Will people Flip over ASUS' new Chromebook?

Subject: Mobile | June 21, 2016 - 10:50 PM |
Tagged: asus, Chromebook, Chromebook Flip

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

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

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

Subject: Mobile | June 9, 2016 - 06:30 PM |
Tagged: Snapdragon 652, smartphone, project tango, phablet, PHAB2, Lenovo, augmented reality, AR

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

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Lenovo PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

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

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

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

Lenovo PHAB2

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The PHAB2 (Image credit: Lenovo)

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

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

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

Lenovo PHAB2 Plus

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The PHAB2 Plus (Image credit: Lenovo)

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

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

Lenovo PHAB2 Pro

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The PHAB2 Pro (Image credit: Lenovo)

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

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

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

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

Source: Lenovo

Samsung Announces Galaxy S7 Active

Subject: Mobile | June 9, 2016 - 06:20 AM |
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy, galaxy s7, ruggedized

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

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Image Credit: AT&T

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

If only it comes to Canada, too...

Source: AT&T

HSA 1.1 Released

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

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

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

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

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

Computex 2016: Gigabyte Grants Sneak Peek at GPU Dock

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 5, 2016 - 06:02 AM |
Tagged: gigabyte, external gpu

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

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Image Credit: Tom's Hardware

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

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

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

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

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

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 4, 2016 - 08:28 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, pascal

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

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

Whatttttt?

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

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

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

Source: PCGamer

ASUS Announces Zenfone 3 Smartphone Family

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2016 - 06:14 PM |
Tagged: zenfone 3, snapdragon 820, Snapdragon 625, smartphone, ips, computex 2016, computex, asus, Android, AMOLED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: ASUS

A trio of high powered gaming laptops

Subject: Mobile | May 19, 2016 - 07:12 PM |
Tagged: msi, origin, eurocom, gaming laptop, GTX 980M

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

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

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

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

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 9, 2016 - 05:42 PM |
Tagged: apple, a11, 10nm, TSMC

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

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

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

Source: DigiTimes

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

Subject: Mobile | April 29, 2016 - 10:19 PM |
Tagged: archos, 70b Helium Tablet

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

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

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Source: Kitguru