All | Editorial | General Tech | Graphics Cards | Networking | Motherboards | Cases and Cooling | Processors | Chipsets | Memory | Displays | Systems | Storage | Mobile | Shows and Expos
Subject: Systems, Mobile | October 9, 2014 - 03:41 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: yoga tablet 2, yoga tablet, Windows 8.1, windows, Thinkpad, lenovo yoga, Lenovo, haswell, Broadwell
At a press event in London (watch the livestream), Lenovo showed off two new convertible PCs – the Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 – aimed at the consumer and business markets respectively that each incorporate evolutionary improvements over their predecessors. The Windows 8.1 PCs will be available at the end of October.
The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro is the company's new flagship multi-mode system, and features build quality and internal processing power enhancements over the Yoga 2 Pro while being 17% thinner (0.5") and 14% lighter (2.62 lbs). Lenovo attributes the size and weight reductions to its new watchband hinge which is uses 800 pieces of aluminum and steel to achieve a thin yet flexible hinge with six focus points that resembles a metal watchband. Additionally, Lenovo has updated the display to a 13.3" multi-touch panel with (QHD+) 3200x1800 resolution. Other external features include JBL stereo speakers, a 720p webcam, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 and DC-input port, one micro HDMI output, and one audio combo jack.
Lenovo's new hand-constructed watchband-style hinge with six focus points.
Internally, Lenovo is using the Intel Core M-70 (Broadwell) processor, up to 8GB of DDR3L memory, and a 256GB SSD. Lenovo claims up to 9 hours of battery life, depending on usage. The PC will be available in Clementine Orange, Platinum Silver, or Champagne Gold.
Lenovo also announced the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 14. While it does not have the kinds of form factor and hinge design improvements as the Yoga 3 Pro, it does maintain the useful Lift 'n Lock keyboard and feature welcome internal upgrades. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 measures 13.3" x 9.4" x 0.82" and weighs 4.1 pounds. The magnesium alloy frame holds a 14" 1920x1080 IPS display with 10-point multi-touch, a 720p webcam, dual microphones with noise cancelation, stereo speakers, a backlit Lift 'n Lock keyboard (which, when in tablet mode, raises the frame flush with the keys which lock in place), full keyboard, trackpad, and trackpoint nub.
This PC is noticeably bulkier and heavier than the Yoga 3 Pro, but it trades bulk for processing power, storage, and external I/O. Externally, the PC has one full HDMI video out (which is preferable to having to remember a micro HDMI adapter on the road or to meetings), two USB 3.0 ports, one combo USB 2.0/DC power/OneLink docking connector, one SD card slot, and one audio combo jack. The ThinkPad Yoga 14 is powered by an Intel Core i5 (Haswell) processor, NVIDIA GeForce 840M GPU, either 4GB or 8GB of DDR3L memory, and 1TB hard drive paired with 16GB flash for caching purposes. It comes with Windows 8.1 and "all day" battery life of up to eight hours.
In all, it has some useful updates over last year's model which we reviewed here.
Pricing and Availability:
The Yoga 3 Pro and ThinkPad Yoga 14 will be available at the end of October from Lenovo.com or Best Buy. The Yoga 3 Pro has an MSRP of $1,349 while the ThinkPad Yoga 14 starts at $1,149.
Both systems continue the Yoga family forward, and I'm looking forward to seeing how the Broadwell-powered Yoga 3 Pro performs in particular. I do wish the Lift 'n Lock keyboard technology had trickled down to the consumer models even understanding it would add additional weight and thickness. Obviously, Lenovo felt the tradeoff was not worth it though.
Subject: Mobile | October 7, 2014 - 01:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nvidia, msi, maxwell, GTX 980M, GTX 970M, gt dominator, gs stealth, gs ghost
You've heard about NVIDIA's new GTX900M Series and MSI has released two new families of gaming laptops which contain the new GPU. The GS Stealth and Ghost series are the thinner, lighter more mobile of the laptops while the Dominator Series is more a desktop replacement and should also give you a good workout while you are carting them around. The base model will run you $1600, with more expensive options available such as the limited edition Crimson Red Stealth Pro model at the end. Before you ask, no the integral displays are not G-SYNC however since the mobile GPUs are based on Maxwell you may be able to output to a G-SYNC monitor with a variable refresh. Stay tuned for more.
