Qualcomm Announces the Snapdragon 821 SoC

Subject: Processors, Mobile | July 11, 2016 - 11:44 AM |
Tagged: SoC, Snapdragon 821, snapdragon, qualcomm, adreno 530

Announced today, the Snapdragon 821 offers a modest CPU frequency increase over the Snapdragon 820, with clock speeds of up to 2.4 GHz compared to 2.2 GHz with the Snapdragon 820. The new SoC is still implementing Qualcomm's custom quad-core "Kryo" design, which is made up of two pairs of dual-core CPU clusters.

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Quoting Anandtech, who also reported on the Snapdragon 821 today:

"What isn’t in this announcement is that the power cluster will likely be above 2 GHz and GPU clocks look to be around 650 MHz but without knowing whether there are some changes other than clock relative to Adreno 530 we can’t really estimate the performance of this part."

Specifics on the Adreno GPU were not mentioned in the official announcement. The 650 MHz GPU clock reported by Anandtech would offer a modest improvement over the SD820's 624 MHz Adreno 530 GPU. Additionally, the "power cluster" will reportedly move from 1.6 GHz with the SD820 to 2.0 GHz with the SD821.

No telling when this updated SoC will find its way into consumer devices, with the Snapdragon 820 currently available in the Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, LG G5, OnePlus 3, and a few others.

Source: Qualcomm

Gigabyte's 17" P57W laptop thinks you should go big or go home

Subject: Mobile | July 4, 2016 - 02:41 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, P57W, GTX 970M

Gigabyte's 17" laptop contains some decent hardware although the GPU is somewhat questionable; with that much room inside they still opted to go with a GTX 970M and one with only 3GB of available VRAM.  On the other hand the i7-6700HQ is a strong choice, paired with 16GB of Crucial DDR4-2133, storage is handled by a 256GB LiteOn SATA SSD and a 1TB Hitachi HDD.  The screen is a 1080p panel and while the NVIDIA card can handle upscaling on some games, The Tech Report saw performance drops on many intense games when using that feature.  Check out more details in their full review.

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"17" laptops have long been maligned for their bulk, but the onward march of technology means one can now get a big machine like Gigabyte's P57W that's slim and trim. We put this large laptop to the test to see whether gamers on the go should go big."

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Will people Flip over ASUS' new Chromebook?

Subject: Mobile | June 21, 2016 - 06:50 PM |
Tagged: asus, Chromebook, Chromebook Flip

ASUS' new Chromebook Flip convertible laptop can be yours for about ~$250, not too shabby for a tablet, let alone a laptop.  However for this price a few sacrifices must be made, including the use of Chrome OS as it is a Chromebook after all.  The hardware is a quad-core, 32-bit ARM chip from Rockchip called the RK3288C which can reach up to 1.8GHz.  It also has 4GB of RAM and 16GB of local storage using eMMC flash and a two year subscription to Google drive to give you 100GB of additional storage.  The Tech Report were quite enamoured of this little 10.1", 1280x800 IPS touch screen device, it may not be the fastest machine out there but for the price they felt it to be quiet impressive.

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"Asus' Chromebook Flip is an all-aluminum convertible PC that runs Google's Chrome OS. Its $240-ish price tag puts it in contention with the budget Windows PCs we usually suggest in our mobile staff picks. We put the Flip to the test to see whether it's a worthy Windows alternative."

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Lenovo's PHAB2 Family Features Project Tango-Powered PHAB2 Pro

Subject: Mobile | June 9, 2016 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: Snapdragon 652, smartphone, project tango, phablet, PHAB2, Lenovo, augmented reality, AR

Lenovo has unveiled the PHAB2 family at their Lenovo Tech World event today, featuring the PHAB2 Pro, a phablet-sized mobile device powered by Google's Project Tango (now simply Google Tango) augmented-reality technology.

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Lenovo PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

“Unlike any other phone, the PHAB2 Pro, powered by Tango technology – a set of sensors and software from Google that senses and maps its surroundings – makes a host of cutting-edge smartphone augmented reality (AR) experiences possible. For example, using AR apps, students can place true-to-scale virtual dinosaurs in their classrooms and enhance their learning through AR data overlays that appear while they walk around the creatures. AR gaming experiences let you play virtual dominos on your kitchen table, raise a digital pet in your bedroom and fight back swarms of aliens invading your house.

