AMD Launches New Z-Series APU for Tablets

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 8, 2012 - 09:43 PM |
Tagged: z-60 apu, tablets, radeon hd, APU, amd

AMD launched a new APU today meant for tablets and other mobile devices. The new Z-60 Accelerated Processing Unit (APU) is now the company’s lowest power APU processor. AMD is primarily pushing this chip as the best choice for tablets as thin as 10mm that are capable of running Windows 8.

HDTablet_770x206_Banner.png

The Z-60 APU supports AMD’s Start Now and AppZone technologies for fast boot and resume times and application repository respectively. AMD has stated that it identified a gap between low performance and high priced mobile devices, and believes the Z-60 APU fills that void. AMD Corporate Vice President of Ultra-Low Power Products Steve Belt further stated the following:

“Tablet users seeking an uncompromised experience for both creating and consuming content on the Microsoft Windows 8 platform now have a performance-driven, affordable option with the AMD Z-60 APU.”

Interestingly, AMD has managed to bring the TDP of the new Z-60 lower than the previous generation without sacrificing hardware or needing a new manufacturing process. While the Z-01 is part of the Brazos platform (codename Desna), the new Z-60 is codenamed Hondo and part of the Brazos-T platform, which involves several tweaks to the design to get more power efficiency.

The Z-60 has two Bobcat CPU cores clocked at 1GHz, 1MB L2 cache, and a Radeon HD 6250 GPU with 80 cores. This APU has a TDP of 4.5W, which is a noteable decrease from the Z-01's 5.9W TDP when you consider that this chip is going to be used in a battery powered, mobile device. In fact, with a Z-60 APU, AMD is claiming up to eight hours of batery life. Further, thanks to the integrated HD 6250 GPU, the Z-60 can support Direct X 11, OpenGL 4.1, and OpenCL 1.1 graphics technologies.

  CPU Cores CPU Clockspeed L2 Cache Radeon GPU GPU Cores TDP USB Support
Z-60 2 1 GHz 1 MB HD 6250 80 4.5W 3.0
Z-01 (previous generation) 2 1 GHz 1 MB HD 6250 80 5.9W 2.0

AMD has announced that the Z-60 APU is shipping now to its OEM customers. The company expects that consumers should see products using the new processor as soon as the end of this year.

Read more about the future direction of AMD at PC Perspective.

Source: AMD

Acer Iconia W700 Detailed With Pricing - Available October 26

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 5, 2012 - 01:31 PM |
Tagged: windows 8, w700, tablet, ssd, Ivy Bridge, Intel, acer

First announced at Computex 2012, Acer is finally ready to share all the details (including pricing) on its upcoming Iconia W700 Windows 8 tablet.

For the uninitiated, the W700 is the top-end tablet in its Iconia W series. It will be based on an Intel Ivy Bridge Core i3 or Core i5 processor, 64GB or 128GB SSD, HD4000 graphics (intel processor graphics) and a battery that allegedly provides up to 8 hours of usage. That hardware is powering a 11.6” IPS display with 10-point multitouch and a resolution of 1920x1080. It further features a rear 5MP camera with autofocus and 1080p video recording and a front-facing webcam capable of recording 720p video.

ICONIA-W700_03.jpg

The tablet also includes 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi as well as various sensors for map applications including a(n oddly named) “G-sensor,” accelerometer, and an E-compass. [No mention of a GPS chip though, so it’s unclear how useful the other map technology will be…]

External I/O includes three USB 3.0 ports, a Thunderbolt port, micro HDMI port, headphone output jack, and DC power jack.

Because of the Ivy Bridge CPU, the tablet has ventilation slots along the top edge of the tablet. It is less than half an inch thick and weighs in at 2.3 pounds.

Also relevant is that the Acer Iconia W700 will have an accessory dock that will hold the tablet in portrait mode at 70 ° for reading or 20 ° for an angled touchscreen. The dock can also hold the W700 tablet in portrait mode for reading ebooks and the like. A Bluetooth keyboard and micro-HDMI to VGA adapter are also available as bundled accessories.

Engadget takes a tour of the Acer ICONIA W700 Windows 8 tablet.

As far as new information goes, the W700 will be available on October 26 (Windows 8’s release day). There will be several SKUs with different levels of hardware (ie. Core i3 vs Core i5). MSRPs of the W700 tablet will range from $799.99 to $999.99 depending on the particular hardware configuration. Further, if you are an Acer corporate customer, you will be able to get the W700 tablet with an extended two year warranty and Windows 8 Pro for $1,049.99. You can find read the full press release on the Acer website.

The prices do seem to be on the high end for a Windows 8 tablet, but ASUS’ leaked Windows 8 tablet prices are not far off.

Source: Acer

The Ultrabook Revoltion ... is all in the mind of the professional fortune tellers

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | October 2, 2012 - 04:27 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Intel, haswell, told you so, fail

We've not been kind to the idea of Ultrabooks here at PC Perspective, even some of the models we reviewed were rated very highly.  The product is nice for those who want an ultra-light, ultra-thin computer with instant resume from sleep and a very long battery life and frankly, who wouldn't like that.  The problem was in the implementation of the design, in order to meet the hardware requirements and the materials required to make a sturdy yet thin device the price soared well above the $600 price point that Intel originally reported an Ultrabook would sell for.  In order to meet all the specifications from the original PR, the price was over $1000 which significantly shrunk the number of consumers willing to purchase an Ultrabook.  Some manufacturers chose instead to compromise and not include all of the hardware originally listed, often the SSD but in other cases we saw lesser LCD panels used or a less sturdy chassis, which lowered the price but also made less consumers interested in purchasing an Ultrabook.

The Ultrabook dream has taken a big hit today as those in the market who predict sales have finally admitted they vastly overestimated the success of the Ultrabook.  Most of these companies sales predictions, such as the iSuppli numbers referenced by The Register, have been sliced in half. Instead of admitting the numbers were inflated they referenced the growing tablet and smartphone market, neither of which devices can manage any task an Ultrabook could apart from the mobility.  An Ultrabook was originally touted as a full computer, not a low powered mobile device. 

From what DigiTimes heard Intel is convinced that Haswell will change all of that somehow, with the new processor making the Ultrabook much more attractive to customers.  Of course they don't mention the pricing, which may fall a bit over the next year thanks to the dropping prices of SSDs but it is doubtful that Haswell will be cheaper than its predecessors.  It is unknown at this point if Intel will continue to provide the cash incentives to manufacturers that they have over the past year but if they want any hope of manufacturers producing the next generation of Ultrabook.  As it stands many major vendors are not interested in designing a new generation of Ultrabook as it is not a product that they made much profit on during the first generation.  SemiAccurate also harbours the same doubts about next generation Ultrabooks they had for the first generation, with more numbers to back up their beliefs.  The analysts still think that the next generation of Ultrabook will do well though ... for some strange reason.

asus-zenbook.jpg

"The basic problem for Ultrabooks at the moment is one of price, Stice explained. Intel's original vision for the platform was for a price point of around $600, but even with the $300m in support and subsidies that Chipzilla is pushing out to manufacturers, prices are much closer to a grand – and at that price, customers aren't biting."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Register

Minecraft Creator Takes a Notch Out of Microsoft

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 29, 2012 - 11:33 PM |
Tagged: Windows Store, windows 8, censorship

And by the way -- Windows Store will censor apps. More on that later.

