Ars Technica Reviews Android 6.0 (Marshmellow)

Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: google, android 6.0, Android

Android 6.0 was launched yesterday, and Ars Technica has, so far, been the only outlet to give it a formal review. That said, it is a twelve-page review with a table of contents -- so that totally counts for five or so.


The main complaint that the reviewer has is the operating system's inability to be directly updated. There is a large chain of rubber stamps between Google's engineers and the world at large. Carriers and phone manufacturers can delay (or not even attempt to certify) patches for their many handsets. It is not like Windows, where Microsoft controls the centralized update service. In the beginning, this wasn't too big of an issue as updates were typically for features. Sucker, buy a new phone if you want WebGL.

Now it's about security. Granted, it has always been about security, even on the iPhone, we just care more now. If you think about it, every time a phone gets jailbroken, a method exists to steal admin privileges away from Apple and give them to... the user. Some were fairly sophisticated processes involving USB tethering to PCs, while others involved browsing to a malicious website with a payload that the user (but not Apple) wanted to install. Hence why no-one cared: the security was being exploited by the user for the user. It was only a matter of time before either the companies sufficiently crush the bugs, or it started to be tasty for the wolves.

And Google is getting bit.

Otherwise, Ars Technica mostly praised the OS. Be sure to read their review to get a full sense of their opinion. As far as I can tell, they only tested it on the Nexus 5.

Source: Ars Technica

Windows 10 IoT Core Starter Pack for the Pi 2 Released

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 5, 2015 - 08:01 AM |
Tagged: windows 10, microsoft, iot

Microsoft has released the Windows 10 IoT Core for the Raspberry Pi 2. It retails for 75$ without the Raspberry Pi 2 Model B, or $115$ with it. Apart from the optional Pi, it is basically a pack of electronic components and an SD card that's pre-loaded with Windows 10 IoT. It is available at the Adafruit store, although both packs are currently out of stock... because of course they are.


Beyond jumper wires, a case, breadboards, resistors, LEDs, switches, and sensors, the pack also comes with a WiFi module. Interestingly, Adafruit claims that this will be the only WiFi adapter for the Raspberry Pi 2 that's supported by Windows 10 IoT. This is weird, of course, because Windows is kind-of the go-to when it comes to driver support. It makes me wonder whether Microsoft changed anything under the hood that affects hardware compatibility and, if it did, whether Windows 10 IoT loses its major advantage over Linux and other OSes in this form factor.

The kit is currently sold up, but retails for $75, or $115 with a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B.

Source: Microsoft

Google's Pixel C Is A Powerful Convertible Tablet Running Android 6.0

Subject: Mobile | October 2, 2015 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: Tegra X1, tablet, pixel, nvidia, google, android 6.0, Android

During its latest keynote event, Google unveiled the Pixel C, a powerful tablet with optional keyboard that uses NVIDIA’s Tegra X1 SoC and runs the Android 6.0 “Marshmallow” operating system.

The Pixel C was designed by the team behind the Chromebook Pixel. Pixel C features an anodized aluminum body that looks (and reportedly feels) smooth with clean lines and rounded corners. The tablet itself is 7mm thick and weighs approximately one pound. The front of the Pixel C is dominated by a 10.2” display with a resolution of 2560 x 1800 (308 PPI, 500 nits brightness), wide sRGB color gamut, and 1:√2 aspect ratio (which Google likened to the size and aspect ratio of an A4 sheet of paper). A 2MP front camera sits above the display while four microphones sit along the bottom edge and a single USB Type-C port and two stereo speakers sit on the sides of the tablet. Around back, there is an 8MP rear camera and a bar of LED lights that will light up to indicate the battery charge level after double tapping it.

Google Pixel C Tegra X1 Tablet.jpg

The keyboard is an important part of the Pixel C, and Google has given it special attention to make it part of the package. The keyboard attaches to the tablet using self-aligning magnets that are powerful enough to keep the display attached while holding it upside down and shaking it (not that you'd want to do that, mind you). It can be attached to the bottom of the tablet for storage and used like a slate or you can attach the tablet to the back of the keyboard and lift the built-in hinge to use the Pixel C in laptop mode (the hinge can hold the display at anywhere from 100 to 135-degrees). The internal keyboard battery is good for two months of use, and can be simply recharged by closing the Pixel C like a laptop and allowing it to inductively charge from the tablet portion. The keyboard is around 2mm thick and is nearly full size at 18.85mm pitch and the chiclet keys have a 1.4mm travel that is similar to that of the Chromebook Pixel. There is no track pad, but it does offer a padded palm rest which is nice to see.

Google Pixel C with Keyboard.jpg

Internally, the Pixel C is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB or 64GB of storage (depending on model). The 20nm Tegra X1 consists of four ARM Cortex A57 and four Cortex A53 CPU cores paired with a 256-core Maxwell GPU. The Pixel C is a major design win for NVIDIA, and the built in GPU will be great for gaming on the go.

The Pixel C will be available in December ("in time for the holidays") for $499 for the base 32 GB model, $599 for the 64 GB model, and $149 for the keyboard.

First impressions, such as this hands-on by Engadget, seem to be very positive stating that it is sturdy yet sleek hardware that feels comfortable typing on. While the hardware looks more than up to the task, the operating system of choice is a concern for me. Android is not the most productivity and multi-tasking friendly software. There are some versions of Android that enable multiple windows or side-by-side apps, but it has always felt rather clunky and limited in its usefulness. With that said, Computer World's  JR Raphael seems hopeful. He points out that the Pixel C is, in Batman fashion, not the hardware Android wants, but the hardware that Android needs (to move forward) and is primed for a future of Android that is more friendly to such productive endeavors. Development versions of Android 6.0 included support for multiple apps running simultaneously side-by-side, and while that feature will not make the initial production code cut, it does show that it is something that Google is looking into pursuing and possibly enabling at some point. The Pixel C has an excellent aspect ratio to take advantage of the app splitting with the ability to display four windows each with the same aspect ratio.