With Tango technology PHAB2 Pro can even begin to change the way people think about mapping indoor spaces to create new experiences like future augmented reality museum tours via the GuidiGO app. With Tango, PHAB2 Pro offers unprecedented experiences on a smartphone that will continually learn and improve.”

The large phablet devices are full smartphones, not just small tablets, and the three models offer widely varying specs with significant improvements in each successive model. We'll begin by looking at the base configuration.

Lenovo PHAB2

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The PHAB2 (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch HD (1280x720) IPS
  • Processor: MediaTek MTK 8735 Quad-Core Processor
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with
  • Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Camera:
    • Rear: 13 MP PDAF Fast-Focus
    • Front: 5 MP 85° Wide Angle
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

Next up is the PHAB2 Plus, which improves on the base model's display, SoC, and particularly the cameras:

“The PHAB2 Plus comes with two 13MP rear cameras that have instant focus, fast f1.8 lenses and the same professional-grade Futjitsu Milbeaut image signal processor that powers the Leica camera.”

Lenovo PHAB2 Plus

PHAB2 Plus.jpg

The PHAB2 Plus (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch FHD (1920x1080) IPS
  • Processor: MediaTek MTK 8783 Octa-Core Processor
  • Memory: 3 GB
  • Storage: 32 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Cameras:
    • Rear: 13 MP Dual Camera Milbeaut ISP, F2.0 Aperture, 1.34 Big Pixel, Laser Focus with PDAF Light Supplement
    • Front: 8 MP Fixed-Focus, F2.2 Aperture, 1.4 μm Big Pixel, Light Supplement
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

Next up we have the PHAB2 Pro, the flagship of the lineup, which moves to a Qualcomm Snapdragon SoC from the MediaTek chips in the first two phones, and offers a higher screen resolution and (most importantly for this launch) Google Tango support - the first product equipped with this AR technology.

Lenovo PHAB2 Pro

PHAB2 Pro.jpg

The PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

  • Display: 6.4-inch QHD (2560x1440) IPS Assertive Display
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 652 Processor Built for Tango
  • Memory: 4 GB
  • Storage: 64 GB (expandable up to 128 GB via microSD)
  • Sound: Triple Array Microphone with Active Noise-Cancellation; Dolby Atmos + Dolby Audio Capture 5.1
  • Cameras:
    • Rear: 16 MP PDAF Fast-Focus, Depth Sensor for Tango, Motion Tracking Sensor for Tango
    • Front: 8 MP Fixed-Focus, F2.2 Aperture, 1.4 μm Big Pixel
  • Battery: 4050 mAh

There will be a retail presence in the U.S. for the PHAB2 Pro, with Best Buy confirmed as an outlet for the Google Tango device. Additionally, in a move that is perplexing at first, the PHAB2 Pro will be featured for sale in Lowe's home improvement stores. (Wait, what?) A move which actually makes sense once you’ve read Lenovo’s press release:

“Homeowners can also now use their PHAB2 Pro to remodel their homes by visualizing real home furnishings in their living rooms and kitchens. Home improvement company Lowe’s is one of the first partners to develop a Tango-enabled application, Lowe’s Vision. The app empowers customers by leveraging Tango technology to measure spaces and visualize how products like appliances and décor, or materials like countertops or backsplash tile, will all look and fit together in a room. With Lowe’s Vision, customers will be able to control a new generation of augmented reality tools with a mere tap of the finger.”

As to pricing, the base PHAB2 has an MSRP of $199, the PHAB2 Plus moves up to $299, and the PHAB2 Pro will be $499. Availability set for September of this year.

Source: Lenovo

Samsung Announces Galaxy S7 Active

Subject: Mobile | June 9, 2016 - 02:20 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy, galaxy s7, ruggedized

The Samsung Galaxy S7 launched a couple of months ago. While it wasn't too bad from a durability standpoint, I have heard people complain that their screen fractured from a seemingly low-risk fall. Over time, it seemed like they were somewhat fluke examples because it kind-of fell off the radar. Still, if you want the specifications of a Galaxy S7, and you want to extra reliability without placing it inside a case, Samsung has added a version of the phone in their Active line.

