ChromeOS Gets Android "App Runtime for Chrome (Beta)"

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM |
Tagged: google, chrome os, Android

To some extent...

This is not the entire Google Play Store; in fact, it is just four Android apps at launch: Duolingo, Evernote, Sight Words, and Vine. According to a Google spokesperson, via Ars Technica, the company built an Android platform on top of Native Client, which is their way of sandboxing (a subset of) native code for use in applications which require strict security (such as a web browser). Android apps can then see and use those platform-dependent Android APIs, but be kept at two arms-lengths away from the host system.

chrome-os-android.png

From the app's standpoint, code will not need to be changed or ported. Of course, this is sound in theory, but little bugs can surface in actual practice. In fact, Flipboard was demonstrated at Google I/O under this initiative but is curiously absent from launch. To me, it seems like a few bugs need to be resolved before it is deemed compatible (it is dubbed "Beta" after all). Another possibility is that the app was not yet optimized for a Chromebook's user experience. Claiming either would be pure speculation, so who knows?

Android apps using App Runtime for Chrome (Beta) are available now at the Chrome Web Store.

Source: Google

First Apple A8 Benchmarks Show... "Modest" Increase

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 12, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: apple, apple a8, SoC, iphone 6, iphone 6 plus

So one of the first benchmarks for Apple's A8 SoC has been published to Rightware, and it is not very different from its predecessor. The Apple A7 GPU of last year's iPhone 5S received a score of 20,253.80 on the Basemark X synthetic benchmark. The updated Apple A8 GPU, found on the iPhone 6, saw a 4.7% increase, to 21204.26, on the same test.

apple-a8-rightware.png

Again, this is a synthetic benchmark and not necessarily representative of real-world performance. To me, though, it wouldn't surprise me if the GPU is identical, and the increase corresponds mostly to the increase in CPU performance. That said, it still does not explain the lack of increase that we see, despite Apple's switch to TSMC's 20nm process. Perhaps it matters more in power consumption and non-gaming performance? That does not align well with their 20% faster CPU and 50% faster GPU claims...

Speaking of gaming performance, iOS 8 introduces the Metal API, which is Apple's response to Mantle, DirectX 12, and OpenGL Next Initiative. Maybe that boost will give Apple a pass for a generation? Perhaps we will see the two GPUs (A7 and A8) start to diverge in the Metal API? We shall see when more benchmarks and reviews get published.

Source: Rightware

Qualcomm Snapdragon 210 Has LTE for Sub-$100 Devices

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 11, 2014 - 06:27 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, snapdragon 210, snapdragon, LTE, cheap tablet

The Snapdragon 210 was recently announced by Qualcomm to be an SoC for cheap, sub-$100 tablets and mobile phones. With it, the company aims to bring LTE connectivity to that market segment, including Dual SIM support. It will be manufactured on the 28nm process, with up to four ARM CPU cores and a Qualcomm Adreno 304 GPU.

Qualcomm_Snapdragon_logo.png

According to Qualcomm, the SoC can decode 1080p video. It will also be able to manage cameras with up to 8 megapixels of resolution, including HDR, autofocus, auto white balance, and auto exposure. Let's be honest, you will not really get much more than that for a sub-$100 device.

The Snapdragon 210 has been given Quick Charge 2.0, normally reserved for the 400-line and up, refill the battery quickly when connected to a Quick Charge 2.0-supporting charger (ex: the Motorola Turbo Charger). Quick Charge 1.0 worked by optimizing how energy was delivered to the battery through a specification. Quick Charge 2.0 does the same, just with 60 watts of power (!!). For reference, the USB standard defines 2.5W, which is 5V at 0.5A, although the specification is regularly extended to 5 or 10 watts.

Devices featuring the Snapdragon 210 are expected for the first half of 2015.

Source: Qualcomm

ASUS ZenWatch Announced

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 04:26 PM |
Tagged: asus, smartwatch, zenwatch

The ASUS ZenWatch is their "first wearable device produced in partnership with Google". It is a smart watch from the Android Wear platform. It has a curved glass display of unknown resolution, a leather strap, and a "quick-release clasp". It ships with numerous faces... because it's software and it is basically free after you pay the designer, especially with the price of storage these days. It requires a phone with Android 4.3 or later.

ASUS has customized the user interface with their ZenUI. Its main usability features either interact with your phone or track your fitness activity. It acts as a pedometer, calorie counter, heart rate monitor, and fitness goal tracker. Each of these are integrated around their ZenUI.

ASUS ZenWatch-03.jpg

ASUS has not publicly announced pricing or availability. According to VR-Zone, ASUS representatives state "under $200". This is significantly less than Apple's "starting at $349".