I am not sure how well received the Pixel C will be by business users who have several convertible tablet options running Windows and Chrome OS. It certainly gives the iPad-and-keyboard combination a run for its money and is a premium alternative to devices like the Asus Transformers.

What do you think about the Pixel C, and in particular, it running Android?

Even if I end up being less-than-productive using it, I think I'd still want the sleek-looking hardware as a second machine, heh.

Source: Google

New Lightweight LG Gram Notebooks Hit US Market

Subject: Mobile | October 2, 2015 - 02:02 AM |
Tagged: LG, ultrathin, Broadwell, ips display

Earlier this week, LG revealed three new notebooks under its Gram series that are set to compete with Apple’s Macbook Air (The Verge has a photo comparison of the two) and various Ultrabooks from other manufacturers (e.g. Lenovo and Asus). The new series includes one 13-inch and two 14-inch laptops that weigh in at 2.16 pounds and are 0.5” thick. The LG Gram with 13” display is the smallest of the bunch at 11.9” x 8.4” x 0.5” and the chassis is constructed of magnesium and polycarbonate (plastic). Meanwhile, the two notebooks with the 14” display measure 12.8” x 8.94” x 0.5” and feature a body made from a combination of carbon-magnesium and lithium-magnesium alloys. The difference in materials accounts for the larger notebooks hitting the same weight target (2.16 lbs).

LG Gram 14 Thin and Light Notebook.jpg

The 14-inch LG Gram 14 (gram-14Z950-A.AA4GU1) notebook.

LG is packing every Gram notebook with a 1080p IPS display (13.3 or 14 inches), dual mics, a 1.3 MP webcam, six row island-style keyboard, and a spacious track pad. External IO includes two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, micro SD card slot, and a micro USB port that (along with the included dongle) supports the 10/100 Ethernet network connection.

The base Gram 13-inch comes in Snow White while both Gram 14-inch notebooks are clad in Champagne Gold.

LG Gram 13.jpg

The LG Gram 13 Broadwell-powered laptop (gram-13Z950-A.AA3WU1).

Internally, LG has opted to go with Intel’s Broadwell processor and its built-in HD 5500 GPU. The LG Gram 13 uses the Intel Core i5-5200U (2 cores, 4 threads at 2.2-2.7GHz). The 14-inch models can be configured with an Intel i5 or an Intel Core i7-5500U which is a dual core (with HyperThreading for four threads) processor clocked at 2.4 GHz that can boost to 3.0 GHz. Additional specifications include 8GB of DDR3L memory, a solid state drive (128 GB on the Gram 13, up to 256 GB on the Gram 14), Intel 802.11ac Wi-Fi, and rated battery life of up to 7.5 hours (which is not great, but not too bad).

The Gram 13 starts at $900. Moving up to the base 14” model will cost $1,000. Finally, the top-end Core i7-powered Gram 14 has an MSRP of $1,400.

The Gram series is LG’s first major thin-and-light entry into the US market, and while there are some compromises made to get the portability, the price points are competitive and seem to be priced right. Interestingly, LG is aiming these notebooks as Macbook Air competitors, allegedly offering you a larger, yet lighter, notebook. It is not actually the lightest notebook on the market, however. Below is a brief point of (weight) comparison to some of the major recent thin-and-lights, the Gram is going up against:

  • 12” Apple MacBook: 2.03 lbs
  • 11” Apple MacBook Air: 2.38 lbs
  • 13” Apple MacBook Air: 2.96 lbs
  • 13.3" ASUS Zenbook UX305FA (Core M): 2.65 lbs
  • 13.3" ASUS Zenbook UX301LA (Core i7): 3.08 lbs
  • 13.3” LaVie Z: 1.87 lbs
  • 13.3” LaVie Z 360: 2.04 lbs
  • 12.2" Samsung ATIV Book 9: 2.09 lbs

We will have to wait for reviews to see how the build quality stacks up, especially the 14-inch models using the lithium-magnesium bodies which, while light, may not be the sturdiest flex-wise. If they can hold up to the stress of the daily commuter, the retail pricing is far from exorbitant and if you can live with the compromises fairly attractive.

Source: LG

We interrupt the Apple coverage for a look at a high end Android

Subject: Mobile | October 1, 2015 - 07:13 PM |
Tagged: nexus 6p, google, Android

The Nexus 6P is new from Google and is designed to compete directly against the new Apple devices, with an all aluminium body and a new USB Type-C connection for charging.  One of the benefits of the new USB is in the charging speed, which Google claims will give you 7 hours of usage off of a 10 minute charge.  They have also added a 12.3MP camera complete with a 1.55μm sensor, though in the style of the Nokia Lumia 1520, that camera does project beyond the casing.  The 5.7in 2560x1440 AMOLED screen is made of Gorilla Glass 4 and is powered by a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1 octa-core processor, which may display that chips tendency to get a little warm during use.  The Inquirer has not had a chance to fully review the Nexus 6P but you can catch their preview right here.


"THE NEXUS 6P is the first truly premium Android device from Google. Last year's Nexus 6 divided opinion with its bulky design and lacklustre features, but the firm is hoping that its successor, with the premium case and next-gen specs, will finally fill the void for those after a stock Android device."

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Source: The Inquirer

Android to iPhone Day 6: Battery Life and Home Screens

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 1, 2015 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:


Day 4

It probably won’t come as a shock to the millions of iPhone users around the globe, but the more days I keep the 6s in my pocket, the more accepting I am becoming with the platform. The phone has been fast and reliable – I have yet to come across any instability or application crashes despite my incessant installations of new ones. And while I think it’s fair to say that even new Android-based phones feel snappy to user interactions out of the box, the iPhone is just about a week in without me ever thinking about performance – which is exactly what you want from a device like this.

