Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 12, 2012 - 07:20 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: lucid, external graphics
Lucid looks to utilize Thunderbolt and its PCIe-format interface with external video cards. Their ideal future would allow for customers to purchase Ultrabook or other laptop device to bring around town. Upon reaching home the user could sit the laptop on their desk; plug in a high-end video card for performance; and surround their Ultrabook in other monitors.
While there are situations for acceleration hardware to be inside the device that is not necessary.
There have been numerous attempts in the past to provide a dockable graphics accelerator. ASUS, AMD, Vidock, as well as many others have attempted this feat but all had drawbacks and/or difficulty getting to market. Just prior to Intel Developer Forum, Laptop Magazine was given a demonstration from Lucid with their own attempt.
How about some Thunderbolt?
Mobile GPUs are really the only thing keeping a good laptop from being a gaming machine.
There’s good need for desktop CPUs with lots of RAM – but these days, not to game.
I have been excited each time a product manufacturer claims to have a non-proprietary method to accelerate laptop graphics. Laptops are appealing for so many purposes and it is frustrating to have devices come so close but fall so short of being a reasonable gaming machine.
The demo that Lucid showed off ran 3DMark 06 on an Intel HD 4000 with an external AMD Radeon HD 6700. On integrated graphics the gaming performance hovered just south of 30 FPS. With the Radeon HD 6700 – as expected – performance greatly increased to almost 90 FPS.
It should be much more compelling for a PC store to say “For somewhere near the price of a console, you could dock your laptop which you already own into this box when you want to game and instantly have all PC gaming and Home Theatre PC benefits.”
And it should have happened a long time ago.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 09:02 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: firefox, Firefox OS
Mozilla has released a demonstration of their mobile operating system, Firefox OS. As much as I like Mozilla and their influence on the PC industry I cannot see much reason for this operating system to exist as it stands right now.
We have reported earlier in the year on Mozilla’s push into the mobile and app store market.
Just last week as of the time of this writing we have been given a video walkthrough of current builds for Firefox OS. This is obviously a very early build of the operating system and we have no idea what the developers have planned for the platform in the future. The only position I can speak from is what I can see right now – and that is what I will do.
There’s also the whole issue of tablets…
The operating system as it currently stands looks like it could very well be a custom skin of Android. It is clear that Mozilla has put a substantial amount of work into the backend just because of how complex a mobile operating system fundamentally is. The interface could be little more than placeholder used to develop the fundamentals.
If not then it is somewhat disappointing to me. Mozilla has always had innovative hooks such as tabs or extensions to disrupt incumbent products. Apart from its legally open nature I do not really see anything yet that would differentiate the platform from its peers. Simply put, it looks like Android – and not even the most recent Android.
Hopefully we will begin to see some of the disruptive force Mozilla is known for as this operating system begins to mature. There just has to be a hook somewhere for it to gain any ground especially when it is this late to the game.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 02:42 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: surface, win8, winRT, touch screen
DigiTimes foresees supply problems with Windows 8 mobile devices but for once it is not the fault of the CPU/GPU manufacturers. Instead it is the feature which makes Win8 on mobile devices so much more attractive that previous versions of Microsoft's mobile OS, the Achilles heel could be the touchscreen manufacturers. Shipping millions of new touchscreen laptops and tablets could lead to availability problems with the industry already spread among so many current touchscreen products. Even if the supply holds up there are also concerns about demand as a touchscreen device will cost more than an equivalent laptop without a touchscreen, something that DigiTimes' sources are concerned about.
"Windows 8-based notebook shipments are expected to start increasing in September as the launch date of the operating system approaches, but because most orders are scheduled for shipping in September and October, sources from the upstream supply chain are concerned that related supply chain players will face great challenges in terms of capacity management and production smoothness."