Source: ASUS

Logitech G Announces Arx Control (+SDK) for iOS and Android

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 03:59 PM |
Tagged: sdk, logitech g, logitech, arx control

The Arx platform is created by Logitech G to deliver "second screen experience" to PC gamers through their iOS or Android devices. Arx Control will have the ability to adjust your mouse DPI, rebind macros, and see the status of their gaming machine. Logitech did not specify the system information that would be given by app, but it does not matter in the end because they are releasing an SDK for it.

logitech-g-developer-logo.png

The Arx Control SDK, along with the LED Illumination SDK and the G-Key Macro SDK, will allow game and application developers to interact with "Logitech G" devices and the Arx Control app. This could range from providing ammo meters and timers, to offers of in-app purchases. That last point is clearly aimed more at developers than customers because that sounds really scary to me. Then again, it can be done correctly -- such as Team Fortress 2, in my opinion.

What could be cool is if a friend, watching you play, could contribute to the gameplay in some way. Then again, if a developer wanted to put that much effort, they could probably create a mobile web app. This is probably more useful for small things, like the aforementioned ammo and health status indicators, that would otherwise not be worth a developer's effort, without Logitech's platform.

The Logitech G Arx Control SDK is available now for free and the Arx Control App will be available soon on the iOS App Store and Google Play.

Source: Logitech

Centaur Technology Extends Their Website Countdown...

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 08:38 PM |
Tagged: x86, VIA, centaur technologies

In early July, we reported on VIA's Centaur Technology division getting a new website. At the time, we anticipated that it would coincide with an announcement about Isaiah II, their rumored to be upcoming x86-based SoC (maybe even compatible with ARM, too).

Android-x86.png

Fifty-one days later, on August 31st, 2014, we came back at quarter-to-four EDT and let the website run its course, refreshing occasionally. 4 PM hit and... the counter stayed at 0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds. Okay, I said. For about an hour, I refreshed occasionally because things could have happened on Labour Day weekend. I, then, came back late in the evening, and the day after. I next thought about it the week after, at which point the website was updated... with a timer that expires on September 30th, 2014.

Well... crap.

So by the end of the month, we may find out what Centaur is trying to announce. I am a little less confident in the breadth of the announcement, given that the company waited for the timer to lapse before correcting their mistake. I would expect that if their big announcement, like a new SoC, were to hold up the launch, the company would have known ahead of time. At the moment, it sounds like a typical website redesign which got delayed.

I will hopefully be pleasantly surprised come the end of the month.

One More Thing from Apple... the Apple Watch

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 05:51 PM |
Tagged: apple, smartwatch, ios

After Apple announced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Pay, they unveiled their smart watch project: the Apple Watch. Technically, they actually announced three families, the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition, with a combined total of 34 different models. They will launch early next year with a base price of $349. About half of the 34 models are a few millimeters smaller, 38mm vs 42mm, although both are unisex.

apple-watch-regular.jpg

Apple Watch

The main feature is its "Digital Crown". It is basically a mouse wheel which can be clicked as a Home button. This wheel can be adjusted to zoom in, adjust meters, and so forth (like a mouse wheel). Below the "Crown" is a Contacts button which, well, brings up your contacts. It has a touchscreen with force sensors, to differentiate between touch and press. The screen also provides haptic feedback for tactile sensations, which actually interests me (in terms of what developers learning what it can do if it is accessible).

apple-watch-sport.jpg

Apple Watch Sport

Each model charges with a magnetic attachment on the back, although battery life is not described. I would be surprised if it was anything less than a full, woken day, but it is possible that it will not stay awake as long as you are. We just do not know at this point. This is probably the best reason to wait for a review before purchasing, if you have any level of interest. That could easily be a deal breaker.

apple-watch-edition.jpg

Apple Watch Edition

The watches are all basically the same from a technological standpoint. Every model, besides the Apple Watch Sport, has a Sapphire-protected screen (the Sport uses "Ion-X glass" which we currently know nothing about). The bands are replaceable via a button latch on the back, allowing the strap to slide off of the face. The "Watch Edition" (that name...) is created from 18-karat gold. Specifically, "Each has a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold that our metallurgists have developed to be up to twice as hard as standard gold". Yes Apple, because gold is a soft metal... but I digress.

The Apple Watch will arrive in early 2015 and will start at $349. It is currently not certified by the FCC, although I am sure that the major tech blogs will announce when that happens. It requires iPhone 5 (or later).

Source: Apple

Apple Announces New iPhone 6 and Larger iPhone 6 Plus

Subject: Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 03:45 PM |
Tagged: mobile gpu, mobile cpu, mobile, iphone 6 plus, iphone 6, iphone, apple, 5.5, 4.7

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

IPHONE_6_COVER.png

Image credit: Apple, Inc.

