Samsung announces Galaxy S4 mini: what's different?

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 30, 2013 - 05:40 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, Galaxy S4 mini

Because there is a cellphone SKU for everyone, both in design and in direct quantity.

The latest big release, the Galaxy S4, arrived just about a month ago with its 5-inch 1080p screen and potentially dual quad-core processors depending on where you buy it. You could wait until late June and purchased on from the Google Play store containing the full Google experience. If that does not suit you, how about a 4.3" 960x540 version? That would be the Galaxy S4 mini, or at least one of the localized versions they will invariably make for multiple carriers.

But is the only difference the screen? Of course not.

galaxy-s4-mini-1.jpg

Image, Samsung via Samsung Tomorrow.

Btw, why does Samsung watermark photos on their company blog? Anyone?

One of the constants between the computational hardware of each Galaxy S4 version is the 2GB of RAM; basically everything else differs between specific subversions of the flagship phone. Not the mini! For whatever reason, the S4 mini backs off on the RAM by half a gigabyte leaving it with 1.5 GB.

One of the main selling features of the large S4 is the eight-core (quad-core A15, quad-core A7) SoC developed by Samsung. It was available in the international version, the American version instead having a quad-core processor from Qualcomm. The mini, on the other hand, will contain a slightly lower-clocked dual-core processor.

In the other features: the battery is about 27% smaller albeit with less power-hungry components; the rear camera drops from 13 megapixels to 8 megapixels, whether or not that is worse picture quality is unknown; and the internal storage is 8GB (5 user-accessible), down from the minimum 16GB of the not-mini.

So beyond the name, there does not seem to be many similarities between the regular and the mini S4. It is basically software which links the two devices. The mini has access to services such as S Translator and S Health, although there does not seem to be any discussion of other services like S Travel and OCR software.

Samsung will officially unveil it, with hands-on demos to various press members, on June 20th in London.

Skip the collection of secondary batteries for a multi-purpose charger

Subject: Mobile | May 28, 2013 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: battery charger, Luxa2 P1 7000mAh

At just  112 x 73 x 17.1mm, the LUXA2 charger is relatively compact and is certainly easier to carry around than a collection of batteries, especially if you are an Apple user and don't have the luxury of swappable batteries.  There are some drawbacks to the charger that Overclockers Club found, the 1A maximum leads to long charging times but also likely avoids any possible heat problems.  The two USB charge ports mean that you can charge two devices simultaneously, something lacking in many similar chargers.  If you often find yourself on the road with dead devices, this might be worth adding to your laptop bag.

OCC_Charger.jpg

”The LUXA2 P1 7000mAh High Capacity Battery & Charger is a sleek looking and solidly built piece of hardware. The silver unit I reviewed delivered exactly what it claimed, with the only casualty being the carrying pouch that did not survive normal usage. Equipped with a 7000mAh battery and two USB charging ports, it will provide multiple full charges for smaller portable devices (such as iPhones) and a decent percentage of on-screen time for more power-demanding tablets. The shape and weight of the LUXA2 P1 7000mAh High Capacity Battery & Charger makes it fit easily into any regular laptop bag without much fuss.”

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NVIDIA's i500 SDR LTE Modem Achieves 150Mbps Throughput During CITA 2013 Demo

Subject: Mobile | May 22, 2013 - 07:46 PM |
Tagged: Tegra 4i, software defined radio, SoC, nvidia, i500, 4g lte

NVIDIA's Tegra 4i System on a Chip includes a software defined radio that works as a LTE modem. This i500 LTE modem uses general purpose deep execution processors (DXP) and is as much as 40% smaller than a hardware LTE modem according to the company.

At Mobile World Congress earlier this year, the modem was able to reach 100Mbps throughput. After a recent software update, the Tegra 4i SoC in NVIDIA's Pheonix reference platform achieved 150Mbps throughput in a demo at CITA 2013 in Los Angeles this week.

The reference phone was connected to a test network during the demo rather than a live cellular network. The cellular network test equiptment showed the Pheonix platform was connected at the full 150Mbps link speed. In addition to this, NVIDIA showed the Tegra 4i-powered Pheonix phone connected to a live AT&T LTE network streaming video and making voice calls.

The interesting bit about the i500 modem in the Tegra 4i is its software defined nature. NVIDIA was able to upgrade the modem's capabilites through software rather than needing to redesign the hardware. This would be a big plus to consumers as they would be able to take advantage of the faster network speeds as they become available without needing to replace their phones. NVIDIA did note that in addition to the LTE Cat 4 support, the i500 is also backwards compatible with LTE Cat 3, 3G, and 2G networks. I'm interested to see what the power consumption of thei500 is like compared to LTE modems implemented in specialized hardware. The i500 is smaller and more flexible, but SDR can use more power due to its general purpose hardware units.