City of Industry, Calif. – October 7, 2014 – MSI Computer Corp, a leading manufacturer of computer hardware products and solutions, announces the immediate availability of the critically acclaimed GS Stealth/Ghost Series and GT Dominator Series gaming laptops with NVIDIA’s latest GTX 900M Series graphics. Armed with unprecedented power and an array of cutting-edge features, including MSI’s new SHIFT technology, the new gaming notebooks deliver up to 28% more graphics performance for a mobile gaming experience without barriers.
“MSI’s newest gaming laptops showcase breakthroughs in mobile gaming technology that improve graphics performance, increase gaming comfort, and transport gamers into an unbelievable gaming journey,” says Andy Tung, president of MSI Pan America. “NVIDIA’s GTX 900M Series GPU delivers mobile graphics that are up to par with desktop graphics card models and superior to anything we’ve ever seen.”
SHIFT Your Speed
MSI’s newest gaming laptops feature their exclusive SHIFT power adjustment technology that enables easy tweaking of CPU and GPU performance to best suit the gamers’ needs. SHIFT comes with three proprietary modes: Sport to maximize CPU and GPU usage for extreme performance, Comfort for a smooth and balanced ride, and Green, which enables the lowest power consumption of both CPU and GPU while maintaining the coolest constant temperatures for both.
MSI provides unprecedented customization in all NVIDIA GeForce GTX 900M Series graphics equipped laptops via the Dragon Gaming Center and SteelSeries Engine. Gamers can SHIFT CPU and GPU usage through the Dragon Gaming Center as well as monitor system performance, temperature, network speed, power consumption, fan speed and more. The SteelSeries Engine gives gamers the ability to personalize playing style with over a billion customization options, program individual keys for unlimited configurations, determine key color and lighting patterns, save and share configurations, and learn gaming patterns with key usage statistics.
Cutting Edge Components
All revamped gaming laptops come with 4th Gen Intel Core i7 processors, Killer E2200 Game Networking, Sound Blaster Cinema, Dynaudio Technology, XSplit Gamecaster, 4K HDMI Output, Matrix Display and NVIDIA Surround View. NVIDIA Surround is now supported on all next gen models, allowing gamers to immersive themselves in the ultimate gaming experience. Select models come with MSI’s Super RAID technology which supports up to 4x M.2 SATA SSD’s in RAID 0, ultra-high resolution 3K displays, and Killer DoubleShot Pro combining Killer E2200 Game Networking with Killer N1525 Wireless AC.
MSI’s latest update applies to the ultra-thin and light GS70 Stealth Pro and GS60 Ghost Pro models, and the potent GT72 Dominator, GT70 Dominator and GT60 Dominator gaming laptops. All GS and GT gaming laptops equipped with NVIDIA’s GTX 900M graphics are available now starting at $1,599.99.
In addition, MSI is launching a special edition GS70 Stealth Pro in Crimson Red, catering to the demands of gamers who want more choices in color and style. The GS70 Stealth Pro Crimson Red edition will be available through online retailers with next gen graphics.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 4, 2014 - 11:43 PM | Tim Verry
Amazon launched a bevy of new tablets and eReaders late last month. An updated Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 will be available October 21st and replaces last year’s model as the flagship Kindle tablet.
Measuring 8.9” and weighing 13.2 ounces (13.7oz for the 4G model), the upcoming HDX 8.9” tablet retains the same form factor as its predecessor. The mobile device does pack in internal hardware improvements, updated software features, and an optional bluetooth Fire Keyboard accessory. The tablet features an 8.9” 2560x1600 (339 PPI) display, Dobly Atmos audio, an 8MP rear camera, and a 720p front-facing webcam. Amazon is using what it calls “Dynamic Light Control” which alters the display’s color temperature to match ambient light along with a dynamic backlighting.
With that said, the major changes between the previous model and the new Fire HDX 8.9 lie in updated internal hardware and Amazon’s latest operating system and UI features. Specifically, Amazon has upgraded to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 SoC and a faster (802.11ac) Wi-Fi radio. Last year’s tablet used the Snapdragon 800 clocked at 2.2GHz with an Adreno 330 GPU. The new HDX 8.9’s Snapdragon 805 is clocked at 2.5GHz and features an Adreno 420 GPU. Both tablets feature 2GB RAM and 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB internal storage options. Amazon claims up to 12 hours of battery life when reading, browsing the web, and watching videos.
