Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Design

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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:

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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!

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Continue reading our review of the ASUS G750JX-DB71 Gaming Notebook!!!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer:

Introduction and Design

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It seems like only yesterday (okay, last month) that we were testing the IdeaPad Yoga 11, which was certainly an interesting device. That’s primarily because of what it represents: namely, the slow merging of the tablet and notebook markets. You’ve probably heard people proclaiming the death of the PC as we know it. Not so fast—while it’s true that tablets have eaten into the sales of what were previously low-powered notebooks and now-extinct netbooks, there is still no way to replace the utility of a physical keyboard and the sensibility of a mouse cursor. Touch-centric devices are hard to beat when entertainment and education are the focus of a purchase, but as long as productivity matters, we aren’t likely to see traditional means of input and a range of connectivity options disappear anytime soon.

The IdeaPad Yoga 11 leaned so heavily in the direction of tablet design that it arguably was more tablet than notebook. That is, it featured a tablet-grade SOC (the nVidia Tegra 3) as opposed to a standard Intel or AMD CPU, an 11” display, and a phenomenal battery life that can only be compared to the likes of other ARM-based tablets. But, of course, with those allegiances come necessary concessions, not least of which is the inability to run x86 applications and the consequential half-baked experiment that is Windows RT.

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Fortunately, there’s always room for compromise, and for those of us searching for something closer to a notebook than the original Yoga 11, we’re now afforded the option of the 11S. Apart from being nearly identical in terms of form factor, the $999 (as configured) Yoga 11S adopts a standard x86 chipset with Intel ULV CPUs, which allows it to run full-blown Windows 8. That positions it squarely in-between the larger x86 Yoga 13 and the ARM-based Yoga 11, which makes it an ideal candidate for someone hoping for the best of both worlds. But can it survive the transition, or do its compromises outstrip its gains?

Our Yoga 11S came equipped with a fairly standard configuration:

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Unless you’re comparing to the Yoga 11’s specs, not much about this stands out. The Core i5-3339Y is the first thing that jumps out at you; in exchange for the nVidia Tegra 3 ARM-based SOC of the original Yoga 11, it’s a much more powerful chip with a 13W TDP and (thanks to its x86 architecture) the ability to run Windows 8 and standard Windows applications. Next on the list is the included 8 GB of DDR3 RAM—versus just 2 GB on the Yoga 11. Finally, there’s USB 3.0 and a much larger SSD (256 GB vs. 64 GB)—all valuable additions. One thing that hasn’t changed, meanwhile, is the battery size. Surely you’re wondering how this will affect the longevity of the notebook under typical usage. Patience; we’ll get to that in a bit! First, let’s talk about the general design of the notebook.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S Convertible Notebook!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Design

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With the release of Haswell upon us, we’re being treated to an impacting refresh of some already-impressive notebooks. Chief among the benefits is the much-championed battery life improvements—and while better power efficiency is obviously valuable where portability is a primary focus, beefier models can also benefit by way of increased versatility. Sure, gaming notebooks are normally tethered to an AC adapter, but when it’s time to unplug for some more menial tasks, it’s good to know that you won’t be out of juice in a couple of hours.

Of course, an abundance of gaming muscle never hurts, either. As the test platform for one of our recent mobile GPU analyses, MSI’s 15.6” GT60 gaming notebook is, for lack of a better description, one hell of a beast. Following up on Ryan’s extensive GPU testing, we’ll now take a more balanced and comprehensive look at the GT60 itself. Is it worth the daunting $1,999 MSRP? Does the jump to Haswell provide ample and economical benefits? And really, how much of a difference does it make in terms of battery life?

Our GT60 test machine featured the following configuration:

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In case it wasn’t already apparent, this device makes no compromises. Sporting a desktop-grade GPU and a quad-core Haswell CPU, it looks poised to be the most powerful notebook we’ve tested to date. Other configurations exist as well, spanning various CPU, GPU, and storage options. However, all available GT60 configurations feature a 1080p anti-glare screen, discrete graphics (starting at the GTX 670M and up), Killer Gigabit LAN, and a case built from metal and heavy-duty plastic. They also come preconfigured with Windows 8, so the only way to get Windows 7 with your GT60 is to purchase it through a reseller that performs customizations.

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Continue reading our review of the MSI GT60 Gaming Notebook!!

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!!

Author:
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

Author:
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