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

DSC_4503.jpg

Image credit: The Verge

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

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

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

DSC_4561.jpg

Image credit: The Verge

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

DSC_4520.jpg

Image credit: The Verge

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

IPHONE_THIN.PNG

Image credit: Apple, Inc.

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

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

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

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

Source: The Verge

IDF 2014: Intel and Google Announce Reference Design Program, Guaranteed 2 Week AOSP Updates

Subject: Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 01:00 PM |
Tagged: tablet, reference design program, Intel, idf 2014, idf, google, aosp, Android

During today's keynote of the Intel Developer Forum, Google and Intel jointly announced a new program aimed to ease the burden of Android deployment and speed up the operating system update adoption rates that have often plagued the ecosystem.

In today's Android market, whether we are talking about x86 or ARM-based SoC designs, the process to release a point update to the operating system is quite complicated. ODMs have to build unique operating system images for each build and each individual SKU has to pass Google Media Services (GMS). This can be cumbersome and time consuming, slowing down or preventing operating system updates from ever making it to the consumer.

androidref.jpg

With the Intel Reference Design Program, the company will provide it's partners with a single binary that allows them to choose from a pre-qualified set of components or a complete bill of materials specification. Obviously this BOM will include Intel x86 processors like Bay Trail but it should help speed up the development time of new hardware platforms. Even better, OEMs and ODMs won't have to worry about dealing with the process of passing GMS certification leaving the hardware vendor to simply release the hardware to the market.

IMG_0182.JPG

But, an even bigger step forward, is Intel's commitment on the software side. Everyone knows how fragmented the Android OS market with just 20% of the hardware on the Play Store running Android KitKat. For devices built on the Reference Design Program, Intel is going to guarantee software updates within 2 weeks of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) updates. And, that update support will be given for two years after the release of the launch of the device.

AOSP-logo.jpg

This combination of hardware and software support from Intel to its hardware ODMs should help ignite some innovation and sales in the x86 Android market. There aren't any partners to announce support for this Reference Design Program but hopefully we'll hear about some before the end of IDF. It will be very interesting to see what ARM (and its partners) respond with. There are plenty of roadblocks holding back the quick uptake of x86 Android tablets but those companies would be blind to ignore the weight that Intel can shift when the want to.

ASUS ZenBook UX305 Will Be Based on Core M (Broadwell)

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 01:49 AM |
Tagged: Intel, asus, core m, broadwell-y, Broadwell, 14nm, ultrabook

This will probably be the first of many notebooks announced that are based on Core M. These processors, which would otherwise be called Broadwell-Y, are the "flagship" CPUs to be created on Intel's 14nm, tri-gate fabrication process. The ASUS ZenBook UX305 is a 13-inch clamshell notebook with one of three displays: 1920x1200 IPS, 1920x1200 multi-touch IPS, or 3200x1800 multi-touch IPS. That is a lot of pixels to pack into such a small display.

asus-zenbook-ux305-twinhero.jpg

While the specific processor(s) are not listed, it will use Intel HD Graphics 5300 for its GPU. This is new with Broadwell, albeit their lowest tier. Then again, last generation's 5000 and 5100 were up in the 700-800 GFLOP range, which is fairly high (around medium quality settings for Battlefield 4 at 720p). Discrete graphics will not be an option. It will come with a choice between 4GB and 8GB of RAM. Customers can also choose between a 128GB SSD, or a 256GB SSD. It has a 45Wh battery.

Numerous connectivity options are available: 802.11 a, g, n, or ac; Bluetooth 4.0; three USB 3.0 ports; Micro HDMI (out); a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack; and a microSD card slot. It has a single, front-facing, 720p webcam.

In short, it is an Ultrabook. Pricing and availability are currently unannounced.

Source: ASUS

Toshiba Encore Mini Is Windows 8.1 for $119.99

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 6, 2014 - 06:03 PM |
Tagged: toshiba, tablet, cheap tablet, cheap computer, x86, Windows 8.1

While you should only get a cheap PC if you have a need for one, Toshiba is selling a $120 tablet with Windows 8.1 and a quadcore, Intel Atom processor. It also includes a single year of Office 365 Personal, which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, an 1TB of OneDrive storage (normally $69 or twelve installments of $7/mo).

toshiba-encore-mini.jpg

While RAM has not been announced, it contains 16GB of storage, expandable with a microSDXC card of up to 128 GB. It is based on a 7-inch, 1024x600 multi-touch display. Of course, 16GB of internal storage is about as low as you can have Windows 8.1 be installed within. In fact, it is the minimum requirements for 32-bit (64-bit requires 20 GB). You will not be fitting too many applications on your main drive.