So around the same time as my future of Windows editorial became published PC Mag published a related piece: Notch from Mojang outrages over certification for Windows Store. Mojang voiced his concerns for the platform and its attempts to “ruin the PC as an open platform.”

I have, and continue to, claim that Microsoft appears to want to close the Windows platform in a near-future revision of the platform. Once there is enough software available through Windows Update and Windows Store it seems highly likely that Microsoft will remove all other ways on to your device -- as they have done with Windows RT. The concept of a cross-device, controlled, and secure platform is just too tempting.

Win8_End_Mic.png

Loyal, but not stupid.

But backwards compatibility is not the only concern with going metro. Everything must be certified.

Indeed - as of the latest July 2012 certification requirements for Windows Store - Microsoft will predictably be censoring applications just as they do with the Xbox. Section 5.8 and 6.2 of the aforementioned certification requirements clearly state: applications must not contain excess or gratuitous profanity and applications must also not contain adult content. Of course this is aimed squarely at the various niches of adult graphic novels (correction: I apparently meant visual novels, not graphic novels - but I'm sure those would not be let on the Windows Store either) and similarly themed interactive content and the message is clear: get out and stay out.

I can think of a couple of countries where that will not fly.

To be fair Microsoft has addressed the issue in the very same section with the following clause:

We understand that in some cases, apps provide a gateway to retail content, user generated content, or web based content. We classify those apps as either Storefront apps, whose primary function is to aggregate and sell third party media or apps, or Streaming apps, whose primary function is to aggregate and stream web-based images, music, video or other media content. In some cases, it may be acceptable for a Storefront or Streaming app to include some content that might otherwise be prohibited in a single purpose app.

The clause functionally means: “Yeah we know web browsers cannot prevent themselves from surfing to the wrong side of the internet’s metaphorical tracks. This is not an excuse to ban them.” It also does not limit the censorship that Microsoft is clearly imposing.

And frankly the issue is not even with adult content; the issue is with the certification itself. We are at a point where Microsoft seems to want us to accept and migrate to their closed platform where everything is certified.

But what if future certification seriously limits or disables 3rd party modifications to software like attempted with Games for Windows Live? What if Microsoft decides to charge developers tens of thousands of dollars just to certify a patch? These are all serious issues to think about.

While you are thinking - consider a plan to simply ditch the Windows platform altogether and go with an open platform we can actually trust.

Source: PC Mag

LG Unveils Optimus Vu II Smartphone

Subject: Mobile | September 27, 2012 - 02:46 PM |
Tagged: tablet, stylus, smartphone, Qualcomm MSM8960, optimus vuii, LG

LG recently confirmed the specifications for its upcoming smartphone, and the company has gone in a different direction that the other big players this time around. The Optimus Vu II is a rather large phone that is approaching the size of a tablet, and it will cost almost $900. The smartphone is model LG-F200 and measures 132.2 x 85.6 x 9.4 mm. At 159g, it is no lightweight, but is lighter than I would have guessed. It will be available in pick, white, or black colors, with a 5.0" IPS display prominently centered on the front of the device. The display can recognize finger or stylus input, and has a resolution of 1024 x 768. Interestingly, the Optimus Vu II has a 4:3 aspect ratio where most phones opt for the thinner 16:9 displays. This results in a phone that looks almost square, and makes it look more like a tablet than a smartphone.

LG Optimus VU II.jpg

Other features include an 8 MP rear camera, 1.3 MP front facing camera for web conferencing, and the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. Connectivity includes 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, APT-X Codec, MHL (video output to HDMI), NFC, LTE, and USB 2.0. Of course, the Wi-Fi network connection supports DLNA, Wi-Fi Direct, and Miracast.

Internal specifications include a Qualcomm MSM 8960 dual core processor running at 1.5GHz, 2GB of RAM, and a 2,150 mAh battery that can be charged via magnetic induction. There is an external SD card slot, but no word yet on how much internal storage the Vu II will come with. The smartphone (tablet?) will come with an IR blaster and QRemote software so that you can control your home theater PC setup with it, and a One Key keychain that will make the phone beep loudly to assist you in finding it (unless you have misplaced your keys as well... though that might just be my bad luck heh). The VoLTE support is also notable, and should result in improved audio quality during voice calls.

LG Optimus VU II (2).jpg

The LG Optimus Vu II is a rather odd device with its large 5" screen size, aspect ratio, and boxy design. While we will have to wait for the US launch to confirm the approximate $864 (966,900 won) price, it is an expensive smartphone that looks and operates more like a tablet (and still costs more than a 7" Nexus 7!). As much as I love stylus support, I just don't see the Vu II catching on in the US.

You can find the full press release in the LG Korea newsroom website.

What do you think? Will you be picking up the Vu II, and if so why?

Source: Engadget

Apple's A6 Processor Uses Hand Drawn ARM Cores to Boost Performance

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 27, 2012 - 12:26 PM |
Tagged: SoC, PowerVR, iphone, arm, apple, a6

Apple's latest smartphone was unveiled earlier this month, and just about every feature has been analyzed extensively by reviewers and expounded upon by Apple. However, the one aspect that remains a mystery is the ARM System on a Chip that is powering the iPhone 5. There has been a great deal of speculation, but the officially Apple is not talking. The company has stated that the new processor is two times faster than its predecessor, but beyond that it will be up to reviewers to figure out what makes it tick.

After the press conference PC Perspective's Josh Walrath researched what few hints there were on the new A6 processor, and determined that there was a good chance it was an ARM Cortex A15-based design. Since then some tidbits of information have come out that suggest otherwise, however. Developers for iOS disovered that the latest SDK suggest new functionality for the A6 processor, including some new instruction sets. That discovery tended credence to the A6 possibly being Cortex A15, but it did not prove that it wasn't. Following that, Anandtech posted an article that stated it was in a licensed Cortex A15 design. Rather, the A6 was a custom Apple-developed chip that would, ideally, give users the same level of performance without needing significantly more power – and without waiting for a Cortex A15 chip to be manufactured.

Finally, thanks to the work of the enthusiasts over at Chipworks, we have physical proof that, finally, reveals details about Apple's A6 SoC. By stripping away the outer protective layers, and placing the A6 die under a powerful microscope, they managed to get an 'up close and personal' look at the inside of the chip.

