A Tablet and Controller Worth Using
An interesting thing happened a couple of weeks back, while I was standing on stage at our annual PC Perspective Hardware Workshop during Quakecon in Dallas, TX. When NVIDIA offered up a SHIELD (now called the SHIELD Portable) for raffle, the audience cheered. And not just a little bit, but more than they did for nearly any other hardware offered up during the show. That included motherboards, graphics card, monitors, even complete systems. It kind of took me aback - NVIDIA SHIELD was a popular brand, a name that was recognized, and apparently, a product that people wanted to own. You might not have guessed that based on the sales numbers that SHIELD has put forward though. Even though it appeared to have a significant mind share, market share was something that was lacking.
Today though, NVIDIA prepares the second product in the SHIELD lineup, the SHIELD Tablet, a device the company hopes improves on the idea of SHIELD to encourage other users to sign on. It's a tablet (not a tablet with a controller attached), it has a more powerful SoC that can utilize different APIs for unique games, it can be more easily used in a 10-ft console mode and the SHIELD specific features like Game Stream are included and enhanced.
The question of course though is easy to put forward: should you buy one? Let's explore.
The NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet
At first glance, the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet looks like a tablet. That actually isn't a negative selling point though, as the SHIELD Tablet can and does act like a high end tablet in nearly every way: performance, function, looks. We originally went over the entirety of the tablet's specifications in our first preview last week but much of it bears repeating for this review.
The SHIELD Tablet is built around the NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, the first mobile silicon to implement the Kepler graphics architecture. That feature alone makes this tablet impressive because it offers graphics performance not seen in a form factor like this before. CPU performance is also improved over the Tegra 4 processor, but the graphics portion of the die sees the largest performance jump easily.
A 1920x1200 resolution 7.9-in IPS screen faces the user and brings the option of full 1080p content lacking with the first SHIELD portable. The screen is bright and crisp, easily viewable in bring lighting for gaming or use in lots of environments. Though the Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9 had a 2048x1536 resolution screen, the form factor of the SHIELD Tablet is much more in line with what NVIDIA built with the Tegra Note 7.
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 - 05:57 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
In many ways, the Google Nexus 7 has long been the standard of near perfection for an Android tablet. With a modest 7-inch screen, solid performance and low cost, the ASUS-built hardware has stood through one major revision as our top selection. Today though, a new contender in the field makes its way to the front of the pack in the form of the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C). At $150, this new 7-inch tablet has almost all the hallmarks to really make an impact in the Android ecosystem. Finally.
The MeMO Pad 7 is not a new product family, though. It has existed with Mediatek processors for quite some time with essentially the same form factor. This new ME176C model makes some decisions that help it break into a new level of performance while maintaining the budget pricing required to really take on the likes of Google. By coupling the MeMO Pad brand with the Intel Bay Trail Atom processor, the two companies firmly believe they have a winner; but do they?
I have to admit that my time with the ASUS MeMO Pad 7 (ME176C) has been short; shorter than I would have liked to offer a truly definitive take on this mobile platform. I prefer to take the time to work the tablet into my daily work and home routines. Reading, browsing, email, etc. This allows me to filter though any software intricacies that might make or break a purchasing decision. Still, I think the ASUS design is going to live up to my expectations and is worth every penny of the $150 price tag.
The ASUS MeMO Pad 7 has a 1280x800 resolution IPS screen. This 7-inch device is powered by the new Intel Atom Z3745 quad-core SoC with 1GB of memory and 16GB of on-board storage. The front facing camera is of the 2MP variety while the rear facing camera is 5MP - but you will likely be as disappointed in the image quality of the photos as I was. Connectivity options include the microUSB port for charging and data transfer along with 802.11b/g/n 2.4 GHz WiFi (sorry, no 5.0 GHz option here). Bluetooth 4.0 allows for low power data sync with other devices you might have and our model shipped with Android 4.4.2 already pre-installed.
The rear of the ASUS MeMO Pad is a pseudo rubber/plastic type material that is easy to grip while not leaving fingerprints behind - a solid combination. The center mounted camera lens takes decent pictures - but I can't put any more praise on it than that. It was easy to find image quality issues with photos even in full daylight. It's hard to know how disappointed to be considering the price, but the Nexus 7 has better optical hardware.
Subject: Processors | May 28, 2014 - 09:09 PM | Sebastian Peak
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.
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...
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?).