Read more about NVIDIA's Tegra 4i SoC at PC Perspective!

Source: NVIDIA

HP SlateBook x2: Tegra 4 on Android 4.2.2 in August

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | May 15, 2013 - 09:02 PM |
Tagged: tegra 4, hp, tablets

Sentences containing the words "Hewlett-Packard" and "tablet" can end in a question mark, an exclamation mark, or a period on occasion. The gigantic multinational technology company tried to own a whole mobile operating system with their purchase of Palm and abandoned those plans just as abruptly with such a successful $99 liquidation of $500 tablets, go figure, that they to some extent did it twice. The operating system was open sourced and at some point LG swooped in and bought it, minus patents, for use in Smart TVs.

So how about that Android?

HP-slatex2-01.jpg

The floodgates are open on Tegra 4 with HP announcing their SlateBook x2 hybrid tablet just a single day after NVIDIA's SHIELD move out of the projects. The SlateBook x2 uses the Tegra 4 processor to power Android 4.2.2 Jellybean along with the full Google experience including the Google Play store. Along with Google Play, the SlateBook and its Tegra 4 processor are also allowed in TegraZone and NVIDIA's mobile gaming ecosystem.

As for the device itself, it is a 10.1" Android tablet which can dock into a keyboard for extended battery life, I/O ports, and well, a hardware keyboard. You are able to attach this tablet to a TV via HDMI along with the typical USB 2.0, combo audio jack, and a full-sized SD card slot; which half any given port is available through is anyone's guess, however. Wirelessly, you have WiFi a/b/g/n and some unspecified version of Bluetooth.

HP-slatex2-02.jpg

The raw specifications list follows:

  • NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC
    • ARM Cortex A15 quad core @ 1.8 GHz
    • 72 "Core" GeForce GPU @ ~672MHz, 96 GFLOPS
  • 2GB DDR3L RAM ("Starts at", maybe more upon customization?)
  • 64GB eMMC SSD
  • 1920x1200 10.1" touch-enabled IPS display
  • HDMI output
  • 1080p rear camera, 720p front camera with integrated microphone
  • 802.11a/b/g/n + Bluetooth (4.0??)
  • Combo audio jack, USB 2.0, SD Card reader
  • Android 4.2.2 w/ Full Google and TegraZone experiences.

If this excites you, then you only have to wait until some point in August; you will also, of course, need to wait until you save up about $479.99 plus tax and shipping.

Source: HP

Haswell Laptop specs! NEC LaVie L to launch in Japan

Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Processors, Systems, Mobile | May 14, 2013 - 03:54 PM |
Tagged: haswell, nec

While we are not sure when it will be released or whether it will be available for North America, we have found a Haswell laptop. Actually, NEC will release two products in this lineup: a high end 1080p unit and a lower end 1366x768 model. Unfortuantely, the article is in Japanese.

nec_haswell_01.jpg

IPS displays have really wide viewing angles, even top and bottom.

NEC is known for their higher-end monitors; most people equate the Dell Ultrasharp panels with professional photo and video production, but their top end offers are ofter a tier below the best from companies like NEC and Eizo. The laptops we are discussing today both contain touch-enabled IPS panels with apparently double the contrast ratio of what NEC considers standard. While these may or may not be the tip-top NEC offerings, they should at least be putting in decent screens.

Obviously the headliner for us is the introduction of Haswell. While we do not know exactly which product NEC decided to embed, we do know that they are relying upon it for their graphics performance. With the aforementioned higher-end displays, it seems likely that NEC is intending this device for the professional market. A price-tag of 190000 yen (just under $1900 USD) for the lower end and 200000 yen (just under $2000 USD) for the higher end further suggests this is their target demographic.

nec_haswell_02.jpg

Clearly a Japanese model.

The professional market does not exactly have huge requirements for graphics performance, but to explicitly see NEC trust Intel for their GPU performance is an interesting twist. Intel HD 4000 has been nibbling, to say the least, on the discrete GPU marketshare in laptops. I would expect this laptop would contain one of the BGA-based parts, which are soldered onto the motherboard, for the added graphics performance.

As a final note, the higher-end model will also contain a draft 802.11ac antenna. It is expected that network performance could be up to 867 megabits as a result.

Of course I could not get away without publishing the raw specifications:

LL850/MS (Price: 200000 yen):

  • Fourth-generation Intel Core processor with onboard video
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB HDD w/ 32GB SSD caching
  • BDXL (100-128GB BluRay disc) drive
  • IEEE 802.11ac WiFi adapter, Bluetooth 4.0
  • SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB3.0, 2x2W stereo Yamaha speakers
  • 1080p IPS display with touch support
  • Office Home and Business 2013 preinstalled?

