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Subject: Processors | September 30, 2015 - 09:55 PM | Josh Walrath
Tagged: TSMC, Samsung, FinFET, apple, A9, 16 nm, 14 nm
So the other day the nice folks over at Chipworks got word that Apple was in fact sourcing their A9 SOC at both TSMC and Samsung. This is really interesting news on multiple fronts. From the information gleaned the two parts are the APL0898 (Samsung fabbed) and the APL1022 (TSMC).
These process technologies have been in the news quite a bit. As we well know, it has been a hard time for any foundry to go under 28 nm in an effective way if your name is not Intel. Even Intel has had some pretty hefty issues with their march to sub 32 nm parts, but they have the resources and financial ability to push through a lot of these hurdles. One of the bigger problems that affected the foundries was the idea that they could push back FinFETs beyond what they were initially planning. The idea was to hit 22/20 nm and use planar transistors and push development back to 16/14 nm for FinFET technology.
The Chipworks graphic that explains the differences between Samsung's and TSMC's A9 products.
There were many reasons why this did not work in an effective way for the majority of products that the foundries were looking to service with a 22/20 nm planar process. Yes, there were many parts that were fabricated using these nodes, but none of them were higher power/higher performance parts that typically garner headlines. No CPUs, no GPUs, and only a handful of lower power SOCs (most notably Apple's A8, which was around 89 mm squared and consumed up to 5 to 10 watts at maximum). The node just did not scale power very effectively. It provided a smaller die size, but it did not increase power efficiency and switching performance significantly as compared to 28 nm high performance nodes.
The information Chipworks has provided also verifies that Samsung's 14 nm FF process is more size optimized than TSMC's 16 nm FF. There was originally some talk about both nodes being very similar in overall transistor size and density, but Samsung has a slightly tighter design. Neither of them are smaller than Intel's latest 14 nm which is going into its second generation form. Intel still has a significant performance and size advantage over everyone else in the field. Going back to size we see the Samsung chip is around 96 mm square while the TSMC chip is 104.5 mm square. This is not huge, but it does show that the Samsung process is a little tighter and can squeeze more transistors per square mm than TSMC.
In terms of actual power consumption and clock scaling we have nothing to go on here. The chips are both represented in the 6S and 6S+. Testing so far has not shown there to be significant differences between the two SOCs so far. In theory one could be performing better than the other, but in reality we have not tested these chips at a low enough level to discern any major performance or power issue. My gut feeling here is that Samsung's process is more mature and running slightly better than TSMC's, but the differences are going to be minimal at best.
The next piece of info that we can glean from this is that there just isn't enough line space for all of the chip companies who want to fabricate their parts with either Samsung or TSMC. From a chip standpoint a lot of work has to be done to port a design to two different process nodes. While 14 and 16 are similar in overall size and the usage of FinFETS, the standard cells and design libraries for both Samsung and TSMC are going to be very different. It is not a simple thing to port over a design. A lot of work has to be done in the design stage to make a chip work with both nodes. I can tell you that there is no way that both chips are identical in layout. It is not going to be a "dumb port" where they just adjust the optics with the same masks and magically make these chips work right off the bat. Different mask sets for each fab, verification of both designs, and troubleshooting the yields by metal layer changes will be different for each manufacturer.
In the end this means that there just simply was not enough space at either TSMC or Samsung to handle the demand that Apple was expecting. Because Apple has deep pockets they contracted out both TSMC and Samsung to produce two very similar, but still different parts. Apple also likely outbid and locked down what availability to process wafers that Samsung and TSMC have, much to the dismay of other major chip firms. I have no idea what is going on in the background with people like NVIDIA and AMD when it comes to line space for manufacturing their next generation parts. At least for AMD it seems that their partnership with GLOBALFOUNDRIES and their version of 14 nm FF is having a hard time taking off. Eventually more space will be made in production and yields and bins will improve. Apple will stop taking up so much space and we can get other products rolling off the line. In the meantime, enjoy that cutting edge iPhone 6S/+ with the latest 14/16 nm FF chips.
Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2015 - 04:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: roccat, Nyth, gaming mouse, input
That is no typo, the Twin-Tech Laser Sensor R1 on the Nyth really does go all the way up to 12000 DPI and it also has an adjustable lift-off distance. There are also 18 buttons, with the shift key function they can all be assigned a second function as well. The Swarm software used to program the mouse is rather impressive, not only can you assign profiles to games you can program a light show into your mouse if you so desire. It will set you back $120 but if the price tag does not scare you off you can see how it performs in MadShrimps' review.
"ROCCAT Nyth is like a breath of fresh air in the already crowded gaming mice market which sports quite a modular design with replaceable right side panel, no less than four different sets of buttons, a smooth durable plastic texture, catchy LED light effects and a comfortable shape for lengthy gaming sessions."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Ozone Argon Ocelote World @ techPowerUp
- Razer Mamba Chroma Tournament Edition Review @ Bjorn3d
- CM Storm Quick Fire XTi Mechanical Keyboard @ eTeknix
- E-Blue Mazer K727 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard @ Bjorn3d
- Corsair Strafe Gaming Keyboard @ techPowerUp
Subject: Mobile | September 30, 2015 - 02:33 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: X12 Modem, SoC, snapdragon 820, qualcomm, phones, mu-mimo, mobile, LTE, cell phones
The upcoming Snapdragon 820 is shaping up to be a formidable SoC after the disappointing response to the previous flagship, the Snapdragon 810, which was in far fewer devices than expected for reasons still shrouded in mystery and speculation. One of the biggest aspects of the upcoming 820 is Qualcomm’s new X12 modem, which will provide the most advanced LTE connectivity seen to date when the SoC launches. The X12 features CAT 12 LTE downlink speeds for up to 600 Mbps, and CAT 13 on the uplink for up to 150 Mbps.
