Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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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.

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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:

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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.

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Continue reading our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga!!!

Xiaomi Launches Mi4 Smartphone In China

Subject: General Tech | July 23, 2014 - 01:40 PM |
Tagged: xiaomi, snapdragon 801, smartphone, mobile, LTE, Android 4.4.2

Yesterday, Xiaomi revealed a powerful smartphone called the Mi4 that looks to give the unlocked OnePlus One a run for its money. The new smartphone is launching first in China with an international version coming in the future. 

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The Xiaomi Mi4 features a 5" 1080p IPS LCD display, 13MP rear camera, and 8MP webcam. A metal band surrounds the outside edges of the phone while a stainless steel frame adds rigidity and protection for the internal hardware. The other bits of the case are plastic, however likely due to weight and signal reception concerns. There is a removable back cover that is available in several different designs and colors. The Mi4 is slightly bulkier than its predecessor at 0.35-inches thick and 149 grams.

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Internally, the Mi4 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC with four Krait 400 CPU cores clocked at 2.5GHz and an Adreno 330 GPU. Further, the smartphone features 3GB of RAM and either 16GB or 64GB of internal storage. It is powered by a 3,080 mAh battery which should provide ample battery life. Wireless connectivity includes dual band 802.11b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, 3G, and LTE. The WCDMA version of the smartphone will be available first with a CDMA version coming next month, and a 4G LTE capable device coming in September.

The smartphone runs Android 4.4.2 with a highly customized MIUI5 user interface. An updated version of the UI, called MIUI6 is reportedly coming in August, but it is unclear how soon Mi4 users can expect an upgrade.

Xiaomi Mi4 Smartphone.jpg

The Xiaomi Mi4 will be available on July 29 for 1,999 Yuan ($322 USD) for the 16GB version and 2,499 Yuan ($403) for the 64GB version. Initially, it will be 3G only, but a 4G LTE capable version of the smartphone is coming in September (presumably for the same price). Even further out, an unlocked international version is said to be available for purchase in the future.

In all, the Mi4 looks to be a decent phone with enough design tweaks and hardware oomph to give existing high end smartphones a run for their money. You do sacrifice micro SD card support and stock Android, but if you can live with that and are in the target market (or can wait for an international version) it is worth keeping an eye on!

Also read: Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 Android Tablet Review - Utilizing NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC

Source: Xiaomi

E3 2014: SteamBoy Project Is Not a Valve Product

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | June 15, 2014 - 01:51 AM |
Tagged: x86, SteamOS, Steam Machine, Steam Controller, steam, mobile, handheld, E3 14, E3

To be doubly clear, if the title was not explicit enough, this announcement is not made by Valve. This company is called, "SteamBoy Machine team". If not a hoax, this is one of the many Steam Machines which are expected to come out of the SteamOS initiative. Rather than taking the platform to a desktop or home theater PC (HTPC) form-factor, this company wants to target the handheld PC gaming market.

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Image Credit: SteamBoy Machine team via The Escapist

If it comes out, that is a clever use of SteamOS. I can see Big Picture Mode being just as useful on a small screen as it is on a TV, especially with its large font and controller navigation. The teasers suggest that it will use the haptic feedback-based touchpads which Valve are expected to base the Steam Controller on. It will also include a 5-inch touchscreen.

The Escapist got into contact with the team and received a few more specs:

  • Quad-Core CPU (x86)
  • 4GB RAM
  • 32GB built-in storage

Even if this company does not make good on their expectations, companies will now be considering portable SteamOS devices. This is the sort of outside-the-box thinking that Valve was pushing for when they wanted to create an open platform. Each party will struggle to win in their personal goals, yet they can also rely on the crowd (other companies or individuals) to keep up in areas where they do not want an edge.

Philosophy aside, the company is targeting 2015 with a "Standard Edition" supporting WiFi and 3G. It would make sense to have a WiFi-only model, but who knows.

Source: Escapist

Intel Announces Partnership with Rockchip to Produce Low-Cost x86 Atom SoC

Subject: Processors | May 28, 2014 - 05:09 PM |
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.

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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...

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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?).

Source: Intel
Author:
Manufacturer: Anker

Upgrades from Anker

Last year we started to have a large amount of mobile devices around the office including smartphones, tablets and even convertibles like the ASUS T100, all of which were charged with USB connections. While not a hassle when you are charging one or two units at time, having 6+ on our desks on any day started to become a problem for our less numerous wall outlets. Our solution last year was Anker's E150 25 watt wall charger that we did a short video overview on.

It was great but had limitations including different charging rates depending on the port you connected it to, limited output of 5 Amps total for all five ports and fixed outputs per port. Today we are taking a look at a pair of new Anker devices that implement smart ports called PowerIQ that enable the battery and wall charger to send as much power to the charging device as it requests, regardless of what physical port it is attached to.

We'll start with the updated Anker 40 watt 5-port wall charger and then move on to discuss the 3-port mobile battery charger, both of which share the PowerIQ feature.