Apple A6 ARM SoC.jpg

Despite the near-Jersey Shore (shudder) levels of drama between Apple and Samsung over the recent trade dress and patent infringement allegations, it seems that the two companies worked together to bring Apple's custom processor to market. The researchers determined that the A6 was based on Samsung's 32nm CMOS manufacturing process. It reads APL0589B01 on the inside, which suggests that it is of Apple's own design. Once the Chipworks team sliced open the processor further, they discovered proof that Apple really did craft a custom ARM processor.

In fact, Apple has created a chip with dual ARM CPU cores and three GPU cores (PowerVR). The CPU cores support the ARMv7s instruction set, and Apple has gone with a hand drawn design. Rather than employ computer libraries to automatically lay out the logic in the processor, Apple and the engineers acquired from its purchase of PA Semi have manually drawn out the processor by hand. This chip has likely been in the works for a couple of years now, and the 96.71mm^2 sized die will offer up some notable performance improvements.

microscope.jpg

It seems like Apple has opted to go for an expensive custom chip rather than opt for a licensed Cortex A15 design. That combined with the hand drawn layout should give Apple a processor with better performance than its past designs without requiring significantly more power.

At a time when mobile SoC giant Texas Instruments is giving up on ARM chips for tablets and smartphones, and hand drawn designs are becoming increasingly rare (even AMD has given up), I have to give Apple props for going with a custom processor laid out by hand. I'm interested to see what the company is able to do with it and where they will go from here. 

Chipworks and iFixIt also took a look at the LTE modem, Wi-Fi chip, audio amplifier, and other aspects of the iPhone 5's internals, and it is definitely worth a read for the impressive imagery alone.

Source: ifixit

Track your Linux powered laptops battery usage

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 26, 2012 - 01:21 PM |
Tagged: linux

Power consumption on Linux has always been harder to track than on Windows, especially at a granular level to determine which components are the most power hungry in your system.  Considering the huge outcry some users made at the release of kernel 3.5 and the high power draw they witnessed, monitoring power has become a hot topic for many. Phoronix just posted a review of PowerTOP, which shows the discharge rate of your laptops battery, as well as how much power your hardware is using including the number of interrupts it is sending to your CPU. For developers there is even a way to create hardware profiles for yourself and your users which will help you extend battery life for all your mobile Linux machines.

powertop_small.png

"Getting the longest battery life on portable Linux machines is yet another moving target as kernels and standards change and vendors continue to snuggle up to Microsoft at the expense of non-Windows users. There was a bit of controversy at the release of the 3.x kernel because it contained a power regression (or not a power regression but something else that behaved like a power regression depending on who was talking) and the result was that Linux got considerably less battery life than Windows on the same machines. This was especially obvious to dual-boot users. This is a long complex story, so if you're interested in the details see the links at the end."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

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Source: Phoronix

Mobile wireless storage from Patriot, the Gauntlet Node

Subject: Mobile | September 24, 2012 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: patriot, Gauntlet Node

Patriot's Gauntlet Node will fit any 2.5" drive of 2TB or less in its 3.39" x 5.47" x 0.96" shell and allow you to connect to it wireless via an 802.11 b/g/n WiFi connection.  This device is for more than just your normal laptop, as it has support for iOS and Android devices as well.  That could give your phone or tablet a lot more storage than it originally shipped with.  For those of you who prefer an SSD, the USB 3.0 connection will give you good speed but it will be limited by USB 3.0's bandwidth.  [H]ard|OCP really liked this device, even if they did have to wrestle with it a bit when initially setting it up.

H_PatNode.jpg

"The Gauntlet Node from Patriot is designed to provide extra storage to mobile users. The ability for any 2.5" HDD or SSD to operate wirelessly as a hot-spot for up to 8 users and to provide a shared data pool is compelling. It does feature support for Android and iOS devices natively. We test the Gauntlet Node to see if it delivers."

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Source: [H]ard|OCP

HTC Announces Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S Smartphones, Coming to Verizon (among others)

Subject: Mobile | September 20, 2012 - 08:23 PM |
Tagged: wp8, windows phone 8x, windows phone 8s, windows phone 8, snapdragon s4, microsoft, htc

Not content to let Samsung and Nokia have all the fun with Windows Phone 8, smartphone company HTC has announced two new WP8 devices. The results of a partnership with Microsoft, HTC will be releasing the Windows Phone 8X and Windows Phone 8S shortly following the official unveiling of the Windows Phone 8 operating system in October.

The HTC Windows Phone 8X will be the company’s flagship WP8 smartphone. On the outside, the HTC phone features a 4.2” Super LCD 2 display with a resolution of 1280x720 pixels (341 PPI). The smartphones will come in yellow, red, black, and blue colors. The front of the device is flat with a ring of color (of your choice) while the back and edges are rounded. No specific dimensions were given, but the smartphone weighs 130 grams. Cameras include a 2.1 MP front-facing camera for video calling that is capable of recording 1080p video as well as an 8 MP rear camera.

HTC WP8X.jpg

Internal specifications include a 1.5GHz dual core SnapDragon S4 SoC, 1GB of RAM, 16GB of internal storage, and an 1800 mAh battery. Wi-Fi and NFC radios are also present, but the Windows Phone 8X does not appear to support US LTE networks similar to the Samsung ATIV S. On the audio side of things, HTC is touting Beats Audio functionality and an internal amplifier that will allow users to attach larger headphones to the HTC 8X.

The 8X is not the only Windows Phone 8 smartphone that HTC is releasing. Positioned as a budget WP8 option is the HTC Windows Phone 8S. This device goes for a two-tone approach by placing a strip of color along the bottom of the front that extends to fill the entire back. The area around the display is black, and the available colors include white, yellow, red, and blue. It weighs in at 113 grams, which makes it the lightest WP8 smartphone announced so far.

The front of the device features a 4” Super LCD with resolution of 800x480 (233 PPI), and a row of capacitive buttons. There is no front-facing camera on this smartphone, but it does have a mircoSD card slot (unlike the 8X).

Internal specifications include a dual core SnapDragon S4 SoC running at 1GHz, 512MB of RAM, 4GB of internal storage, and a 1700 mAh battery. The HTC 8S does feature a 5MP rear camera that is capable of recording 720p video. Radios include Wi-Fi and at least 3G. It does not appear to support LTE networks. There is also no NFC support.

HTC WP8S.jpg

WPCentral got hands-on time with the 8S.

The HTC 8S also has support for Beats audio, and HTC is including a Beats Audio application that will allow users to adjust audio output settings.

HTC has not announced any specific pricing, but both models should be available for purchase in November. The HTC 8X smartphone will be supported on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon in the US. In Canada, Bell and Rogers will support the 8X, and in Europe it will be carried by Orange, O2, Telefonica, MTS, Three UK, T-Mobile, and Vodafone. Unfortunately, there is no word on which cellular networks will carry the HTC 8S. At least in the US, AT&T and T-Mobile seem like good bets.