LTE connectivity isn’t the only new thing here, as we see from this slide there is also tri-band Wi-Fi supporting 2x2 MU-MIMO.
“This is the first publicly announced processor for use in mobile devices to support LTE Category 12 in the downlink and Category 13 in the uplink, providing up to 33 percent and 200 percent improvement over its predecessor’s download and upload speeds, respectively.”
The specifications for this new modem are densely packed:
- Cat 12 (up to 600 Mbps) in the downlink
- Cat 13 (up to 150 Mbps) in the uplink
- Up to 4x4 MIMO on one downlink LTE carrier
- 2x2 MU-MIMO (802.11ac)
- Multi-gigabit 802.11ad
- LTE-U and LTE+Wi-Fi Link Aggregation (LWA)
- Next Gen HD Voice and Video calling over LTE and Wi-Fi
- Call Continuity across Wi-Fi, LTE, 3G, and 2G
- RF front end innovations
- Advanced Closed Loop Antenna Tuner
- Qualcomm RF360™ front end solution with CA
- Wi-Fi/LTE antenna sharing
Rumored phones that could end up running the Snapdragon 820 with this X12 modem include the Samsung Galaxy S7 and around 30 other devices, though final word is of course pending on shipping hardware.
Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2015 - 02:31 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: gaming, fallout 4
Fallout 4 is sounding less and less like a Fallout game and more like a game which happens to bear the name Fallout. Apparently the skill system which has been a core of Fallout is confusing people, although how is unclear and the example given is rather poor “What’s better, the Charisma SPECIAL, or the Speech Skill" considering you can't have more than a 10 Charisma. Perhaps it is too early to be negative, there will be 70 perks, 10 level for each SPECIAL stat and each perk with five levels to increase their effectiveness. Your perks are limited by the stat, if you have a Perception of 7 then you will never be able to gain the perks associated with levels 8 and higher, then again if you have a stat of 10 at level 1 nothing is stopping you from starting with a level 10 perk.
There are going to be a lot of differences apparent in Fallout 4 and it will be interesting to see how they effect gameplay. Excitiment is waning for some long time fans but perhaps for gamers new to the series who are in love with crafting, base management and are easily confused by numbers this will be a perfect introduction to the wasteland. Follow the link to RPS to see the video explaining the new system.
"Here’s the big news: as many suspected, Skills are indeed gone, with their effects rolled into a bounteous system of perks with levels of their own. I’ll explain."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- BATTLETECH by Harebrained Schemes LLC @ Kickstarter
- Killing Floor 2 - NVIDIA FleX Technology @HiTech Legion
- SC2: Legacy Of The Void Trailer Pledges Its Life For Aiur @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Chess, guns, and chainswords collide in Warhammer 40,000: Regicide @ The Tech Report
- Made It! 80 Days Out On PC Today @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- SafeDisc, SecuROM DRM support removed from Windows 8, 7, Vista @ HEXUS
- What I Want From The Next BioShock @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
- Humble Indie Bundle 15: Gang Beasts, Skullgirls, More @ Rock, Paper, SHOTGUN
Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2015 - 01:04 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: amd, carrizo pro, Godavari Pro, 28nm, hp, elitebook
The Carrizo based AMD Pro A12 APU is going to be familiar to anyone who read our coverage of the non-Pro Carrizo models. The A12 will have a boost clock of 3.4GHz, eight 800MHz Radeon R7 cores, 2MB of L2 cache, and hardware based HEVC decoding, exactly like the FX-8800P. Indeed there is nothing obvious that differentiates the two processors apart from AMD's tag line that the Pro models are designed for corporate desktops and laptops. The Inquirer lists three laptops which should already be available which use the new mobile processor, the HP EliteBook 725, 745 and 755. No news yet on Godavari Pro powered desktops.
"AMD HAS ANNOUNCED its "most powerful" line of Pro A-Series mobile and desktop processors, formerly codenamed Carrizo Pro and Godavari Pro."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Google literally dangles its new dongle in front of gasping TV audiences @ The Register
- Hack Anything into a Phone @ Hack a Day
- Critical WinRAR flaw puts a nation of unzippers in harm's way @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft eats its Dynamics CRM young with Adxstudio buy @ The Register
- New Attack Bypasses Mac OS X Gatekeeper @ Slashdot
- Linux-powered botnet can kick out a huge and persistent DoS attack @ The Inquirer
- AVM FRITZ!Powerline 546E WLAN Adapter Review @ NikKTech
Subject: General Tech | September 30, 2015 - 09:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
In a continued evolution of the streaming gaming product previously known as GRID, NVIDIA is taking the wraps off of the final, consumer-ready version of the technology now called GeForce NOW. This streaming gaming service brings games from the cloud to NVIDIA SHIELD devices at up to 1920x1080 resolution and 60 FPS for fluid gameplay. This has been an announcement that we have been expecting for a very long time, with NVIDIA teasing GeForce NOW in the form of GRID private and public betas.