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Image Credit: AT&T

AT&T doesn't list pricing and they only state “coming soon” for availability. They do mention that the battery will get a significant bump in capacity, though. The original Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge phones have a 3,000 mAh and a 3,700 mAh battery, respectively, but the Galaxy S7 Active is larger: 4,000 mAh. Critics like the battery life of the original S7, many claiming that it lasts a whole, heavy-use day for them, but an extra 33% is nothing to sneer at.

If only it comes to Canada, too...

Source: AT&T

HSA 1.1 Released

Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | June 6, 2016 - 07:11 AM |
Tagged: hsa 1.1, hsa

The HSA Foundation released version 1.1 of their specification, which focuses on “multi-vendor” compatibility. In this case, multi-vendor doesn't refer to companies that refused to join the HSA Foundation, namely Intel and NVIDIA, but rather multiple types of vendors. Rather than aligning with AMD's focus on CPU-GPU interactions, HSA 1.1 includes digital signal processors (DSPs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), and other accelerators. I can see this being useful in several places, especially on mobile, where cameras, sound processors, and CPU cores, and a GPU regularly share video buffers.

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That said, the specification also mentions “more efficient interoperation with non-HSA compliant devices”. I'm not quite sure what that specifically refers to, but it could be important to keep an eye on for future details -- whether it is relevant for Intel and NVIDIA hardware (and so forth).

Charlie, down at SemiAccurate, notes that HSA 1.1 will run on all HSA 1.0-compliant hardware. This makes sense, but I can't see where this is explicitly mentioned in their press release. I'm guessing that Charlie was given some time on a conference call (or face-to-face) regarding this, but it's also possible that he may be mistaken. It's also possible that it is explicitly mentioned in the HSA Foundation's press blast and I just fail at reading comprehension.

If so, I'm sure that our comments will highlight my error.

Computex 2016: Gigabyte Grants Sneak Peek at GPU Dock

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 5, 2016 - 02:02 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, external gpu

External GPUs can be a good idea. If it is affordable, easy, and not too big, users can augment their laptop CPU, which is probably good enough to at least run most tasks, with a high-end GPU. While GPUs are more efficient that CPUs, the tasks that they are expected to do are so much larger that a decent graphics chip is difficult to cram into laptop form factor... for the most part.

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Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

Preamble aside, it's been tried and dropped numerous times over the last decade, but the last generation seems to be getting a little traction. Razer added the feature to their relatively popular Blade line of laptops, and AMD, who was one of the companies to try it several years ago, is pushing it now with their XConnect technology. Even Microsoft sort-of does this with their Surface Book, and it's been a small source of problems for them.

Now Gigabyte, at Computex, announced that they are investigating prototypes. According to Tom's Hardware, their current attempt stands upright, which is likely to take up less desk space. Looking at it, I could see it hiding in the space between my monitors and the corner of the room (because my desk slides into the corner). Of course, in my case, I have a desktop PC, so I'm not the target demographic, but who knows? It's possible that a laptop user might have a similar setup to me. It's still pretty big, though.

Currently, Gigabyte limits the power supply to 250W, which drops GPU support to under 175W TDP. In other words? Too small for a GeForce GTX 1080. The company did tell Tom's Hardware that they are considering upping that to 350W, which would allow 260W of load, which allows all 1x PCIe 8-pin graphics cards, and thus many (but not all) GTX 1080s.

No pricing or availability yet, of course. It's just a prototype.

Rumor: GP104 Might Arrive in Laptops... Soon.

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 4, 2016 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, pascal

Normally, when a GPU developer creates a laptop SKU, they re-use the desktop branding, add an M at the end, but release a very different, significantly slower part. This changed with the GTX 980, as NVIDIA cherry-picked the heck out of their production to find chips that could operate full-speed at a lower-than-usual TDP. With less power (and cooling) to consider, they were sent to laptop manufacturers and integrated into high-end designs.