Comparison of Upcoming Windows Phone 8 Devices

Current Windows Phone 8 Lineup.jpg

Some details are not official yet (LTE support), or unknown. 

The 8X and 8S are smaller than the Windows Phone 8 devices from Nokia and Samsung, and it will be interesting to see which design direction customers prefer. I would expect both of the HTC smartphones to be priced comptetively under the Nokia Lumia 920 and 820 based on the specifications to try and lure potential customers in with a lower price tag and similar feature set. As far as raw specs go, the Lumia series seems to have the upper hand, but if HTC prices these right it could be a popular and 'good enough' alternative.

You can find more photos of the 8X over at WPCentral. The video below shows off both the HTC 8X and 8S and the design concepts behind them.

Source: The Verge

ASUS Vivo Tab, Vivo Tab RT, and Taichi Tablet Pricing Leaked

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 19, 2012 - 07:30 AM |
Tagged: windows rt, vivo tab rt, vivo tab, taichi, tablet, pricing, asus

Earlier this month we detailed two ASUS tablets that were on display at IFA 2012. The important specification that was unknown at the time was pricing, however. Specifically, pricing information has been leaked on not only the two ASUS Vivo tablets, but a third tablet that we reported on in June: the ASUS Taichi convertible tablet.

ZDNet claims to have gotten a hold of the final pricing for the three tablets, by means of a leaked slide(s) that represent the company's holiday roadmap. The leaked slide can be seen below. 

Asus Tablet Pricing.jpg

The two upcoming Vivo-series tablets are the Vivo Tab and Vivo Tab RT, which will run the x86 and ARM versions of Windows 8 respectively.

The Vivo Tab will run an Atom CPU, 2GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, front/rear cameras (8MP/2MP), and sport a 10.1" Super IPS+ display (1366x768 resolution). It is rated at 8.7mm thick and weighing 675 grams. According to the leaked slide, the Vivo Tab will be priced at $799 for the base model, and the accompanying keyboard dock will cost an additional $199.

On the other hand, specifications for the Vivo Tab RT include a NVIDIA Tegra 3 SoC, 2GB of RAM, 32GB internal storage, 11.6" Super IPS+ display (1366x768), 8MP/2MP front and rear camera. It weighs 520 grams and is 8.3mm thick. This tablet has a starting price of $599 for the tablet itself, and the keyboard dock costs $199 extra.

Note that this ARM-powered tablet will come with the preview/RTM version of Microsoft Office 2013 at launch (which I have been using since the Customer Preview came out, and generally like it). Once office goes gold, Windows RT tablets will receive a free update to the final version. However, with the Windows RT version, you do not have access to features like macro support in excel (which kind of defeats the purpose of using this a business machine, but at least it's 'free').

Comparison of ASUS' Transformer-style tablets
  ASUS Vivo Tab ASUS Vivo Tab RT ASUS Transformer Prime ASUS Transformer Infinity
Processor/SoC Intel Atom NVIDIA Tegra 3 NVIDIA Tegra 3 NVIDIA Tegra 3
RAM 2GB 2GB 1GB 1GB
Internal Memory 64GB 32GB 32GB 64GB
Display 10.1" Super IPS+ @ 1366x768 11.6" Super IPS+ @ 1366x768 10.1" IPS @ 1280x800 10.1" Super IPS+ @ 1920x1200
Camera(s) 8MP rear, 2MP front 8MP rear, 2MP front 8MP rear, 1.2MP front 8MP rear, 2MP front
Size 8.7mm thick 8.3mm thick 10.4" x 7.1" x .3" 10.4" x 7.1" x .3" (8.5mm thick)
Weight 675g 520g 589.67g 598g

A comparison of the Vivo Tab and Vivo RT compared to ASUS' Android-powered alternatives.

Further, the ASUS Taichi is not only a tablet, but one with dual screens that is actually billed as an ultrabook -- and with a (rumored) price to match! For $1299, you get an ultrabook with two 1920x1080 multi-touch displays on the front and bad "lid" of the laptop. Specifications include an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, 4GB of RAM, SSD, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, dual cameras, and USB 3.0 support. Even better, both displays on the Taichi can be used at the same time to share the computer with a friend sitting across from you (unclear how the software handles this though I don't think both users get individual desktops).

What that means is that if you want a Windows 8 tablet from ASUS with a keyboard dock, you are looking at a minimum of $798 for the ARM-powered Vivo Tab RT, $998 for the Vivo Tab, and $1299 for the ASUS Taichi. Now, the Taichi's pricing I can forgive, because it is marketed and positioned as an ultrabook. The two Vivo Tabs do seem overpriced for what you are getting once you factor in the additional cost fo the keyboard dock. If the dock was included in the $599 and $799 (base tablet) prices, I think those prices would be fair – but they do not. Even comparing to the company's Android tablets, it is difficult for me to justify the 'x86 and Microsoft taxes' that are likely responsible for the increased cost. As an example, you can find the 32GB Transformer Prime and keyboard dock for a total of $616.94 on Amazon right now. Is the (approx.) additional $180 really worth it just to run Windows 8 – and the ARM version at that (so no traditional desktop apps). For many people, I think not and I think Microsoft and the many tablet OEMs that are going to try to push Windows 8 tablets/notebooks this holiday season are going to need to re-evaluate the market if they want these devices to sell well.

Micrsoft's Surface tablet is expected to be around the $500 mark as well...

After using Windows 8 RTM on my main desktop, I'm not sold on metro but it's not terrible and it's actually a decent UI when navigating around with a touchscreen (I've also tried it on a convertible tablet). I do think that Windows 8 tablets are a good thing, and if positioned at the right price, Microsoft and the OEMs could sell a lot of these just on the merits of being able to say that this computer/tablet/notebook/et al is running 'Microsoft' and/or 'Windows' on the box and displays (at retail) which consumers are familiar with and comfortable paying for (the brand name).

The crux of it is pricing though, because if there is a 10" tablet for $800 next to a 10" for $600, and the only discernable difference is what is on the screen (the OS, and especially since Win 8 isn't all that reminiscent of Windows' desktop), I have to believe that the majority of consumers are going to go for the cheaper model (likely running Android).

[And that's not really touching on the $1000 Vivo Tab+dock that is running an Atom processor of all things... that is most definitely ultrabook territory and for that price you should be getting at least a Sandy Bridge CPU, and better chassis. If I was in that situation of choosing just between ASUS' devices (with a touchscreen), I would probably just save up the extra cash for the Taichi and get a 'real' ultrabook (internal specs-wise), or go for something like the Transformer Pad Infinity which wouldn't run Windows but would at least have a much better display and be a bit more portable.]

But what do you think? Are the rumored prices reasonable? Would you buy a Windows 8 tablet over an Android tablet even if the Microsoft-powered device is significantly more expensive?