GeForce NOW, which shares a similar goal to services like PlayStation Now and OnLive, plans to stand out through a few key points.
- 1080p 60 FPS Support – Supporting higher resolutions than any other service as well as higher frame rates, the resulting product of GeForce NOW could be better than anything else on market for streaming gaming.
- Affordability – Coming in at a USD price tag of $7.99, NVIDIA believes that with a combination of included, free, games as well as purchase-and-play games offers a great package for a minimal monthly cost.
- Speed of Access – NVIDIA claims that GeForce NOW can start up new games as much as 2x faster than PlayStation Now, with titles like The Witcher 3 loading up and streaming in as little as 30 seconds.
- Global – GeForce NOW will be available in North America, the European Union, Western Europe, Western Russia, and Japan.
Before we talk about the games list, let’s first discuss some of the technical requirements for GeForce NOW. The first, and most important, requirement is a SHIELD device. GeForce NOW will only work with the SHIELD Android TV device or SHIELD Tablet. That will definitely limit the audience for the streaming service, and I am very curious if and when NVIDIA will decide to open this technology and capability to general PC users or other Android/Apple devices. Part of the SHIELD requirement is definitely to promote its own brand, but it might also help gate access to GeForce NOW as the technology ramps up in capacity, etc.
Other than the host device, you’ll also need a speedy broadband network connection. The minimum requirement is 12 Mbps though you will need 20 Mbps of downstream for 720p60 support and 50 Mbps for 1080p60 resolution and frame rate. In terms of latency, you’ll need a 60 ms ping time as a requirement and its going to be recommended you have a 40 ms ping to the nearest NVIDIA server location for the best experience.
All the GeForce NOW servers are based on NVIDIA Kepler GPUs which is what enables the platform to offer up impressive resolutions and image quality settings for a streaming service. Bandwidth and latency are still a concern, of course, but we’ll touch on that aspect of the service when we have more time with it this week or the next.
Finally, let’s talk about the game library. There are ~60 games in the included library including certain games that you can play an unlimited amount of with your $7.99 membership fee. NVIDIA says more games will be added as the service continues.
Subject: Storage | September 29, 2015 - 07:07 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: tlc, ssd, Samsung 850 EVO 2 TB, 850 EVO, 2TB
That's right, currently $713 will pick you up a 2TB Samsung 850 EVO SSD but how does it perform? The Tech Report is on the case with their latest review, checking out how 32-layer 128Gbit 3D V-NAND with 2GB of DRAM cache and an upgraded Samsung MHX controller perform. It took some doing but once they had filled its over-provisioned area the drive levelled out at 7252 IOps on the random write test though the peak of 84423 was certainly impressive. Check out the full review to see if this is the large sized SSD for you or if you prefer smaller, more agile SSDs which do not use TLC NAND.
If you are like me and running out of mental storage space, you may have already forgotten about Al's review of this drive.
"Samsung now offers its popular and affordable 850 EVO SSD in an enormous 2TB configuration. We put the EVO to the test to see how this behemoth performs"
Here are some more Storage reviews from around the web:
Subject: Editorial, General Tech | September 29, 2015 - 03:30 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: trust, security, rant, microsoft, metadata, fud
Privacy of any nature when you utilize a device connected to the internet is quickly becoming a joke and not a very funny one. Just to name a few, Apple tracks your devices, Google scans every email you send, Lenovo actually has two programs to track your usage and of course there is Windows 10 and the data it collects and sends. Thankfully in some of these cases the programs which track and send your data can be disabled but the fact of the matter is that they are turned on by default.
The Inquirer hits the nail on the head "Money is simply a by-product of data." a fact which online sites such as Amazon and Facebook have known for a while and which software and hardware providers are now figuring out. In some cases an informed choice to share personal data is made, but this is not always true. When you share to Facebook or post your Fitbit results to the web you should be aware you are giving companies valuable data, the real question is about the data and metadata you are sharing of which you are unaware of.
Should you receive compensation for the data you provide to these companies? Should you always be able to opt out of sharing and still retain use of a particular service? Perhaps the cost of utilizing that service is sharing your data instead of money? There are a lot of questions and even a lot of different uses for this data but there is certainly no one single answer to those questions.
Microsoft have been collecting data from BSoD's for decades and Windows users have all benefited from it even though there is no opt out for sending that data. On the other hand is there a debt incurred towards Lenovo or other companies when you purchase a machine from them? Does the collection of patterns of usage benefit Lenovo users in a similar way to the data generated by a Windows BSoD or does the risk of this monitoring software being corrupted by others for nefarious purposes outweigh any possible benefits?
Of course this is only the tip of the iceberg, the Internet of Things is poised to become a nightmare for those who value their security, there are numerous exploits to track your cellphone that have nothing to do with your provider and that is only the tip of the iceberg. Just read through the Security tag here on PCPer for more examples if you have a strong stomach.
Please, take some time to think about how much you value your privacy and what data you are willing to share in exchange for products and services. Integrate that concern into your purchasing decisions, social media and internet usage. Hashtags are nice, but nothing speaks as loudly as your money; never forget that.