Here is some more Tech News from around the web:
- VIA announces first Pico-ITX motherboard with 3D display capabilities @ DigiTimes
- Valve Reveals Gaming Headset, Teases Big Picture @ Slashdot
- Crystalwell is very wide memory for Haswell GT3 @ SemiAccurate
- Intel rolls eyes at flaccid PC biz, cuts $1bn off expected sales @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft: 'Update your security certs this month – or else' @ The Register
- Mega SSD Giveaway Week 2 - Two Corsair Neutron 240GB SSDs @ SSD Review
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2012 - 06:24 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, kindle fire hd, kindle fire, kindle, amazon
Amazon announced four new Kindle Fire tablets at a live event yesterday. Now that I’ve had time to let it all sink in, it is time to run through and compare the new offerings! Included in the new lineup are two 7” models and two 8.9” models. Further, the tablets with the new internals are differentiated with Kindle Fire HD branding whereas the updated model keeps the traditional Kindle Fire name.
7” Kindle Fire Tablets:
1. Updated Kindle Fire 7"
During the event in Santa Monica, California Amazon announced an update to the existing Kindle Fire and introduced a new “HD” version. The original Kindle Fire (which we reviewed here) packed a dual core 1GHz ARM processor, 512 MB of RAM, and 8 GB of storage. It weighed in at 14.5 ounces and was .45” thick. That hardware cost $199.
The new (updated) 7” Kindle Fire
The updated model keeps the 7” display but has a 1.2GHz OMAP 4430 processor (that Amazon claims is 40% faster), 1GB of RAM, battery life improvements, and in a surprising twist will actually cost less than the original Fire at $159. Software has also been improved for the new Kindle Fire but it is not clear if the first-generation model will also be getting an update. Once reviews start coming out, it should be more apparent what exactly has been changed (Amazon mostly focused on hardware at the event). You can expect it to be a customized version of Android that looks nothing like the stock experience, however. The updated Kindle Fire will be available September 14th for $159.
2. Kindle Fire HD 7"
The Kindle Fire HD is where the hardware starts to get interesting as the specifications have been improvement greatly versus the original $199 Kindle Fire. The new tablet measures 7.6 x 5.4 x 0.4 inches and weighs 13.9 ounces. The front of the tablet features an HD webcam and a 7" display with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. Interestingly, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself, which Amazon claims reduces glare by cutting down on air gaps. Powering the tablet is a OMAP 4460 SoC featuring a dual core processor running at 1.2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, and 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage, and stereo speakers. Connectivity options include dual band 2.4/5 GHz Wi-Fi with two hardware antennas, HDMI, and a Bluetooth radio.
The 7" Kindle Fire HD will be available September 14th. The 16 GB model will cost $199 while the 32 GB model is $249.
8.9” Kindle Fire HD Tablets:
The 8.9-inch tablet is a new form factor for Amazon, and an interesting one at that. The tablet is sits nicely between the 7" tablets like the Kindle Fire and Nexus 7 and larger 10"+ tablets like the Galaxy Tab 10.1 and iPad. It remains to be seen whether it will be successful for Amazon, but at only 20 ounces it's still fairly portable. Specific measurements are as follows: 9.45 x 6.5 x 0.35 inches. There is just a single tablet model in the 8.9" form factor, but there are two options based on that. Specifically, you will need to choose between a Wi-Fi only tablet and a tablet that can connect to both Wi-Fi and 4G cellular networks.
The 8.9" Kindle Fire HD features an 8.9" display with resolution of 1920x1200. Further, like the 7" model, the 10 point multitouch panel is laminated onto the display itself to reduce glare. Above the display is an HD webcam. Connectivity options on the base Wi-Fi only model include HDMI, Bluetooth, and dual band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi with dual antennas. The 4G version further adds a cellular modem.
Internally, the Kindle Fire HD is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP 4470 SoC running at 1.5 GHz and 1GB of RAM. Internal storage is either 16 GB or 32 GB for the Wi-Fi model and 32 GB or 64 GB in the 4G Kindle Fire HD. Any amazon purchased content can be stored on your Amazon Cloud Drive as well.
Both the Wi-Fi and 4G tablets will be available on November 20th, and are available for pre-order now.
The Wi-Fi model will cost $299 for 16 GB or $369 for 32 GB.