Source: ZDNet

Samsung versus Qualcomm; don't judge a tablet by its cover

Subject: Mobile | September 13, 2012 - 07:16 PM |
Tagged: tablet, Snapdragon S4 Pro, Samsung, qualcomm, ice cream sandwich, Exynos 4412

You are likely already somewhat familiar with the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1, running Ice Cream Sandwich on a 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos 4412.  Externally it looks almost identical to the 10.1" engineering sample that Qualcomm pulled out in front of The Inquirer today but internally they are very different.  Inside the Qualcomm tablet is the new 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro, running a hair faster than the Exynos and with a different architecture.  That customized architecture showed up in the testing, the Qualcomm tablet benchmarked higher the Samsung, much higher than the 100MHz speed difference would imply.  However not all was perfect with the usability of the tablet, though The Inquirer does point out this is a tablet still in development and the software is not quite ready for prime time.

snapdragon.jpg

"The INQUIRER took the chance to test Qualcomm's developer tablet Snapdragon processor against the Exynos quad-core chip used in Samsung's popular Galaxy Note 10.1.

On paper, the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 and the Qualcomm development tablet are quite similar. Both devices run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and have 10.1in touchscreens."

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Source: The Inquirer

Lucid Dynamix adjusts mobile gaming quality in real-time

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 13, 2012 - 06:42 PM |
Tagged: lucid, dynamix, ultrabook

Lucid has a history of fast product development as a software company.  It wasn't too long ago that Lucidlogix was a fabless semiconductor company that made chips for motherboards to enabled multi-GPU solutions across card models and GPU vendors.  Since then we have seen them move to GPU virtualization tasks like enabling discrete and integrated GPUs to work seamlessly without user interaction on the same notebook. 

The Lucid MVP software is the most recent version of that track and it has been very well received, find its way onto most motherboard brands and recently the Origin gaming notebook line

While huddling in San Francisco during IDF, we stopped by Lucid's suite to see what new stuff they were cooking up.  One of the products was called Dynamix and it has the goal of adjusting the image quality of games in real time to help users hit minimal gaming experience levels.  Lucid isn't adjusting the settings on your games but rather is intercepting calls from the game to the graphics solution (integrated or discrete) and altering them slightly to adjust performance.

dynamix_ui.jpg

Above you'll see the beta user interface for Dynamix that allows the user to configure it and assign which titles it should operate on.  Two sliders, one for a frame rate and one for a somewhat subjective "quality" level can be moved in order to alter the algorithms Lucid has set in the place. 

When you set the minimum frame rate, that is the "threshold" with which you would like to make sure all of your games run at.  The default was 30 FPS when I played with it and left the quality slider where it started as well.  If you start a game that does NOT run at 30 FPS with the settings you have (or maybe it won't with any settings) Lucid's software will attempt to change some quality and rendering settings completely transparently to bring the frame rate up.

In our demo we saw Crysis 2 running on a Dell Ultrabook at 1366x768 and a reported frame rate of 9 from FRAPS.  Obviously a game at that frame rate is pretty much unplayable, so when you enable the Dynamix software via a hotkey it attempts to bring up the frame rate; not by adjusting settings in the game engine but rather by changing DX calls to the GPU itself.

Examples given were that Dynamix might change the color depth requested by the game, or it might lower the texture resolutions and anti-aliasing passes.  It gradually degrades image quality until it is close to reaching your desired minimum frame rate.  When I enabled it on Crysis 2, my frame rate went from 9 to 28 or so - a sizeable difference that made the game mostly playable.

It's not magic though - there are degradations in quality that are visible.

dynamix_off.jpg

Here you can see a close up of the game running without Dynamix at work.  The quality is good but the frame rate was again at 9 FPS or so.

dynamix_on.jpg

This image shows the game after enabling Dynamix, with a frame rate of 28 or so.  You can definitely see blurrier textures, less sharpness around the gun and the foliage quality has gone done some as well. 

So why is this even interesting?  There are several reasons.  First there are some games that may not have quality settings low enough to run on an Ultrabook with HD 2500 graphics; kind of like Crysis 2.  Lucid is able to change things that the developer might not have thought of (or might not have wanted) with its access to the graphics pipeline. 

Secondly, as the name implies, the software is dynamic.  If you already running a game OVER your minimum threshold then the software will not change anything.  But if you are running in an indoor area at 40 FPS and then drop to 20 FPS when you go outdoors, the software will kick in and attempt to adjust quality to get you back up to the 30 FPS mark. 

Finally, the UI remains untouched - the informational points that were part of the game's interface were untouched so you don't have to worry about blury text or anything like that.  Lucid's capability to know about the back end of the 3D engines allows them to tweak things like this pretty easily.

Lucid says the goal is to make games that would otherwise be unplayable on a system, playable for consumers.  Without a doubt the target is Sandy Bridge and Ivy Bridge notebooks and the somewhat limited performance of the HD 2500 graphics system.  While this could also be applied to discrete graphics system from AMD and NVIDIA, I don't see that being necessary. 

Currently the software works with DX9 and DX10 games though they are still working to get DX11 covered completely.  And while the software worked find our demo, we only tried out one game on one notebook - there is still a lot of proving that Lucid needs to do for us to buy in completely.  If Lucid's bragging was anything to judge by though you should see Dynamix in quite a few major notebook brands later this year. 

What do YOU think?  Is this a technology you are interested in and do you see a place for it?

Lucid to Let You Plug in to Boost Your Laptop GPU?

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 12, 2012 - 07:20 PM |
Tagged: lucid, external graphics

Lucid looks to utilize Thunderbolt and its PCIe-format interface with external video cards. Their ideal future would allow for customers to purchase Ultrabook or other laptop device to bring around town. Upon reaching home the user could sit the laptop on their desk; plug in a high-end video card for performance; and surround their Ultrabook in other monitors.

While there are situations for acceleration hardware to be inside the device that is not necessary.

There have been numerous attempts in the past to provide a dockable graphics accelerator. ASUS, AMD, Vidock, as well as many others have attempted this feat but all had drawbacks and/or difficulty getting to market. Just prior to Intel Developer Forum, Laptop Magazine was given a demonstration from Lucid with their own attempt.

How about some Thunderbolt?

Mobile GPUs are really the only thing keeping a good laptop from being a gaming machine.

There’s good need for desktop CPUs with lots of RAM – but these days, not to game.

I have been excited each time a product manufacturer claims to have a non-proprietary method to accelerate laptop graphics. Laptops are appealing for so many purposes and it is frustrating to have devices come so close but fall so short of being a reasonable gaming machine.

The demo that Lucid showed off ran 3DMark 06 on an Intel HD 4000 with an external AMD Radeon HD 6700. On integrated graphics the gaming performance hovered just south of 30 FPS. With the Radeon HD 6700 – as expected – performance greatly increased to almost 90 FPS.