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 27, 2014 - 09:22 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tablet, HP 7 Plus, hp, cheap tablet, cheap computer
Years ago, HP purchased Palm with the intention of producing tablets based on WebOS. After a very short time on the market, the company pulled the plug and liquidated their stock for $99. These tablets, of course, sold instantly. Now, HP has developed an Android tablet which actually intends to be sold at that $99 price point.
Called the HP 7 Plus, this tablet has a quad-core SoC from Allwinner Technology, based on the low-power ARM Cortex A7 architecture. This is the architecture that you often see paired with Cortex A15 cores in their "big.LITTLE" arrangement. Complementing this processor is 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage, a microSD slot, 640x480 front-facing and 2MP rear-facing cameras, and about five (5) hours of battery life. It is capable of Miracast over WiFi, which is an impressive feature for its price.
The operating system is Android 4.2.2, Jelly Bean. While this is not the most recent distribution of Android, it should definitely serve users looking for an under-$100 tablet. Seriously, this space is huge and often a crap shoot in terms of reliability. If HP released a decent device, it could be a winner.
The HP 7 Plus is apparently available now, but out of stock, for $99.99. I do not know whether they already released and sold out immediately, or if it is still waiting on its first shipment.
Subject: Mobile | May 2, 2014 - 04:06 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, Intel, Clover Trail+, atom z2560, Android
Acer is introducing a new 7-inch tablet due for release in June. The upcoming Iconia One 7 is an Intel-powered tablet running Google's Android 4.2 operating system. It is a budget device that cuts corners on the operating system and hardware so that it can reach a starting price of $129.99.
The Iconia One 7 tablet will be available in black, blue, red, pink, and white, and features a 7-inch IPS display with a 16:10 resolution of 1280x800, a 5 megapixel rear camera, and a 0.3 megapixel webcam. The tablet has rounded corners and edges (especially on the back panel).
Internally, Acer has chosen to use a dual core SoC based on Intel's previous generation Clover Trail+ architecture (2-wide, in order cores that support Hyper Threading). The chip features two CPU cores clocked at 1.6 GHz, 1 MB of cache, and a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. THe chip is paired with 1GB of system RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of internal flash storage. The internal storage can be expanded with up to a 32GB microSD card. The tablet is powered by a 3,700 mAh battery.
The tablet hardware is reportedly compatible with Android 4.4, but Acer has yet to outline an upgrade path.
Acer has obviously cut corners here, both on the hardware and software. However, these sacrifices have allowed the company to offer up a tablet at a base price of $129.99. It will not be the fastest device, but it should be a good-enough web browsing and reading tablet for those that prefer the portable 7-inch form factor. (Personally, I would have liked to see a Bay Trail-powered variant at a slightly higher price point.) The Iconia One 7 will be available in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East by the middle of this month and will hit US shores in June.
Subject: Mobile | April 8, 2014 - 11:01 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, tab a8, tab a7-50, tab a10, mtk 8121, mediatek, Lenovo, android 4.2
Today, Lenovo announced a refreshed lineup of its A-series tablets including the A7-50, A8, and A10. The new tablets take a common hardware platform and scale it from a 7-inch tablet to a 10-inch tablet with optional keyboard. All three tablets run the Android 4.2 operating system and will be available in May.
The Lenovo TAB A7-50 Android 4.2 tablet.
The new Lenovo TAB A-series is powered by a quad core MediaTek 8121 SoC clocked at 1.3 GHz paired with 1GB of LP-DDR2 memory and 16GB of internal flash storage. Users can add an additional 32GB of storage with a micro SD card. Networking is handled by an 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 radio along with an optional SIM card slot on certain models (cellular functionality not available in the North American market). The tablets come with IPS touchscreens with a resolution of 1280 x 800. Lenovo includes a 2MP webcam and a 5MP rear facing camera on all three A-series tablets. The A10 further adds stereo speakers and compatibility with a keyboard dock.
Lenovo rates all three tablets at eight hours of battery life.
The Lenovo TAB A8 tablet.
Beyond the Lenovo TAB A10 being available with a Bluetooth keyboard dock, the only major differences between the new three A-series tablets are physical dimensions, screen size, and weight. The Lenovo TAB A7-50 measures 198x121.2x9.9mm and weighs 0.70 lbs. The TAB A8 meanwhile measures 217x136x8.9mm and weighs slightly more at 0.79 lbs. Finally, the TAB A10 measures 264x176.5x8.9mm and weighs 1.2 lbs.
The Lenovo TAB A10 with its Bluetooth keyboard dock.