Anker 40 watt 5-Port Wall Charger

The new Anker 5-port wall charger is actually smaller than the previous generation but offers superior specifications at all feature points. This unit can push out more than 40 watts total combined through all five USB ports, 5 volts at as much as 8 amps. All 8 amps can in fact go through a single USB charging port we are told if there was a device that would request that much - we don't have anything going above 2.3A it seems in our offices.

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Any USB port can be used for any device on this new model, it doesn't matter where it plugs in. This great simplifies things from a user experience point of view as you don't have to hold the unit up to your face to read the tiny text that existed on the E150. With 8 amps spread across all five ports you should have more than enough power to charge all your devices at full speed. If you happen to have five iPads charging at the same time, that would exceed 8A and all the devices charge rates would be a bit lower.

Continue reading our review of the Anker 40 watt 5-port Wall Charger and 2nd Gen Astro3 12000 mAh Battery!!

Beema Mullins down for your next mobile system

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2014 - 04:14 PM |
Tagged: TrustZone, security, Puma+, Mullins, mobile, Kabini, Jaguar, boost, beema, amd, AM1

Beema and Mullins have arrived and by now you must have read Josh's coverage but you might be aching for more.  The Tech Report were present at the unveiling and came prepared, with a USB 3.0 solid-state drive containing their own preferred testing applications and games.  Not only do you get a look at how the Mullins tablet handled the testing you can see how it compares to Kabini and Bay Trail.  Check out the performance results as well as their take on the power consumption and new security features on the new pair of chips from AMD which come bearing more gifts than we had thought they would.

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"A couple weeks ago, AMD flew us down to its Austin, Texas campus for a first look at Mullins and Beema, two low-power APUs aimed at the next wave of Windows tablets and low-cost laptops. Today, we're able to share what we learned from that expedition—as well as benchmarks from the first Mullins tablet."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Author:
Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD Makes some Lemonade...

I guess we could say that AMD has been rather busy lately.  It seems that a significant amount of the content on PC Perspective this month revolved around the AMD AM1 platform.  Before that we had the Kaveri products and the R7 265.  AMD also reported some fairly solid growth over the past year with their graphics and APU lines.  Things are not as grim and dire as they once were for the company.  This is good news for consumers as they will continue to be offered competing solutions that will vie for that hard earned dollar.

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AMD is continuing their releases for 2014 with the announcement of their latest low-power and mainstream mobile APUs.  These are codenamed “Beema” and “Mullins”, but they are based on the year old Kabini chip.  This may cause a few people to roll their eyes as AMD has had some fairly unimpressive refreshes in the past.  We saw the rather meager increases in clockspeed and power consumption with Brazos 2.0 a couple of years back, and it looked like this would be the case again for Beema and Mullins.

It isn’t.

I was again expecting said meager improvements in power consumption and clockspeeds that we had received all those years ago with Brazos 2.0.  Turns out I was wrong.  This is a fairly major refresh which does a few things that I did not think were entirely possible, and I’m a rather optimistic person.   So why is this release surprising?  Let us take a good look under the hood.

Click here to read the entire Beema/Mullins introduction!

Author:
Manufacturer: NVIDIA

Maxwell and Kepler and...Fermi?

Covering the landscape of mobile GPUs can be a harrowing experience.  Brands, specifications, performance, features and architectures can all vary from product to product, even inside the same family.  Rebranding is rampant from both AMD and NVIDIA and, in general, we are met with one of the most confusing segments of the PC hardware market.  

Today, with the release of the GeForce GTX 800M series from NVIDIA, we are getting all of the above in one form or another. We will also see performance improvements and the introduction of the new Maxwell architecture (in a few parts at least).  Along with the GeForce GTX 800M parts, you will also find the GeForce 840M, 830M and 820M offerings at lower performance, wattage and price levels.

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With some new hardware comes a collection of new software for mobile users, including the innovative Battery Boost that can increase unplugged gaming time by using frame rate limiting and other "magic" bits that NVIDIA isn't talking about yet.  ShadowPlay and GameStream also find their way to mobile GeForce users as well.

Let's take a quick look at the new hardware specifications.

  GTX 880M GTX 780M GTX 870M GTX 770M
GPU Code name Kepler Kepler Kepler Kepler
GPU Cores 1536 1536 1344 960
Rated Clock 954 MHz 823 MHz 941 MHz 811 MHz
Memory Up to 4GB Up to 4GB Up to 3GB Up to 3GB
Memory Clock 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 5000 MHz 4000 MHz
Memory Interface 256-bit 256-bit 192-bit 192-bit
Features Battery Boost
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
Battery Boost
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE
GameStream
ShadowPlay
GFE

Both the GTX 880M and the GTX 870M are based on Kepler, keeping the same basic feature set and hardware specifications of their brethren in the GTX 700M line.  However, while the GTX 880M has the same CUDA core count as the 780M, the same cannot be said of the GTX 870M.  Moving from the GTX 770M to the 870M sees a significant 40% increase in core count as well as a jump in clock speed from 811 MHz (plus Boost) to 941 MHz.  