The new tablet with ship with Amazon’s latest Fire OS operating system known as Fire OS 4.0 “Sangria.” Sangria is a custom fork of Android 4.4 KitKat that features Amazon’s custom user interface in addition to ASAP predictive pre-loading, Smart Suspend technology, Family Library media sharing, device profiles, and Mayday help/support.
The Fire Keyboard is a 7oz, 4.8mm thin Bluetooth keyboard that can attach magnetically to the optional Origami tablet case. The keyboard features 74 keys (including shortcut and search keys), a small trackpad, Bluetooth 3.0, and a lithium ion battery that has a claimed battery life of two months of active usage. It has an MSRP of $59.99 and will begin shipping October 21.The Origami case is another optional accessory that can hold and protect both the keyboard and tablet. It will be available in black, blue, and red leather for $69.99 from Amazon.
The new Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 is up for pre-order now but will officially be available on October 21st. Pricing and SKU data is listed in the table below. Needless to say, this is an overall minor upgrade over last year's model and it is not something existing HDX 8.9" users are likely excited about. However, on its own, the new model has decent specifications and if you are looking into a new Kindle Fire tablet, it is worth considering, especially if you plan to take advantage of the faster processor for activities such as gaming in addition to reading books and watching movies.
Pricing Information for Amazon's New Kindle Fire HDX 8.9" Tablet
Will you be picking up the latest Fire OS flagship?
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 1, 2014 - 03:17 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Kickstarter, Firefox OS, web, chromecast
When Google released the Chromecast, it was a surprisingly clean solution for streaming video (my apologies if solutions existed before it). Just plug it into HDMI and connect to it with a PC or a mobile device to use the TV as monitor for content, and it is cheap. I figured that the open source community would like one of their own, but I did not think it was going to be done. Now there is a Kickstarter up, with FirefoxOS.
I constantly struggle with whether to discuss crowdfunding because, on the one hand, you never know if something will tank. On the other hand, is it really any less sketchy than pre-release information for computer hardware or video games (especially pre-release news for video games)?
In this case, I found out that it was promoted by Mozilla on their Hacks blog. It is based on a Rockchip 3066 SoC with 1GB RAM, 4GB of storage and 2.4 GHz Wireless-N. As stated earlier, it runs FirefoxOS which means that apps are websites. The SoC has a Mali-400 GPU that is capable of OpenGL ES 2.0, so it might even be able to support WebGL if the software and drivers are certified. Don't expect jaw-dropping 3D graphics, though. The GPU is rated at about 9 GFLOPs. For comparison, the Tegra K1 has a peak compute throughput of about 365 GFLOPs; alternatively, it is fairly close to later-model Intel GMA graphics (not Intel HD Graphics... GMA). Still, it might allow for some interesting 2D (or simplistic 3D) games.
Just a day-or-so in, it is already at over 150% funding.
Subject: Systems, Mobile | September 30, 2014 - 04:15 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Windows 8.1, hp, cheap tablet, cheap computer
Before I get into the devices, the $149 HP Stream 8 tablet and certain models of the HP Stream 13 laptop (the ones with an optional 4G modem) includes "free 4G for life" for customers in the USA. Reading in the fine print, the device company apparently signed a deal with T-Mobile for 200MB/mo of 4G service. Of course, 200MB will barely cover the Windows Update regimen of certain months, but you have WiFi for that. It is free, and free is good. I can guess that T-Mobile is crossing their fingers that dripping a drop of water on the tongues of the thirsty will convince them to go to the fountain.
If it works? Great. That is just about the most honest way that I have ever seen a telecom company attract new customers.
Back to these devices. Oh right, they're cheap. They are so cheap, they barely have any technical specifications. The $199.99 HP Stream 11 laptop has an 11-inch display. The $229.99 HP Stream 13 laptop has a 13-inch display and can be configured with an optional 4G modem. Both are passively cooled (more fanless PCs...) and run on a dual-core processor. Both provide a year of Office 365 Personal subscriptions. Both are available in blueish-purple or pinkish-purple.
