Introduction and Design
MSI’s unapologetically large GT70 “Dominator Pro” series of machines knows its audience well: for every gripe about the notebooks’ hulking sizes, a snicker and a shrug are returned by the community, who rarely value such items as portability as highly as the critics who are hired to judge based on them. These machines are built for power, first and foremost. While featherweight construction and manageable dimensions matter to those regularly tossing machines into their bags, by contrast, MSI’s desktop replacements recognize the meaning of their classification: the flexibility of merely moving around the house with one’s gaming rig is reason enough to consider investing in one.
So its priorities are arguably well in line. But if you want to keep on dominating, regular updates are a necessity, too. And with the GT72 2QE, MSI takes it all up yet another notch: our review unit (GT72 2QE-208US) packs four SSDs in a RAID-0 array (as opposed to the GT70’s three), plus a completely redesigned case which manages to address some of our biggest complaints. Oh yeah, and an NVIDIA GTX 980M GPU with 8 GB GDDR5 RAM—the fastest mobile GPU ever. (You can find much more information and analysis on this GPU specifically in Ryan’s ever-comprehensive review.)
Of course, these state-of-the-art innards come at no small price: $2,999 as configured (around a $2,900 street price), or a few hundred bucks less with storage or RAM sacrifices—a reasonable trade-off considering the marginal benefits one gains from a quad-SSD array or 32 GB of RAM.
Subject: General Tech, Systems | September 24, 2014 - 06:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Samsung, Chromebook, laptop
This does not apply to our North American readers, although it is good for them to know. To our European fans: Samsung has pulled out of the laptop market, for devices running either Windows or ChromeOS, in your region. The company is not commenting on how many jobs will be lost as a result of this decision. Samsung is not halting operations in any other region and this decision "is not necessarily reflective of conditions in other markets".
Parallels are drawn with Sony and its VAIO division, but this is significantly different. Sony sold its PC business to Japanese Industrial Partners who, in July, relaunched the brand in Japan. Samsung has not sold any division although there is rumors of upcoming restructuring. While Samsung will retain their brand and continue to develop products for the other regions, pulling away is always concerning for customers. It really could be a geographic anomaly, like Xbox was in Japan, or it could be a warning tremor. We simply do not know.
Subject: General Tech | August 6, 2014 - 06:58 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: best buy, tablets, convertible, laptop
Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy, talked with Re/code about the overall health of their company and various industry trends. The first question (at least in the order Re/code presented them) asked about the decline of the PC industry. He responded that PC sales are actually recovering, to some extent, but that Android tablets are, now, "crashing".
His view is that laptops are adopting the successful bits of the tablet market, especially as a result of various two-in-one initiatives. He believes students, in particular, appreciate tablet/laptop hybrids. This is certainly what Intel has been hoping for, through its recent Ultrabook efforts. He hopes that innovation will be done at the high end, so consumers will not simply settle for the $300-tier.
He did back off on his "crashed" statement, regarding the tablet market, however. The growth of tablets, from the start, were amazing. However, like the argument with "good enough" PCs, there does not seem to be a compelling argument for users to move to the next device, at least not yet. Like PCs, devices are being replaced, just not driven from industry forces. Also, like smartphones, the market seems to have matured, slowing in growth.
Naturally, Joly believes that Best Buy will be around for years to come. I agree with his reasoning. He acknowledges the squeeze between online resellers and boutique shops, which puts Best Buy in an awkward middle niche when the goal of a big box store is to be not niche. My interpretation of his strategy is to, instead of being crushed, strive to overlap. Embrace what the customers want on either side while doing your thing in the middle.
It is still questionable whether it will work, but it seems like the right move.
Introduction and Design
The next candidate in our barrage of ThinkPad reviews is the ThinkPad Yoga, which, at first glance, might seem a little bit redundant. After all, we’ve already got three current-gen Yoga models to choose from between the Yoga 2 11- and 13-inch iterations and the Yoga 2 Pro top-end selection. What could possibly be missing?
Well, in fact, as is often the case when choosing between well-conceived notebook models, it isn’t so much about what’s missing as it is priorities. Whereas the consumer-grade Yoga models all place portability, slimness, and aesthetics in the highest regard, the ThinkPad Yoga subscribes to a much more practical business-oriented approach, which (nearly) always instead favors function over form. It’s a conversation we’ve had here at PC Perspective a thousand times before, but yet again, it is the core ThinkPad philosophy which separates the ThinkPad Yoga from other notebooks of its type. Suffice it to say, in fact, that really the only reason to think of it as a Yoga at all is the unique hinge design and affiliated notebook/tablet convertibility; excepting that, this seems much closer to an X240 than anything in Lenovo’s current consumer-grade lineup. And carrying a currently-configurable street price of around $1,595 currently, it’s positioned as such, too.