Continue reading about the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 800M Launch and Battery Boost!!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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Contortionist PCs are a big deal these days as convertible models take the stage to help bridge the gap between notebook and tablet. But not everyone wants to drop a grand on a convertible, and not everyone wants a 12-inch notebook, either. Meanwhile, these same people may not wish to blow their cash on an underpowered (and far less capable) Chromebook or tablet. It’s for these folks that Lenovo has introduced the IdeaPad Flex 14 Ultrabook, which occupies a valuable middle ground between the extremes.

The Flex 14 looks an awful lot like a Yoga at first glance, with the same sort of acrobatic design and a thoroughly IdeaPad styling (Lenovo calls it a “dual-mode notebook”). The specs are also similar to that of the x86 Yoga, though with the larger size (and later launch), the Flex also manages to assemble a slightly more powerful configuration:

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The biggest internal differences here are the i5-4200U CPU, which is a 1.6 GHz Haswell model with a TDP of 15 W and the ability to Turbo Boost (versus the Yoga 11S’ i5-3339Y, which is Ivy Bridge with a marginally lower TDP of 13 W and no Turbo Boost), the integrated graphics improvements that follow with the newer CPU, and a few more ports made possible by the larger chassis. Well, and the regression to a TN panel from the Yoga 11S’ much-appreciated IPS display, which is a bummer. Externally, your wallet will also appreciate a $250 drop in price: our model, as configured here, retails for just $749 (versus the $999 Yoga 11S we reviewed a few months back).

You can actually score a Flex 14 for as low as $429 (as of this writing), by the way, but if you’re after any sort of respectable configuration, that price quickly climbs above the $500 mark. Ours is the least expensive option currently available with both a solid-state drive and an i5 CPU.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Flex 14!!!

AMD Releases 2014 Mobile APU Details: Beema and Mullins Cut TDPs

Subject: Processors | November 13, 2013 - 05:35 PM |
Tagged: Puma, Mullins, mobile, Jaguar, GCN, beema, apu13, APU, amd, 2014

AMD’s APU13 is all about APUs and their programming, but the hardware we have seen so far has been dominated by the upcoming Kaveri products for FM2+.  It seems that AMD has more up their sleeves for release this next year, and it has somewhat caught me off guard.  The Beema and Mullins based products are being announced today, but we do not have exact details on these products.  The codenames have been around for some time now, but interest has been minimal since they are evolutionary products based on Kabini and Temash APUs that have been available this year.  Little did I know that things would be far more interesting than that.

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The basis for Beema and Mullins is the Puma core.  This is a highly optimized revision of Jaguar, and in some ways can be considered a new design.  All of the basics in terms of execution units, caches, and memory controllers are the same.  What AMD has done is go through the design with a fine toothed comb and make it far more efficient per clock than what we have seen previously.  This is still a 28 nm part, but the extra attention and love lavished upon it by AMD has resulted in a much more efficient system architecture for the CPU and GPU portions.

The parts will be offered in two and four core configurations.  Beema will span from 10W to 25W configurations.  Mullins will go all the way down to “2W SDP”.  SDP essentially means that while the chip can be theoretically rated higher, it will rarely go above that 2W envelope in the vast majority of situations.  These chips are expected to be around 2X more efficient per clock than the previous Jaguar based products.  This means that at similar clock speeds, Beema and Mullins will pull far less power than that previous gen.  It should also allow some higher clockspeeds at the top end 25W area.

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These will be some of the first fanless quad cores that AMD will introduce for the tablet market.  Previously we have seen tablets utilize the cut down versions of Temash to hit power targets, but with this redesign it is entirely possible to utilize the fully enabled quad core Mullins.  AMD has not given us specific speeds for these products, but we can guess that they will be around what we see currently, but the chip will just have a lower TDP rating.

AMD is introducing their new security platform based on the ARM Trustzone.  Essentially a small ARM Cortex A5 is integrated in the design and handles the security aspects of this feature.  We were not briefed on how this achieves security, but the slide below gives some of the bullet points of the technology.

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Since the pure-play foundries will not have a workable 20 nm process for AMD to jump to in a timely manner, AMD had no other choice but to really optimize the Jaguar core to make it more competitive with products from Intel and the ARM partners.  At 28 nm the ARM ecosystem has a power advantage over AMD, while at 22 nm Intel offers similar performance to AMD but with greater power efficiency.

This is a necessary update for AMD as the competition has certainly not slowed down.  AMD is more constrained obviously by the lack of a next-generation process node available for 1H 2014, so a redesign of this magnitude was needed.  The performance per watt metric is very important here, as it promises longer battery life without giving up the performance people received from the previous Kabini/Temash family of APUs.  This design work could be carried over to the next generation of APUs using 20 nm and below, which hopefully will keep AMD competitive with the rest of the market.  Beema and Mullins are interesting looking products that will be shown off at CES 2014.

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Source: AMD