There are some quirks and features missing from the iPhone 6s that I had on my Droid Turbo that I wish I could implement in settings or through third-party applications. I fell in love with the ability to do a double wrist rotation with the Droid as a shortcut to opening up the camera. It helped me capture quite a few photos when I only had access to a single hand and without having to unlock the phone, find an icon, etc. The best the iPhone has is a “drag up from the bottom” motion from the lock screen but I find myself taking several thumb swipes on it before successfully activating it when only using one hand. Trying to use the home button to access the lock screen, and thus the camera shortcut, is actually hindered because the Touch ID feature is TOO FAST, taking me to a home screen (that may not have the camera app icon on it) where I need to navigate around.

I have been a user of the Pebble Time since it was released earlier this year and I really enjoy the extended battery life (measured in days not hours) when compared to Android Wear devices or the Apple Watch. However, the capabilities of the Pebble Time are more limited with the iPhone 6s than they are with Android – I can no longer use voice dictation to reply to text messages or emails and the ability to reply with easy templates (yes, no, I’ll be there soon, etc.) is no longer available. Apple does not allow the same level of access to the necessary APIs as Android does and thus my Time has effectively become a read-only device.


Finally, my concern about missing widgets continues to stir within me; it is something that I think the iPhone 6s could benefit from greatly. I also don’t understand the inability to arrange the icons on the home screens in an arbitrary fashion. Apple will not let me move icons to the bottom of the page without first filling up every other spot on the screen – there can be no empty spaces!! So while my organizational style would like to have a group of three icons in the bottom right hand corner of the screen with some empty space around it, Apple doesn’t allow me to do that. If I want those icons in that location I need to fill up every empty space on the screen to do so. Very odd.

Continue reading my latest update on my Android to iPhone journey!!

Snapdragon 820 Features Qualcomm's New X12 Modem: Fastest LTE To Date

Subject: Mobile | September 30, 2015 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: X12 Modem, SoC, snapdragon 820, qualcomm, phones, mu-mimo, mobile, LTE, cell phones

The upcoming Snapdragon 820 is shaping up to be a formidable SoC after the disappointing response to the previous flagship, the Snapdragon 810, which was in far fewer devices than expected for reasons still shrouded in mystery and speculation. One of the biggest aspects of the upcoming 820 is Qualcomm’s new X12 modem, which will provide the most advanced LTE connectivity seen to date when the SoC launches. The X12 features CAT 12 LTE downlink speeds for up to 600 Mbps, and CAT 13 on the uplink for up to 150 Mbps.

LTE connectivity isn’t the only new thing here, as we see from this slide there is also tri-band Wi-Fi supporting 2x2 MU-MIMO.


“This is the first publicly announced processor for use in mobile devices to support LTE Category 12 in the downlink and Category 13 in the uplink, providing up to 33 percent and 200 percent improvement over its predecessor’s download and upload speeds, respectively.”

The specifications for this new modem are densely packed:

  • Cat 12 (up to 600 Mbps) in the downlink
  • Cat 13 (up to 150 Mbps) in the uplink
  • Up to 4x4 MIMO on one downlink LTE carrier
  • 2x2 MU-MIMO (802.11ac)
  • Multi-gigabit 802.11ad
  • LTE-U and LTE+Wi-Fi Link Aggregation (LWA)
  • Next Gen HD Voice and Video calling over LTE and Wi-Fi
  • Call Continuity across Wi-Fi, LTE, 3G, and 2G
  • RF front end innovations
  • Advanced Closed Loop Antenna Tuner
  • Qualcomm RF360™ front end solution with CA
  • Wi-Fi/LTE antenna sharing

Rumored phones that could end up running the Snapdragon 820 with this X12 modem include the Samsung Galaxy S7 and around 30 other devices, though final word is of course pending on shipping hardware.

Source: Qualcomm

Android to iPhone Day 3: Widgets and Live Photos

Subject: Editorial, Mobile | September 28, 2015 - 09:57 AM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:


Day 1

Opening and setting up a new iPhone is still an impressive experience. The unboxing process makes it feel like you are taking part in the reveal of product worth its cost and the accessories included are organized and presented well. Having never used an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus beyond the cursory “let me hold that”, it was immediately obvious to me that the iPhone build quality exceeded any of the recent Android-based smartphones I have used; including the new OnePlus 2, LG G4 and Droid Turbo. The rounded edges sparked some debate in terms of aesthetics but it definitely makes the phone FEEL slimmer than other smartphone options. The buttons were firm and responsive though I think there is more noise in the click of the home button than I expected.

The setup process for the phone was pretty painless but Ken, our production editor who has been an iPhone user every generation, did comment that the number of steps you have to go through to get to a working phone have increased quite a bit. Setup Siri, setup Touch ID, setup Wi-Fi, have you heard about iCloud? The list goes on. I did attempt to use the “Move to iOS” application from the Android Play Store on my Droid Turbo but I was never able to get it to work – the devices kept complaining about a disconnection of some sort in its peer-to-peer network and after about 8 tries, I gave up. I’m hoping to try it again with the incoming iPhone 6 Plus next week to see if it was a temporary issue.


After getting to the iPhone 6s home screen I spent the better part of the next hour doing something that I do every time I get a new phone: installing apps. The process is painful – go to the App Store, search for the program, download it, open it, login (and try to remember login information), repeat. With the Android Play Store I do appreciate the ability to “push” application downloads to a phone from the desktop website, making it much faster to search and acquire all the software you need. Apple would definitely benefit from some version of this that doesn’t require installing iTunes.

I am a LastPass user and one of the first changes I had to get used to was the change in how that software works on Android and iOS. With my Droid Turbo I was able to give LastPass access to system levels lower than you can with iOS and when using a third-party app like Twitter, LastPass can insert itself into the process and automatically input the username and/or password for the website or service. With the iPhone you don’t have that ability and there was a lot of password copying and pasting to get everything setup. This is an area where the openness of the Android platform can benefit users.