LL750/MS (Price: 190000 yen):

  • Fourth-generation Intel Core processor with onboard video
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM
  • 1TB HDD (no SSD cache)
  • (Optical disc support not mentioned)
  • IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi adapter, Bluetooth 4.0
  • SDXC, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI, USB3.0, 2x2W stereo Yamaha speakers
  • 1366x768 (IPS?) touch-enabled display

NVIDIA Announces Shield Pricing, Taking Pre-orders

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 14, 2013 - 09:06 AM |
Tagged: tegra 4, tegra, shield, project shield, nvidia

Solid information about the NVIDIA Shield (no longer called Project Shield) is finally becoming available with a blog post written up today on NVIDIA's website.  The company will begin accepting pre-orders from users that have previously signed up for the Shield mailing list while the rest of you will have to wait until May 20th to plop down your money. 

The cost?  $349.  Newegg, Gamestop, Micro Center and Canada Computer will carry it.

NV_Shield_Angled_Left_RealBoxing_LR.JPG

If you want to sign up for official June release schedule of the Tegra 4 powered mobile Android gaming device, you'll have to head over to shield.nvidia.com

NVIDIA does point out in the blog that the PC game streaming feature that I truly believe is the one thing that makes Shield a compelling gaming device, will be launching as BETA feature.

And GeForce game streaming, launching as a beta feature, will give SHIELD the power to access your NVIDIA GeForce GTX GPU-powered computer from the comfort of your couch. We’re working on streaming your favorite PC games to SHIELD, including great titles from Steam.

High level features of the device, for those of you that are unaware, include:

  • Tegra 4 – The world’s fastest mobile processor delivers rich graphics and unbeatable performance thanks to 72 GPU cores, four CPU cores and 2GB of RAM
  • Console-grade controller – Precise control thanks to dual analog joysticks, a full-sized D-Pad, left and right analog triggers, full-sized bumpers and A/B/X/Y buttons
  • Multi-touch display – 5-inch, 720p retinal multi-touch display for high-fidelity visuals
  • Integrated speakers – Custom, bass reflex, tuned port audio system – we think this is SHIELD’s sleeper feature
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11n 2X2 MIMO game-speed Wi-Fi for seamless game streaming
  • Pure Android – Latest Android Jelly Bean operating system from Google, for access to Android games and apps
  • There’s more – We put into SHIELD everything we would want in a premium mobile gaming device: 16 GB memory, GPS, Bluetooth 3.0, a mini-HDMI output, micro-USB 2.0, a microSD storage slot, a 3.5-mm stereo headphone jack. See the full spec sheet, here.

NV_Shield_Front_Open_LR.JPG

We took a look at the NVIDIA Shield device at CES this year and posted a video of our experiences, so check it out below. 

NVIDIA has also posted a separate blog that talks about some of the upcoming Android games that will highlight the power of the Tegra 4 mobile processor including Broken Age and Costume Quest from Double Fine, Chuck's Challenge from Niffler and more. 

Broken_Age_001_Wtrmrkd_2013.jpg

I think many people at NVIDIA as well as in the media are very curious to see what the reaction of Shield will actully be upon its release.  I am very excited to test it out in real-world, long term usage models but I definitely have doubts about the market's desire for another mobile gaming platform. 

Leave me your thoughts in the comments below!!

Source: NVIDIA

A last ride down Clover Trail? Asus' VivoTab Smart ME400C

Subject: Mobile | May 10, 2013 - 06:56 PM |
Tagged: clover trail, asus, VivoTab Smart ME400C, atom

While the new Atom processors that we discussed are a long way off you can still pick up some interesting devices powered by the current generation.  The ASUS VivoTab Smart ME400C has a Z2760 @ 1.8GHz, 2GB DDR2 and a 64GB eMMC SSD which is not too shabby for a $400 device.  The 1366x768 resolution screen might not be the best but at 10.1" it is a reasonable choice for ASUS to make.  The Tech Report's testing showed you can expect about 10 hours of battery life and it is capable of running Windows 8 and legacy x86 software as opposed to the ARM powered WinRT tablets it competes with.  They do recommend you purhase the TranSleeve and a bluetooth keyboard and mouse combo seperately as you will save a good amount of money doing so.

TR_asusthing.jpg

"This Windows 8 tablet has an Atom processor, solid battery life, and a $430 price tag. Is it compelling as a tablet, and can it really double as a productivity PC?"

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NVIDIA shows Project Shield manufacturing mold, building hype

Subject: Mobile | May 10, 2013 - 03:28 PM |
Tagged: tegra 4, tegra, shield, project shield, nvidia

After the initial announcement at CES in January, NVIDIA has been trying hard to keep excitement and interest about Project Shield going.  The upcoming Tegra 4-powered mobile Android-based gaming machine will be launched sometime in the summer; both Computex and E3 would make perfect timing. 

NVIDIA passed us a photo of the mold for the casing of Project Shield and though you don't really get any awesome new information out of it, I thought I would share.

