Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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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:

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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?

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11 Tegra 3 notebook!!

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Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: AMD

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.

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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. 

Continue reading our performance preview of the new AMD Kabini A4-5000 mainstream mobility APU!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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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:

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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.

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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).

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Continue Reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Y500!

Welcome Richland, another refined die from AMD

Subject: Processors | March 12, 2013 - 02:52 PM |
Tagged: VLIW4, trinity, Richland, piledriver, notebook, mobile, hd 8000, APU, amd, A10-5750

The differences between Richland and Trinity are not earth shattering but there are certainly some refinements implemented by AMD in the A10-5750.  One very noticeable one is support for DDR3-1866 as well as better power management for both the CPU and GPU; with new temperature balancing algorithms and measurement the ability to balance the load properly has increased from Trinity.  Many AMD users will be more interested in the GPU portion of the die than the CPU, as that is where AMD actually has as lead on Intel and this particular chip contains the HD8650G, with clocks of 720MHz boost and 533MHz base and increase from the previous generation of 35 and 37MHz respectively.  You can read more about the other three models that will be released over at The Tech Report.

Don't forget Josh either!

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"AMD has formally introduced the first members of its Richland APU family. We have the goods on the chips and Richland's new power management tech, which combines temperature-based inputs with bottleneck-aware clock boosting."

Here are some more Processor articles from around the web:

Processors

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Subject: Processors
Manufacturer: AMD

AMD Exposes Richland

When we first heard about “Richland” last year, there was a little bit of excitement from people.  Not many were sure what to expect other than a faster “Trinity” based CPU with a couple extra goodies.  Today we finally get to see what Richland is.  While interesting, it is not necessarily exciting.  While an improvement, it will not take AMD over the top in the mobile market.  What it actually brings to the table is better competition and a software suite that could help to convince buyers to choose AMD instead of a competing Intel part.

From a design standpoint, it is nearly identical to the previous Trinity.  That being said, a modern processor is not exactly simple.  A lot of software optimizations can be applied to these products to increase performance and efficiency.  It seems that AMD has done exactly that.  We had heard rumors that the graphics portion was in fact changed, but it looks like it has stayed the same.  Process improvements have been made, but that is about the extent of actual hardware changes to the design.

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The new Richland APUs are branded the A-5000 series of products.  The top end is the A10-5750M with HD-8650 integrated graphics.  This is still the VLIW-4 based graphics unit seen in the previous Trinity products, but enough changes have been made with software that I can enable Dual Graphics with the new Solar System based GPUs (GCN).  The speeds of these products have received a nice boost.  As compared to the previous top end A10-4600, the 5750 takes the base speed from 2.3 GHz to 2.5 GHz.  Boost goes from 3.2 GHz up to 3.5 GHz.  The graphics portion takes the base clock from 496 MHz up to 533 MHz, while turbo mode improves over the 4600 from 685 MHz to 720 MHz.  These are not staggering figures, but it all still fits within the 35 watt TDP of the previous product.

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One other important improvement is the ability to utilize DDR-3 1866 memory.  Throughout the past year we have seen memory densities increase fairly dramatically without impacting power consumption.  This goes for speed as well.  While we would expect to see lower power DIMMs be used in the thin and light categories, expect to see faster DDR-3 1866 in the larger notebooks that will soon be heading our way.

Click here to read more about AMD's Richland APUs!

Tablets won't kill the desktop, but what about notebooks?

Subject: General Tech | January 18, 2013 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: tablets, notebook, shiny

The plural of anecdote is not data but The Tech Report does make some good points about how the tablet may push the notebook out of the market, or at least reduce its market share significantly.  Unless you are buying a gaming laptop, in its self a niche market, there are many qualities about tablets that make them an attractive alternative, ranging from the lack of crumbs accumulating in the keyboard to all day battery life.  If you do not game or have programs you use which actually need the processing power of a full x86 processor then you will never even notice the reduction in processing power that comes from moving to an ARM or other low powered processor.  There is still no way that it is going to replace desktops whose users actually need real processing power ... or triple monitors.