The tablet also has a front-facing webcam and a back-facing 2 megapixel camera for photos and video.

The Toshiba Encore Mini is available now for an MSRP of $119.99.

Source: Toshiba

Lenovo Unveils New Vibe Z2 and Vibe X2 Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2014 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, smartphone, qualcomm, Lenovo, ifa 2014

In addition to new traditional PCs, Lenovo unveiled two new smartphones under its Vibe series. The Vibe Z2 and Vibe X2 are 64-bit mobiles ready for Android L. Both models will be available in China and select regions later this month.

First up is the Lenovo Vibe X2 which is the successor to the Vibe X. Lenovo's new flagship smartphone is 7.27mm thick and uses a layered design that uses a three color gradient evident when looking at the outside edges of the phone. The Vibe X2 features a large 5-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display, 5MP webcam, and 13MP rear camera with flash.

Lenovo Vibe X2 Smartphone.jpg

The Vibe X2 is powered by a MediaTek MT6595M SoC, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage (no MicroSD expansion), and a 2,300mAh battery. The phone will come in dual and single SIM variants depending on the country. The MediaTek MT6595M "True8Core" processor features eight ARM cores in a big.LITTLE configuration with a maximum clockspeed of 2GHz on the four Cortex A17 cores and 1.5GHz on the four low power Cortex A7 cores. The SoC also features a 16MP image signal processor, video encoding hardware (for recording up to 1080p60), and a PowerVR G6200 GPU clocked at 450MHz.

In all, the Vibe X2 should perform noticeably better than last year's Vibe X thanks to the updated SoC with faster GPU. Moving to the big.LITTLE setup should also net users better battery life, which is always a good thing. For even more battery life though, Lenovo is offering up clip-on attachments – called Lenovo Xtensions – that include an extra battery and a version with a larger speaker.

While the hardware is ready to run Android L, the phone will ship with Android 4.4 KitKat along with Lenovo's Vibe UI 2.0.

The flagship Vibe X2 will be available later this month in China starting at $399 USD.

Lenovo is also releasing the Vibe Z2 which is a stylish metal unibody design with a brushed metal finish. The phone is 7.8mm thick and weighs 155 grams. The front of the Vibe Z2 is dominated by a 5.5-inch 1920x1080 display. An 8MP front camera sits above the display and uses an optional guesture-based shutter that can be triggered by smiling, blinking, or making a "V" sign with your hands. According to Lenovo, the Vibe Z has "mastered the art of the selfie." On the backside of the smartphone sits a 13MP camera with a Sony Exmor BSI (backside illumination) sensor and optical image stabilization which is nice to see on a smartphone.

Lenovo Vibe Z2 Smartphone.jpg

Inside the Vibe Z2, Lenovo is using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 401 SoC, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. The phone supports Dual SIM cards as well as LTE, HSPA+, WiFi, and Bluetooth networks. The Snapdragon 401 is a recent Qualcomm chip that can be clocked up to 1.2GHz with a Adreno 305 GPU clocked at up to 450MHz (Lenovo did not give specific clockspeeds, but those are the speeds that the 401 is rated at).

The Vibe Z2 will be available in China and other regions where Lenovo has a smartphone presence later this month starting at $429 USD.

Source: Lenovo

Lenovo Outs 8-Inch $199 Intel-Powered TAB S8 Android Tablet

Subject: Mobile | September 3, 2014 - 03:02 AM |
Tagged: tablet, tab s8, Lenovo, ifa 2014, ifa, Bay Trail, Atom Z3775, Android

Lenovo launched the TAB S8 at IFA in Berlin today, making it the company's first Intel-powered 8-inch tablet running Google's Android operating system. The TAB S8 packs a decent amount of hardware into a 7.9mm thick and 299 gram package that will be available later this month starting at $199.

The TAB S8 features an 8-inch "Infinity Glass" 1920 x 1200 IPS display, two front facing Dolby Audio speakers, a 1.6 megapixel webcam, and an 8MP rear camera. Lenovo will offer the TAB S8 in white, black, yellow, and blue.

Lenovo Tab S8 Intel Bay Trail Android Tablet.jpg

Internally, the TAB S8 uses an Intel Atom Z3775 "Bay Trail" SoC clocked at up to 1.83 GHz, 16GB of eMMC storage, and 2GB DDR3 memory. The tablet runs Android 4.4 and will support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and (optionally) LTE cellular radios.

Exact SKUs and specifications have not yet been announced, but the base 16GB model will be available in September for $199. For the price, the TAB S8 looks to be a good deal, with hardware that is very competitive to other budget Android tablets!