Project_Shield_Mold.jpg

The photo you see below shows the production mold that's used to craft the ergonomic casing that houses Project SHIELD's high-powered components: Tegra 4, 5-inch 720p HD retinal touchscreen, Stereo Bass Reflex Speakers, WiFi, accelerometer, gyro, a massive battery, and more. 

To create the casing, we inject a polycarbonate material into the RHCM (Rapid Heat Cycle Molding) tool at 10,800 PSI and 300 degrees Celsius. We use a polycarbonate mixture comprised of 90% Sabic 500ECR-739 PC and 10% glass. This material and injection molding process ensures a sturdy yet lightweight casing that will deliver hours of gaming with no fatigue.

 

In case you are behind on what Project Shield is, you should check out the hands-on video we made during our time with the device last January.

What do you think...are you excited about the launch of this device?  Do any of its features really make you want to buy it once available?

Source: NVIDIA

Unreal Engine 3 compiled to asm.js

Subject: Editorial, Mobile | May 7, 2013 - 12:07 AM |
Tagged: unreal engine, firefox, asm.js

Over the weekend we published a post which detailed Javascript advancements to position the web browser as a respectable replacement for native code. Asm.js allows for C-like languages to be compiled into easily optimized script executed at near native performance on asm.js-aware browsers, but are still functional as plain Javascript otherwise. If you wish to see a presentation about asm.js and compiling native code into web code, check out an online slideshow from Alon Zakai of Mozilla.

If, on the other hand, you wish to see an example of a large application compiled for the browser: would Unreal Engine 3 suffice?

UnrealHTML5.jpg

Clearly a computer hardware website would take the effort required to run a few benchmarks, and we do not disappoint. Epic Citadel was run in its benchmark mode in Firefox 20.0.1, Firefox 22.0a2, and Google Chrome; true, it was not run for long on Chrome before the tab crashed, but you cannot blame me for trying.

Each benchmark was run at full-screen 1080p "High Performance" settings on a PC with a Core i7 3770, a GeForce GTX 670, and more available RAM than the browser could possibly even allocate. The usual Firefox framerate limit was removed; they were the only tab open on the same fresh profile; the setting layout.frame_rate.precise was tested in both positions because I cannot keep up what the state of requestAnimationFrame callback delay is; and each scenario was performed twice and averaged.

Firefox 20.0.1

  • layout.frame_rate.precise true: 54.7 FPS
  • layout.frame_rate.precise false: 53.2 FPS

Firefox 22.0a2 (asm.js)

  • layout.frame_rate.precise true: 147.05 FPS
  • layout.frame_rate.precise false: 144.8 FPS

Google Chrome 26.0.1410.64

  • Crashy-crashy

For Unreal Engine 3 compiled into Javascript we notice an almost 3-fold improvement in average framerate with asm.js and the few other tweaks to rendering, Javascript, and WebGL performance between Firefox 20 and 22. I would say that is pretty enticing for developers who are considering compiling into web standards.

It is also very enticing for Epic as well. A little over a month ago, Mark Rein and Tim Sweeney of Epic were interviewed by Gamasutra about HTML5 support for Unreal Engine. Due in part to the removal of UnrealScript in favor of game code being scripted in C++, Unreal Engine 4 will support HTML5. They are working with Mozilla to make the browser a reasonable competitor to consoles; write once, run on Mac, Windows, Linux, or anywhere compatible browsers can be found. Those familiar with my past editorials know this excites me greatly.

So what do our readers think? Comment away!

Cloth simulations in Javascript, optimized for asm.js

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 4, 2013 - 06:47 PM |
Tagged: mozilla, javascript, firefox, asm.js

Web browsers are getting really good at being general-purpose application platforms.

You can write most applications in web standards if you are willing to give up some level of performance for the gained ubiquity. HTML5, Javascript, and CSS are very full featured; WebGL and WebCL extend functionality by backing apps with surprising GPU horsepower; WebAPIs such as gamepad, telephony, and accelerometer support also keep advanced hardware-specific features open to web developers.

asmjsdrool.png

I can see the web developers drooling already.

But even though performance lags behind reasonable native environments, the divide is rapidly shrinking. Many applications have reached or exceeded the saturation of useful performance at the same time as browser developers narrow the gap between native performance and themselves.

Javascript is often, simply, good enough.

Mozilla has recently added support for the draft asm.js in their Aurora prerelease channel for Firefox. The specification is designed to permit a subset of Javascript to be flagged for optimization in compatible browsers but otherwise execute as normal everywhere else. It is also possible to compile more native code into Javascript if you can afford the ever-decreasing performance hit. Early implementations of asm.js execute code compiled from C within half of native performance.

asmjs.png

Because... pants.