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"Earlier this week, Gartner reported that PC shipments shrank by almost 5% last quarter. The firm pinned the blame on users relinquishing their PCs for daily use. As enthusiasts, we may find it hard to imagine folks ditching their computers for comparatively limited tablets. However, I have some pretty convincing anecdotal evidence that lends weight to Gartner's thesis."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Lenovo Launches Yoga 11 Windows RT Tablet

Subject: Mobile | October 10, 2012 - 10:26 PM |
Tagged: yoga 11, windows rt, tegra 3, tablet, nvidia, notebook, microsoft, Lenovo

At an event in New York earlier this week Lenovo announced a new Windows RT tablet called the Yoga 11. It will be joining the company’s lineup alongside the larger x86-powered Yoga 13.

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The Lenovo Yoga 11 follows in the footsteps of the Yoga 13 but steps down the hardware specifications. The 11.6” tablet is 15.6mm thick and 2.8 pounds. On a simple level, the Yoga 11 is a notebook that doubles as a tablet thanks to the five point multitouch screen that can swivel 360 degrees to lay flat like a tablet.

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The notebook will come pre-loaded with Microsoft’s upcoming Windows RT operating system as well as Office 2013 RT. It is powered by a NVIDIA Tegra 3 ARM System on a Chip (SoC) and 64GB of internal storage. What we don’t know yet is the amount of RAM, radio support (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE, et al) if any, and the specific display resolution and panel type. Lenovo has announced that the Yoga 11 will be able to get up to 13 hours of usage on a single charge.

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The Yoga 11 is a traditional notebook at first glance, and it even includes a full Qwerty keyboard and trackpad. Where the Yoga differentiates itself is in the screen hinge. The hinge allows you to swing the display all the way around to lie flat against the bottom of the computer, which amounts to tablet mode, and every position in between. One use for this feature would be to show off presentation to a small group or prop it up on an airplane to watch a movie. It is essentially a convertible tablet without the center-mounted swivel hinge.

It certainly looks like an interesting device, and the Tegra 3 should provide enough GPU horsepower to allow you to watch HD videos with ease. Unfortunately, pricing and availability are still unknown, which makes this a hard product to place or predict the success of.

Read more about Windows RT tablets at PC Perspective.

Source: NVIDIA
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction, Design

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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.

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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.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad U410!!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lucid

Introduction, Virtual V-Sync Testing

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In my recent review of the Origin EON11-S portable gaming laptop I noted that the performance of the laptop was far behind that of a larger 15.6” or 17.3” model. The laptop won a gold award despite this, as all laptops of this size are bound to physics, but it was an issue worth nothing.

Origin surprised me by responding that they had something in the works that might buff up performance. This confused me. Were they going to cast a spell on it? Would they beam in a beefier GPU? What could they possibly do that would increase performance without changing the hardware?

Now I have the answer. It’s called Lucid VirtuMVP and it uses your existing integrated GPU to improve performance. As with Lucid’s other products, VirtuMVP makes it possible for two different GPUs – in this case, your integrated GPU and your discrete GPU – to work together. It’s not magic – just ingenuity.  Let’s take a closer look.

Click here to read the entire article.

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction, Design

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I often think of ASUS as the PC’s answer to Apple. Their products are not up to Apple’s rigorous engineering, nor is the customer service as accessible, but ASUS does offer a number of products that were obviously designed to meet a set of high standards. I’ve always enjoyed the company’s G-Series gaming laptops, ultraportables like the U33 Bamboo and high-end multimedia laptops like the N53 and N56.

The original Zenbook didn’t impress me, however. PC Perspective never reviewed it, but I did have some hands-on time with one courtesy of Intel’s CES 2012 ultrabook giveaway. The build quality wasn’t great, the touchpad was quite poor and the overall look and feel proved a bit tacky (the cursive lettering below the display panel being the most obvious example).

ASUS has now followed up the original Zenbook with the new Zenbook Prime. There are a couple of different variants. We received the 13-inch UX31A which come equipped with the 1080p IPS display panel. As for the rest? Well, see below.

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This is one well equipped ultrabook, which explains why it comes with a nearly $1500 price tag. You don’t have to spend that much, however. The basic Zenbook Prime, which still has the IPS display but downgrades to a Core i5, is $999 on Amazon.

Does the flagship of ASUS design deliver the goods? Let’s find out.

Continue reading our review of the new ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A Ultrabook!!