The 4G model gets a bit more complicated, thanks to the cellular modem. In basic terms, the 32 GB version will cost $499 and the 64 GB version will cost $599. With purchase, you get a $10 Amazon Appstore credit and 20 GB of Amazon Cloud Drive storage. On the data plan front, for $50 a year, Amazon will provide you with 250 MB per month of data usage over the cellular connection. It's not much, but it is still a pretty good deal if you are around Wi-Fi most of the time and/or plan to only use the Fire to read books and listen to music on. The bad news is that if you do happen to go over that 250 MB limit, you'll be subject to AT&T's going rate for the next tier of data. IE, expect to pay about $30 if you go over (ouch!).
On TWICH, Ryan brought up the Kindle Fire HD and mentioned the big price difference between the 4G and Wi-Fi only model. You are looking at about $250 extra from the 4G model, and the addition of the cellular radio definitely does not cost Amazon that much per tablet to integrate. One likely reason is that Amazon is subsidizing part (or all) of the data plan (the cost above the $50 it is charging customers) with the increased cost of the hardware. (Sort of the opposite of the traditional cell phone subsidizing arrangement where the contract subsidizes the hardware). You will just have to determine if the 4G modem is worth the cost increase or not.
Opt out of ads for $15, information on charging
Speaking of cutting costs, Amazon has done two things to reduce the price of its Kindle Fire tablets. For one, all Kindle Fire tablets will come with Kindle Special Offer ads turned on. These are deals and ads that display on the home screen and lock screen of your Kindle (and in my experience are not very intrusive). If you want an ad-free experience, you can opt out by paying a one-time $15 fee – which essentially amounts to you paying the full cost of the hardware versus the ad-subsidized cost.
The other cost cutting measure is that the company is not bundling a wall charger with any of the tablets. You can purchase the Kindle PowerFast for Accelerated Charging wall charger for $9.99 if you buy it at the same time as you purchase the tablet, but is $19.99 if purchased separately. Note that a wall charger is not required, as you can charge the Kindle over USB connected to a computer or cell phone charger – it does not necessarily have to be the expensive Amazon charger.
Lastly, all of the Amazon Kindle Fire tablets are running a customized version of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Unfortunately, I would not expect an update to Jelly Bean any time soon. The biggest question i have is whether or not the original Kindle Fire will get the same software update as the new tablets are coming out with. It is difficult to comment on any specific improvements as Amazon primarily focused on hardware at the event. Once reviewers get hands on with the tablets, more information should become available. I'm looking forward to trying out the tablets once they show up as demos at retail to see how well the UI runs on the updated hardware.
If you are interested in one of the new Kindle Fire tablets, I highly recommend checking out the handy comparison chart on the bottom of any Kindle Fire product pages as it puts all the specifications in a simple table.
What do you think about the new Amazon tablets, will you be picking one up or sticking with the Nexus 7?
Lenovo is one of several companies–including Acer and HP–that have embraced the ultrabook concept with both arms. Lenovo has not simply released a few high-end models similar to what as ASUS has done. Rather, it has released a fleet of products which include the U300/U310, the U410 and the U300S. And now there is a new high end product in the lineup called the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
There several traits that mark the ThinkPad X1 Carbon as unique. This is the first ThinkPad to bear the ultrabook title, for example. Further, the 430u (which was initially announced all the way back in January at CES 2012) is not yet available. The X1 Carbon is also one of only a few laptops to use carbon fiber in its frame. And this laptop is the only ultrabook on the market with a trackpointer. As I’ve mentioned before, unique design traits are kind of a big deal, and a peek inside the X1 reminds us why.
There’s nothing in that spec sheet that stands out. Yes, the Core i7 low-voltage processor will prove faster than the Core i5s in most competitors, but you can usually option to an i7 if that’s what you desire. The solid state drive is completely standard for an ultrabook above $1000, and four gigabytes of RAM can be hand in virtually any laptop on store shelves today–even those selling for $500.
This means Lenovo needs to bring something special if it wants to justify a premium price. You can buy this laptop right now for about $1250, but grabbing the upgrades found in our review unit raises the price to about $1500. That’s in line with the HP Envy 14 Spectre, an editor’s choice winner, and the ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A, which would have won an editor’s choice if ASUS had a handle on its quality control. Let’s see if the Carbon can deal with these top-tier competitors.
Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2012 - 07:16 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: wp8, windows phone 8, Samsung, microsoft, ifa, ativ s
Featuring a brushed aluminum chassis, the ATIV S is 8.7mm thin and weights 135 grams (just under 0.3 pounds). It is approximately 5.4” tall and 2.8” wide at 137.2mm x 70.5mm. The front of the smartphone features a large 4.8” HD Super AMOLED touchscreen display covered with Corning Gorilla Glass 2. Below the display is a slightly raised physical Windows button along with capacitive back and search buttons on either side. Above the display is a 1.9MP webcam and aluminum speaker grill. On the rear of the ATIV S is an 8MP autofocus camera, rear aluminum speaker bar, and a compartment that holds a 2300 mAh battery.
Inside the smartphone running Windows Phone 8 is a 1.5 GHz dual core ARM SoC, 1GB of RAM, and 16 or 32 GB of storage. The ATIV S also includes a microSD card slot. According to the Windows Team Blog, the ATIV S is noticeably thinner than Samsung’s other Windows Phone (7) smartphones. On the other hand, the phone is wider and taller, so it is less pocket-able. Thanks to the slightly curved edges of the phone, it is easy to hold and use with one hand despite the larger form factor (I’m sure Josh is making a joke for the podcast as we speak).
Overall, it looks like Samsung has put a lot of work into its new ATIV S Windows Phone 8 smartphone. While I’ve been intrigued with the Windows Phone mobile OS for a while now, I have not found a phone running it that I like; Nokia is great and all but the Nokia 920’s design just isn’t my thing. Personally, I think the ATIV S might be the perfect replacement for my Samsung Infuse 4G. You can see more photos of the ATIV S over at the Windows Team Blog.
Read more about Windows Phone 8 at PC Perspective.
Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2012 - 02:10 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: whispersync, paperwhite, kindle, amazon
Amazon announced at a live event today that its popular Kindle e-reader is getting an upgrade. The most significant upgrade is a new display which has a higher resolution and is (front) lit. As a result of the new display, Amazon is calling the new Kindle e-reader the Kindle Paperwhite, suggesting that the e-ink display is now closer than ever to replicating actual paper (though without the new book smell).
The new Kindle Paperwhite comes in two versions, one with free (whispersync) 3G and the other with only Wi-Fi. The physical keyboard is replaced with a touchscreen (like the Kindle Touch) and the e-reader is now 9.1mm thick and 7.5 ounces (a bit under half a pound). The Verge quoted Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in saying the Kindle Paperwhite is "thinner than a magazine, lighter than a paperback." Further, the display panel has a stated 62% more pixels than its predecessor, with 212 pixels per inch (PPI). Due to the nature of e-ink, Amazon had to get creative with the lighting and had to place the lighting element above the display (e-ink is reflective). This new “Light Guide” is a thin layer of material that takes light produced by LEDs along the edges of the display and spreads it over the entire display. Doing this allows Amazon to maintain the thin form factor and make the e-reader useable in more environments (readable in bed, or outside on a clear day, for example).
Software improvements allow the Kindle to start up in 60 seconds, 15% faster page turns, and free storage in Amazon’s Cloud Drive. In addition, the Kindle Paperwhite supports showing book covers in your library, (reading) time remaining in book chapters, and X-Ray reference material technology. According to Amazon, the Kindle Paperwhite’s battery has also been improved, allowing up to 8 weeks between charges (I’m assuming that includes stand-by time, not just when active/reading).
The new Light Guide used to light up the Kindle Paperwhite's display.
Both Kindle Paperwhite e-readers will be available on October 1st, 2012. The 3G model will cost $179 while the Wi-Fi model will cost $119. Amazon is currently taking pre-orders for the devices, as well.