According to David Herman of Mozilla, one of the lead authors of the ASM.js draft, the specification also allows for multithreading through web workers. Applications can take advantage of multiple hardware threads in this way, and potentially other methods as they continue development. I would expect this is especially relevant for mobile devices which tend to have relatively many cores considering their single threaded performance.

James Long of Mozilla compiled a cloth simulation into this Javascript subset. It will run in multiple browsers but will perform better in Aurora both in cloth precision and, as I have found, responsivity.

Check it out, imagine what you could be doing in your web browser in the near future.

Source: James Long

It's not a phone, it's an email device! Meet the Blackberry Q10

Subject: Mobile | April 25, 2013 - 07:52 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, blackberry q10

Touchscreen phones might get all the recognition in the press and with the cool kids but for the hard working type who can never truly get away from their email, nothing beats a physical QWERTY keyboard.  Users who prefer Bolds and Curves to flashy touchscreens are finally going to be gifted with the new Blackberry Q10, with very similar specs to the already released Z10.  For those of us that don't tend to see our phones as an entertainment device but simply as work tool the size of the screen really does not matter as much as a responsive and easy to use keyboard.  The Inquirer had a chance to review the new Q10 and you can catch their comments here.

tinq_blackberry-q10-browser-540x334.jpg

"3.1" 720x720 Super AMOLED touchscreen, physical QWERTY keyboard, dual-core 1.5GHz processor, 2GB RAM, 16GB internal storage, 4G and HSDPA connectivity, 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, 8MP autofocus rear-facing camera with LED flash and HD 1080p video, 2MP HD 720p front camera, Blackberry 10 mobile operating system, 119.6x66.8x10.4mm, 139g

Price £579.95 SIM-free."

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Source: The Inquirer

ARM Details First Quarter 2013 Finances, Company Revenue Up 26% YoY

Subject: General Tech | April 25, 2013 - 01:14 AM |
Tagged: SoC, mobile, ARMv8, arm

British chip design company ARM recently released an unaudited financial report with details on its Q1 2013 performance. The mobile SoC giant announced that it saw 2.6 million ARM chips in the first quarter of this year, a 35% improvement over last year and further evidence that ARM still dominates the low-power mobile market.

In fact, the chip designer made $94.9 million in licensing all those ARM chips, which was a big chunk of the company’s total Q1 2013 revenue of $263.9 million. Revenue was up by 26% versus the first quarter of the previous year (Q1 2012), which was only $209.4 million. Further, ARM’s profit (pre-tax) is 89.4 million pounds or approximately $137 million USD.

ARM Logo.jpg

ARM saw revenue from both licensing and royalties increase year over year (YoY) by 24% and 33% which indicates that more companies are jumping into the mobile and embedded markets with ARM chips or licenses to make custom designs of their own. According to the report, the company sold five-times more Mali GPUs, saw a 50% increase in ARM-powered embedded devices, and noticed a 25% increase in ARM mobile devices year over year respectively. ARM has also started moving ARMv8 (64-bit ARM) licenses. Of the total 22 licenses in Q1 2013, 7 of the licenses were for ARM’s Cortex-A50 series processors along with a single ARMv8 license (a total of 9 to date). In Q1 2013, ARM also sold three Mali GPU licenses, and one of those was for the company’s high-end Skymir GPU.

In all, ARM had a good first quarter and is showing signs of increased growth. With ARMv8 on the horizon, I am interested to see the company’s numbers next year and how they compare year over year as ARM attempts to take over the server room in particular. The profits and revenue are modest in comparison to X86 giant Intel's Q1 2013 results, but are not bad at all for a company that doesn’t produce chips itself!

You can find ARM's Q1 2013 report here.

Source: ARM

Sony's Tap 20 convertible tablet

Subject: Mobile | April 16, 2013 - 03:24 PM |
Tagged: tap 20, sony vaio, hybrid, convertible tablet

Sony has joined the convertible tablet market with the new Tap 20 and Legit Reviews had a chance to work with one.  They come in a wide variety of prices and internals, from $850-$1250, all using a 1600x900 IPS display but with CPUs ranging from Core i5's with 4GB of DDR3 to i7's with 8GB DDR3.  Every model comes with a hard drive for local storage and you can expect almost 3 hours of battery life; since the battery is in the tablet portion you do not get longer life from docking it to the keyboard.  There were a few strange omissions on the tablet as well as some attractive features which you can read about in the full review.

You can also reread Ryan's review here.

LR_vaiotap20_550.jpg

"The Sony VAIO Tap 20 is a very interesting Hybrid PC that runs Windows 8 with 10 finger touch capabilities. The internal battery is rated to last 2 hours 45 minutes, which actually isn't bad for a device like this. Having the ability to unplug the PC and move it around the home is actually rather nice and really makes the PC experience group friendly. The Sony VAIO Tap 20 can be used in tablet mode with it lying on the table and you can play touch games on it versus a friend or share photos and videos with a group..."