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They still had the lower-performance 980M, though, which was confusing for potential customers. You needed to know to avoid the M, and trust the product page to correctly add the M as applicable. This is where PCGamer's scoop comes into play. Apparently, NVIDIA will stop “producing separate M versions of its desktop GPUs”. Also, they are expected to release their 10-series desktop GPUs to their laptop partners by late-summer.

Whatttttt?

Last time, NVIDIA took almost a year to bin enough GPUs for laptops. While we don't know how long they've been stockpiling GP104 GPUs, this, if the rumors are true, would just be about three months of lead-time for the desktop SKUs. Granted, Pascal is significantly more efficient than Maxwell. Maxwell tried to squeeze extra performance out of an existing fabrication node, while Pascal is a relatively smaller chip, benefiting from the industry's double-shrink in process technology. It's possible that they didn't need to drop the TDP threshold that far below what they accept for desktop.

For us desktop users, this also suggests that NVIDIA is not having too many issues with yield in general. I mean, if they were expecting GPU shortages to persist for months, you wouldn't expect that they would cut their supply further with a new product segment, particularly one that should require both decent volume and well-binned chips. This, again, might mean that we'll see desktop GPUs restock soon. Either that, or NVIDIA significantly miscalculated demand for new GPUs, and they needed to fulfill partner obligations that they made before reality struck.

Call it wishful thinking, but I don't think it's the latter.

Source: PCGamer

ASUS Announces Zenfone 3 Smartphone Family

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2016 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: zenfone 3, snapdragon 820, Snapdragon 625, smartphone, ips, computex 2016, computex, asus, Android, AMOLED

The Zenfone 3 family has been officially announced, and ASUS has provided all of the details of these new Android smartphones from Computex 2016.

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The Zenfone 3 family is comprised of three phones; the Zenfone 3, Zenfone 3 Deluxe, and the massive Zenfone 3 Ultra. The first of these is the standard Zenfone 3, which replaces the Zenfone 2 not only in number, but architecture. While the previous version was powered by an Intel SoC, this new Zenfone contains a conventional ARM-based SoC; the Snapdragon 625.

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A 5.5-inch device with a FHD (1920x1080) IPS display protected by Gorilla Glass 4, the 7.69 mm thick Zenfone 3 also boasts a 16MP “PixelMaster” camera with OIS and “ultra-fast 0.03s instant focus” for clear photos. Other features include a sizable 4GB of RAM, a “5-magnet” speaker design and 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio support, and a 3000 mAh battery. The phone uses USB Type-C connectivity, and arrives with Android 6.0 with ZenUI 3.0.

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Moving to the Zenfone 3 Deluxe, this higher-end model offers a slightly larger 5.7” FHD AMOLED display (rather than IPS), and adds Quick Charge 3.0 for the 3000 mAh, and USB 3.0 speed to the Type-C connector. The SoC powering the Deluxe is the biggest upgrade over the standard Zenfone 3, with the powerful Snapdragon 820 replacing the base model’s Snapdragon 625.

If you enjoy a more tablet-like experience, the 6.8-inch (!) Zenfone 3 Ultra might be for you!

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While still FHD at this tablet-like size, the rear camera on the Ultra is a big upgrade, with a 23MP PixelMaster Camera (via the Sony IMX318 sensor). The battery is also a big upgrade over the smaller phones, as the larger chassis allows a 4600 mAh capacity. The big question (pun intended) becomes, will people want to use a 6.8-inch smartphone? To which the answer must be, no, we will hold out for the 7+ inch phones! (Or not.)

As to pricing, the Zenfone 3 is nearly as aggressive as the previous version, with an MSRP of $249. The Deluxe version is priced much more like premium handset at $499, and the Ultra is just behind it at $479. Availablity has not been announced.

Source: ASUS

A trio of high powered gaming laptops

Subject: Mobile | May 19, 2016 - 03:12 PM |
Tagged: msi, origin, eurocom, gaming laptop, GTX 980M

You have likely run into the 17.3" MSI GT72S Dominator Pro Dragon Edition but have you seen either the Origin EON17-SLX or Eurocom SKY X9 gaming laptop.  The Eurocom especially is rather impressive, a 4K panel powered by two GTX 980Ms in SLI, the other two have only a single GPU, though it is the desktop version of the GTX 980.