It should be much more compelling for a PC store to say “For somewhere near the price of a console, you could dock your laptop which you already own into this box when you want to game and instantly have all PC gaming and Home Theatre PC benefits.”

And it should have happened a long time ago.

Firefox OS Interface as of September 6, 2012

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 09:02 PM |
Tagged: firefox, Firefox OS

Mozilla has released a demonstration of their mobile operating system, Firefox OS. As much as I like Mozilla and their influence on the PC industry I cannot see much reason for this operating system to exist as it stands right now.

We have reported earlier in the year on Mozilla’s push into the mobile and app store market.

Just last week as of the time of this writing we have been given a video walkthrough of current builds for Firefox OS. This is obviously a very early build of the operating system and we have no idea what the developers have planned for the platform in the future. The only position I can speak from is what I can see right now – and that is what I will do.

There’s also the whole issue of tablets…

The operating system as it currently stands looks like it could very well be a custom skin of Android. It is clear that Mozilla has put a substantial amount of work into the backend just because of how complex a mobile operating system fundamentally is. The interface could be little more than placeholder used to develop the fundamentals.

If not then it is somewhat disappointing to me. Mozilla has always had innovative hooks such as tabs or extensions to disrupt incumbent products. Apart from its legally open nature I do not really see anything yet that would differentiate the platform from its peers. Simply put, it looks like Android – and not even the most recent Android.

Hopefully we will begin to see some of the disruptive force Mozilla is known for as this operating system begins to mature. There just has to be a hook somewhere for it to gain any ground especially when it is this late to the game.

Source: Youtube

You won't be able to blame TSMC or GF for any shortage of Win8 devices

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: surface, win8, winRT, touch screen

DigiTimes foresees supply problems with Windows 8 mobile devices but for once it is not the fault of the CPU/GPU manufacturers.  Instead it is the feature which makes Win8 on mobile devices so much more attractive that previous versions of Microsoft's mobile OS, the Achilles heel could be the touchscreen manufacturers.  Shipping millions of new touchscreen laptops and tablets could lead to availability problems with the industry already spread among so many current touchscreen products.  Even if the supply holds up there are also concerns about demand as a touchscreen device will cost more than an equivalent laptop without a touchscreen, something that DigiTimes' sources are concerned about.

iWJkclu7ydVs.jpg

"Windows 8-based notebook shipments are expected to start increasing in September as the launch date of the operating system approaches, but because most orders are scheduled for shipping in September and October, sources from the upstream supply chain are concerned that related supply chain players will face great challenges in terms of capacity management and production smoothness."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: DigiTimes

Amazon Announces Four New Kindle Fire Tablets

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 06:24 AM |
Tagged: tablet, kindle fire hd, kindle fire, kindle, amazon

Amazon announced four new Kindle Fire tablets at a live event yesterday. Now that I’ve had time to let it all sink in, it is time to run through and compare the new offerings! Included in the new lineup are two 7” models and two 8.9” models. Further, the tablets with the new internals are differentiated with Kindle Fire HD branding whereas the updated model keeps the traditional Kindle Fire name.

7” Kindle Fire Tablets:

1. Updated Kindle Fire 7"

During the event in Santa Monica, California Amazon announced an update to the existing Kindle Fire and introduced a new “HD” version. The original Kindle Fire (which we reviewed here) packed a dual core 1GHz ARM processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. It weighed in at 14.5 ounces and was .45” thick. That hardware cost $199.

The new (updated) 7” Kindle Fire

The updated model keeps the 7” display but has a 1.2GHz OMAP 4430 processor (that Amazon claims is 40% faster), 1GB of RAM, battery life improvements, and in a surprising twist will actually cost less than the original Fire at $159. Software has also been improved for the new Kindle Fire but it is not clear if the first-generation model will also be getting an update. Once reviews start coming out, it should be more apparent what exactly has been changed (Amazon mostly focused on hardware at the event). You can expect it to be a customized version of Android that looks nothing like the stock experience, however. The updated Kindle Fire will be available September 14th for $159.

2. Kindle Fire HD 7"

The Kindle Fire HD is where the hardware starts to get interesting as the specifications have been improvement greatly versus the original $199 Kindle Fire. The new tablet measures 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches and weighs 13.9 ounces. The front of the tablet features an HD webcam and a 7" display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. Interestingly, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself, which Amazon claims reduces glare by cutting down on air gaps. Powering the tablet is a OMAP 4460 SoC featuring a dual core processor running at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage, and stereo speakers. Connectivity options include dual band 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi with two hardware antennas, HDMI, and a Bluetooth radio.

The 7" Kindle Fire HD will be available September 14th. The 16 GB model will cost $199 while the 32 GB model is $249. 

8.9” Kindle Fire HD Tablets:

The 8.9-inch tablet is a new form factor for Amazon, and an interesting one at that. The tablet is sits nicely between the 7" tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 and larger 10"+ tablets like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad. It remains to be seen whether it will be successful for Amazon, but at only 20 ounces it's still fairly portable. Specific measurements are as follows: 9.45 x 6.5 x 0.35 inches. There is just a single tablet model in the 8.9" form factor, but there are two options based on that. Specifically, you will need to choose between a Wi-Fi only tablet and a tablet that can connect to both Wi-Fi and 4G cellular networks.

The 8.9" Kindle Fire HD features an 8.9" display with resolution of 1920x1200. Further, like the 7" model, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself to reduce glare. Above the display is an HD webcam. Connectivity options on the base Wi-Fi only model include HDMI, Bluetooth, and dual band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with dual antennas. The 4G version further adds a cellular modem. 

Kindle Fire HD 8.jpg

Internally, the Kindle Fire HD is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 SoC running at 1.5 GHz and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is either 16 GB or 32 GB for the Wi-Fi model and 32 GB or 64 GB in the 4G Kindle Fire HD. Any amazon purchased content can be stored on your Amazon Cloud Drive as well.

Both the Wi-Fi and 4G tablets will be available on November 20th, and are available for pre-order now.

The Wi-Fi model will cost $299 for 16 GB or $369 for 32 GB.

The 4G model gets a bit more complicated, thanks to the cellular modem. In basic terms, the 32 GB version will cost $499 and the 64 GB version will cost $599. With purchase, you get a $10 Amazon Appstore credit and 20 GB of Amazon Cloud Drive storage. On the data plan front, for $50 a year, Amazon will provide you with 250 MB per month of data usage over the cellular connection. It's not much, but it is still a pretty good deal if you are around Wi-Fi most of the time and/or plan to only use the Fire to read books and listen to music on. The bad news is that if you do happen to go over that 250 MB limit, you'll be subject to AT&T's going rate for the next tier of data. IE, expect to pay about $30 if you go over (ouch!).

