers beginning October 22, 2012. It has an MSRP of $249.99.
I’m interested to see how this compared to the Windows RT offerings, and whether the cheaper price will win people over versus those devices. On the other hand, it may be that Android tablets – like the Nexus 7, Nook Tablet, and new Kindle Fire tablets – are the favored devices for all but road warriors needing a decent keyboard. What do you think?
Before Intel released the ultrabook standard there were already laptops that we’re close to what Intel would envision, and while some had already gained attention on their own, most were not given any special attention. One of these laptops was the IdeaPad U series, a part of Lenovo’s consumer line-up which had long focused on thin and light design.
I reviewed one of those laptops, the Lenovo U260, in 2010. That 12.5 laptop weighed in at just 3.04 pounds and is - to this very day - among the thinnest and lightest laptops we’ve reviewed at PC Perspective.
Alas, the U260 was not long for this world, but its largest siblings live on. Now we’re taking a look at the U410, Lenovo’s 14-inch ultrabook and the largest product in the U-Series. Let’s see what kind of hardware it brings to this suddenly crowded category.
Well, there are no surprises here, but you shouldn’t have expected any. Intel’s moves to make cool, thin laptops more widespread has ironically robbed them of their excitement. They’re all roughly the same in size and weight and they can all be equipped with identical Intel processors.
This makes it hard for any particular ultrabook - even those with a bloodline that starts prior to Intel’s ultrabook push - to stand out. Let’s see if the Lenovo IdeaPad U410 can conjure some magic.