The least expensive of these laptops is $2899, the most expensive is $4837.  Take a look at how these beasts perform over at Hardware Canucks.

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"Gaming performance of high end gaming notebooks is quickly closing the gap with desktops. In this roundup we look at over $11,000 worth of desktop replacement options from MSI, Origin and Eurocom."

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Rumor: Apple's A11 SoC Reaches Tapeout at TSMC 10nm

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 9, 2016 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: apple, a11, 10nm, TSMC

Before I begin, the report comes from DigiTimes and they cite anonymous sources for this story. As always, a grain of salt is required when dealing with this level of alleged leak.

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That out of the way, rumor has it that Apple's A11 SoC has been taped out on TSMC's 10nm process node. This is still a little way's away from production, however. From here, TSMC should be providing samples of the now finalized chip in Q1 2017, start production a few months later, and land in iOS devices somewhere in Q3/Q4. Knowing Apple, that will probably align with their usual release schedule -- around September.

DigiTimes also reports that Apple will likely make their split-production idea a recurring habit. Currently, the A9 processor is fabricated at TSMC and Samsung on two different process nodes (16nm for TSMC and 14nm for Samsung). They claim that two-thirds of A11 chips will come from TSMC.

Source: DigiTimes

Not to be outdone by hard drives, ARCHOS releases the 70b Helium Tablet

Subject: Mobile | April 29, 2016 - 06:19 PM |
Tagged: archos, 70b Helium Tablet

ARCHOS has decided that bigger is not always better and released the 7" 70b Helium tablet.  It is powered by a quad-core Mediatek MT8735M running at 1GHz with 1GB of RAM and Android Lollipop 5.1.  At 278g and 188x108x9.9mm it is much smaller than many current generation tablets and costs less as well.  The resolution of 1024x600 is going to disappoint many prospective buyers, on the other hand bloatware is as sparse as the PPI which is a nice benefit to this tablet.  If you have need of a tablet which is not overly powerful and which is inexpensive enough to pass onto a kid or use in unfriendly places such as the beach pop on over to Kitguru to take a peek.

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"Recently there has been a definite trend to having bigger mobile devices. Smartphone flagships are well over 5 inches in size now, and tablets are getting bigger too – just take a look at the 13.3 inch iPad Pro. It is refreshing, then, to see ARCHOS buck the trend with its 70b Helium tablet.

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Source: Kitguru

Acer Debuts Liquid-Cooled Switch Alpha 12 Convertible Tablet

Subject: Mobile | April 21, 2016 - 06:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, tablet, switch alpha 12, liquid cooling, convertible tablet, acer, 2-in-1

Acer has unveiled their latest detachable 2-in-1 tablet/laptop with the Switch Alpha 12, and this device features some impressive specs - not the least of which is a liquid-cooling loop for the CPU.

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According to Acer, the Switch Alpha 12 "is the industry’s first fanless 2-in-1 notebook to use a 6th Generation Intel Core i7, Core i5 or Core i3 processor," and these Intel offerings power a 12-inch 2160x1440 resolution IPS display.

Acer offers this video to showcase the device's features, including the water cooling loop:

Storage will range from 128GB - 512GB, with memory available in either 4GB or 8GB capacities. The magnetically attached keyboard offers full-sized keys with 1.4mm travel, and a full touchpad, and overall battery life is said to be 8 hours. The unit is 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.62 inches, and weighs 2.76 pounds (with keyboard connected).

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The CPU cooling loop (Image taken from Acer promo video)

As to pricing and availability, Acer states that the "Switch Alpha 12 will be available in North America in June starting at $599".

Source: Acer

Android N Developer Preview 2 Includes Vulkan

Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2016 - 04:59 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, google, android n, Android

We knew it was coming. Google was a partner of Vulkan since it launched, but support was coming at some point after the desktop launch. We expected that it would be soon, but now we know that the new graphics API is in Android N Developer Preview 2. Other platforms, like apparently the Samsung Galaxy S7, are able to ship Vulkan drivers, but it is “a part of the platform” in this Android N pre-release.

