Rumor: Intel and Xiaomi "Special Deal"

Subject: Processors, Mobile | January 6, 2016 - 10:56 PM |
Tagged: xiaomi, Intel, atom

So this rumor cites anonymous source(s) that leaked info to Digitimes. That said, it aligns with things that I've suspected in a few other situations. We'll discuss this throughout the article.

Xiaomi, a popular manufacturer of mobile devices, are breaking into the laptop space. One model was spotted on pre-order in China with an Intel Core i7 processor. According to the aforementioned leak, Intel has agreed to bundle an additional Intel Atom processor with every Core i7 that they order. Use Intel in a laptop, and they can use Intel in an x86-based tablet for no additional cost.

Single_grain_of_table_salt_(electron_micrograph).jpg

A single grain of salt... ...
Image Source: Wikipedia

While it's not an explicit practice, we've been seeing hints of similar initiatives for years now. A little over a year ago, Intel's mobile group reported revenues that are ~$1 million, which are offset by ~$1 billion in losses. We would also see phones like the ASUS ZenFone 2, which has amazing performance at a seemingly impossible $199 / $299 price point. I'm not going to speculate on what the actual relationships are, but it sounds more complicated than a listed price per tray.

And that's fine, of course. I know comments will claim the opposite, either that x86 is unsuitable for mobile devices or alleging that Intel is doing shady things. In my view, it seems like Intel has products that they believe can change established mindsets if given a chance. Personally, I would be hesitant to get an x86-based developer phone, but that's because I would only want to purchase one and I'd prefer to target the platform that the majority has. It's that type of inertia that probably frustrates Intel, but they can afford to compete against it.

It does make you wonder how long Intel plans to make deals like this -- again, if they exist.

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Source: Digitimes

CES 2016: EVGA Announces SC17 Gaming Laptop

Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 6, 2016 - 07:44 PM |
Tagged: SC17, gaming laptop, evga, CES 2016, CES

EVGA has announced a gaming laptop (yes, EVGA), and the company says this computer was designed completely in-house.

Highlights from EVGA:

  • 100% EVGA in-house design from the ground up
  • GPU, CPU and Memory Superclock support with software and GUI BIOS
  • 4K ready (G-SYNC and non G-SYNC)
  • Unibody design with 1.05 inch (2.65 cm) thickness including RJ45
  • USB 3.1 Type-C support

The SC17 offers a 4K display with G-Sync (a first for laptops at this resolution) and features the company's "Superclocked" branding for the main components, with a 2.7 GHz Intel Core i7 processor running at 3.8 GHz, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M GPU clocked at 1200 MHz, and G.SKill DDR4 2133 memory overclocked to 2666 MHz.

The known specs:

  • 17.3-inch 4K G-Sync display
  • Intel Core i7 6820HK Unlocked CPU
  • NVIDIA GTX980M with overclocking support
  • 16GB 2666 MHz memory
  • 256 GB M.2 RAID-0 (2 x 128 GB SSDs)
  • 2 TB storage drive
  • USB 3.1 Type-C
  • FHD front camera
  • Synaptics Clickpad 1.5

Other than the promise that this laptop will ship at some point in 2016, we don't have much to go by as far as pricing or availability is concerned just yet.

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Source: EVGA

Meet the new PowerVR Series7XT Plus family of GPUs from Imagination Technologies

Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 02:42 PM |
Tagged: Series7XT Plus, PowerVR, hsa. GT7200 Plus, GT7400 Plus, CES

Update (Jan 7th, 2016 - Scott Michaud): Imagination sent us an updated diagram, and they wanted to clarify that there is "a 1:1 correspondance between the FP32 ALUs and the integer units." The updated diagram is just below.

PowerVR Series7XT Plus GPU - ALU architecture_2.png

Original article below

PowerVR GPUs are found in a variety of devices from the PlayStation Vita to the last couple of iPhones and at one point was the GPU in Intel APUs.  Their latest offerings are the GT7200 Plus and GT7400 Plus both of which offer quite a few improvements over their previous generations, not least of which is wholesale adoption of heterogeneous computing and its various benefits such as shared virtual memory.

PowerVR-Series7XT-Plus-GPU-GPU-architecture.png

These GPUs expand their support to INT16 and INT8 data paths, keeping the legacy INT32 paths for applications that require it.  They have also adopted the OpenCL 2.0 API for heterogeneous computing as well as OpenGL ES 3.2 and even Vulkan support.  The GT7200 Plus is in a dual-cluster configuration with 64 ALU cores and the GT7400 Plus doubles that to a quad-cluster with 128 ALU cores.