That being said, the benefits of Touch ID from Apple were immediately apparent.  After going through the setup process using my fingerprint in place of my 15+ digit Apple ID password is a huge benefit and time saver.  Every time I download a new app from the App Store and simply place my thumb on the home button, I grin; knowing this is how it should be for all passwords, everywhere. I was even able to setup my primary LastPass password to utilize Touch ID, removing one of the biggest annoyances of using the password keeping software on Android. Logging into the phone with your finger or thumb print rather than a pattern or PIN is great too. And though I know new phones like the OnePlus 2 uses a fingerprint reader for this purpose, the implementation just isn’t as smooth.

My final step before leaving the office and heading for home was to download my favorite podcasts and get that setup on the phone for the drive. Rather than use the Apple Podcasts app it was recommended that I try out Overcast, which has been solid so far. I setup the Giant Bombcast, My Brother, My Brother and I and a couple of others, let them download on Wi-Fi and set out for home. Pairing the iPhone 6s with my Chevy Volt was as easy as any other phone but I did notice that Bluetooth-based information being passed to the entertainment system (icons, current time stamps, etc.) was more accurate with the iPhone 6s than my Droid Turbo (starting times and time remaining worked when they previously did not). That could be a result of the podcast application itself (I used doubleTwist on Android).

Day 2

On Saturday, with a bit more free time to setup the phone and get applications installed that I had previously forgotten, I did start to miss a couple of Android features. First, the lack of widgets on the iPhone home screens means the mass of icons on the iPhone 6s is much less useful than the customized screens I had on my Droid Turbo. With my Droid I had a page dedicated to social media widgets I could scroll through without opening up any specific applications. Another page included my current to-do list from Google Keep and my most current 15 items from Google Calendar, all at a glance.


I know that the top drag down menu on iOS with the Today and Notifications tabs is supposed to offer some of that functionality but the apps like Google Keep and Twitter don’t take advantage of it. And though cliché at this point, why in the hell doesn’t the Apple Weather application icon show the current temperature and weather status yet??

The second item I miss is the dedicated “back” button that Android devices have on them that are universal across the entire system. Always knowing that you can move to the previous screen or move from the current app to the home screen or other program that was just recently switched over is a great safety net that is missing in iOS. With only a single “always there” button on the phone, some software has the back button functionality on the top left hand corner and others have it in the form of an X or Close button somewhere else. I found myself constantly looking around each new app on the iPhone 6s to find out how to return to a previous screen and sometimes would hit the home button out of habit, which obviously isn’t going to have the intended function. Swiping from the left of the screen to the middle works with some applications, but not all.

Also, though my Droid Turbo phone was about the same size as the iPhone 6s, the size of the screen makes it hard to reach the top of the screen when only using one hand. With the Android back button along the bottom of the phone that meant it was always within reach. Those iOS apps that put the return functionality in the top left of the screen make it much more difficult to do, often risking dropping the phone by repositioning it in your hand. And double tapping (not clicking) the home button and THEN reaching for the back button on any particular app just seems to take too long.

On Saturday I went camping with my family at an early Halloween event that we have annually. This made for a great chance to test out the iPhone 6s camera, and without a doubt, it was the best phone camera I have used. The images were clear, the shutter speed was fast, and the ability to take high frame rate video or 4K video is a nice touch. I think that enough people have shown the advantages of the iPhone camera systems over almost anything else on the smartphone market and as a user of seemingly slow and laggard Android-based phone cameras, the move to the iPhone 6s is a noticeable change. As a parent of a 3 month old baby girl, these photos are becoming ever more important to me.


The new Live Photos feature, where essentially a few frames before and a few frames after the picture you actually took are captured (with audio included), is pretty much a gimmick but the effect is definitely eye-catching. When flipping through the camera roll you actually see a little bit of movement (someone’s face for example) which caused me to raise an eyebrow at first. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure what use they will have off of the phone itself – will I be able to “play” these types of photos on my PC? Will I be able to share them to other phone users that don’t have the iPhone 6s?

Day 3

Most of Sunday was spent watching football and using the iPhone 6s to monitor fantasy football and to watch football through our Wi-Fi network when I needed to leave the room for laundry. The phone was able to keep up, as you would expect, with these mostly lightweight tasks without issue. Switching between applications was quick and responsive, and despite the disadvantage that the iPhone 6s has over many Android flagship phones in terms of system memory, I never felt like the system was penalized for it.

Browsing the web through either Safari or Google Chrome did demonstrate a standard complaint about iOS – reloading of webpages when coming back into the browser application even if you didn’t navigate away from the page. With Android you are able to load up a webpage and then just…leave it there, for reference later. With the iPhone 6s, even with the added memory this model ships with, it will reload a page after some amount of time away from the browser app as the operating system decided it needed to utilize that memory for another purpose.


I haven’t had a battery life crisis with the iPhone yet, but I am worried about the lack of Quick Charging or Turbo Charging support on the iPhone 6s. This was a feature I definitely fell in love with on the Droid Turbo, especially when travelling for work or going on extended outings without access to power. I’ll have to monitor how this issue does or does not pop its head up.

Speaking of power and battery life – so far I have been impressed with how the iPhone 6s has performed. As I write this editorial up at 9:30pm on Sunday night, the battery level sits at 22%. Considering I have been using the phone for frequent speed tests (6 of them today) and just general purpose performance and usability testing, I consider this a good result. I only took one 5 minute phone call but texting and picture taking was plentiful. Again, this is another area where this long-term test is going to tell the real story, but for my first impressions the thinness of the iPhone 6s hasn’t created an instant penalty for battery life.


The journey is still beginning – tomorrow is my first full work day with the iPhone 6s and I have the final installment of my summer evening golf league. Will the iPhone 6s act as my golf GPS like my Droid Turbo did? Will it make it through the full day without having to resort to car charging or using an external battery? What other features and capabilities will I love or hate in this transition? More soon!