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Vulkan is particularly useful for mobile because those devices tend to have many cores, but relatively slow cores, which drive a decently fast GPU. Whether the benefits end up being higher performance or just better battery life (as the CPU can downclock more and more often) depends on the application, but it can be useful for 3D applications, and eventually even 2D ones, like future Qt applications with many elements, or even web browsers (when drawing complex sites).

It's good that Google is supporting Vulkan, especially after their ban of OpenCL drivers from Nexus devices. We want a single GPU compute interface across as many platforms as possible. While Vulkan isn't as complete as OpenCL, lacking some features such as unified memory, it should be more useful than OpenGL ES compute shaders.

Android N Developer Preview 2 launched (again, as a preview) yesterday.

Source: Google

A 14" Monster; Eurocom's new gaming laptop

Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2016 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: i7-6700HQ, BGA, gaming laptop, GTX 970M

If there wasn't a market for gaming laptops then we would not see so many companies offering them for sale, nor frequently updating their lineups.  These devices certainly are not for everyone and with the release of products like MSI's Shadow and Razer's Core which allow you to hook your laptop up to an external GPU there is going to be a change in the market.  For now, companies like Eurocom are updating their lineups which brings us to Techgage's review of the Monster 4 14" gaming laptop.  The screen, as reviewed, is 1080p and while the laptop does have HDMI and mini-DisplayPort it lacks the TB3 connector to utilize external GPUs so you will be dependent on the i7-6700HQ and GTX 970M

Check out the full review of this $1500 gaming laptop here if you are interested.

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"Building a gaming desktop can be tough, but building a gaming notebook can be even harder. While most vendors limit your options, Eurocom goes out of its way to provide the most customization possible. As we find out in this review, the company’s offerings are diverse, and based on our findings with the Monster 4, a notebook with professional looks can still be a beast inside."

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Source: Techgage

HP Announces World's Thinnest Laptop - The Spectre 13.3

Subject: Systems, Mobile | April 6, 2016 - 10:01 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, thinnest laptop, Spectre 13.3, notebook, laptop, Intel Core i7, Intel Core i5, hp

HP announced their thinnest notebook ever - and "the world's thinnest laptop" period, according to HP - yesterday with the new Spectre 13.3.

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The 10.4 mm thick HP Spectre 13.3 (Image credit: Engadget)

It's an astonishingly thin design, with a "CNC machined aluminum chassis as thin as an AAA-battery at just 10.4 mm", and yet it manages to avoid using Core M (or even mobile SoC) parts, opting instead for full Intel Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors.

hp_spectre_design.jpg

(Image credit: Anandtech)

Here's a list of the Spectre 13.3's features from HP:

  • A carbon fiber bottom creates a thin profile that is both durable and lightweight, keeping the total weight of the notebook at just 2.45 pounds
  • High gloss copper accents reflect a hand-polished, jewelry-like finish and an innovative hidden piston hinge creates the illusion of a hinge-less design to offer an unmatched premium look-and-feel
  • An innovative hybrid battery split into two thinner pieces delivers the same wattage as a single battery for up to 9 and half hours of battery life while enabling the world's thinnest laptop
  • Full HD IPS edge-to-edge display featuring Corning Gorilla delivers a superb viewing experience for editing photos, perfecting a presentation, or watching a movie.
  • 6th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and a lightning fast PCIe SSD with storage up to 512 GB with up to 8 GB of memory for maximum performance. Integration of Intel hyperbaric cooling system keeps the machine running cool even with powerful processors in a small package
  • Stereo speakers by Bang & Olufsen with HP Audio Boost technology, a combination of hardware and software to give customers the depth they want.
  • Three full function USB Type-C connectors, including two of which support Thunderbolt, to provide a fast, versatile I/O connection.

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The hyperbaric cooling system (Image credit: Anandtech)

Note the mention of "Integration of Intel hyperbaric cooling system..." in the above list. We first saw hyperbaric cooling back in 2010 with products like the Dell Vostro V130, and the system is based on pulling cool air from outside of the enclosure, rather than simply pushing it out.

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A look inside the Spectre 13.3 (Image credit: PC World)

With the use of regular laptop processors inside an enclosure as thin as this new Spectre 13.3 cooling will be crucial, though (as speculated by Anandtech in their post) actual clock speeds for the processors may have been lowered significantly due on thermal restrictions.