But it isn’t beyond reproach. Some of the same questionable decisions regarding design changes which we’ve covered in our recent ThinkPad reviews still apply to the Yoga. For instance, the much-maligned clickpad is back, bringing with it vivid nightmares of pointer jumpiness and click fatigue that were easily the biggest complaint about the T440s and X240 we recently reviewed. The big question today is whether these criticisms are impactful enough to disqualify the ThinkPad Yoga as a rational alternative to other ThinkPad convertibles and the consumer-grade Yoga models. It’s a tall order, so let’s tackle it.
First up, the specs:
While most of this list is pretty conventional, the astute might have already picked out one particular item which tops the X240 we recently reviewed: a possible 16 GB of dual-channel RAM. The X240 was limited to just 8 GB of single-channel memory thanks to a mere single SODIMM slot. The ThinkPad Yoga also boasts a 1080p screen with a Wacom digitizer pen—something which is clearly superior to our X240 review unit. Sadly missing, however, are the integrated Gigabit Ethernet port and the VGA port—and the mini DisplayPort has been replaced by a mini-HDMI, which ultimately is decidedly inferior.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 18, 2014 - 01:57 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Transformer, tablet, laptop, Chromebook, apple
If you are overwhelmed by the choice of mobile products on the market and are looking for a little guidance this article at The Tech Report is a good resource. Their staff have picked out what they feel are the best mobile devices from tablets to transformer pads to full sized laptops. You can choose between several models in each category depending on your budget, as the best solutions tend to be the most expensive. The budget models are nothing to sneer at though as even on the low end mobile devices pack a lot more power than they used to.
"Earlier this year, we revised the structure of the TR System Guide to focus exclusively on PC components. Our aim was to cover peripherals and mobile gear in separate articles. We posted our first standalone peripheral picks in April, and today, we're completing the set with our first standalone mobile staff picks."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- HP Machine: Memristor pioneer explains his discovery @ The Inquirer
- One in five SMBs refuse to let go of Windows XP @ The Inquirer
- Blackberry 10 to finally get Netflix app thanks to Amazon Appstore deal @ The Inquirer
- How to Control a Servo Motor from a BeagleBone Black on Linux @ Linux.com
- Unisys cozies closer to Intel, 'sunsets' proprietary processor @ The Register
- People will happily run malware if paid ONE CENT – new study @ The Register
Subject: General Tech, Processors | May 11, 2014 - 11:41 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ulv, mobile apu, laptop, Kaveri, APU, amd
According to leaked information, AMD will allegedly be releasing mobile versions of its Kaveri APU later this year. There are reportedly seven new processors aimed at laptops and tablet that follow the same basic design as their desktop counterparts: steamroller CPU cores paired with a GCN-based graphics portion and an integrated memory controller.
According to information obtained by WCCF Tech, AMD will release four ULV and three standard voltage parts. All but one APU will have four Steamroller CPU cores paired with an Radeon R4, R5, R6, or R7 graphics processor with up to 512 GCN cores. The mobile APUs allegedly range in TDP from 17W to 35W and support various AMD technologies including TrueAudio, Mantle, and Eyefinity.
An AMD slide showing a die shot of the desktop "Kaveri" Accelerated Processing Unit (APU).
Of the seven rumored APUs, two of them are OEM-only parts that feature the “FX” moniker. The FX-7500 is the fastest ULV (ultra-low voltage) APU while the FX-7600P is AMD’s flagship mobile processor.
The FX-7600P is the chip that should most interest mobile gamers and enthusiasts looking for a powerful AMD-powered laptop or tablet. This processor allegedly features four CPU cores clocked at 2.7GHz base (that turbo to a maximum of 3.6GHz), a GPU with 512 GCN cores clocked at a base of 600MHz and a boost clock of 666MHz. The chip further uses 4MB of L2 cache and is a 35W TDP part. This should be a decent processor for laptops, offering acceptable general performance and some nice mobile gaming with the beefy integrated GPU!
The leaked AMD mobile Kaveri APU lineup via WCCF Tech.