Samsung Announces New Gear VR at Oculus Connect

Subject: Mobile | September 26, 2015 - 10:00 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, oculus vr, Oculus, gear vr

Oculus Connect was last week, including a lengthy keynote on Thursday that featured Tim Sweeney, John Carmack, Michael Abrash, and others (even Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance). Within the first dozen minutes, they brought Peter Koo, Senior Vice President of Samsung Mobile, to the stage, who announced the new Samsung Gear VR. Its main advantage is that is supports more of their flagship phones than their previous model did, and, more interesting, for half the price of the previous version.


The Gear VR is the first consumer version as they consider the previous one to be a developer kit -- err -- "Innovator Edition". It will support the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5. The device is lighter and “much more comfortable to wear” than its predecessor. It will cost $99, plus the cost of one of the aforementioned phones unless you were getting one for a different reason, and it will be available in November.

Source: Samsung

Taming your gaming laptop's heat with CM's NotePal Ergostand III

Subject: Mobile | September 25, 2015 - 05:36 PM |
Tagged: laptop cooler, NotePal Ergostand III, cooler master

We've talked about gaming laptops and the mobile GTX 980 recently on the podcast and mentioned the fact that powerful gaming laptops need help keeping cool.  One product worth considering would be the NotePal Ergostand III from CoolerMaster which has a 230mm adjustable fan covering its backside.  At around $50 it is a decent price for this sort of product and worthy of consideration if you happen to be a gamer who prefers laptops.  You can learn more about it over at Benchmark Reviews.


"That’s where notebook coolers come in, such as the Cooler Master NotePal Ergostand III used as our example in this article about keeping hot laptops cool and running fast."

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Microsoft Hosting Event Next Month, Allegedly Launching New Flagship Windows Devices

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 25, 2015 - 12:32 AM |
Tagged: windows phone, windows 10 mobile, Surface Pro, Skylake, microsoft band, microsoft, lumia, Intel

Earlier this month, Microsoft sent out invites to members of the press for an event to be held on October 6th at the Skylight at the Moynihan Station in New York City. Naturally, Microsoft was short on details on what exactly will be covered. The rumor mill on the Internet (surely the most reliable of sources!) is set on the idea that the event will be used to launch a slew of new hardware products and refresh its mobile and wearable product stacks.

The rumored products include at least two new Windows Phone 10 Lumia smartphones, a refreshed Microsoft Band 2, and new Surface Pro 4 tablet.

New Microsoft Event with Possible New Hardware Launching.jpg

On the smartphone front, the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL both have fairly generous specifications for Windows Phone devices (running Windows 10 Mobile). The 950 sports a 5.2-inch 2560 x 1440 display, a six core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 SoC, 3GB of internal memory, 32GB of internal storage, and a 3,000 mAh battery pack.


Moving up to the 950XL allegedly gets you a larger 5.7-inch display (though it is still at the same 1440p resolution) and a faster Snapdragon 810 SoC (four Cortex A57 at up to 2GHz and four lower power A53 cores along with the Adreno 430 GPU). Oddly, the battery pack is rumored to be only slightly larger than the Lumia 950 at 3,300 mAh which may result in lower battery life thanks to the larger display and faster processor.

Both phones will also feature a 20 megapixel rear camera, a 5 megapixel front camera, an iris scanner for Windows Hello, Qi wireless charging support, and a USB Type-C port for data and charging purposes.

Microsoft Band 2.jpg

Further, Microsoft is reported to be launching the Microsoft Band 2, a new (and sleek looking) wearable. The band, powered by an ARM Cortex M4 SoC and two 100 mAh batteries will sport a curved display and improved ergonomic design that can be used to see notifications, track your fitness, and interact with your smartphone using the built in microphone. The Band 2 is said to be compatbile with Windows Phone, iOS, and Android operating systems and connects via Bluetooth 4.0.

Lastly, rumors are pointing towards a new Surface Pro tablet being launched at the event though there has yet to be a consensus on the (alleged) specifications. Some rumors point towards Skylake while others point at Core M (Broadwell) being the processor of choice. Personally, I am leaning towards Microsoft using one of the new mobile Skylake chips for this possible Surface Pro 4 tablet PC. Broadwell with Iris Pro graphics would be nice to see, however...

In any event, I suppose that we will just have to wait and see what comes of this event in two weeks time. I do not have much to say on the smartphone or Surface Pro fronts (except that the tablet will be expensive no matter what the hardware ends up being, heh), but I’m liking the new Microsoft Band -- if they could somehow hit a lower price point I’m sold!

What are your thoughts on the rumors--what new hardware are you expecting to be announced next month?


Android to iPhone Day 0: What to Expect

Subject: Mobile | September 24, 2015 - 10:17 PM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:

The last time I used an Apple phone as my primary device was with the release of the iPhone 3G. It remained by my side for a full year when it was replaced by the…Palm Pre in mid-2009. Yes, I loved that Pre, but let’s not depress anyone here today. After my time with the Palm device I moved over to the world of Android with the HTC Evo 4G in early 2010. The move wasn’t easy at the time – Android was messy, frequently unstable and the app ecosystem was still getting started.

But I stuck with the Google platform, diving headfirst into a world of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Photos, etc. I moved through countless Android phones in my never ending quest to find better hardware and, maybe more importantly, better software. I had the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 5 – I had phones from Samsung, LG and Motorola. Even oddball companies like OnePlus found their way into my pocket, so to speak. Most recently the everyday device has been the Motorola Droid Turbo, purchased due to its faster processor and extended battery life.

In the past year or so PC Perspective has put emphasis on the mobile market in terms of phones and tablet reviews. You can find reviews of the ASUS Zenfone 2, Motorola Moto E, and Galaxy Note 4 on, in addition to numerous articles that look at the SoC architectures from Qualcomm, ARM, Intel and others. And for every phone review you actually saw, there are 1-2 other phones that are purchased or sampled, used for context and internal testing.