"MICROSOFT HAS SPOKEN out about its oft-criticised privacy policies, particularly those in the newly released Windows 10, which have provoked a spike in Bacofoil sales over its data collection policies."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Microsoft preps Azure data lake flood gates for readiness @ The Register
- BlackBerry's tactical capitulation to Google buys time – and possibly a future @ The Register
- Real-Time E-Book Editing With Calibre @ Linux.com
- 3D Printing Has Evolved Two Filament Standards @ Hack a Day
- Advertisers Already Using New iPhone Text Message Exploit @ Slashdot
- Confirmed: Android 6.0 Marshmallow rollout will begin next week @ The Inquirer
- World panics, children cry, workers sigh ... Facebook.com TITSUP @ The Register
Subject: General Tech | September 29, 2015 - 04:00 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: TKL, tenkeyless, logitech g, logitech, g410, atlas spectrum
Logitech continues to release new products aimed at the PC gaming market, following up the announcement of the G633 and G933 headphones with a new gaming keyboard, the G410 Atlas Spectrum. Using Logitech's exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches, it apparently will have 25% faster actuation than "standard" mechanical keyboards as well as improved durability.
The most unique part of the G410 Atlas Spectrum is that is a TKL (tenkeyless) design, removing the number pad to shorten to length of the keyboard. Many gamers in today's market covet the TKL designs both for their form factor as well as their weight and portability. During a live stream with Logitech G's Chris Pate, he hinted that many gamers had been requesting a tenkeyless keyboard and to look forward to future releases. The Atlas Spectrum is the result of that kind of feedback to Logitech!
For those technical keyboard fans that want a bit more information, Logitech G provided details for us:
- The Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum features exclusive Romer-G mechanical switches that register your key presses up to 25 percent faster than competing mechanical switches. With an actuation point of 1.5 mm, Romer-G switches receive commands more quickly, giving you an edge in competitive games where every millisecond matters. With improved durability at 70 million keystrokes, up to 40 percent longer than others on the market, you can play with confidence knowing that your keyboard can survive.
- With all the vital keys for gaming, the Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum can be easily carried to LAN events or a friend’s house, and fits into smaller gaming spaces. Without the number pad or macro keys, you get extra space to make wide motions with your mouse. Plus, the compact design brings your hands closer together for improved comfort, which is particularly important for low DPI-gamers.
And let's not forget that, as the Spectrum name implies, the G410 has full RGB backlighting that can be configured using the Logitech Gaming Software package. You can customize each key to the full palette of 16.8 million colors and even synchronize lighting patterns across Logitech mice and headphones.
The keycaps on the G410 are not cupped and formed in the same way that they are with the G910 Orion Spark - those keys have a bevel on them that I liked for gaming but wasn't ideal for typing out emails and articles. The G410 uses standard molded keycaps that all users should be comfortable with.
Finally, the G410 includes a Arx Control dock, a phone and tablet dock that you can remove from the keyboard and place anywhere on your desk. You can use it simply for convenience or you can install the Logitech iOS and Android apps to display in-game information or system statistics including CPU utilization and more. This differs from the integration on the larger G910 keyboard that has a fixed location Arx Control dock.
The G410 Atlas Spectrum will be available in early October in the US and Europe with a starting MSRP of $129.99. In a market that has exploded on pricing for high end keyboards, that price is very competitive and should help the G410 find its way into many PC gamers' hands.
I currently am typing up this news post on a sample of the G410 Atlas Spectrum, so expect more coverage of this mini but powerful keyboard in the near future!!
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 28, 2015 - 04:45 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: R9 Fury, asus strix r9 fury, r9 390x, GTX 980, crossfire, sli, 4k
Bring your wallets to this review from [H]ard|OCP which pits multiple AMD and NVIDIA GPUs against each other at 4K resolutions and no matter the outcome it won't be cheap! They used the Catalyst 15.8 Beta and the GeForce 355.82 WHQL which were the latest drivers available at the time of writing as well as trying out Windows 10 Pro x64. There were some interesting results, for instance you want an AMD card when driving in the rain playing Project Cars as the GTX 980's immediately slowed down in inclement weather. With Witcher 3, AMD again provided frames faster but unfortunately the old spectre of stuttering appeared, which those of you familiar with our Frame Rating tests will understand the source of. Dying Light proved to be a game that liked VRAM with the 390X taking top spot though sadly neither AMD card could handle Crossfire in Far Cry 4. There is a lot of interesting information in the review and AMD's cards certainly show their mettle but the overall winner is not perfectly clear, [H] chose Fury the R9 Fury with a caveat about Crossfire support.
"We gear up for multi-GPU gaming with AMD Radeon R9 Fury CrossFire, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 SLI, and AMD Radeon R9 390X CrossFire and share our head-to-head results at 4K resolution and find out which solution offers the best gameplay experience. How well does Fiji game when utilized in a CrossFire configuration?"
Here are some more Graphics Card articles from around the web:
- XFX R9 390X Review @ OCC
- MSI Radeon R9 380 Gaming 2G Review @ NikKTech
- Gigabyte GTX 950 Xtreme Gaming 2 GB @ techPowerUp
Subject: General Tech | September 28, 2015 - 02:39 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: TP-LINK TL-PA8010P, powerline networking, powerline ethernet
Ryan tried out Powerline Networking quite a while ago and found that while it worked, there were certain scenarios where it was not quite as good as advertised, though the idea of transmitting network signals without needing additional wiring and terminations was certainly welcome. The Tech Report have just concluded a test of the TP-LINK TL-PA8010P adapters a newer product for transmitting ethernet over your dwellings powerlines and even added in WiFi to boot. When a laptop was wired in, without any setup apart from installing the adapters they saw speeds of 120Mbps, however the WiFi router was not quite as amiable to this configuration. Once the router had been beaten into submission, it was stuck on WDS mode as it had previously been used as an AP, speeds of 75-80 Mbps were available throughout the house. Seems much easier that setting up wireless APs as well as a nice maturation of powerline ethernet technology.