Meanwhile, the current Kindle e-reader is going to continue to be available – and is getting a nice price cut. At a new price of $69, I expect it to sell like Honey Buns (forget hotcakes). That is a price that is definitely impulse buy territory, and also makes it easy to give as a gift. I expect that it would also make a good device to give to kids to try to get them interested in reading. At $69, it won’t be as big of a deal if they break it (heh).
What do you think about the new Paperwhite Kindles? I’m interested to see one of the displays in person, to see if it lives up to the claims of replicating the look of paper. You can find more photos of the new Kindle over at The Verge's live blog of the event.
I say let the world go to hell
… but I should always have my tea. (Notes From Underground, 1864)
You can praise video games as art to justify its impact on your life – but do you really consider it art?
Best before the servers are taken down, because you're probably not playing it after.
Art allows the author to express their humanity and permits the user to consider that perspective. We become cultured when we experiment with and to some extent understand difficult human nature problems. Ideas are transmitted about topics which we cannot otherwise understand. We are affected positively as humans in society when these issues are raised in a safe medium.
Video games, unlike most other mediums, encourage the user to coat the creation with their own expressions. The player can influence the content through their dialogue and decision-tree choices. The player can accomplish challenges in their own unique way and talk about it over the water cooler. The player can also embed their own content as a direct form of expression. The medium will also mature as we further learn how to leverage interactivity to open a dialogue for these artistic topics in completely new ways and not necessarily in a single direction.
Consciously or otherwise – users will express themselves.
With all of the potential for art that the medium allows it is a shame that – time and time again – the industry and its users neuter its artistic capabilities in the name of greed, simplicity, or merely fear.
Subject: Mobile | September 3, 2012 - 03:06 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrabook, s405, s400, s300, Lenovo, laptop, Ivy Bridge, core i5, budget, amd, a8
Tablets and ultrabooks have stolen the IFA 2012 show, but the hardware – while nice to look at – is not for everyone, especially for the price. It seems that Lenovo has the budget showings covered by announcing three budget laptops that offer up some decent specifications.
Lenovo has added three new laptops to its Ideapad S series, and the specifications of the new models are vastly improved versus the current netbook-class S-series models. The new additions are the S300, S400, and S405, and all three are packing the latest generation processors from Intel and AMD respectively.
All three of the laptops feature a display resolution of 1366x768, full QWERTY keyboard, trackpad with gesture support, 720p webcam, and a "tactile metal finish" for the laptop lid that comes in silver, pink, or red colors. External ports include an SD card slot, two USB 2.0 ports, a headphone jack, and power jack on the right side and a USB 3.0 port, HDMI output, Ethernet jack, and recovery button on the left. They are all expected to provide around four hours of battery life, and the laptops weigh in at 3.97 pounds and are 0.86" thick. All three models will come with Windows 7, but will eligible for the $14.99 upgrade to Windows 8 Pro.
According to the press release, all three models will have cotton candy pink, red, and silver-gray lid color options in a "tactile" metal finish, though only the S300 has been spotted in the wild with the pink lid.
The S300 has a 13.3" screen while the S400 and S405 have 14" screens, but they share the same chassis, which means that the S300 will have a slightly bigger bezel but otherwise will be the same as the higher-end models on the outside.
On the inside, the S300 is powered by an Intel ultra low voltage (ULV) Core i3 or Core i5 "Ivy Bridge" processor, a 500GB mechanical hard drive, up to 4GB of RAM, and optional AMD Radeon 7450M graphics. Other features include Intel's WiDi (wireless display) technology, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, and stereo speakers powered by Dolby Advanced Audio v2.
The S400 follows that exact same pattern: Intel ULV Core i3/i5 Ivy Bridge CPU, up to 500GB spinning platter hard drive, 4GB of RAM, optional AMD Radeon 7450M GPU, WiDi, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi, stereo speakers and WiDi support. The differences include a larger 14" LED backlit display (at that same 1366x768 resolution, unfortunately) and an optional 32GB SSD.
The S400 comes in two different lid color options: a black interior and red lid, or a black interior with silver lid.