What exactly are the specifications for the Spectre 13.3? Here's what we know (via Anandtech):

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6200U or Intel Core i7-6500U
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage: 256 GB or 512 GB PCIe SSD
  • I/O: 3x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2x Thunderbolt, audio jack
  • Thickness: 10.4 mm (0.41 inches)
  • Weight: 1.10 kg (2.45 lbs)
  • Pricing (256 GB SSD): Core i5, $1170; Core i7, $1250

Exact specs on memory standard/speed, Wi-Fi, etc. were not available, and availability has not been announced.

Source: HP

AMD Pre-Announces 7th Gen A-Series SOC

Subject: Processors | April 5, 2016 - 06:30 AM |
Tagged: mobile, hp, GCN, envy, ddr4, carrizo, Bristol Ridge, APU, amd, AM4

Today AMD is “pre-announcing” their latest 7th generation APU.  Codenamed “Bristol Ridge”, this new SOC is based off of the Excavator architecture featured in the previous Carrizo series of products.  AMD provided very few hints as to what was new and different in Bristol Ridge as compared to Carrizo, but they have provided a few nice hints.

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They were able to provide a die shot of the new Bristol Ridge APU and there are some interesting differences between it and the previous Carrizo. Unfortunately, there really are no changes that we can see from this shot. Those new functional units that you are tempted to speculate about? For some reason AMD decided to widen out the shot of this die. Those extra units around the border? They are the adjacent dies on the wafer. I was bamboozled at first, but happily Marc Sauter pointed it out to me. No new functional units for you!

carrizo_die.jpg

This is the Carrizo shot. It is functionally identical to what we see with Bristol Ridge.

AMD appears to be using the same 28 nm HKMG process from GLOBALFOUNDRIES.  This is not going to give AMD much of a jump, but from information in the industry GLOBALFOUNDRIES and others have put an impressive amount of work into several generations of 28 nm products.  TSMC is on their third iteration which has improved power and clock capabilities on that node.  GLOBALFOUNDRIES has continued to improve their particular process and likely Bristol Ridge is going to be the last APU built on that node.

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All of the competing chips are rated at 15 watts TDP. Intel has the compute advantage, but AMD is cleaning up when it comes to graphics.

The company has also continued to improve upon their power gating and clocking technologies to keep TDPs low, yet performance high.  AMD recently released the Godavari APUs to the market which exhibit better clocking and power characteristics from the previous Kaveri.  Little was done on the actual design, rather it was improved process tech as well as better clock control algorithms that achieved these advances.  It appears as though AMD has continued this trend with Bristol Ridge.

We likely are not seeing per clock increases, but rather higher and longer sustained clockspeeds providing the performance boost that we are seeing between Carrizo and Bristol Ridge.  In these benchmarks AMD is using 15 watt TDP products.  These are mobile chips and any power improvements will show off significant gains in overall performance.  Bristol Ridge is still a native quad core part with what looks to be an 8 module GCN unit.

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Again with all three products at a 15 watt TDP we can see that AMD is squeezing every bit of performance it can with the 28 nm process and their Excavator based design.

The basic core and GPU design look relatively unchanged, but obviously there were a lot of tweaks applied to give the better performance at comparable TDPs.  

AMD is announcing this along with the first product that will feature this APU.  The HP Envy X360.  This convertible tablet offers some very nice features and looks to be one of the better implementations that AMD has seen using its latest APUs.  Carrizo had some wins, but taking marketshare back from Intel in the mobile space has been tortuous at best. AMD obviously hopes that Bristol Ridge in the sub-35 watt range will continue to show fight for the company in this important market.  Perhaps one of the more interesting features is the option for the PCIe SSD.  Hopefully AMD will send out a few samples so we can see what a more “premium” type convertible can do with the AMD silicon.

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The HP Envy X360 convertible in all of its glory.

Bristol Ridge will be coming to the AM4 socket infrastructure in what appears to be a Computex timeframe.  These parts will of course feature higher TDPs than what we are seeing here with the 15 watt unit that was tested.  It seems at that time AMD will announce the full lineup from top to bottom and start seeding the market with AM4 boards that will eventually house the “Zen” CPUs that will show up in late 2016.