"I decided to try a new spin on a disappointing older technology, home power-line networking, as a means of improving coverage in my home Wi-Fi network. Kinda worked out. Here's what happened:"
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- Create Your Own Streaming Service With Emby @ Linux.com
- Smartphone browser-based DDoS attack is your latest threat @ The Inquirer
- Ubuntu debuts in Microsoft Azure as part of HDInsight analytics @ The Inquirer
Subject: Editorial, Mobile | September 28, 2015 - 09:57 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android
PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.
Full Story Listing:
- Day 0: What to Expect
- Day 3: Widgets and Live Photos
- Day 6: Battery Life and Home Screens
- Day 17: SoC Performance
- Day 31: Battery Life and Closing
Opening and setting up a new iPhone is still an impressive experience. The unboxing process makes it feel like you are taking part in the reveal of product worth its cost and the accessories included are organized and presented well. Having never used an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus beyond the cursory “let me hold that”, it was immediately obvious to me that the iPhone build quality exceeded any of the recent Android-based smartphones I have used; including the new OnePlus 2, LG G4 and Droid Turbo. The rounded edges sparked some debate in terms of aesthetics but it definitely makes the phone FEEL slimmer than other smartphone options. The buttons were firm and responsive though I think there is more noise in the click of the home button than I expected.
The setup process for the phone was pretty painless but Ken, our production editor who has been an iPhone user every generation, did comment that the number of steps you have to go through to get to a working phone have increased quite a bit. Setup Siri, setup Touch ID, setup Wi-Fi, have you heard about iCloud? The list goes on. I did attempt to use the “Move to iOS” application from the Android Play Store on my Droid Turbo but I was never able to get it to work – the devices kept complaining about a disconnection of some sort in its peer-to-peer network and after about 8 tries, I gave up. I’m hoping to try it again with the incoming iPhone 6 Plus next week to see if it was a temporary issue.
After getting to the iPhone 6s home screen I spent the better part of the next hour doing something that I do every time I get a new phone: installing apps. The process is painful – go to the App Store, search for the program, download it, open it, login (and try to remember login information), repeat. With the Android Play Store I do appreciate the ability to “push” application downloads to a phone from the desktop website, making it much faster to search and acquire all the software you need. Apple would definitely benefit from some version of this that doesn’t require installing iTunes.
I am a LastPass user and one of the first changes I had to get used to was the change in how that software works on Android and iOS. With my Droid Turbo I was able to give LastPass access to system levels lower than you can with iOS and when using a third-party app like Twitter, LastPass can insert itself into the process and automatically input the username and/or password for the website or service. With the iPhone you don’t have that ability and there was a lot of password copying and pasting to get everything setup. This is an area where the openness of the Android platform can benefit users.
That being said, the benefits of Touch ID from Apple were immediately apparent. After going through the setup process using my fingerprint in place of my 15+ digit Apple ID password is a huge benefit and time saver. Every time I download a new app from the App Store and simply place my thumb on the home button, I grin; knowing this is how it should be for all passwords, everywhere. I was even able to setup my primary LastPass password to utilize Touch ID, removing one of the biggest annoyances of using the password keeping software on Android. Logging into the phone with your finger or thumb print rather than a pattern or PIN is great too. And though I know new phones like the OnePlus 2 uses a fingerprint reader for this purpose, the implementation just isn’t as smooth.
My final step before leaving the office and heading for home was to download my favorite podcasts and get that setup on the phone for the drive. Rather than use the Apple Podcasts app it was recommended that I try out Overcast, which has been solid so far. I setup the Giant Bombcast, My Brother, My Brother and I and a couple of others, let them download on Wi-Fi and set out for home. Pairing the iPhone 6s with my Chevy Volt was as easy as any other phone but I did notice that Bluetooth-based information being passed to the entertainment system (icons, current time stamps, etc.) was more accurate with the iPhone 6s than my Droid Turbo (starting times and time remaining worked when they previously did not). That could be a result of the podcast application itself (I used doubleTwist on Android).
On Saturday, with a bit more free time to setup the phone and get applications installed that I had previously forgotten, I did start to miss a couple of Android features. First, the lack of widgets on the iPhone home screens means the mass of icons on the iPhone 6s is much less useful than the customized screens I had on my Droid Turbo. With my Droid I had a page dedicated to social media widgets I could scroll through without opening up any specific applications. Another page included my current to-do list from Google Keep and my most current 15 items from Google Calendar, all at a glance.
I know that the top drag down menu on iOS with the Today and Notifications tabs is supposed to offer some of that functionality but the apps like Google Keep and Twitter don’t take advantage of it. And though cliché at this point, why in the hell doesn’t the Apple Weather application icon show the current temperature and weather status yet??
The second item I miss is the dedicated “back” button that Android devices have on them that are universal across the entire system. Always knowing that you can move to the previous screen or move from the current app to the home screen or other program that was just recently switched over is a great safety net that is missing in iOS. With only a single “always there” button on the phone, some software has the back button functionality on the top left hand corner and others have it in the form of an X or Close button somewhere else. I found myself constantly looking around each new app on the iPhone 6s to find out how to return to a previous screen and sometimes would hit the home button out of habit, which obviously isn’t going to have the intended function. Swiping from the left of the screen to the middle works with some applications, but not all.