The two tablets (7-inch Stream 7 and 8-inch Stream 8) are a similar story. They run an x86 processor with full Windows 8.1 and a year's subscription to Office 365. Somehow, the tablets are based on Intel quad-core CPUs (rather than the laptop's passively cooled dual-cores) despite being cheaper. Then again, they could be completely different architectures.
While HP is interested in, you know, selling product, I expect that Microsoft's generous licensing terms (see also the Toshiba alternative we reported earlier) is an attempt to push their cloud services. They know that cheaper device categories cannot bare as much royalties as a fully-featured laptop, and not having a presence at those prices is conceding it to Google -- and conceding that to Google is really giving up on cloud services for those customers. The simple solution? Don't forfeit those markets, just monetize with your own cloud service. I doubt that it will harm their higher-end devices.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | September 29, 2014 - 01:53 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: apple, a8, a7, Imagination Technologies, PowerVR
First, Chipworks released a dieshot of the new Apple A8 SoC (stored at archive.org). It is based on the 20nm fabrication process from TSMC, which they allegedly bought the entire capacity for. From there, a bit of a debate arose regarding what each group of transistors represented. All sources claim that it is based around a dual-core CPU, but the GPU is a bit polarizing.
Image Credit: Chipworks via Ars Technica
Most sources, including Chipworks, Ars Technica, Anandtech, and so forth believe that it is a quad-core graphics processor from Imagination Technologies. Specifically, they expect that it is the GX6450 from the PowerVR Series 6XT. This is a narrow upgrade over the G6430 found in the Apple A7 processor, which is in line with the initial benchmarks that we saw (and not in line with the 50% GPU performance increase that Apple claims). For programmability, the GX6450 is equivalent to a DirectX 10-level feature set, unless it was extended by Apple, which I doubt.
Image Source: DailyTech
DailyTech has their own theory, suggesting that it is a GX6650 that is horizontally-aligned. From my observation, their "Cluster 2" and "Cluster 5" do not look identical at all to the other four, so I doubt their claims. I expect that they heard Apple's 50% claims, expected six GPU cores as the rumors originally indicated, and saw cores that were not there.
Which brings us back to the question of, "So what is the 50% increase in performance that Apple claims?" Unless they had a significant increase in clock rate, I still wonder if Apple is claiming that their increase in graphics performance will come from the Metal API even though it is not exclusive to new hardware.
But from everything we saw so far, it is just a handful of percent better.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2014 - 02:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, spreadtrum, rda, Rockchip, SoC
A few months ago, Intel partnered with Rockchip to develop low-cost SoCs for Android. The companies would work together on a design that could be fabricated at TSMC. This time Intel is partnering with Tsinghua Unigroup Ltd. and, unlike Rockchip, also investing in them. The deal will be up to $1.5 billion USD in exchange for a 20% share (approximately) of a division of Tsinghua.
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Intel is hoping to use this partnership to develop mobile SoCs, for smart (and "feature") phones, tablets, and other devices, and get significant presence in the Chinese mobile market. Tsinghua acquired Spreadtrum Communications and RDA Microelectronics within the last two years. The "holding group" that owns these division is apparently the part of Tsinghua which Intel is investing in, specifically.
Spreadtrum will produce SoCs based on Intel's "Intel Architecture". This sounds like they are referring to the 32-bit IA-32, which means that Spreadtrum would be developing 32-bit SoCs, but it is possible that they could be talking about Intel 64. These products are expected for 2H'15.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 26, 2014 - 01:45 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: tablet, Nexus, google, nexus 9, nvidia, tegra k1
The Nexus line is due for an update, with each product being released for at least a year. They are devices which embody Google's vision... for their own platform. You can fall on either side of that debate, whether it guides OEM partners or if it is simply a shard the fragmentation issue, if you even believe that fragmentation is bad, but they are easy to recommend and a good benchmark for Android.
We are expecting a few new entries in the coming months, one of which being the Nexus 9. Of note, it is expected to mark the return of HTC to the Nexus brand. They were the launch partner with the Nexus One and then promptly exited stage left as LG, Samsung, and ASUS performed the main acts.