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Along with the performance and feature upgrades comes a focus on upgrading the machine vision capabilities of the Rogue GPUs to be able to  identify thousands of objects directly from the camera input stream in real-time.  Check out their blog entry for more information on the new chips and if you want a refresher on the technology in these GPUs you can refer back to Ryan's article here.

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Intel Announces Core m Skylake and Cherry Trail Compute Sticks

Subject: Systems, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 01:59 PM |
Tagged: Skylake, Intel, core m5, core m3, compute stick, Cherry Trail, CES 2016, CES

First up on the meeting block with the official opening of CES 2016 was Intel and its NUC and Compute Stick division. You should remember the Intel Compute Stick as a HDMI-enabled mini-computer in the shape of a slightly over sized USB drive. The first iteration of it was based on Bay Trail Atom processor and though we could see the benefits of such a device immediately, the follow through on the product lacked in some key areas. Performance was decent but even doing high bit rate video streaming seemed like a stretch and the Wi-Fi integration left something to be desired.

Today though Intel is announcing three new Compute Stick models. One is based on Cherry Trail, the most recent Atom processor derivative, and two using the Intel Core m processors based on the Skylake architecture.

01.jpg

Old Compute Stick on top, new on the bottom

The Intel STK1AW32SC uses the Cherry Trail Atom x5 processor, the x5-Z8300 quad-core CPU with a 1.44 GHz base clock and a 1.84 GHz Turbo clock. This CPU only has a 2 watt SDP so power consumption remains in line with the design we saw last year. Other specifications include an updated 802.11ac 2x2 wireless data connection (nice!), 32GB of internal eMMC storage, 2GB of DDR3-1600 memory and Bluetooth 4.0 support. Intel claims this configuration will offer about 2x the graphics performance of the previous model though CPU changes will be less noticeable. Still, we should see much improved 1080p streaming video performance without the dropped frames that were a problem last generation.

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For connectivity, Intel has moved from a single USB port to a pair, one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0. There is still a requirement for external power via the micro USB port on the side.

The design is definitely more refined and feels higher quality than the original Compute Stick concept. This model is shipping today and should have an MSRP of $159 on the market.

More interesting are the pair of new Core-based Compute Sticks. There are two different models, one with a Core m3-6Y30 and another with a Core m5-6Y57 and vPro support. These devices get a nice bump to 64GB of internal eMMC storage, which Intel promises has better performance to take advantage of the USB 3.0 ports, along with 4GB of DDR3-1833 memory to keep things running smoothly.

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The processor differences are noteworthy here – the Core m5-6Y57 has a sizeable advantage in peak boost clock, hitting 2.8 GHz versus only 2.2 GHz on the Core m3-6Y30. Base clocks are 1.1 GHz and 900 MHz, respectively, so I am curious how much time these devices will spend in the higher clocked modes in this form factor. As with the original Compute Stick, all three of the new models include an active fan cooling system.

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The build quality on the Core variants of the Compute Stick are very similar to the Atom Cherry Trail model, though with a couple of unique changes to the I/O. On the device itself you have just a single USB 3.0 port and a single USB 3.0 Type-C connection used for both power and data.

04.jpg

On the wall power connector though, Intel has smartly integrated a USB 3.0 hub, giving us two more USB ports available at the wall, moving data to the Compute Stick itself through the Type-C cable. It’s really neat design idea and I can easily see this moving toward more connectivity on the power device in the future – maybe additional displays, audio outputs, etc.

The STK2M3W64CC, the Core m3-6Y30 variant that has Windows 10 pre-installed, will MSRP for $399. A version without Windows (STK2M364CC) will sell for around $299. Finally, the Core m5-6Y57 model, the STK2M3W64CC, is going to be $499, without an OS, targeted at the business markets. All three will be shipping in February.

We have a Cherry Trail Compute Stick in our hands already for testing but I am very curious to see how both the Core m3 and Core m5 version of the device improve on it with performance and usability. It’s very possible that these 4.5 watt parts are going to be more than enough for a large portion of the market, making truly headless computing a viable solution for most workloads.