But despite the fact that Ken, Allyn and others on the PC Perspective staff have and use Apple products, I personally had spent no time with any iPhone since the release of the iPhone 3G. With Apple by far the most dominant player in the mobile space, this is just dumb on my part. How can I pretend to offer informed opinions on the selection of smartphones to our readers and viewers without even giving the annually updated Apple iPhone a chance?


To fix this, I ordered myself an iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

Rather than just get the phone in, run some benchmarks, take some sample photos and write a typical review of the new iPhone 6s, I thought it might be interesting to our readers to take them along on a journey. Starting tomorrow when the iPhone 6s arrives I will be swap out my Verizon SIM card and commit to using it as my only mobile phone for the next 30 days. I think it’s only fair, considering the drastic ecosystem differences between Android and iOS, to engulf myself in the iPhone platform completely rather than simply keep it with me as a secondary device. (That’s something I typically do with Android review units.)


My new smartphone. I'm not sure I'm ready.

As an Android user for many years, I am familiar with many of the stereotypes associated with the iPhone and its users: closed platform, overpriced hardware, complications with access to data and photos, etc. But is it really that bad? Too many of my friends and family use iPhones for me to believe it’s THAT bad. So I’m going to find out.

I'm honestly nervous about a handful of things already:

  1. How much am I going to miss having Quick Charge capability?
  2. How many Lightning cables am I going to have to buy to replace the locations I have micro USB cables at?
  3. How can I easily access the full resolution photos I take on the phone?
  4. Am I REALLY going to have to use iTunes again?
  5. Will I be able to recreate the workflow I am used to on Android? Apps like Gmail, Calendar, Keep and doubleTwist are essential!
  6. Will this new "Move to iOS" applications on the Play Store actually work?

I plan to write frequent entries to this series, offering up my thoughts on the performance, application ecosystem, camera, battery life, gaming capability, accessory market and more. You'll see some posts that simply discuss my experiences that day and others that show performance data or battery metrics. What is it like to suddenly decide to “change sides” at this point in the Android / iOS war? 

Let’s find out.

Qualcomm Announces Quick Charge 3.0

Subject: Mobile | September 24, 2015 - 07:55 PM |
Tagged: usb, snapdragon 820, Quick Charge 3.0, Quick Charge, qualcomm, mobile, battery charger

Qualcomm has announced Quick Charge 3.0, the latest iteration of their fast battery charging technology. The new version is said to not only further improve battery charging times, but also better maintain battery health and reduce temperatures.

One of the biggest issues with fast battery charging is the premature failure of the battery cells; something my first Nexus 6 (which was replaced due to a bad battery) can attest to. The new 3.0 standard adds "Battery Saver Technology" (BST) which constantly varies the current delivery rate based on what the battery can safely accept, thus preventing damage to the cells. This new version of Quick Charge also claims to offer lower temps while charging, which could be partly the result of this variable current delivery.

The other change comes from "Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage" (INOV), which can vary the voltage delivery anywhere from 3.6V to 20V in 200mV increments depending on the device's negotiated connection. INOV will allow Quick Charge 3.0 to charge a full 2x faster than the original Quick Charge 1.0 (it's 1.5x faster than QC 2.0), and 4x over standard USB charging as it provides up to 60W to compatible devices.

This new Quick Charge 3.0 technology will be available soon with devices featuring upcoming Qualcomm SoCs such as the Snapdragon 820.

Rumor: Google To Host Press Briefing on September 29th

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | September 22, 2015 - 08:37 PM |
Tagged: Nexus, google, Android

Well, the event is apparently official. It's the contents that are rumored...

It's been a little while since Google announced new Android phones, almost a year in fact. Two phones have been rumored this year, which are allegedly named the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. I am not sure how much of the leaks are pure speculation, versus grounded in actual fact, so I will leave it as an exercise to you to read a couple of links that summarize them. A grain of salt will be necessary of course. It's not that we are afraid to look at rumors, as we do so frequently, but I'd rather not play arbitrator this time. I don't think that I can research this topic enough to arrive at a sufficient level of confidence at the moment.


What I can say is that Google will host an event on September 29th, 2015, to announce whatever they have. The invitations have gone out to sites like CNet and it will present devices that use Android 6.0 M, which Google announced stands for “Marshmallow” last August. An updated Chromecast is also expected to be launched at the same event.

Source: CNet

MSI Makes Desktop Gaming Graphics Mobile with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPU

Subject: Mobile | September 22, 2015 - 02:57 PM |
Tagged: msi, GTX 980M, GT72 Dominator Pro

It will cost you a pretty penny to pick up but if you are a laptop gamer the new MSI GT72 Dominator Pro is going to tempt you.  The laptop contains the mobile GTX 980 which Ryan recently covered, powerful enough to make G-SYNC run smoothly as well as offering support for sending 4K video. The actual notebook display is 1080p, sufficient for mobile gaming but you will want to invest in a serious 4K HDMI monitor to game on when you are at home. The PR is below and you can read more about the options and models straight from MSI right here.


City of Industry, Calif. – Sept 22, 2015 – MSI Computer Corp, a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, celebrates its 29th anniversary, presenting the availability of its flagship gaming notebook, the GT72 Dominator Pro, with NVIDIA’s most advanced and highest performance GPU, the GeForce GTX 980.

Designed to bring desktop gaming graphics to a notebook, NVIDIA’s latest GeForce GTX GPU runs all 2048 cores at full clocks and full performance, resulting in the most immersive experience available. NVIDIA’s newest GPU is also built for overclocking and virtual reality, with NVIDIA Maxwell architecture and loaded with NVIDIA GameWorks VR Technologies for blistering fast and highly responsive VR graphics. 3D Mark 11 performance, when over-clocking, is expected to reach over P14,500 points, which is as powerful as that of desktops with GTX980 graphics. MSI fans may experience smoother DirectX 12 extreme gaming effects on Windows 10 for enhanced image quality and details with 3K or even 4K resolutions.