On TWICH, Ryan brought up the Kindle Fire HD and mentioned the big price difference between the 4G and Wi-Fi only model. You are looking at about $250 extra from the 4G model, and the addition of the cellular radio definitely does not cost Amazon that much per tablet to integrate. One likely reason is that Amazon is subsidizing part (or all) of the data plan (the cost above the $50 it is charging customers) with the increased cost of the hardware. (Sort of the opposite of the traditional cell phone subsidizing arrangement where the contract subsidizes the hardware). You will just have to determine if the 4G modem is worth the cost increase or not.

Opt out of ads for $15, information on charging

Speaking of cutting costs, Amazon has done two things to reduce the price of its Kindle Fire tablets. For one, all Kindle Fire tablets will come with Kindle Special Offer ads turned on. These are deals and ads that display on the home screen and lock screen of your Kindle (and in my experience are not very intrusive). If you want an ad-free experience, you can opt out by paying a one-time $15 fee – which essentially amounts to you paying the full cost of the hardware versus the ad-subsidized cost. 

The other cost cutting measure is that the company is not bundling a wall charger with any of the tablets. You can purchase the Kindle PowerFast for Accelerated Charging wall charger for $9.99 if you buy it at the same time as you purchase the tablet, but is $19.99 if purchased separately. Note that a wall charger is not required, as you can charge the Kindle over USB connected to a computer or cell phone charger – it does not necessarily have to be the expensive Amazon charger.

Lastly, all of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are running a customized version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately, I would not expect an update to Jelly Bean any time soon. The biggest question i have is whether or not the original Kindle Fire will get the same software update as the new tablets are coming out with. It is difficult to comment on any specific improvements as Amazon primarily focused on hardware at the event. Once reviewers get hands on with the tablets, more information should become available. I'm looking forward to trying out the tablets once they show up as demos at retail to see how well the UI runs on the updated hardware.

If you are interested in one of the new Kindle Fire tablets, I highly recommend checking out the handy comparison chart on the bottom of any Kindle Fire product pages as it puts all the specifications in a simple table.

What do you think about the new Amazon tablets, will you be picking one up or sticking with the Nexus 7?

Source: Amazon

Samsung Unveils ATIV S WP8 Smartphone at IFA 2012

Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2012 - 07:16 PM |
Tagged: wp8, windows phone 8, Samsung, microsoft, ifa, ativ s

Tablets and ultrabooks are not the only devices Samsung is unveiling at IFA 2012. The company also showed off its first Windows Phone 8 smartphone, the ATIV S.

Featuring a brushed aluminum chassis, the ATIV S is 8.7mm thin and weights 135 grams (just under 0.3 pounds). It is approximately 5.4” tall and 2.8” wide at 137.2mm x 70.5mm. The front of the smartphone features a large 4.8” HD Super AMOLED touchscreen display covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 2. Below the display is a slightly raised physical Windows button along with capacitive back and search buttons on either side. Above the display is a 1.9MP webcam and aluminum speaker grill. On the rear of the ATIV S is an 8MP autofocus camera, rear aluminum speaker bar, and a compartment that holds a 2300 mAh battery.

Samsung ATIV S.jpg

Inside the smartphone running Windows Phone 8 is a 1.5 GHz dual core ARM SoC, 1GB of RAM, and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The ATIV S also includes a microSD card slot. According to the Windows Team Blog, the ATIV S is noticeably thinner than Samsung’s other Windows Phone (7) smartphones. On the other hand, the phone is wider and taller, so it is less pocket-able. Thanks to the slightly curved edges of the phone, it is easy to hold and use with one hand despite the larger form factor (I’m sure Josh is making a joke for the podcast as we speak).

Samsung ATIV S_back.jpg

Overall, it looks like Samsung has put a lot of work into its new ATIV S Windows Phone 8 smartphone. While I’ve been intrigued with the Windows Phone mobile OS for a while now, I have not found a phone running it that I like; Nokia is great and all but the Nokia 920’s design just isn’t my thing. Personally, I think the ATIV S might be the perfect replacement for my Samsung Infuse 4G. You can see more photos of the ATIV S over at the Windows Team Blog.

Read more about Windows Phone 8 at PC Perspective.

Amazon Announces New Kindle Paperwhite with Upgraded Display

Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2012 - 02:10 PM |
Tagged: whispersync, paperwhite, kindle, amazon

Amazon announced at a live event today that its popular Kindle e-reader is getting an upgrade. The most significant upgrade is a new display which has a higher resolution and is (front) lit. As a result of the new display, Amazon is calling the new Kindle e-reader the Kindle Paperwhite, suggesting that the e-ink display is now closer than ever to replicating actual paper (though without the new book smell).

Amaon Kindle Paperwhite Lineup.jpg

The new Kindle Paperwhite comes in two versions, one with free (whispersync) 3G and the other with only Wi-Fi. The physical keyboard is replaced with a touchscreen (like the Kindle Touch) and the e-reader is now 9.1mm thick and 7.5 ounces (a bit under half a pound). The Verge quoted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in saying the Kindle Paperwhite is "thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paperback." Further, the display panel has a stated 62% more pixels than its predecessor, with 212 pixels per inch (PPI). Due to the nature of e-ink, Amazon had to get creative with the lighting and had to place the lighting element above the display (e-ink is reflective). This new “Light Guide” is a thin layer of material that takes light produced by LEDs along the edges of the display and spreads it over the entire display. Doing this allows Amazon to maintain the thin form factor and make the e-reader useable in more environments (readable in bed, or outside on a clear day, for example).

Software improvements allow the Kindle to start up in 60 seconds, 15% faster page turns, and free storage in Amazon’s Cloud Drive. In addition, the Kindle Paperwhite supports showing book covers in your library, (reading) time remaining in book chapters, and X-Ray reference material technology. According to Amazon, the Kindle Paperwhite’s battery has also been improved, allowing up to 8 weeks between charges (I’m assuming that includes stand-by time, not just when active/reading).

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite_Light Guide.jpg

The new Light Guide used to light up the Kindle Paperwhite's display.

Both Kindle Paperwhite e-readers will be available on October 1st, 2012. The 3G model will cost $179 while the Wi-Fi model will cost $119. Amazon is currently taking pre-orders for the devices, as well.

Meanwhile, the current Kindle e-reader is going to continue to be available – and is getting a nice price cut. At a new price of $69, I expect it to sell like Honey Buns (forget hotcakes). That is a price that is definitely impulse buy territory, and also makes it easy to give as a gift. I expect that it would also make a good device to give to kids to try to get them interested in reading. At $69, it won’t be as big of a deal if they break it (heh).

What do you think about the new Paperwhite Kindles? I’m interested to see one of the displays in person, to see if it lives up to the claims of replicating the look of paper. You can find more photos of the new Kindle over at The Verge's live blog of the event.