Source: AMD

Gigabyte's Aorus X3 Plus v5, gaming on the go for those who do such things

Subject: Mobile | April 4, 2016 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, GTX 970M, gigabyte, gaming laptop, Aorus X3 Plus v5

Gaming notebooks do not tend to generate positive feedback in our reviews, as many reader feel the sacrifices to fit a powerful machine into a slim chassis are just too much of a compromise.  BGA processors have negative connotations surrounding them, in some cases fair criticism but there is obviously a market for these machines as companies are producing and selling them.  The Tech Report takes a peek at Gigabyte's Aorus X3 Plus v5, a 14" 3200x1800 IPS laptop powered by a Core i7-6700HQ and GeForce GTX 970M, a 512GB Samsung NVMe SSD and 16GB o fDDR4-2133.  They loved the machine apart from the fact that the 970M just can't drive the panel at native resolutions when playing a demanding game and perhaps a lower resolution would have been preferable; which would bring a different set of negative comments.

The Lagavulin allegory which starts out the review is apropos, if you like something enough, you will find a way to afford it.  That said, if you consider $90 as the high end of Scotch your tastebuds have some nice surprises in store; your bank account not so much.

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"Aorus' X3 Plus v5 laptop packs eight threads of Skylake pro cessing power and a GeForce GTX 970M graphics card into a 14" chassis. We put the X3 Plus v5 to the test to see whether it ushers in a new era of portable computing power."

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Pixel C Developer Discounts Have Expanded

Subject: Mobile | March 31, 2016 - 03:40 PM |
Tagged: google, pixel c

A few weeks ago, Google published preview builds of Android N, and they announced a developer discount page for the Pixel C. At the time, it was US-only and applied to the 64GB version, bringing it down to $450 USD. The website also seemed... broken... so I wasn't sure if Google were fixing it or whatever. A few people received discount codes on the first run, but the websites now say that they will email you within a few days with a promotional code.

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The discount website has now been updated, and the terms have changed. The major difference is that it is now available in 13 countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States, of course. The discount is now a blanket 25% off a Pixel C tablet (just one, like before). I haven't received the promotion code yet, so I can't confirm that it applies to both 32GB and 64GB models, but ZDNet claims it does, and Android Police states that Google confirmed it to them. The discount still does not apply to the keyboard.

Google's Nexus line has been known to limit API access, specifically by not shipping OpenCL drivers and pushing developers toward their proprietary RenderScript instead. That said, it should be kept up to date with Google's latest OSes for longer than most devices. Also, Vulkan is being considered a Google-supported API, so, unless something weird happens, Pixel C should get those drivers, which should be sufficient for upcoming GPU compute and gaming tasks.

Source: Google

The Status of Windows Phone

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | March 31, 2016 - 01:52 PM |
Tagged: BUILD, build 2016, microsoft, windows 10, windows phone

If you watched the opening keynote of Microsoft's Build conference, then you probably didn't see much Windows Phone (unless you were looking at your own). The Verge talked to Terry Myerson about this, and Microsoft confirmed that they are leading with non-Windows, 4-inch devices, and they want to “generate developer interest” on those platforms for this year.

PC World interpreted this conversation to say that Windows Phone is put on hold.

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That might be a little hasty, though. Microsoft is still building Windows 10 for Mobile. In fact, since Microsoft updated “Windows OneCore” and jumped build to 14xxx-level build numbers with Windows 10 build 14251, Windows 10 Mobile and Windows 10 PC are kept in lockstep. As far as I know, that is still the plan, and Windows Insiders should continue to receive these on compatible devices.

That said, Microsoft has basically admitted that Windows Phone would just be a distraction for developers this year. At the very least, they don't believe that the platform will be ready for them until next year's Build conference, which means that consumers will probably be even further down than that because there would be no applications for them. Yes, Windows Phone could be slowly shimmying out of the spotlight, but it could also be delayed until they make a good impression, and have the PC, Xbox, Hololens, and other ecosystems secure to lift it up.

Source: The Verge