Also read: Video Perspective: Lenovo Yoga Tablet 8 and Yoga Tablet 10

Source: Lenovo

ASUS Quietly Refreshes Its Transformer T100 Tablet With New Hardware and Color Options

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | August 28, 2014 - 01:30 PM |
Tagged: Windows 8.1, transformer t100, Intel, Bay Trail, Atom Z3775, asus

Following rumors earlier this summer, ASUS has quietly refreshed its Transformer T100 tablet. ASUS is now offering T100 tablet versions in multiple colors with a faster Intel Bay Trail processor as well as a version that retains the original SoC but adds a 500GB hard drive to the keyboard dock. I have been keeping an eye on the T100 since it first launched almost a year ago at IFA 2013, and have been eagerly waiting for the rumored refresh. Fortunately, that wait is now over because the updated Transformer T100s are finally starting to appear and be available for purchase on retailers' websites (first at Tiger Direct, then Amazon, and others now).

ASUS T100 Red Windows 8 Tablet.jpg

The T100 is now available in red and white as well as the original gray. The red and white SKUs feature a higher end Bay Trail SoC while the updated gray SKU comes with a 500GB mechanical hard drive nested inside the keyboard dock. The table below lists the model numbers for the new tablets. I should note that there are conflicting specifications at different retailers for the model numbers listed, which makes this under-the-radar refresh so frustrating, but after a bit of digging I believe the specifications to be accurate and any conflicting information to simply be errors on the part of those retailers.

New ASUS Transformer T100 Tablet SKUs (T100 Refresh)
Model Numbers Processor Internal Storage Color Price (Amazon) Price (MSRP)
T100TA-C1-WH(S) Intel Z3775 64GB eMMC White $394.99 $399
T100TA-C1-RD(S) Intel Z3775 64GB eMMC Red $388.99 $399
T100TA-C1-GR(S) Intel Z3775 64GB eMMC Gray $329.99 $399
T100TA-H2-GR Intel Z3740 64GB eMMC + 500GB HDD Gray $449.99 $?
T100TA-H1-GR Intel Z3740 32GB eMMC + 500GB HDD Gray $369.00 $399

The new colors are nice (I'm partial to the red T100), but the upgraded processor is the truly interesting bit about this Windows tablet (which won PC Perspective's "Best Hardware of 2013" award). The original T100 launched with an Intel Atom Z3740 SoC an the refreshed Transformer T100 uses a higher clocked Atom Z3775. The Z3775 is a higher-end Intel Bay Trail processor with four Silvermont CPU cores clocked at 1.46GHz that can boost to as high as 2.39GHz. The HD Graphics GPU retains the same base clockspeed as the Z3740 but has a higher turbo frequency of 778MHz (versus 667MHz on the Z3740). The table below lists the specifications of the two chips. The new SoC has significantly higher CPU clocks and a decent boost to potential GPU horsepower (thermals permitting).

Intel Atom SoC Z3740 Z3775
CPU Cores 4 x "Silvermont" Cores 4 x "Silvermont" Cores
CPU Clockspeeds (Base/Boost) 1.33GHz / 1.86GHz 1.46GHz / 2.39GHz
HD Graphics GPU Clockspeeds (Base/Boost) 311MHz / 667MHz 311MHz / 778MHz
L2 Cache 2MB 2MB
Memory Support 4GB 1066MHz 4GB 1066MHz
SDP 2W 2W
Process Node 22nm 22nm
Tray Price $32.00 $35.00

The refreshed T100 has an MSRP of $399 USD for the red and white versions with 64GB eMMC storage and gray SKU with 32GB internal storage and 500GB keyboard dock though retail prices are slightly less than that at the time of writing. The Transformer T100 with 64GB eMMC and additional 500GB hard drive has a retail price of around $450 but the MSRP is unknown.

ASUS T100 White WIndows Tablet.jpg

If you have been holding off, now is a good time to pick up an updated version for a small price premium (or an older version at a discount!). However, if you already own a T100, the relatively minor update will is a hard to justify upgrade (you would likely be better off waiting on Cherry Trail-based devices with better battery life or other improvements as possible upgrades).

Scratching the Surface 2 (in the Price Tag). $100 Off.

Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | August 26, 2014 - 09:10 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, surface, Surface 2

While the Surface Pro 3 has just been released, the latest Windows RT version is still the Surface 2. It is powered by Tegra 4 and contains 2GB of RAM. It also cannot run anything, unless it comes from Windows Store, it is a Windows Update, or it is a website that runs in Internet Explorer 11. If what you are looking for is Microsoft Office 2013 RT (included), Netflix, Halo: Spartan Assault, and so forth, then all Surface 2 models are currently reduced in price by $100 at the Microsoft Store.

microsoft-surface2.jpg

Of course, the launch of the Surface Pro 3 without a corresponding Surface 3 suggests that this sale is a way to clear up-to year-old stock for a product refresh. In January, there were rumors circulating that a Surface 3 would appear with a Tegra K1 processor. Of course, with the first two RT-based Surface tablets containing Tegra SoCs, that could just be pattern recognition (rather than concrete information). Other rumors claim that Microsoft is interested in Qualcomm's chips, if only for a "mini" variant.