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CES 2016: Razer Blade Stealth Has External GPU Dock

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 6, 2016 - 12:59 AM |
Tagged: razer, CES 2016, CES, blade stealth, blade

I've been seeing a handful of Razer laptops in my day-to-day life. They are known to pay attention to details, including the precise shade of green that their USB ports are colored. This seems to translate well to designing ultrabooks. Once again, they announced a new line of Razer Blade PCs. The headlining feature is the Razer Core external graphics enclosure, but I'm more interested in the display.

razer-2016-ces-bladestealth.png

First, the graphics. Instead of integrating a discrete, mobile GPU, Razer is using the Intel HD 520 graphics on their chosen Core i7-6500U Skylake processor. This is not a powerhouse. It can barely play Rainbow Six: Siege and Star Wars Battlefront on low settings. It is power efficient though, and it will handle just about any professional, media, or light gaming task you throw at it. If you want to use it for high-performance graphics, then you will need to connect their optional Razer Core GPU dock by Thunderbolt 3. Pricing and availability are not yet available for that, which can be a deal-breaker quite easily. The other problem is that the Skylake processor is dual-core (four threads). Even with a good GPU, some games might be riding the line on the CPU side. It allows you to dock whatever graphics card you like, though. It's worth considering once we get the rest of the details.

razer-2016-ces-coregpudock.png

But back to the laptop. As I mentioned before, the screen is possibly more interesting than the graphics situation. The panel is based on IGZO technology, which fights with IPS in terms of picture quality. You have two choices in resolution: 2560x1440 with 70% Adobe RGB, or 4K with 100% Adobe RGB. That doesn't seem like much, but Adobe RGB is actually a very wide color space, designed to cover both video and print color spaces. Even the professional grade Dell monitors do not claim 100% Adobe RGB, although they've come within 3% for years now. Having full coverage of Adobe RGB could be very appealing to professionals, especially magazine publishers and similar jobs.

The Razer Blade Stealth is available now, starting at $999.

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Source: Razer

CES 2016: ASUS Announces XG Station 2 External Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 5, 2016 - 04:47 PM |
Tagged: external graphics, CES 2016, CES, asus

While external graphics has been a thing for quite some time, it was rarely an available thing. Several companies, such as AMD, Lucid, and others, announced products that were never sold. ASUS had their XG Station for Windows Vista that allowed laptops to plug into a GeForce 8600 GT, which was only available in Australia. Only now are we beginning to see options from Alienware, MSI, and even Microsoft that are widely available.

asus-2016-ROG XG2_front.jpg

ASUS is jumping back in, too. Not much is known about the XG Station 2, except that it is “specially designed for ASUS laptops and graphics cards.” This sounds like it is using a proprietary connector, similar to Alienware and MSI, to connect to ASUS laptops. Also saying it's specifically for ASUS graphics cards is a bit confusing, though. If it is an open PCIe slot, I'm not sure why or how it would be limited to ASUS cards. If the graphics cards are pre-installed, then we don't know the list of potential GPUs.

Either way, ASUS states that the dock can be disconnected without shutting down the PC. I'm interested to see how the GPU is supposed to be unplugged, as Alienware's option can only be done when the system is off, and Microsoft's Surface Book has a software detach with a hardware latch. The connector will also charge the laptop, which is an interesting add-in.

Pricing and availability varies, like the other ASUS announcements, by region.

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Source: ASUS

CES 2016: Lenovo ideapad 710S Notebook

Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 4, 2016 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: notebook, Lenovo, laptop, CES 2016, CES

Lenovo's new ideapad 710S is a thin and light notebook with a 13.3-inch 1920x1080 IPS display, and is powered by 6th gen Intel (Skylake) processors with optional Iris graphics.

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Here are some of the specifications from Lenovo:

  • Up to 6th gen Intel Core i7 CPU
  • Up to 256GB PCIe SSD storage
  • Up to 8GB LP-DDR3 memory
  • Up to 8 hours battery life
  • Optional Intel Iris GFX
  • USB 3.0 & Micro HDMI connectors
  • JBL stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium
  • Ports: 2 x USB 3.0, one always on-charging, 4-in-1 card reader, Audio
  • Combo Jack, Micro HDMI-out
  • Up to Intel 2 x 2 Wi-Fi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Windows 10 Home

The ideapad 710S will start at $799 and will be available in July 2016.

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2016: Lenovo Announces Yoga 900S Convertible Notebook

Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 4, 2016 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: Yoga 900S, yoga, Lenovo, CES 2016, CES, carbon fiber

Lenovo has announced the Yoga 900S convertible notebook featuring a partial carbon fiber construction, resulting in an incredibly thin and light notebook.

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"Built from carbon fiber, the YOGA 900S is the world's thinnest convertible laptop at 0.5-inches, 2.2lbs."