Also, though my Droid Turbo phone was about the same size as the iPhone 6s, the size of the screen makes it hard to reach the top of the screen when only using one hand. With the Android back button along the bottom of the phone that meant it was always within reach. Those iOS apps that put the return functionality in the top left of the screen make it much more difficult to do, often risking dropping the phone by repositioning it in your hand. And double tapping (not clicking) the home button and THEN reaching for the back button on any particular app just seems to take too long.
On Saturday I went camping with my family at an early Halloween event that we have annually. This made for a great chance to test out the iPhone 6s camera, and without a doubt, it was the best phone camera I have used. The images were clear, the shutter speed was fast, and the ability to take high frame rate video or 4K video is a nice touch. I think that enough people have shown the advantages of the iPhone camera systems over almost anything else on the smartphone market and as a user of seemingly slow and laggard Android-based phone cameras, the move to the iPhone 6s is a noticeable change. As a parent of a 3 month old baby girl, these photos are becoming ever more important to me.
The new Live Photos feature, where essentially a few frames before and a few frames after the picture you actually took are captured (with audio included), is pretty much a gimmick but the effect is definitely eye-catching. When flipping through the camera roll you actually see a little bit of movement (someone’s face for example) which caused me to raise an eyebrow at first. It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure what use they will have off of the phone itself – will I be able to “play” these types of photos on my PC? Will I be able to share them to other phone users that don’t have the iPhone 6s?
Most of Sunday was spent watching football and using the iPhone 6s to monitor fantasy football and to watch football through our Wi-Fi network when I needed to leave the room for laundry. The phone was able to keep up, as you would expect, with these mostly lightweight tasks without issue. Switching between applications was quick and responsive, and despite the disadvantage that the iPhone 6s has over many Android flagship phones in terms of system memory, I never felt like the system was penalized for it.
Browsing the web through either Safari or Google Chrome did demonstrate a standard complaint about iOS – reloading of webpages when coming back into the browser application even if you didn’t navigate away from the page. With Android you are able to load up a webpage and then just…leave it there, for reference later. With the iPhone 6s, even with the added memory this model ships with, it will reload a page after some amount of time away from the browser app as the operating system decided it needed to utilize that memory for another purpose.
I haven’t had a battery life crisis with the iPhone yet, but I am worried about the lack of Quick Charging or Turbo Charging support on the iPhone 6s. This was a feature I definitely fell in love with on the Droid Turbo, especially when travelling for work or going on extended outings without access to power. I’ll have to monitor how this issue does or does not pop its head up.
Speaking of power and battery life – so far I have been impressed with how the iPhone 6s has performed. As I write this editorial up at 9:30pm on Sunday night, the battery level sits at 22%. Considering I have been using the phone for frequent speed tests (6 of them today) and just general purpose performance and usability testing, I consider this a good result. I only took one 5 minute phone call but texting and picture taking was plentiful. Again, this is another area where this long-term test is going to tell the real story, but for my first impressions the thinness of the iPhone 6s hasn’t created an instant penalty for battery life.
The journey is still beginning – tomorrow is my first full work day with the iPhone 6s and I have the final installment of my summer evening golf league. Will the iPhone 6s act as my golf GPS like my Droid Turbo did? Will it make it through the full day without having to resort to car charging or using an external battery? What other features and capabilities will I love or hate in this transition? More soon!
Subject: Motherboards | September 28, 2015 - 01:23 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: SFF, mini ITX, M.2, LGA 1151, Intel Skylake, asrock
ASRock (the Taiwan-based manufacturer currently owned by Pegatron) recently revealed its take on miniature Skylake motherboards with the Mini ITX form factor Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac.
The new SFF motherboard uses an 8-layer PCB with high quality Nichicon capacitors and the company’s Digi Power 8-phase power delivery feeding the LGA 1151 socket. The board has a red and black aesthetic with red VRM and Z170 chipset heatsinks, memory slots, and PCI-E slot adding a bit of flair to the otherwise all-black PCB and connectors. Very little space is wasted on this board save for the top edge. To the right of the CPU socket are two DDR4 memory slots (maximum 32GB at 4,000 MHz) and a single SATA Express connector. The Fatal1ty Z170 Gaming-ITX/ac further features four SATA III 6 Gbps (in addition to the two ports used for SATA Express) ports.
Expansion slots include a single PCI-E 3.0 x16 slot, a M.2 slot with four lanes of PCI-E 3.0 mounted on the underside of the board, and a half-size Mini PCI-E slot that is used for the pre-installed 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 card
ASRock is using an Intel Gigabit Ethernet NIC, a 2x2 MU-MIMO 802.11ac Wi-Fi radio, and Realtek ALC1150 audio codec on this board. Keeping in line with the “Fatal1ty” theme, the board supports, using software, and adjustable USB polling rate on a certain rear port from 1 Hz up to 1,000 Hz with the default being 500 Hz.