Either way, you can get a Tegra 4-powered tablet for $349 USD (32 GB), $449 USD (64 GB), or $579 USD (64 GB with LTE from AT&T). Previously, they were $449, $549, and $679, respectively.

NVIDIA Live Stream: We Want Your Questions!

Subject: Graphics Cards, Displays, Mobile | August 21, 2014 - 05:23 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, video, live, shield, shield tablet, g-sync, gsync, tom petersen

Tomorrow at 12pm EDT / 9am PDT, NVIDIA's Tom Petersen will be stopping by the PC Perspective office to discuss some topics of interest. There has been no lack of topics floating around the world of graphics card, displays, refresh rates and tablets recently and I expect the show tomorrow to be incredibly interesting and educational.

On hand we'll be doing demonstrations of G-Sync Surround (3 panels!) with the ASUS ROG Swift PG278Q display (our review here) and also show off the SHIELD Tablet (we have a review of that too) with some multiplayer action. If you thought the experience with a single G-Sync monitor was impressive, you will want to hear what a set of three of them can be like.

pcperlive.png

NVIDIA Live Stream with Tom Petersen

9am PT / 12pm ET - August 22nd

PC Perspective Live! Page

The topic list is going to include (but not limited to):

  • ASUS PG278Q G-Sync monitor
  • G-Sync availability and pricing
  • G-Sync Surround setup, use and requirements
  • Technical issues surrounding G-Sync: latency, buffers, etc.
  • Comparisons of G-Sync to Adaptive Sync
  • SHIELD Tablet game play
  • Altoids?

gsyncsurround.jpg

But we want your questions! Do you have burning issues that you think need to be addressed by Tom and the NVIDIA team about G-Sync, FreeSync, GameWorks, Tegra, tablets, GPUs and more? Nothing is off limits here, though obviously Tom may be cagey on future announcements. Please use the comments section on this news post below (registration not required) to ask your questions and we can organize them before the event tomorrow. We MIGHT even be able to come up with a couple of prizes to giveaway for live viewers as well...

See you tomorrow!!

The third incarnation of Microsoft's Pro Tablet Surfaces

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2014 - 02:22 PM |
Tagged: Surface Pro 3, microsoft

With a 12" 2160x1440 resolution screen, a 4th generation Core i3, i5 or i7 and a full version of Win 8.1 the new Surface Pro 3 is the best tablet offered by Microsoft so far.  Overall it is thinner but 1.5" larger than the Pro 3 with better resolution with a battery that should last about 8 hours while you are working, slightly longer when just browsing.  The Surface Pen is a nice addition to the dock and stand we have become familiar with.  Overall The Inquirer was fairly impressed with Microsoft's new offering, apart from the pricing which is rather prohibitive even before accessorizing.

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"THE SURFACE PRO 3 tablet brings some of the biggest and most welcome changes seen in the Surface tablet line yet, with a bigger and better 12in HD screen, a much thinner case and an improved keyboard and kickstand, meaning its never lived more up to its motto of "the tablet that can replace your laptop."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

Mobile

Source: The Inquirer

Intel and Microsoft Show DirectX 12 Demo and Benchmark

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile, Shows and Expos | August 13, 2014 - 09:55 PM |
Tagged: siggraph 2014, Siggraph, microsoft, Intel, DirectX 12, directx 11, DirectX

Along with GDC Europe and Gamescom, Siggraph 2014 is going on in Vancouver, BC. At it, Intel had a DirectX 12 demo at their booth. This scene, containing 50,000 asteroids, each in its own draw call, was developed on both Direct3D 11 and Direct3D 12 code paths and could apparently be switched while the demo is running. Intel claims to have measured both power as well as frame rate.

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Variable power to hit a desired frame rate, DX11 and DX12.

The test system is a Surface Pro 3 with an Intel HD 4400 GPU. Doing a bit of digging, this would make it the i5-based Surface Pro 3. Removing another shovel-load of mystery, this would be the Intel Core i5-4300U with two cores, four threads, 1.9 GHz base clock, up-to 2.9 GHz turbo clock, 3MB of cache, and (of course) based on the Haswell architecture.

While not top-of-the-line, it is also not bottom-of-the-barrel. It is a respectable CPU.

