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Manufacturer: Apple
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One Small Step

While most articles surrounding the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus this far have focused around user experience and larger screen sizes, performance, and in particular the effect of Apple's transition to the 20nm process node for the A8 SoC have been our main questions regarding these new phones. Naturally, I decided to put my personal iPhone 6 though our usual round of benchmarks.

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First, let's start with 3DMark.

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Comparing the 3DMark scores of the new Apple A8 to even the last generation A7 provides a smaller improvement than we are used to seeing generation-to-generation with Apple's custom ARM implementations. When you compare the A8 to something like the NVIDIA Tegra K1, which utilizes desktop-class GPU cores, the overall score blows Apple out of the water. Even taking a look at the CPU-bound physics score, the K1 is still a winner.

A 78% performance advantage in overall score when compared the A8 shows just how much of a powerhouse NVIDIA has with the K1. (Though clearly power envelopes are another matter entirely.)

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If we look at more CPU benchmarks, like the browser-based Google Octane and SunSpider tests, the A8 starts to shine more.

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While the A8 edges out the A7 to be the best performing device and 54% faster than the K1 in SunSpider, the A8 and K1 are neck and neck in the Google Octane benchmark.

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Moving back to a graphics heavy benchmark, GFXBench's Manhattan test, the Tegra K1 has a 75% percent performance advantage over the A8 though it is 36% faster than the previous A7 silicon.

These early results are certainly a disappointment compared to the usual generation-to-generation performance increase we see with Apple SoCs.

However, the other aspect to look at is power efficiency. With normal use I have noticed a substantial increase in battery life of my iPhone 6 over the last generation iPhone 5S. While this may be due to a small (about 1 wH) increase in battery capacity, I think more can be credited to this being an overall more efficient device. Certain choices like sticking to a highly optimized Dual Core CPU design and Quad Core GPU, as well as a reduction in process node to 20nm all contribute to increased battery life, while surpassing the performance of the last generation Apple A7.

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In that way, the A8 moves the bar forward for Apple and is a solid first attempt at using the 20nm silicon technology at TSMC. There is a strong potential that further refined parts (like the expected A8x for the iPad revisions) Apple will be able to further surpass 28nm silicon in performance and efficiency.

Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Coming Soon

September 17, 2014 - 06:57 PM |
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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.

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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

Apple Announces New iPhone 6 and Larger iPhone 6 Plus

Subject: Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged:

Today Apple finally catches up with the current smartphone industry as they announce not just a new iPhone, but two new phones - both with much larger screens.

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Image credit: Apple, Inc.

In 2007 Steve Jobs proclaimed that the just-announced iPhone was five years ahead of the competition. In many ways, he was correct - though by 2012 the market had more than caught up. In fact, Apple was behind when they announced the 4-inch iPhone 5, which managed to tick the larger-screen checkbox by simply increasing the vertical resolution by 100 pixels or so. In the area of the "phablet" the iterative refresh that followed in 2013 was hardly news, and Samsung, LG, and HTC busied themselves with larger, higher-resolution offerings that made the iPhone look tiny in comparison.

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Image credit: The Verge

The new iPhone 6 features a smooth (and widely leaked) design with a thin profile and rounded corners, and the expected 4.7-inch screen. However this screen is a disappointing (and very odd) 1334x750 resolution. Contrast the Nexus 5’s 4.95-inch 1080p screen, which represents what has simply become an industry standard for smartphones in the 5-inch range.

But the bigger news here (literally) is the announcement of the iPhone 6 Plus. This 5.5-inch phone has a full 1920x1080 resolution, and there are UI tweaks to iOS 8 that are only enabled on this larger version, such as an expanded landscape keyboard and horizontal home screen. The Plus also features a better camera than its 4.7-inch sibling, with optical image stabilization (OIS) implemented along with the same new image sensor.

Speaking of the image sensor, which is “all-new” according to Apple, the next-gen 8 MP iSight camera has same 1.5(micron) pixel size as before, f/2.2 aperture. True Tone flash returns, and the new camera also boasts faster “phase detection” autofocus. The image signal processor in the A8 chip is also custom designed by Apple. Another change is video slo-mo support, with up to 240fps capture.

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Image credit: The Verge

The A8 itself is a second generation 64-bit chip, with 2 billion transistors on a 20nm process. This is 13% smaller than the A7, and Apple claims a 20% faster CPU, 50% faster graphics than its predecessor. Apple is also placing emphasis on sustained performance with this new chip, showcasing graphs with maintained speed within their thermal envelope during extended use. This is accompanied by the new M8 motion coprocessor, which adds new functionality for motion applications (just in time for iOS 8).

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Image credit: The Verge

The screen is ion-strengthened glass (no sapphire here) with an “improved polarizer", and photo-aligned IPS LCD technology. Whatever that is. If you're interested, Sharp previously published a paper with technical details on this technology here (PDF). 

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Image credit: Apple, Inc.

The phones are thin, too. The iPhone 6 is 6.9mm thick, and the 6 Plus is only slightly thicker at 7.1mm.

As far as wireless communication goes, these new iPhones feature 20 bands of LTE as well as VoLTE support, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. And Apple users can get ready to start waving their phone wildly at checkout as NFC payments come to the iPhone via “Apple Pay”. Some 22,000 retailers will work with it (it seems to be using conventional wireless credit card infrastructure).

The battery life should be improved with both phones compared to the current iPhone 5S, and particularly so with the larger iPhone 6 Plus. Apple is claiming up to 24 hours of 3G talk time and 12 hours of LTE browsing on the 5.5-inch phone, along with a 16 day standby.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available September 19, with the 16GB versions starting at $199 and $299 respectively with a 2-year contract. Of note, while the entry-level capacity remains at just 16GB, the next model for both phones jumps to 64GB for an additional $100 each.

Source: The Verge
Subject:
Manufacturer: Lenovo
Tagged:

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

July 23, 2014 - 01:40 PM |
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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.

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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 |
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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

May 28, 2014 - 05:09 PM |
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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:
Subject:
Manufacturer: Anker
Tagged:

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 |
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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
Tagged:

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!