On the back of the motherboard, it provides the following I/O options:
- 1 x PS/2
- 5 x USB 3.0
- 1 x USB 3.0 “Fatal1ty Mouse Port” (adjustable polling rate up to 1,000 Hz)
- 2 x USB 3.1 (one Type-A and one Type-C)
- Video outputs:
- 2 x HDMI (4K@60Hz)
- 1 x DisplayPort 1.2
- 1 x Gigabit Ethernet
- 3 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical audio output
This board looks to be a solid base for a tiny gaming system (perhaps paired with the R9 Nano in a svelte living room friendly chassis even without going in for the Fatal1ty gamer-centric branding, if that's your thing. I am expecting this board to be priced competitively with or to come in slightly less than the Asus Mini ITX Z170 motherboard I wrote about yesterday. The audio and overclocking potential, at least in theory and bare specifications, appear to be a bit cut back on this board in comparison, but in exchange for that it's (hopefully slightly cheaper while still giving you most of the essentials. We'll have to wait for actual reviews where they are both put to the test to see for certain though!
For those curious, check out the manufacturer's page with photos and specifications as well as our previous coverage of the board from CES before we had the details on pricing and confirmation of 4K@60Hz HDMI and the Ultra M.2 slot support (and the user discussions).
Subject: Processors | September 27, 2015 - 07:01 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Skylake, iris pro, Intel, Broadwell
Thanks to the Tech Report for pointing this out, but some recent stock level troubles with Skylake and Broadwell have been overcome. Both Newegg and Amazon have a few Core i7-6700Ks that are available for purchase, and both also have the Broadwell Core i7s and Core i5s with Iris Pro graphics. Moreover, Microcenter has stock of the Skylake processor at some of their physical stores with the cheapest price tag of all, but they do not have the Broadwell chips with Iris Pro (they are not even listed).
You'll notice that Skylake is somewhat cheaper than the Core i7 Broadwell, especially on Newegg. That is somewhat expected, as Broadwell with Iris Pro is a larger die than Skylake with an Intel HD 530. A bigger die means that fewer can be cut from a wafer, and thus each costs more (unless the smaller die has a relatively high amount of waste to compensate of course). Also, if you go with Broadwell, you will miss out on the Z170 chipset, because they still use Haswell's LGA-1150 socket.
On the other hand, despite being based on an older architecture and having much less thermal headroom, you can find some real-world applications that really benefit from the 128 MB of L4 Cache that Iris Pro brings, even if the iGPU itself is unused. The graphics cache can be used by the main processor. In Project Cars, again, according to The Tech Report, the i7-5775C measured a 5% increase in frame rate over the newer i7-6700k -- when using a GeForce GTX 980. Granted, this was before the FCLK tweak on Skylake so there are a few oranges mixed with our apples. PCIe rates might be slightly different now.
Regardless, they're all available now. If you were awaiting stock, have fun.
Subject: Cases and Cooling, Systems | September 26, 2015 - 10:52 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: qotom, fanless, Broadwell, SFF
FanlessTech found quite a few models of small form factor PCs on Amazon and, while it's not listed in the specifications, some of the manufacturer Q&A responses state that they are fanless designs. Each of these devices are built around the Broadwell Core i7-5500U, but that might not even be the best part. Each PC has 4x USB 3.0, 2x HDMI, and 2x Gigabit Lan. Dual LAN and Dual HDMI opens up quite a few possibilities for a cheap, silent PC, especially since it has a relatively high-performance processor.
Prices range from $360 to $444 for 2GB of RAM and 8GB up to 256GB of SSD storage (with several models between). A single 8GB RAM model, with a 256 GB SSD, is also available for $483. They also found one with an i3 processor, but you need to bring your own RAM, SSD, and WiFi. It does have the same port layout, four USB 3.0, two HDMI, and two gigabit LAN, but might make more sense to grab the Core i7 versions unless you already have DDR3L RAM and an SSD hanging around (or 2GB is insufficient and the 8GB model is out of your price range). At $221 USD plus these components, you probably will not be saving much to compensate for the drop in performance. You can also find some Core i5 models, too.
Quite a bit to consider, but I think that many would benefit from the thought.
Subject: Mobile | September 26, 2015 - 10:00 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Samsung, oculus vr, Oculus, gear vr
Oculus Connect was last week, including a lengthy keynote on Thursday that featured Tim Sweeney, John Carmack, Michael Abrash, and others (even Mark Zuckerberg made an appearance). Within the first dozen minutes, they brought Peter Koo, Senior Vice President of Samsung Mobile, to the stage, who announced the new Samsung Gear VR. Its main advantage is that is supports more of their flagship phones than their previous model did, and, more interesting, for half the price of the previous version.
The Gear VR is the first consumer version as they consider the previous one to be a developer kit -- err -- "Innovator Edition". It will support the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, and the Galaxy Note 5. The device is lighter and “much more comfortable to wear” than its predecessor. It will cost $99, plus the cost of one of the aforementioned phones unless you were getting one for a different reason, and it will be available in November.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 26, 2015 - 09:10 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10, DirectX 12, dx12, nvidia
Programming with DirectX 12 (and Vulkan, and Mantle) is a much different process than most developers are used to. The biggest change is how work is submit to the driver. Previously, engines would bind attributes to a graphics API and issue one of a handful of “draw” commands, which turns the current state of the API into a message. Drivers would play around with queuing them and manipulating them, to optimize how these orders are sent to the graphics device, but the game developer had no control over that.
Now, the new graphics APIs are built more like command lists. Instead of bind, call, bind, call, and so forth, applications request queues to dump work into, and assemble the messages themselves. It even allows these messages to be bundled together and sent as a whole. This allows direct control over memory and the ability to distribute a lot of the command control across multiple CPU cores. Applications are only as fast as its slowest (relevant) thread, so the ability to spread work out increases actual performance.