We found this out because NVIDIA spilled the beans on their lawsuit filing against Qualcomm and Samsung. Apparently, "the HTC Nexus 9, expected in the third quarter of 2014, is also expected to use the Tegra K1". It has since been revised to remove the reference. While the K1 has a significant GPU to back it up, it will likely be driving a very high resolution display. The Nexus 6 is expected to launch at around the same time, along with Android 5.0 itself, and the 5.2-inch phone is rumored to have a 1440p display. It seems unlikely that a larger, tablet display will be lower resolution than the phone it launches alongside -- and there's not much room above it.
The Google Nexus 9 is expected for "Q3".
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 18, 2014 - 01:11 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Red Hat, microsoft, Feedhenry
Red Hat just acquired Feedhenry for around €63.5 million to enhance their ability to support mobile apps. Feedhenry designs mobile apps on both the client and server side which run on Android, iOS, Windows Phone, QNX and HTML5 as well as integration with apps from companies such as Salesforce, SAP and Oracle. This purchase could help Red Hat become an attractive alternative for companies wishing to serve apps across all platforms and increased usage of Openshift and Openstack. The Inquirer also posted news on a extension to the price discount on Microsoft's licensing for mobile developers. They are still offering lifetime accounts for Dev Center for $19.99 for individuals and $99.99 for businesses, which compares favourably to the one time Android fee of $25 and even better against Apple's $99 per year. If they could just get their phones to play nicely with O365 this could well increase their market share for mobile phones.
"RED HAT HAS ACQUIRED Feedhenry, a designer of mobile apps for the enterprise market. The company sees the acquisition as a key driver to offer cross-platform support for its existing software products, including Red Hat Enterprise Linux Openstack 7, which it released earlier this year."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Micron cackles as it unveils its chameleonic FLYING DISK KILLER @ The Register
- Synology bakes word processor, groupware, into its NAS OS @ The Register
- Mathematica hits the Web @ The Register
- Scientists Twist Radio Beams To Send Data At 32 Gigabits Per Second @ Slashdot
- Can Certification Get You a Linux Job? @ Linux.com
- Vimeo snags 'MST3K' catalog and exclusive access to future releases @ Engadget
- Win One of Three be quiet! Straight Power 10 CM Semi-Modular PSUs @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 06:57 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android
Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.
Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.
Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.
So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.
There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.
The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 17, 2014 - 05:03 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: google, Android, android one
In much the same way as FirefoxOS is targeting foreign markets with low-cost phones, with the Intex Cloud Fx as the extreme example, Google is pushing for the overseas markets with Android One. Based on Android 4.4 and updated as new versions launch, for up to two years at least, the devices will not be old and outdated.
In terms of hardware, the platform is said to feature front and rear cameras, a quad-core processor, a microSD card slot, and dual SIM slots. Google has several partners involved with the initiative: Acer, Airtel, Alcatel, ASUS, HTC, Intex, Karbonn, LAVA, Lenovo, MediaTek, Cromax, Panasonic, Qualcomm, Spice, and Xolo. Besides a baseline standard, and a bit of marketing, there does not seem to be much to the platform itself.
Of course, delivering a quality standard, at an affordable price, to places which normally cannot obtain smartphones at all is noteworthy.
Subject: Mobile | September 16, 2014 - 03:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: acer, inspire switch 12, core m, 5Y10a
The Inquirer had a chance for some hands on time with the new Acer Aspire Switch 12 convertible tablet and keyboard. It is powered by the new Core M 5Y10a at 1Ghz, which does not require a fan and has 4GB of RAM and runs Win8. The screen specifications were not listed but their eyeballs suggest the screen is a full 1080p which is a great improvement from the usual 1366x768 on these convertible devices. They were not overly impressed by the quality of the keyboard or the process to attach or remove it from the screen but the sacrifice in aesthetics does help to keep the device very light and thin when the keyboard dock is attached. You can see their preview here, hopefully a full review will appear soon.
"The Aspire Switch 12 is the successor to the Taiwanese firm's previous affordable multi-mode device, the Aspire Switch 10. It boasts a slimmer design thanks to Intel's new 14nm fanless processor, has a 12.5in display and features five alternative viewing modes."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- MSI GT72 2PE Dominator Pro @ Kitguru
- Samsung Chromebook Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Samsung’s Galaxy Tab Active is a rugged Android tablet aimed at businesses @ The Inquirer
- Galaxy Tab S 8.4 @ The Inquirer
- IFA: Nokia Lumia 830 hands-on @ The Inquirer
- UMI C1 Smartphone Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: General Tech, Networking, Mobile | September 15, 2014 - 02:24 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: radio-on-a-chip, iot, internet of things
Tiny and passively-powered radios would make for some interesting applications. One major issue is that you cannot shrink an antenna down infinitely; its size is dependent upon the wavelength of EM radiation that it is trying to detect. Researchers at Stanford and Berkeley have announced "ant-sized" radio-on-a-chip devices, fabricated at 65nm, which are powered by the signal that they gather.