Of course, for productivity machines where portability and battery life are bigger concerns, AMD will reportedly be offering up the dual core A6-7000. This 17W ULV processor combines two cores clocked at 2.2GHz (3.0GHz boost), a GPU based on the Radeon R4 with 192 GCN cores (494MHz base and 533MHz boost), and 2MB of L2 cache. Compared to the FX-7600P (and especially the desktop parts), the A6-7000 sips power. We will have to wait for reviews to see how it performs, but it will be facing stiff competition from Intel’s Core i3 Haswell CPUs and even the Bay Trail SoCs which come in at a lower TDP and offer higher thread counts. The GPU capabilities and GPGPU / HSA software advancements (such as LibreOffice adding GPGPU support) will make or break the A6-7000, in my opinion.
In all, the leaked mobile chips appear to be a decent upgrade over the previous generation. The new mobile APUs will bring incremental performance and power saving benefits to bear against competition from Intel. I’m looking forward to more official information and seeing what the OEMs are able to do with the new chips.
Introduction and Design
Arguably some of the most thoughtful machines on the market are Lenovo’s venerable ThinkPads, which—while sporadically brave in their assertions—are still among the most conservative (yet simultaneously practical) notebooks available. What makes these notebooks so popular in the business crowds is their longstanding refusal to compromise functionality in the interest of form, as well as their self-proclaimed legendary reliability. And you could argue that such practical conservatism is what defines a good business notebook: a device which embraces the latest technological trends, but only with requisite caution and consideration.
Maybe it’s the shaky PC market, or maybe it’s the sheer onset of sexy technologies such as touch and clickpads, but recent ThinkPads have begun to show some uncommon progressivism, and unapologetically so, too. First, it was the complete replacement of the traditional critically-acclaimed ThinkPad keyboard with the Chiclet AccuType variety, a decision which irked purists but eventually was accepted by most. Along with that were the integrated touchpad buttons, which are still lamented by many users. Those alterations to the winning design were ultimately relatively minor, however, and for the most part, they’ve now been digested by the community. Now, though, with the T440s (as well as the rest of Lenovo’s revamped ThinkPad lineup), we’re seeing what will perhaps constitute the most controversial change of all: the substitution of the older touchpads with a “5-button trackpad”, as well as optional touchscreen interface.
Can these changes help to keep the T440s on the cusp of technological progress, or has the design finally crossed the threshold into the realm of counterproductivity?
Compared with nearly any other modern notebook, these specs might not hold many surprises. But judged side-by-side with its T430s predecessor, there are some pretty striking differences. For starters, the T440s is the first in its line to offer only low-voltage CPU options. While our test unit shipped with the (certainly capable enough) Core i5-4200U—a dual-core processor with up to 2.6 GHz Turbo Boost clock rate—options range up to a Core i7-4600U (up to 3.30 GHz). Still, these options are admittedly a far cry from the i7-3520M with which top-end T430s machines were equipped. Of course, it’s also less than half of the TDP, which is likely why the decision was made. Other notables are the lack of discrete graphics options (previously users has the choice of either integrated graphics or an NVIDIA NVS 5200M) and the maximum supported memory of 12 GB. And, of course, there’s the touchscreen—which is not required, but rather, is merely an option. On the other hand, while we’re on the subject of the screen, this is also the first model in the series to offer a 1080p resolution, whether traditional or touch-enabled—which is very much appreciated indeed.
That’s a pretty significant departure from the design of the T430s, which—as it currently appears—could represent the last T4xxs model that will provide such powerhouse options at the obvious expense of battery life. Although some markets already have the option of the ThinkPad S440 to fill the Ultrabook void within the ThinkPad 14-inch range, that notebook can even be outfitted with discrete graphics. The T440s top-end configuration, meanwhile, consists of a 15W TDP dual-core i7 with integrated graphics and 12 GB DDR3 RAM. In other words, it’s powerful, but it’s just not in the same class as the T430’s components. What’s more important to you?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 3, 2014 - 10:49 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, tabbook 2, LG, laptop, hybrid, CES 2014, CES
CES 2014 is not until next week, but that has not stopped several companies from offering a bit of a “sneak peek” of what they will be showing off in Las Vegas on the show floor. One such company is LG Electronics, which is launching at least three new mobile devices of the convertible tablet and laptop flavors. Specifically, LG is introducing a new Ultra PC L3Z940 laptop and two Tab-Book 2 tablets (11T540 and 11T740). The devices in the updated lineup are powered by Intel's latest Haswell CPU, run the full version of Windows 8.1, features LG IPS displays, and are lighter and faster performing than their predecessors.