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Sauce Labs: Integration into modern.IE

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | April 13, 2013 - 03:16 AM |
Tagged: w3c, Sauce Labs, modern.IE, IE

The main benefit of open Web Standards is that it allows for a stable and secure platform for any developer to target just about any platform. Still, due to the laws of No Pain: No Gain, those developers need to consider how their application responds on just about every platform. Internet Explorer was once the outlier, and now they are one of the most prominent evangelists. It has been barely two months since we reported on the launch of modern.IE for Microsoft to integrate existing solutions into their product.

Enter Sauce Labs. The San Francisco-based company made a name for themselves by providing testing environments for developers on a spread of browsers across Android, iOS, Linux, MacOSX, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows XP. The company, along with competitor BrowserStack, got recent recognition from Adobe when the software company shut down their own also-competing product.

sauce-labs-logo.png

When we first covered modern.IE back in February (again, here), the initiative from Microsoft was created to help test web apps across multiple versions of Internet Explorer and check for typical incompatibilities. With the addition of Sauce Labs, Microsoft hopes to provide better testing infrastructure as well as automatic recommendations for common issues encountered when trying to develop for both "modern" and legacy versions of their web browser.

In my position, this perfectly highlights the problems with believing you are better than open architectures. At some point, your platform will no longer be able to compete on inertia. Society really does not want to rely on a single entity for anything. It is almost a guarantee that a standard, agreed-upon by several industry members, will end up succeeding in the end. Had Microsoft initially supported the W3C, they would not have experienced even a fraction of the troubles they currently face. They struggle in their attempts to comply with standards and, more importantly, push developers to optimize for their implementation.

There are very good reasons to explain why we do not use AOL keywords anymore. Hopefully the collective Microsoft keeps this grief in mind, particularly the Xbox and Windows RT teams and their divisions.

After the break: the press release.

Source: Sauce Labs

The Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone Is Coming

Subject: Mobile | April 12, 2013 - 05:27 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, Samsung, jelly bean, galaxy s4, exynos octa, android 4.2.2

Samsung recently launched its new flagship Galaxy S4 smartphone, and users will be able to pre-order it from several US carriers later this month.

AT&T customers will be able to pre-order the 16GB Galaxy S4 for $199.99 and 32GB model for $249.99 beginning April 16. Those prices are contingent on a two-year contract. US Cellular will also be carrying the new flagship smartphone, but has not announced how much it will cost. Customers can register to be notified when it becomes available, however. T-Mobile is also going to offer the Samsung Galaxy S4, but customers will need to pay full price. According to UK mobile site Phones Review, T-Mobile will offer the smartphone on its new no-contract plans for $99 plus a $20 per month fee until it is paid off starting May 1. Regrettably, there is no word on when (or whether) a Verizon or Sprint-comparable model will show up.

Samsung Galaxy S4 Smartphone i9500.jpg

Of course, the Samsung Galaxy S4 offers up the following specifications. On the outside, the phone features a 5” Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and Gorilla Glass 3 protection. A 2MP webcam and 12MP auto-focus camera with LED flash are also included. The internals of the phone are also impressive, with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 SoC, 2GB of RAM, and up to 64GB of internal storage (expandable via microSD cards). The 2,600 mAh battery seems a bit weak compared to the one in the Galaxy Mega 6.3, but space constraints likely limited the battery size despite the beefier processor and higher-resolution display. Sensors and I/O include accelerometer, gyroscope, proximity, compass, barometer, temperature, humidity, and gesture. Wireless radios include a cellular modem (4G LTE, 3G HSDPA), A-GPS+GLONASS, dual band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC, and Bluetooth 4.0. The Qualcomm 600 SoC consists of a quad core Krait 300 processor clocked at 1.9GHz and an Adreno 320 GPU.

Note that the US version does not use the higher-performance Samsung Exynos 5 Octa SoC. For reference, the international model's SoC has the following features:

The Exynos 5 Octa consists of a PowerVR SGX 544MP3 GPU and both a quad core Cortex A15 clocked at 1.6GHz and a 1.2GHz Cortex A7 processor with four cores. The two ARM processors are configured in big.LITTLE configuration, so technically it is still a quad core phone--but the lower-power Cortex A7 cores will be used for background tasks and/or to save power while shutting down the Cortex A15 cores when CPU load allows.

The Galaxy S4 will come in White Frost or Black Mist colors. It is an impressive phone and one that I’m considering for my next upgrade pending good reviews. Another good consequence of the S4 launching is price reductions for the Galaxy S3, which may be an option if you don’t have impending upgrade pricing and can’t justify paying the approximate $600 full price of the S4--but still want a new Android phone.