“The combination of NVIDIA’s latest GPU and the cutting edge components inside the GT72 Dominator Pro will astound even the most serious desktop gamers,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America. “The GT72 Dominator has always been a mobile gaming beast, and now the beast is even more powerful.”

MSI’s refreshed GT72 Dominator Pro armed with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 GPU is ready to shatter records with Intel’s latest Core i7 processor, up to 32 GBs of DDR4 RAM, Killer Gaming Network Connectivity, and more. In additional, it enjoys NVIDIA’s BatteryBoost technology for longer battery life, NVIDIA’s Optimus technology that optimizes notebook performance, and a vast array of other features such as G-SYNC and Surround gameplay technology.

Source: MSI

ASUS Updates Transformer Book Lineup with T100HA and TP200SA

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 22, 2015 - 11:48 AM |
Tagged: transformer book, TP200SA, T100HA, intel atom, convertible tablet, Cherry Trail, Braswell, asus, 2-in-1

ASUS has updated their Transformer Book lineup today with new options for both the convertible tablet and 2-in-1 laptop designs.

T100HA_3K_Gray _(12)_NC.jpg

First up we have the revised T100 model, the T100HA, which has a significant hardware update. Now featuring an Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) x5 Z8500 processor over the current T100TA's Bay Trail-T options, and the T100HA also features 4GB of memory standard.

T100HA_3K_Gray _(11).jpg

Here's a look at the full specs from ASUS:

  • Processor: Quad-core Intel Atom 'Cherry Trail' x5 Z8500 (up to 2.24 GHz, 2MB L2)
  • Display: 10.1in WXGA (1280 x 800) IPS panel
  • Memory & Storage: 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC
  • Networking: 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Tablet I/O: 1x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen1 (5Gbps), 1x Micro USB port, 1x Micro HDMI, 1x Micro SD card slot, 1x headphone/mic combo jack
  • Keyboard dock I/O: 1x USB 2.0
  • Cameras: 2MP front / 5MP back
  • Operating System: Windows 10
  • Size: (Tablet) 10.43 x 6.89 x 0.33 inches; (Keyboard Dock) 
  • 10.43 x 6.89 x 0.28~0.39 inches
  • Weight: (Pad only) 1.28 lbs; (Keyboard dock) 1.04 lbs

Next up we have the Transformer Book Flip TP200SA, an 11.6-inch  2-in-1 design with an Intel Celeron N3050 (Braswell) processor.

TP200SA_3G_Crystal Silver_(15).jpg

Here are specs for the TP200SA:

  • Processor: Quad-core Intel Celeron 'Braswell' N3050 (up to 2.16 GHz, 2MB L2)
  • Display: 11.6in WXGA (1366 x 768) IPS panel
  • Memory & Storage: 4GB RAM, 64GB eMMC
  • Networking: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
  • I/O: 1x Type-C USB 3.1 Gen1, 1x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, 1x Micro 
  • HDMI, 1x Micro SD, 1x headphone/mic combo
  • Camera: VGA front
  • Operating system: Windows 10
  • Color: Dark Blue
  • Size: 11.69 x 7.93 x 0.73 inches
  • Weight: 2.65 lbs

These new Transformer Book models are set for a late September availability with pricing at $299 for the T100HA and $349 for the TP200SA.

Source: ASUS

Microsoft and Cyanogen to Integrate Cortana in Cyanogen OS

Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2015 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, CyanogenMod, cyanogen, cortana

A few months ago, Cyanogen and Microsoft have agreed to bring some of the latter's services into the former's distribution of Android. While apps like Skype and OneNote will likely be the same experience as if the user just downloaded the apps directly, other Microsoft services could benefit from a tighter integration, such as OneDrive -- although we don't have any news on that front.


Another example is Cortana, and Cyanogen's CEO has just announced that the digital assistant is coming to the next version of Cyanogen OS. One of the distribution's goals is to create a version of Android that is not reliant upon Google's services, which initially sounds like they aim to eliminate these low-level services. With this announcement, it sounds more like they just want to inject third parties in its place, with Microsoft being at least the early partner.

This is a definite win for Microsoft on the services side of things. While I'm sure that many fans of the corporation believe that Microsoft is watering down their ecosystem, the company no longer views their software platform as the bounds of their market share. This deal is clearly acceptable to them, because they made it.

Source: ZDNet

IFA 2015: Lenovo Introduces YOGA Tablet Series 3 Featuring Tab 3 Pro 10

Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 03:00 PM |
Tagged: YOGA Tab 3, yoga, x5-Z8500, Tab 3 Pro, pico projector, Lenovo, IFA 2015, Dolby Atmos

Lenovo’s newest Yoga tablets have arrived boasting some serious entertainment cred. The main event is the YOGA Tab 3 Pro 10, a 10.1” Android device with a 2560x1600 display, built-in 70-inch projector, and Dolby Atmos digital surround (!).


It makes sense that Lenovo would have tailored their Android-powered Yoga 3 tablets for entertainment as tablets are often used for content consumption at home or on the go. But I wouldn’t have imagined Dolby Atmos (the new surround tech that adds vertical sounds to the mix) to find its way into a tablet, let alone one that will retail for $499. And let’s not forget about what Lenovo is calling a world first, that 70-inch rotating projector!


While there was no listed resolution for the projector I don’t think it’s full HD (likely 480p).

What about the rest of the tablet? It’s powered by an Intel Atom x5-Z8500 quad-core processor, a 14 nm Cherry Trail part that features Intel HD graphics (up to 600 MHz) with 12 Execution Units which should help contend with the large 2560x1600 display resolution for GPU-intensive applications.

  • 10.1-inch 2560x1600 IPS display
  • Intel Atom (Cherry Trail) x5-Z8500
  • 2GB LPDDR3 memory
  • 16 GB or 32 GB onboard storage
  • MicroSD slot (up to 128 GB)
  • Rotating 70” Pico Projector, 50 nits, Digital Focus, Gesture Control
  • 4x front-facing speakers, Dolby Atmos 3D Surround Sound
  • Rear camera: 13 MP Auto Focus, Front camera: 5MP Auto Focus
  • 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth® 4.0, Optional 4G LTE (select countries)
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop

What kind of battery life can we expect? Thanks to a massive 10200 mAh battery the Yoga Pro 3 10” should last up to 18 hours, according to Lenovo. Pricing starts at $499 for the Wi-Fi version and $599 for the LTE model.