The 7-inch Lenovo Tab A7-50 has an MSRP of $129 while the 8-Inch Tab A8 has an MSRP of $179. The 10.1-inch Tab A10 has a base price of $249 and is also available as a tablet and keyboard bundle for $299.
What do you think about Lenovo's new A-series lineup? On one hand, you have three size options at competitive prices, but on the other you only have a single option as far as internal specifications and screen resolution no matter the screen size. If you can live with the MTK 8121 and 1GB of RAM, they could be a viable option.
Read more about Lenovo tablets such as the Yoga 8 and Yoga 10 at PC Perspective.
Subject: General Tech | March 14, 2014 - 07:01 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: microsoft, office, office 365, tablet
The newest member of Microsoft's cloudy version of the world's most common productivity software is called Office 365 Personal and it will provide a single license which can be used on a PC or Mac and one tablet. The subscription will cost less than the current Office 365 Home Premium which allowed up to five devices access but only offered a version of Office dubbed Office Mobile for tablets and phones. This will not be the watered down version of Office that ships with WinRT on Surface and while The Register was provided some hints on what the new software will look like we won't be seeing any demos until closer to the launch which will take place this Spring.
"Microsoft will soon debut a new formulation of its Office 365 subscription service aimed at individual consumers, the company said on Thursday, and in the process it hinted that new, touch-centric Office apps may be coming soon."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Google starts encrypting search data to protect users from NSA snooping @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft gives away Windows Phone 8 licences in India – report @ The Register
- HTC One 2 release date, specs, rumours and price @ The Inquirer
- VLC Player beta arrives for Windows 8 @ The Inquirer
- The real story behind Twin Galaxies @ Kitguru
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 27, 2014 - 02:20 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x360, Windows 8.1, tablet, hp, convertible tablet, convertible, Bay Trail
At MWC 2014, HP showed off an interesting convertible laptop similar in form factor to Lenovo's Yoga lineup. The HP X360 is a Bay Trail-powered laptop running Windows 8.1 that brings the 360-degree hinged hybrid laptop/tablet form factor to an affordable $460 price point. The red plastic and brushed aluminum PC is available for purchase now and will begin shipping in early March.
HP's new X360 tablet measures 12.12” x 8.46” x 0.86” and weighs in at a portable 3.08 pounds. It is noticeably larger than other Bay Trail tablets like the ASUS T100 and Dell Venue series, but it also has an integrated keyboard and trackpad attached via a permanently attached double hinge to the 11.6” LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1366x768. The chassis is a glossy red plastic while the keyboard cover and palm rest use a brushed aluminum surface that surrounds a large gesture compatible touchpad and a chiclet-style keyboard that appears to be well spaced for an 11.6” machine (excluding the arrow keys which are bunched up in the bottom-right corner in order to allow full sized shift and enter keys). A silver chassis version is also in the works, but will not be available until later this year.
The HP X360 features external I/O more akin to a traditional laptop than a tablet with the following connectivity options.
- 1 x USB 3.0
- 2 x USB 2.0
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x RJ45 (10/100 Ethernet)
- 1 x headphone/mic combo jack
- 1 x SD card slot
- 1 x SIM card slot
Internally, the HP X360 uses an Intel Pentium N3520 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, and a 2 cell Lithium Ion battery rated for up to four and a half hours of use. HP has further packed its tablet with Beats Audio technology. Interestingly, the Pentium N3520 CPU is a quad core chip based on Intel's Bay Trail (Atom) architecture which uses Silvermont cores and Intel HD graphics. The CPU is clocked at 2.166 GHz base and 2.42 GHz Turbo with 2MB of cache.
The X360 can be used as a laptop or a tablet in several configurations by swinging the display around appropriately. It is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga system, though HP is using a slightly different hinge design.
The real advantage of the HP X360 is its price. At a starting price of $389 for the 4GB model, the X360 is much cheaper than the (admittedly more powerful) Yoga alternatives while still being a capable machine for note taking and media consumption. It lies in a middle ground between Bay Trail-powered tablets and Haswell-powered laptops. For an $80 premium over the ASUS T100, users get a more traditional convertible PC with more storage (albeit slower mechanical storage) and a faster clocked processor.
Personally, I'm tempted and have been debating between this and the T100 as a second portable machine to replace my aging Dell XT with comparably abysmal battery life (heh).
You can find more information on the new X360 (HP Pavilion 11t-n000 x360 PC) on this HP product page.