Source: Samsung

WeVideo Launches Free Video Editor for Android Devices

Subject: Mobile | April 12, 2013 - 12:58 PM |
Tagged: wevideo, video editor, Android

An online video editing company called WeVideo recently added an Android app to its services. The new WeVideo Android application allows users to capture, edit, and share videos taken by a number of Android 4.2 smartphones and tablets.

Video that has been captured by your phone can be edited, trimmed, stylized, saved to the phone, and published to Youtube, Vimeo, and the company’s own WeVideo site. The video editor also syncs with the WeVideo browser editor and will allow you to capture video on your phone and then edit it on other computers in the online editor. Once published, the app also gives you the option to post a link to Facebook and Twitter that leads to the video.

You can select multiple clips and arrange them on a timeline. The clips can be trimmed and volume can be adjusted. Once on the timeline, you can apply automated styles that include background music, transitions, filters, titles, and effects.

According to WeVideo, the Android video editor is compatible with the following devices:

  • Samsung Galaxy S4 (upcoming phone)
  • HTC One (upcoming phone)
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
  • Google Nexus
  • Motorola DROID RAZR MAXX HD
  • HTC Droid DN
  • Sony Xperia S
  • Sony Xperia Z

The app is a free download from the Google Play store (which recently got a facelift).

You can grab it here.

Overall, it seems to have good reviews, but it does have its share of 1-star reviews as well (as pretty much every app does heh). If you have been looking for an Android-equivalent to iMovie this might be a good option -- especially since it’s free.

Source: WeVideo

Samsung Launches Two New Galaxy Mega Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | April 11, 2013 - 11:09 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, Samsung, galaxy mega, galaxy, android 4.2

Samsung recently officially unveiled its new line of Galaxy Mega smartphones. The new phones (there are currently two on tap) run Android 4.2 and feature relatively gigantic screen sizes. As rumors suggested, and likely in order to keep costs down, the Galaxy Mega phones come without a stylus (like the Note series). Also, the displays are lower resolution than the flagship Galaxy S 4’s 1080p display.

The Galaxy Mega 6.3 and Galaxy Mega 5.8. The Galaxy Mega 6.3 measures 167.6 x 88 x 8mm and weighs 199 grams. On the outside, the smartphone features a black glossy finish, a 6.3” 720p display, an 1.9MP front-facing camera above the display, and an 8MP rear camera. The phone is powered by a 1.7GHz dual core ARM SoC, 1.5GB of RAM, and either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage (which can be expanded via microSD cards). Further, it has a 3,200 mAh battery.

GALAXY Mega 6.3 Android Smartphone.jpg

The Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3

The Galaxy Mega 6.3 includes accelerometer, Geomagnetic, Poximity, and Gyroscopic sensors. It is compatible with LTE 100/50Mbps, and HSPA+ 21/5.76 networks. A Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (supporting Wi-Fi Direct), Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS/GLONASS, and NFC radios round out the smartphone’s wireless connectivity options. The phone also features USB 2.0 and MHL support for getting an HDMI output via a powered adapter.

GALAXY Mega 6.3 Android Smartphone Camera.jpg

The Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8 drops down in physical size and weight to 162.6 x 82.4 x 9mm and 182 grams respectively. The phone also drops MHL, NFC, and 802.11ac support. The Galaxy Mega 5.8 has a white glossy finish surrounding a 5.8” TFT touchscreen display with a resolution of 960 x 540 pixels. A 1.9MP camera serves video calling duties while the rear of the phone hosts an 8MP camera for taking higher-quality stills and video.

GALAXY Mega 5.8 Android 4.2 Smartphone.jpg

The smaller (but still huge) Galaxy Mega 5.8

Internal hardware includes a dual core ARM processor clocked at 1.4GHz, 1.5GB of RAM, 8GB of storage, and a 2,600 mAh battery. Wireless connectivity includes a cellular modem compatible with HSPA+ 21/5.76 networks, 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and GPS+GLONASS. There is no 16GB SKU, but storage space can be expanded via microSD cards.

Samsung has not released pricing information, but the two new Galaxy Mega phones will be available globally. Europe and Russia will be the first countries to get the new smartphone, which will be in May. From there, the phones will gradually roll out to other markets. Users can expect the hardware to cost less than both the Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Note 2 as the Mega has lower-cost hardware despite the physically larger display. If you just want a large display without paying for the extra horsepower of other flagship smartphones, the Mega series should be a decent option. I would estimate AT&T will sell them for around the $150 mark on contract when they do make a US appearance.

More information along with photos of the new mega-sized Galaxy Mega phones can be found here.

Source: Samsung

Google Rolling Out Play Store Redesign That Emphasizes Larger Images and Faster Checkouts

Subject: Mobile | April 10, 2013 - 10:45 AM |
Tagged: google play, google, froyo, appstore, Android

Google has begun a worldwide rollout of its re-designed Google Play store for Android smartphones and tablets. Over the next few weeks, users will be presented with a new, and simplified, user interface for the Play store.