The catch is that, because their antenna is on the order of a few millimeters, it is tuned for ~60 GHz. There are reasons why you do not see too many devices operate at this frequency. First, processing that signal with transistors is basically a non-starter, so they apparently designed a standard integrated circuit for the task.
The other problem is that 60 GHz is an Extremely High Frequency (EHF) and, with its high frequency, is very difficult to transmit over long ranges. The 57-64 GHz region, in particular, is a range which oxygen resonates at. While it is possible to brute-force a powerful signal through a sensitive antenna, that defeats the above purpose. Of course, the researchers have been honest about this. Right in their IEEE abstract, they claim a current, measured range of 50cm. In their Stanford press release, they state that this is designed to be part of a network with units every meter (or so). Current bandwidth is a little over 12 megabit.
Simply put, this will not become your new WiFi hotspot. However, for small and connected devices that are in close proximity, this could provide an interesting communication method for when size, cost, and power efficiency trump speed and range.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 14, 2014 - 10:11 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: motorola, moto 360, smartwatch
When I covered the announcement of the Apple Watch, one of our readers pointed out that we had very little smart watch coverage. That is fair critique, and I can see how it appeared to give Apple an unfair slant. As far as I know, we will not be reviewing any smart watch, of any sort, for the foreseeable future (my phone still runs Froyo). Engadget and Ars Technica did, though.
Android Wear launched with three smart watches: the LG G Watch, the Samsung Gear Live, and (after a little delay) the Motorola Moto 360. The third one is a bit different from the other two in that it features a round screen. Both sites like the design but complain about its use of a TI OMAP3 SoC and its limited battery life. The OMAP3630 is manufactured at 45nm, which is a few process shrinks behind today's 28nm products and soon-to-be-released devices with 20nm and 14nm processors. With a 300mAh battery, a little less than a half or a third of a typical AAA battery, this leads to frequent charging. The question is whether this will be the same for all smart watches, and we don't know that yet. The Samsung and the LG smart watches, under Ars Technica's custom benchmark, vastly outperform it, though.
Engadget also complained about its price, at $250 and $299, which is actually $100 and $50 less than Apple's starting price. Ars Technica neither praised nor complained about the price.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 10:12 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: mozilla, intex, Firefox OS, firefox, cloud fx
If you were on a mission to make the cheapest possible mobile phone, you would probably not do much better than Intex Cloud Fx. Running Firefox OS, it will cost users about $35 to purchase it outright. Its goal is to bring the internet to places which would otherwise have nothing.
I believe the largest concession made by this phone is its RAM -- 128 MB. Yes, I had a computer with 32 MB of RAM and it browsed the internet just fine (on Netscape Navigator 2 through 4). I also had a computer before that (which was too slow to run Windows 3.1 but hey it had a turbo button). This is also the amount of RAM on the first and second generation iPod Touches. Nowadays, it is very little. Ars Technica allegedly made it crash by scrolling too fast and attempting to run benchmarks on it. This leads into its other, major compromise: its wireless connectivity. It does not support 3G. Edge is the best that you will get.
Other than those two points: it has a 1 GHz Spreadtrum SoC, 46MB of storage, a 2MP camera, and a 1250mAh battery. You do get WiFi, Bluetooth, and a microSD card slot. It also supports two SIM cards if necessary.
Again, at $35, this is not designed for America or Western Europe. This is for the areas of the world that will probably not experience the internet at all unless it is through a mobile phone. For people in India and Asia, it is about the lowest barrier to entry of the internet that is possible. You can also check out phones from other partners of Mozilla.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 13, 2014 - 05:52 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 12, 2014 - 01:30 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 11, 2014 - 06:27 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 04:26 PM | Scott Michaud
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 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".
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 03:59 PM | Scott Michaud
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.
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.