Intel's demo on this processor shows a significant power reduction in the CPU, and even a slight decrease in GPU power, for the same target frame rate. If power was not throttled, Intel's demo goes from 19 FPS all the way up to a playable 33 FPS.

Intel will discuss more during a video interview, tomorrow (Thursday) at 5pm EDT.

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Maximum power in DirectX 11 mode.

For my contribution to the story, I would like to address the first comment on the MSDN article. It claims that this is just an "ideal scenario" of a scene that is bottlenecked by draw calls. The thing is: that is the point. Sure, a game developer could optimize the scene to (maybe) instance objects together, and so forth, but that is unnecessary work. Why should programmers, or worse, artists, need to spend so much of their time developing art so that it could be batch together into fewer, bigger commands? Would it not be much easier, and all-around better, if the content could be developed as it most naturally comes together?

That, of course, depends on how much performance improvement we will see from DirectX 12, compared to theoretical max efficiency. If pushing two workloads through a DX12 GPU takes about the same time as pushing one, double-sized workload, then it allows developers to, literally, perform whatever solution is most direct.

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Maximum power when switching to DirectX 12 mode.

If, on the other hand, pushing two workloads is 1000x slower than pushing a single, double-sized one, but DirectX 11 was 10,000x slower, then it could be less relevant because developers will still need to do their tricks in those situations. The closer it gets, the fewer occasions that strict optimization is necessary.

If there are any DirectX 11 game developers, artists, and producers out there, we would like to hear from you. How much would a (let's say) 90% reduction in draw call latency (which is around what Mantle claims) give you, in terms of fewer required optimizations? Can you afford to solve problems "the naive way" now? Some of the time? Most of the time? Would it still be worth it to do things like object instancing and fewer, larger materials and shaders? How often?

Acer Unveils Chromebook 13 Powered By NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 11, 2014 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: webgl, tegra k1, nvidia, geforce, Chromebook, Bay Trail, acer

Today Acer unveiled a new Chromebook powered by an NVIDIA Tegra K1 processor. The aptly-named Chromebook 13 is 13-inch thin and light notebook running Google’s Chrome OS with up to 13 hours of battery life and three times the graphical performance of existing Chromebooks using Intel Bay Trail and Samsung Exynos processors.

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The Chromebook 13 is 18mm thick and comes in a white plastic fanless chassis that hosts a 13.3” display, full size keyboard, trackpad, and HD webcam. The Chromebook 13 will be available with a 1366x768 or 1920x1080 resolution panel depending on the particular model (more on that below).

Beyond the usual laptop fixtures, external I/O includes two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI video output, a SD card reader, and a combo headphone/mic jack. Acer has placed one USB port on the left side along with the card reader and one USB port next to the HDMI port on the rear of the laptop. Personally, I welcome the HDMI port placement as it means connecting a second display will not result in a cable invading the mousing area should i wish to use a mouse (and it’s even south paw friendly Scott!).

The Chromebook 13 looks decent from the outside, but it is the internals where the device gets really interesting. Instead of going with an Intel Bay Trail (or even Celeron/Core i3), Acer has opted to team up with NVIDIA to deliver the world’s first NVIDIA-powered Chromebook.

Specifically, the Chromebook 13 uses a NVIDIA Tegra K1 SoC, up to 4GB RAM, and up to 32GB of flash storage. The K1 offers up four A15 CPU cores clocked at 2.1GHz, and a graphics unit with 192 Kepler-based CUDA cores. Acer rates the Chromebook 13 at 11 hours with the 1080p panel or 13 hours when equipped with the 1366x768 resolution display. Even being conservative, the Chromebook 13 looks to be the new leader in Chromebook battery life (with the previous leader claiming 11 hours).

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A graph comparing WebGL performance between the NVIDIA Tegra K1, Intel (Bay Trail) Celeron N2830, Samsung Exynos 5800, and Samsung Exynos 5250. Results courtesy NVIDIA.

The Tegra K1 is a powerful little chip, and it is nice to see NVIDIA get a design win here. NVIDIA claims that the Tegra K1, which is rated at 326 GFLOPS of compute performance, offers up to three times the graphics performance of the Bay Trail N2830 and Exynos 5800 SoCs. Additionally, the K1 reportedly uses slightly less power and delivers higher multi-tasking performance. I’m looking forward to seeing independent reviews in this laptop formfactor and hoping that the chip lives up to its promises.

The Chromebook 13 is currently up for pre-order and will be available in September starting at $279. The Tegra K1-powered laptop will hit the United States and Europe first, with other countries to follow. Initially, the Europe roll-out will include “UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, France, Germany, Russia, Italy, Spain, South Africa and Switzerland.”