Mobile devices running Android 2.2 (Froyo) and above will recieve the update. The redesign has moved to a simpler layout that groups similar content together and uses larger images to draw in the user's attention. A continuous scroll feature will introduce recommendations for related content as you scroll down.

Google Play store Home Page on a Smartphone.jpg

Google has also reportedly simplified the checkout process, in order to reduce the time between buying an app, purchasing an MP3, or renting a movie and actually being able to begin consuming the content.

From Google's blog post and what little screenshots they have shown off of the new layout, I think Google has made some positive changes here, but I'll reserve final judgement once I've been able to test it out for myself.

Has your Android device received the Play store update yet?

Source: Android Blog

IDF: ZTE Shows Off New Geek Android Clover Trail+ Smartphone

Subject: Mobile | April 10, 2013 - 08:46 AM |
Tagged: zte, geek, Android, android 4.2, clover trail, Intel, idf, atom z2580

During the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing, China, ZTE showed off its new Geek phone. The Geek is a 5" smartphone running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and powered by a 32nm Intel Clover Trail+ processor.

The ZTE Geek is not quite ready for release, but the internals are now official. Specifications include a dual core Intel Atom Z2580 processor clocked at 2GHz (HyperThreading allows 4 total threads), an integrated SGX 544MP2 GPU clocked at 533MHz, 1GB of RAM, and 8GB of internal storage. A 2300 mAh battery provides power for the device and can be recharged wirelessly in the ZTE Geek.

ZTE shows off Geek Android phone at IDF Beijing.jpg

Engadget goes hands-on with the ZTE Geek at IDF in Beijing, China.

On the outside, The ZTE Geek features a 5" capacitive multi-touch screen with a resolution of 1280x720 and Gorilla Glass protection. There is a 1MP fixed focus webcam above the display, and an 8MP camera with auto-focus and LED flash on the rear of the device.
The Geek smartphone is compatible with the following wireless connections:

  • GSM: 900 / 1800 / 1900 MHz
  • UMTS: 900 / 2100 MHz
  • WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n at 2.4GHz
    • DLNA, Wireles hotspot, Wi-Fi Direct, and Wi-Fi Display
  • Bluetooth 3.0 LE
  • GPS (AGPS)

It also offers up an accelerometer, proximity, ambient light, compass, and gyro sensors. Engadget reports that the device on display at IDF is merely a prototype, and the glossy white finish and chassis material is subject to change. Naturally, there is no word yet on pricing, or when it will be released. The smartphone will likely not see an initial US release, however (if past Atom-powered phones are any indication).

What do you think about the ZTE Geek's design and specs? Personally, I'm still pining for the Lenovo K900 (another Clover Trail+ powered smartphone) to see a US release heh.

Source: Engadget

(Not) The End of DirectX

Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Systems, Mobile | April 7, 2013 - 10:21 PM |
Tagged: DirectX, DirectX 12

Microsoft DirectX is a series of interfaces for programmers to utilize typically when designing gaming or entertainment applications. Over time it became synonymous with Direct3D, the portion which mostly handles graphics processing by offloading those tasks to the video card. At one point, DirectX even handled networking through DirectPlay although that has been handled by Games for Windows Live or other APIs since Vista.

AMD Corporate Vice President Roy Taylor was recently interviewed by the German press, "c't magazin". When asked about the future of "Never Settle" bundles, Taylor claimed that games such as Crysis 3 and Bioshock: Infinite keep their consumers happy and also keep the industry innovating.

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Keep in mind, the article was translated from German so I might not be entirely accurate with my understanding of his argument.

In a slight tangent, he discussed how new versions of DirectX tends to spur demand for new graphics processors with more processing power and more RAM. He has not heard anything about DirectX 12 and, in fact, he does not believe there will be one. As such, he is turning to bundled games to keep the industry moving forward.

Neowin, upon seeing this interview, reached out to Microsoft who committed to future "innovation with DirectX".

This exchange has obviously sparked a lot of... polarized... online discussion. One claimed that Microsoft is abandoning the PC to gain a foothold in the mobile market which it has practically zero share of. That is why they are dropping DirectX.

Unfortunately this does not make sense: DirectX would be one of the main advantages which Microsoft has in the mobile market. Mobile devices have access to fairly decent GPUs which can use DirectX to draw web pages and applications much smoother and much more power efficiently than their CPU counterparts. If anything, DirectX would be increased in relevance if Microsoft was blindly making a play for mobile.

The major threat to DirectX is still quite off in the horizon. At some point we might begin to see C++Amp or OpenCL nibble away at what DirectX does best: offload highly-parallel tasks to specialized processing units.

Still, releases such as DirectX 11.1 are quite focused on back-end tweaks and adjustments. What do you think a DirectX 12 API would even do, that would not already be possible with DirectX 11?

Source: c't magazin