Here are some of the specifications from Lenovo:

  • 12.5-inch display, up to 2560x1440
  • 10-point touchscreen with Active Pen Support and WRITEit
  • Intel 2nd Intel Core m7 CPU
  • Up to 8GB LPDDR3 memory
  • Up to 512GB PCIe SSD storage
  • Integrated Intel HD graphics
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby Audio Premium
  • Ports: 1 x USB 3.0 Type A, 1 x USB 3.0 with Video-out Type C, DC-in with USB 2.0 function, Audio Combo Jack
  • Wireless: Intel 2 x 2 802.11 A/C + Bluetooth 4.0
  • Up to 10.5 hrs. local video playback
  • Windows 10 Home

900s.jpg

The Yoga 900S starts at $1099 and will be available in March 2016.

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2016: Lenovo Announces ideapad Y900 Gaming Laptop

Subject: Systems, Mobile | January 4, 2016 - 07:00 PM |
Tagged: Y900, Lenovo, ips, Intel Core i7, GTX 980M, gaming notebook, gaming laptop, CES 2016, CES

Lenovo has announced the Y900, a dedicated gaming machine which features the current high-end mobile CPUs and GPUs, as well as configurable overclocking.

ideapad Y900.jpg

Exact overclocking numbers are not yet available, but this will be controlled through software to allow users to select a higher performance level. The system can be configured with up to a quad-core 6th gen Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M, and up to a massive 64 GB of DD4 memory - though with 4 SoDIMM slots it will be easy to upgrade the memory later. Storage options include PCIe SSDs (1 slot) and traditional SATA 6.0 Gb/s drives, and there is also USB 3.1 Type-C as well as HDMI 2.0 among the I/O.

Specifications from Lenovo:

  • Up to Intel 6th Gen Quad Core i7 overclockable CPU
  • 17.3” 16:9 FHD (1920x1080) IPS Anti-glare
  • NVIDIA GTX-980M 4G/8G GDDR5 PCI-Express discrete graphics
  • Up to 64GB DDR4 memory (4 x SO-DIMM)
  • Up to 512GB SSD PCIe (RAID 0), Up to 1TB HDD SATA 3
  • Camera: 720p with internal digital array microphones
  • 2 x 2.0w JBL speakers and 3.0w subwoofer w/ Dolby Home Theater
  • Battery: Up to 5 hours (Li-Polymer, 6 cell, 90Wh)
  • Ports: 3 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0 w/always on charging, 1 x USB Type C (supports USB 3.1, Display Port, Thunderbolt), Audio Jack, Mic Jack, HDMI 2.0, 4-in-1 card
  • reader, SPDIF, Display Port)
  • Mechanical keyboard with programmable color backlighting
  • Colorful highlighted touchpad
  • Windows 10 Home
  • Dimensions: 425.4mm x 15.2mm x < 35.9mm

ideapad Y900 2.jpg

The Y900 gaming laptop starts at $1999 and will be available beginning in June of this year.

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Source: Lenovo

CES 2016: ASUS Announces ZenFone Zoom Smartphone

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | January 4, 2016 - 04:08 PM |
Tagged: zenfone zoom, zenfone, CES 2016, CES, asus

Here is another x86 smartphone from ASUS. Sebastian reviewed the ZenFone 2 in June, which he gave an Editor's Choice award to. It was a high-performance, very responsive phone with a great, IPS screen, and it was available for just $199 or $299.

asus-2016-zenfonezoom-hero.jpg

Today, they are announcing the ZenFone Zoom. This one has a 3x optical zoom using lenses from HOYA. The camera also has a laser autofocus that, ASUS claims, can adjust in three hundredths of a second. While auto modes are available, it also allows the user to override ISO gain, exposure, white balance, and “other options.” It has a dual-LED flash, which is said to generate photos with “more lifelike colors and skin tones.” No flash can overcome the physics of flooding light from a single, small point source. Any dominant light will dominate shadows, which exaggerate wrinkles, intensify oil glare, and so forth. While you will always get better photos in an environment that is lit from several, wider angles, it's good to have a flash that can make the most of a bad situation (have a good control over color, etc.).

asus-2016-zenfonezoom-camera.jpg

Two SoCs are available for this phone. The lower-end chip is the same as the ZenFone 2's higher-end one, the Intel Atom Z3580 (up to 2.3 GHz boost). A higher-end processor is available as well, the Z3590, which gives a 200 MHz bump in boost frequency (up to 2.5 GHz boost). All models are backed with 4GB of RAM, which is a huge amount for a phone. It will come in two storage sizes: 64GB or 128GB. It also includes a MicroSD card slot that supports up to 128GB. It uses the Intel LTE modem.

The ASUS ZenFone Zoom will be available in February, with prices starting at $399.

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Source: ASUS