Source: The Verge

Lenovo Launches New Ivy Bridge Powered Budget Laptops

Subject: Mobile | September 3, 2012 - 03:06 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, s405, s400, s300, Lenovo, laptop, Ivy Bridge, core i5, budget, amd, a8

Tablets and ultrabooks have stolen the IFA 2012 show, but the hardware – while nice to look at – is not for everyone, especially for the price. It seems that Lenovo has the budget showings covered by announcing three budget laptops that offer up some decent specifications.

Lenovo has added three new laptops to its Ideapad S series, and the specifications of the new models are vastly improved versus the current netbook-class S-series models. The new additions are the S300, S400, and S405, and all three are packing the latest generation processors from Intel and AMD respectively.

Lenovo Ideapad S300 Silver Gray.jpg

All three of the laptops feature a display resolution of 1366x768, full QWERTY keyboard, trackpad with gesture support, 720p webcam, and a "tactile metal finish" for the laptop lid that comes in silver, pink, or red colors. External ports include an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, and power jack on the right side and a USB 3.0 port, HDMI output, Ethernet jack, and recovery button on the left. They are all expected to provide around four hours of battery life, and the laptops weigh in at 3.97 pounds and are 0.86" thick. All three models will come with Windows 7, but will eligible for the $14.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.

According to the press release, all three models will have cotton candy pink, red, and silver-gray lid color options in a "tactile" metal finish, though only the S300 has been spotted in the wild with the pink lid.

Lenovo Ideapad S400 Black.jpg

The S300 has a 13.3" screen while the S400 and S405 have 14" screens, but they share the same chassis, which means that the S300 will have a slightly bigger bezel but otherwise will be the same as the higher-end models on the outside.

S300.jpg

On the inside, the S300 is powered by an Intel ultra low voltage (ULV) Core i3 or Core i5 "Ivy Bridge" processor, a 500GB mechanical hard drive, up to 4GB of RAM, and optional AMD Radeon 7450M graphics. Other features include Intel's WiDi (wireless display) technology, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and stereo speakers powered by Dolby Advanced Audio v2.

The S400 follows that exact same pattern: Intel ULV Core i3/i5 Ivy Bridge CPU, up to 500GB spinning platter hard drive, 4GB of RAM, optional AMD Radeon 7450M GPU, WiDi, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, stereo speakers and WiDi support. The differences include a larger 14" LED backlit display (at that same 1366x768 resolution, unfortunately) and an optional 32GB SSD.

S400.jpg

The S400 comes in two different lid color options: a black interior and red lid, or a black interior with silver lid.

The S405 breaks the mold by replacing the Intel Ivy Bridge processor for an AMD A8 Trinity APU. It can also have up to 1TB of mechanical hard drive storage, 4GB of RAM, and optional AMD Radeon 7450M. Alternatively, it can be upgraded to a 32GB SSD. It features the same LED backlit 14" display and red/black or silver/black color scheme as the S400. The WiDi option does not appear to be included with the Ideapad S405 (which would make sense), but otherwise it is essentially the S400 without the Intel CPU/iGPU.

All three notebooks will be available later this month in the US, and the starting price is $499. The new Lenovo Ideapads make up a nice middle ground between expensive thin-and-light ultrabooks and low cost tablet+keyboard combinations. The quality of the keyboard and trackpad are really going to make or break the new S-series notebooks, because if they manage to pull off a good typing experience these could be some decent travel companions for people that need a productivity machine with a bit of "oomph" thanks to the Intel i5 or AMD Trinity APU. On the other hand, if the keyboard is crappy, the middle ground budget notebooks will really miss the entire point and road warriors will need to look elsewhere. Be on the lookout for reviews on these S-series Lenovo notebooks, as they look interesting for the money (if you are in the position of looking for a budget workhorse machine/one that would not be as terrible to lose on a trip, et al).

What do you think about the new budget Lenovo laptops?

Read more about IFA 2012.

Source: Lenovo

Samsung Shows Off Ultrabook With 2560x1440 Display at IFA

Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2012 - 09:50 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, Series 9, Samsung, retina display, prototype, ifa

The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) 2012 electronics show in Berlin has seen numerous Windows 8 tablets, but those are not the only mobile devices on the show floor. Samsung is at the event with its lineup of Series 9 Ultrabooks, for example.

The most interesting model is a prototype (engineering sample) Series 9 ultrabook that sports a WQHD display. That’s right, the 11.6” and 13.3” ultrabooks have displays with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels! The new display has a pixels-per-inch (PPI) rating of 220.84, which is a major improvement over the current 13” Series 9 ultrabook’s 1600x900, 138.03 PPI display. The new prototype Series 9 has a total display resolution lower than the 2880x1800 “Retina” display in the 15” Macbook Pro, but due to its overall smaller size at 13,” the PPI is comparable. In fact, it is ever-so-slightly higher at 220.84 PPI versus 220.53 for the Apple Macbook Pro. In addition, the Series 9 display features a matte finish, which is something road warriors will appreciate.

Samsung Series 9 Ultrabook.jpg

Image credit: Engadget.

It seems that – except for the new higher resolution display – the prototype spotted by Engadget at IFA is exactly the same as the latest Ivy Bridge-powered Series 9 ultrabook. It features a full QWERTY keyboard and click-able multitouch trackpad. The right side of the Samsung ultrabook includes a microphone, HDMI output, combination headphone/microphone jack, and a USB 2.0 port. There is also a covered slot for a full-size SD card on the underside of the chassis. On the left side of the ultrabook is a power jack, USB 3.0 port, micro-HDMI port, and micro RJ45 Ethernet port.

Powering the Series 9 prototype is likely an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, at least 4GB of RAM and an SSD. Further, the computer comes loaded with Microsoft's latest Windows 8 operating system. Beyond that, it is impossible to know the exact parts being used as Samsung isn’t ready to unleash this notebook yet. Unfortunately, that also means that pricing and availability are also not known.

With rumors that Apple is working on a new 13” Macbook Pro with “retina” display of its own, one possibility is that the prototype Series 9 is just that – a prototype (and proof of concept) – from which the company will sell the panels to Apple for its Macbook while not coming out with its own high resolution ultrabook. On the other hand, Samsung may be pursuing this and trying to beat Apple to market with a smaller notebook packing a comparible display to Apple's current Macbook Pro.

Personally, I’m rooting for the Series 9 with 2560x1440 display to at least come to market even if the panels also end up in Macbooks (though with Samsung’s luck that would just give Apple yet another device to attempt to get an injunction on….).

Either way, the concept is certainly promising, and here’s hoping that it inspires other OEMs to step up their ultrabook designs by using higher resolution displays!

Below is a hands on video by Mat Smith over at Engadget. For more information, you can find our Series 9 review as well as an editorial on the "Retina Macbook Pro from a PC Perspective" (see what we did there?).

Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more IFA 2012 coverage!

Source: Engadget