The LG Ultra PC L3Z940 is a 13” notebook weighing 980 grams and measuring up to 13.6mm thick. It has a full keyboard and a 13.3” 1080p IPS display and 4.4mm bezels. The display has a reading mode that adjusts the screen to make reading easier on the eyes. Internal specifications include a Haswell Core i5 processor and a 128GB or 256GB SSD.
The new Tab-Book 2 convertible tablets are mobile devices with a slider-style hardware keyboard and laptop-class internals. The PCs have 11.6” 10-point multi-touch displays as well. The LG Tab-Book 2 11T740 is an 11.6” tablet measuring 16.7mm thick and weighing 1.05 kg. It is powered by an Intel Haswell Core i5 processor. It has a 400 nit screen. The Tab-Book 2 11T540 is the smaller brother to the 11T740 with slightly reduced hardware specifications. However, the tradeoff allows LG to offer a convertible tablet that is slightly thinner and lighter at 13.7mm and 930 grams.
LG has not yet released further details on its updated hardware, but expect at least some of those details to be released at CES next week. Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more CES 2014 goodness as it hits our (virtual) desks!
Follow all of our coverage of the show at http://pcper.com/ces!
Introduction and Design
With few exceptions, it’s generally been taken for granted that gaming notebooks are going to be hefty devices. Portability is rarely the focus, with weight and battery life alike usually sacrificed in the interest of sheer power. But the MSI GE40 2OC—the lightest 14-inch gaming notebook currently available—seeks to compromise while retaining the gaming prowess. Trending instead toward the form factor of a large Ultrabook, the GE40 is both stylish and manageable (and perhaps affordable at around $1,300)—but can its muscle withstand the reduction in casing real estate?
While it can’t hang with the best of the 15-inch and 17-inch crowd, in context with its 14-inch peers, the GE40’s spec sheet hardly reads like it’s been the subject of any sort of game-changing handicap:
One of the most popular CPUs for Haswell gaming notebooks has been the 2.4 GHz (3.4 GHz Turbo) i7-4700MQ. But the i7-4702MQ in the GE40-20C is nearly as powerful (managing 2.2 GHz and 3.2 GHz in those same areas respectively), and it features a TDP that’s 10 W lower at just 37 W. That’s ideal for notebooks such as the GE40, which seek to provide a thinner case in conjunction with uncompromising performance. Meanwhile, the NVIDIA GTX 760M is no slouch, even if it isn’t on the same level as the 770s and 780s that we’ve been seeing in some 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch gaming beasts.
Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with 8 GB of RAM and a 120 GB SSD rounding out the major bullet points. Nearly everything here is on par with the best of rival 14-inch gaming models with the exception of the 900p screen resolution (which is bested by some notebooks, such as Dell’s Alienware 14 and its 1080p panel).
Introduction and Design
As we’re swimming through the veritable flood of Haswell refresh notebooks, we’ve stumbled across the latest in a line of very popular gaming models: the ASUS G750JX-DB71. This notebook is the successor to the well-known G75 series, which topped out at an Intel Core i7-3630QM with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670MX dedicated graphics. Now, ASUS has jacked up the specs a little more, including the latest 4th-gen CPUs from Intel as well as 700-series NVIDIA GPUs.
Our ASUS G750JX-DB71 test unit features the following specs:
Of course, the closest comparison to this unit is already the most recently-reviewed MSI GT60-2OD-026US, which featured nearly identical specifications, apart from a 15.6” screen, a better GPU (a GTX 780M with 4 GB GDDR5), and a slightly different CPU (the Intel Core i7-4700MQ). In case you’re wondering what the difference is between the ASUS G750JX’s Core i7-4700MQ and the GT60’s i7-4700HQ, it’s very minor: the HQ features a slightly faster integrated graphics Turbo frequency (1.2 GHz vs. 1.15 GHz) and supports Intel Virtualization Technology for Directed I/O (VT-d). Since the G750JX doesn’t support Optimus, we won’t ever be using the integrated graphics, and unless you’re doing a lot with virtual machines, VT-d isn’t likely to offer any benefits, either. So for all intents and purposes, the CPUs are equivalent—meaning the biggest overall performance difference (on the spec sheet, anyway) lies with the GPU and the storage devices (where the G750JX offers more solid-state storage than the GT60). It’s no secret that the MSI GT60 burned up our benchmarks—so the real question is, how close is the ASUS G750JX to its pedestal, and if the differences are considerable, are they justified?
At an MSRP of around $2,000 (though it can be found for around $100 less), the ASUS G750JX-DB71 competes directly with the likes of the MSI GT60, too (which is priced equivalently). The question, of course, is whether it truly competes. Let’s find out!