NVIDIA has created a large list of things that developers should do, and others that they should not, to increase performance. Pretty much all of them apply equally, regardless of graphics vendor, but there are a few NVIDIA-specific comments, particularly the ones about NvAPI at the end and a few labeled notes in the “Root Signatures” category.
The tips are fairly diverse, covering everything from how to efficiently use things like command lists, to how to properly handle multiple GPUs, and even how to architect your engine itself. Even if you're not a developer, it might be interesting to look over to see how clues about what makes the API tick.
Subject: Graphics Cards | September 26, 2015 - 03:46 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Nintendo, Khronos
Console developers need to use the APIs that are laid out by the system's creator. Nintendo has their own graphics API for the last three generations, called GX, although it is rumored to be somewhat like OpenGL. A few days ago, Nintendo's logo appeared on the Khronos Group's website as a Contributor Member. This leads sites like The Register to speculate that Nintendo “pledges allegiance to the Vulkan (API)”.
I wouldn't be so hasty.
There are many reasons why a company would want to become a member of the Khronos Group. Microsoft, for instance, decided that the small, $15,000 USD/year membership fee was worth it to influence the future of WebGL. Nintendo, at least currently, does not make their own web browser, they license NetFront from Access Co. Ltd., but that could change (just like their original choice of Opera Mini did). Even with a licensed browser, they might want to discuss and vote on the specifics. But yes, WebGL is unlikely to be on their minds, let alone a driving reason, especially since they are not involved with the W3C. Another unlikely option is OpenCL, especially if they get into cloud services, but I can't see them caring enough about the API to do anything more than blindly use it.
Vulkan is, in fact, most likely what Nintendo is interested in, but that also doesn't mean that they will support it. The membership fee is quite low for a company like Nintendo, and, even if they don't use the API, their input could benefit them, especially since they rely upon third parties for graphics processors. Pushing for additions to Vulkan could force GPU vendors to adopt it, so it will be available for their own APIs, and so forth. There might even be some learning, up to the limits of the Khronos Group's confidentiality requirements.
Or, of course, Nintendo could adopt the Vulkan API to some extent. We'll see. Either way, the gaming company is beginning to open up with industry bodies. This could be positive.
Subject: Motherboards | September 26, 2015 - 01:08 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Z170, Skylake, SATA Express, mu-mimo, mini ITX, M.2
Small Form Factor (SFF) enthusiasts will soon have another Mini ITX option for Skylake-based builds in the form of the recently launched Asus Z170I Pro Gaming motherboard. The Z170I Pro Gaming packs a ton of features for its size including all of the latest storage and networking technologies.
Asus is not wasting any space on the PCB with this new board. The LGA 1151 socket is surrounded by two red and black heatsinks covering the Digi+ VRMs (which looks to be 10-phase power delivery which isn’t bad for a SFF board), two DDR4 memory slots (up to 32GB at 3400 MHz), the PCH/Southbridge (part of the Z170 chipset), and a single PCI-E x16 slot along the bottom edge.
Storage options include two SATA III (6Gbps) ports, a single SATA Express port (which holds two SATA III ports of its own), and a M.2 slot on the underside of the motherboard supporting four PCI-E 3.0 lanes.
Other components on the board include an ASMedia USB 3.1 controller, and an EMI shielded SupremeFX 8-channel audio solution that is comprised of the Realtek ALC1150 audio codec, isolated circuitry and an EMI cover, Nichicon capacitors, a dedicated 5V power supply, and a 300-ohm headphone amplifier. Asus is further including a 2x2 MU-MIMO capable 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.1 radios, and an Intel 1219V Gigabit Ethernet NIC.
Rear IO on the Z170I Pro Gaming includes:
- 1 x PS/2
- 1 x DVI
- 1 x HDMI
- 2 x USB 3.1 Type-A (ASMedia controller)
- 4 x USB 3.0 (2 additional ports via internal header)
- 2 x USB 2.0 (2 additional ports via internal header)
- 5 x Analog audio ports
- 1 x Optical audio out
The Z170I Pro Gaming is a nice looking board that incorporates many of the features of its Z170 Pro Gaming (ATX) brother. This miniaturization comes at a price, however. While Asus has not yet released official pricing and availability, expect it to be out soon at least $200 USD.
Check out more Mini ITX hardware at PC Perspective!
Also, if you have not already, please consider reading our review of the Intel Core-i7 6700K "Skylake" Processor.
Subject: Mobile | September 25, 2015 - 05:36 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: laptop cooler, NotePal Ergostand III, cooler master
We've talked about gaming laptops and the mobile GTX 980 recently on the podcast and mentioned the fact that powerful gaming laptops need help keeping cool. One product worth considering would be the NotePal Ergostand III from CoolerMaster which has a 230mm adjustable fan covering its backside. At around $50 it is a decent price for this sort of product and worthy of consideration if you happen to be a gamer who prefers laptops. You can learn more about it over at Benchmark Reviews.
"That’s where notebook coolers come in, such as the Cooler Master NotePal Ergostand III used as our example in this article about keeping hot laptops cool and running fast."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- ASUS ZenPad 7.0 @ Tech ARP
- OnePlus 2 @ The Inquirer
- Acer Liquid Jade Z @ Kitguru
- Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Smartphone Review @ Hardware Secrets