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Acer is offering three consumer SKUs and one education SKU that will be exclusively offering through a re-seller. Please see the chart below for the specifications and pricing.

Acer Chromebook 13 Models System Memory (RAM) Storage (flash) Display Price MSRP
CB5-311-T9B0 2GB 16GB 1920 x 1080 $299.99
CB5-311-T1UU 4GB 32GB 1920 x 1080 $379.99
CB5-311-T7NN - Base Model 2GB 16GB 1366 x 768 $279.99
Educational SKU (Reseller Only) 4GB 16GB 1366 x 768 $329.99

Intel made some waves in the Chromebook market earlier this year with the announcement of several new Intel-powered Chrome devices and the addition of conflict-free Haswell Core i3 options. It seems that it is now time for the ARM(ed) response. I’m interested to see how NVIDIA’s newest model chip stacks up to the current and upcoming Intel x86 competition in terms of graphics power and battery usage.

As far as Chromebooks go, if the performance is at the point Acer and NVIDIA claim, this one definitely looks like a decent option considering the price. I think a head-to-head between the ASUS C200 (Bay Trail N2830, 2GB RAM, 16GB eMMC, and 1366x768 display at $249.99 MSRP) and Acer Chromebook 13 would be interesting as the real differentiator (beyond aesthetics) is the underlying SoC. I do wish there was a 4GB/16GB/1080p option in the Chromebook 13 lineup though considering the big price jump to get 4GB RAM (mostly as a result of the doubling of flash) in the $379.99 model at, say, $320 MSRP.

Read more about Chromebooks at PC Perspective!

Source: Acer

MSI Unveils WS60, the Thinnest and Lightest Workstation Ever

Subject: Mobile | August 5, 2014 - 02:24 PM |
Tagged: msi, WS60, mobile workstation, Quadro K2100M

Weighing in under 5lbs and thinner than 1" the MSI WS60 is very small but yet houses a Quadro K2100M which is powerful enough for professional design work.  With Thunderbolt 2 connectivity it is capable of outputting 4k video and the Super RAID will give you very impressive performance even when working with large files.

 

City of Industry, Calif. – August 5, 2014 – MSI Computer Corp, a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, unveils the world’s thinnest and lightest mobile workstation, the WS60. Powered by state-of-the-art technologies, including NVIDIA Quadro K2100M 3D graphics, Intel Core i7 processor and MSI’s Super RAID technology, MSI’s newest workstation weighs only 4.36 lbs., measures less than 0.8-inches thick, and delivers superior performance in an unprecedented sexy design.

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“The WS60 is the perfect workstation for mobile designers and CAD CAM Engineers,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America. “It combines the versatility of an ultrabook with the performance of a workstation and takes it to another level with Thunderbolt connectivity, MSI’s Shortcut Manager, and an array of gaming components.”

Superior Performance
MSI’s WS60 offers the fastest processing speed available in an ultra-slim workstation. Featuring the latest 4th generation CPU from Intel and NVIDIA Quadro K2100 professional graphics, the WS60 can blaze through even the most demanding tasks. MSI enhances its prowess by adding Super RAID to seamlessly integrate 2x SSDs and 1x HDD storage for over 1000 MB/s of read speed, dual fan technology for maximum heat dissipation while remaining whisper quiet, and Thunderbolt 2 connectivity. Thunderbolt 2 comes with 4K and 3D video output and dramatically increases transfer speeds up to 20 GB/s, 4 times faster than a USB 3.0 port.

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Outstanding Design
The WS60 sheds the bulky and boxy design of traditional workstations. Inspired by the acclaimed look of MSI’s gaming notebooks, the WS60 has a full metallic body with MG-Li alloy parts that guarantee utmost durability, visual appeal and feather-like weight. Measuring less than 0.8-inches thick and weighing only 4.36 lbs., the WS60 is a featherweight notebook with ultra-heavyweight performance.

Stunning Display
Creating digital art requires a screen that accurately displays true-to-life colors and captures every minute detail. MSI has outfitted the WS60 with a vibrant WQHD+ 3K display for those who demand a high level of detail in their work.

Certified for Professionals
All MSI workstation laptops, including the WS60, guarantee optimal performance with professional 3D programs like SolidWorks and more with certification from these software giants.

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MSI’s WS60 is packed with professional-grade parts, including a SteelSeries full-color backlight keyboard with Anti-Ghost keys to guarantee superior tactile feedback, Killer Game Networking chip to optimize internet bandwidth, and MSI’s Shortcut Manager. MSI’s Shortcut Manager allows designers and engineers to program keys and combines multiple keys into a single command key, increasing efficiency and speed.

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The WS60 is currently available in two different configurations starting at $2,299.99.

Source: MSI