The S405 breaks the mold by replacing the Intel Ivy Bridge processor for an AMD A8 Trinity APU. It can also have up to 1TB of mechanical hard drive storage, 4GB of RAM, and optional AMD Radeon 7450M. Alternatively, it can be upgraded to a 32GB SSD. It features the same LED backlit 14" display and red/black or silver/black color scheme as the S400. The WiDi option does not appear to be included with the Ideapad S405 (which would make sense), but otherwise it is essentially the S400 without the Intel CPU/iGPU.
All three notebooks will be available later this month in the US, and the starting price is $499. The new Lenovo Ideapads make up a nice middle ground between expensive thin-and-light ultrabooks and low cost tablet+keyboard combinations. The quality of the keyboard and trackpad are really going to make or break the new S-series notebooks, because if they manage to pull off a good typing experience these could be some decent travel companions for people that need a productivity machine with a bit of "oomph" thanks to the Intel i5 or AMD Trinity APU. On the other hand, if the keyboard is crappy, the middle ground budget notebooks will really miss the entire point and road warriors will need to look elsewhere. Be on the lookout for reviews on these S-series Lenovo notebooks, as they look interesting for the money (if you are in the position of looking for a budget workhorse machine/one that would not be as terrible to lose on a trip, et al).
What do you think about the new budget Lenovo laptops?
Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2012 - 09:50 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: ultrabook, Series 9, Samsung, retina display, prototype, ifa
The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin (IFA) 2012 electronics show in Berlin has seen numerous Windows 8 tablets, but those are not the only mobile devices on the show floor. Samsung is at the event with its lineup of Series 9 Ultrabooks, for example.
The most interesting model is a prototype (engineering sample) Series 9 ultrabook that sports a WQHD display. That’s right, the 11.6” and 13.3” ultrabooks have displays with a resolution of 2560x1440 pixels! The new display has a pixels-per-inch (PPI) rating of 220.84, which is a major improvement over the current 13” Series 9 ultrabook’s 1600x900, 138.03 PPI display. The new prototype Series 9 has a total display resolution lower than the 2880x1800 “Retina” display in the 15” Macbook Pro, but due to its overall smaller size at 13,” the PPI is comparable. In fact, it is ever-so-slightly higher at 220.84 PPI versus 220.53 for the Apple Macbook Pro. In addition, the Series 9 display features a matte finish, which is something road warriors will appreciate.
Image credit: Engadget.
It seems that – except for the new higher resolution display – the prototype spotted by Engadget at IFA is exactly the same as the latest Ivy Bridge-powered Series 9 ultrabook. It features a full QWERTY keyboard and click-able multitouch trackpad. The right side of the Samsung ultrabook includes a microphone, HDMI output, combination headphone/microphone jack, and a USB 2.0 port. There is also a covered slot for a full-size SD card on the underside of the chassis. On the left side of the ultrabook is a power jack, USB 3.0 port, micro-HDMI port, and micro RJ45 Ethernet port.
Powering the Series 9 prototype is likely an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, at least 4GB of RAM and an SSD. Further, the computer comes loaded with Microsoft's latest Windows 8 operating system. Beyond that, it is impossible to know the exact parts being used as Samsung isn’t ready to unleash this notebook yet. Unfortunately, that also means that pricing and availability are also not known.
With rumors that Apple is working on a new 13” Macbook Pro with “retina” display of its own, one possibility is that the prototype Series 9 is just that – a prototype (and proof of concept) – from which the company will sell the panels to Apple for its Macbook while not coming out with its own high resolution ultrabook. On the other hand, Samsung may be pursuing this and trying to beat Apple to market with a smaller notebook packing a comparible display to Apple's current Macbook Pro.
Personally, I’m rooting for the Series 9 with 2560x1440 display to at least come to market even if the panels also end up in Macbooks (though with Samsung’s luck that would just give Apple yet another device to attempt to get an injunction on….).
Either way, the concept is certainly promising, and here’s hoping that it inspires other OEMs to step up their ultrabook designs by using higher resolution displays!
Below is a hands on video by Mat Smith over at Engadget. For more information, you can find our Series 9 review as well as an editorial on the "Retina Macbook Pro from a PC Perspective" (see what we did there?).
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more IFA 2012 coverage!