Rounding out the lineup are the non-pro YOGA Tab 3 8-inch and 10.1-inch models. These versions retain the Dolby Atmos audio and will be offered in LTE versions, but have considerably lower specs (identical for both other than battery):

  • 8-inch 1280x800 IPS display
  • Qualcomm Quad-Core 1.3GHz (APQ8009)
  • 1 GB RAM, 16 GB internal storage
  • MicroSD slot (up to 128 GB)
  • 8MP AF Rotatable camera
  • 2x front-facing large-chamber speakers
  • Dolby Atmos 3D Surround Sound
  • Lenovo AnyPen Technology
  • Bluetooth 4.0, Optional 4G LTE (select countries)
  • Android 5.1 Lollipop

Batteries are 6200 mAh for the 8-inch providing up to 20 hours, and 8400 mAh providing up to 18 hours for the 10.1-inch version. The 8-inch version will start at $169 for Wi-Fi only and $199 for LTE, and the 10-inch version will be $199 for Wi-Fi only and $249 for LTE.

Availability for the new YOGA Tab series was not immediately available and will be updated when announced.

Source: Lenovo

ASUS Announces ROG GX700 Gaming Notebook that's Water Cooled

Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: ROG, notebook, ifa, gx700, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, asus

IFA is turning out to be an odd place full of weird announcements focused on PC gaming and enthusiasts rather than just mobile phones and electronics. ASUS has gone in the completely opposite direction today, announcing not just a series of gaming notebooks but a new series that is water cooled. I'm not making that up.


That is the new ASUS ROG (Republic of Gamers) GX700 series of gaming notebooks, coming in the 4th quarter of 2015. Looking for a price? You won't find it here but you will find a lot of interesting technology. This is what ASUS claims about the GX700:

  • All-new flagship gaming laptop
  • 4K 17-inch display
  • Water-cooling system with pump/radiator
  • Mobile K-series CPU with overclocking
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX graphics (TBD)

A 4K screen in a 17-inch form factor is going to...have exceptionally small pixels. Clearly this is going to need quite a bit of Windows-based text and format scaling to make sure the desktop experience is usable. ASUS is using the new K-series Skylake processor that is unlocked and allows for overclocking in the same way you do so in the desktop market.

Oh, and what's this? An unannounced mobile GeForce GTX GPU? I doubt this is anything more than a currently shipping Maxwell GPU with some additional horsepower behind it, possibly more closely matching performance of the desktop GTX 980 Ti.

And of course, let's talk about the water cooling system. I asked for more details but ASUS wasn't budging. Clearly if you market this as a notebook there has to be portability to the device so expect that large portion that is front in center in the above picture to detach with quick connections to the notebook housing. That large external base will likely hold the pump, radiator, reservoir and even some docking functions like display connections, USB, etc. With water cooling and an unlocked Skylake processor you should expect some impressive overclocking capability considering the form factor!

I would assume that if you disconnect the machine to take on the road without the water cooling base the hardware would run at slower speeds with normal in-case fans as we see with other designs on the market today.

This sound amazing, crazy and kind of senseless, but I need to try it right away. Expect to pay top dollar for something like this especially considering the component cost of the screen, CPU, GPU, etc. not to mention the specific engineering for the new housing and design. I'll keep my eyes out for more information on the ASUS ROG GX700!

Source: ASUS

IFA 2015: ASUS Introduces ROG G752 Gaming Notebook with 4K and Skylake

Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 2, 2015 - 07:00 AM |
Tagged: Skylake, ROG, Republic of Gamers, notebooks, laptops, IFA 2015, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, G752, asus, 4k

ASUS has announced the newest addition to their Republic of Gamers (ROG) gaming laptop lineup, the G752. What's new? ASUS offers these bullet points:

  • All-new chassis with new design theme
  • New plasma copper, armor titanium and lava red color
  • Intel Skylake platform
  • NVIDIA graphics up to a GTX 980M 8GB
  • Optional 4K display
  • Thunderbolt 3.0 technology
  • Gaming keyboard with anti-ghosting 30-key rollover with 2.5mm long-travel keys


The high-end model is the ROG G752VY, which boasts these specs:

  • 17.3” AG FHD IPS LED backlit display (1920x1080) with G-SYNC / 17.3” AG UHD IPS LED backlit display (3840x2160) with G-SYNC
  • Intel Core i7-6700HQ / i7-6820HK Processor (TBD)
  • Mobile Intel CM236 Chipset
  • DDR4 2133 MHz memory up to 64 GB
  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU with 4 GB / 8 GB GDDR5
  • 2.5” SATA 2TB 5400 RPM HDD/1TB 7200 RPM HDD/1TB SSHD, PCIEX4 M.2 NVME 512 GB / 256 GB / 128 GB SSD
  • DVD Super-Multi / Blu-ray combo / Blu-ray writer
  • Built-in HD camera and array mic
  • (WxDxH) 428 mm X 334 mm X 23~53 mm, 4.38 Kg (with 8-cell battery)

With the option of a 4K display and some serious specs the G752VY covers the bases for a desktop-replacement gaming powerhouse, topping the list of new laptops.

Sitting below the G752VY is the G752VT (yes this is a different laptop, though you could easily mistake the “T” for the other model name’s “Y”), and this 17.3” laptop differs in GPU selection with the GTX 970M and is only offered with a FHD 1920x1080 IPS display. Rounding out the lineup is the G752VL which has the GeForce GTX 965M GPU, and is otherwise virtually identical.

These new gaming laptops will be available in Q4, and pricing starts at $1499.

Source: ASUS