Way back in January of this year, while attending CES 2015 in Las Vegas, we wandered into the MSI suite without having any idea what we might see as new and exciting product. Besides the GT80 notebook with a mechanical keyboard on it, the MSI GS30 Shadow was easily the most interesting and exciting technology. Although MSI is not the first company to try this, the Shadow is the most recent attempt to combine the benefits of a thin and light notebook with a discrete, high performance GPU when the former is connected to the latter's docking station.
The idea has always been simple but the implementation has always been complex. Take a thin, light, moderately powered notebook that is usable and high quality in its own right and combine it with the ability to connect a discrete GPU while at home for gaming purposes. In theory, this is the best of both worlds: a notebook PC for mobile productivity and gaming capability courtesy of an external GPU. But as the years have gone on, more companies try and more companies fail; the integration process is just never as perfect a mix as we hope.
Today we see if MSI and the GS30 Shadow can fare any better. Does the combination of a very high performance thin and light notebook and the GamingDock truly create a mobile and gaming system that is worth your investment?
Subject: Mobile | April 3, 2015 - 08:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: snapdragon 801, smartphone, quad hd, LG, Android 5.0
Just Delivered is a section of PC Perspective where we share some of the goodies that pass through our labs that may or may not see a review, but are pretty cool none the less.
Find the LG G3 on Amazon!
- LG G3 32GB Unlocked US Version (T-Mobile) - $540
- LG G3 16GB Unlocked International Version - $380
- LG G3 32GB Unlocked International Version - $435
Last week I stopped by the T-Mobile store in the mall, handed over two old phones, and ported over two lines from Verizon. I walked out with a cheaper contract with unlimited data (versus 4GB on Verizon) and a shiny new (to me, it's been out for awhile) LG G3. Which brings me to this post.
First off, the LG G3 is huge. This is the
smallest tablet largest smartphone I have ever owned. Measuring 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9 mm, the 149g smartphone is slightly smaller than the Apple iPhone 6 Plus and a bit chunkier at its thickest point. It is however easier to hold and operate (especially one handed) than the iDevice. The is dominated by a large 5.5-inch Quad HD IPS display (2560 x 1440 resolution) and features round edges and a curved back. I chose the white version, but it also comes in black, blue, gold, red, and purple (the international versions). Except for the top bezel that holds the webcam, light sensor, and speaker, and that bit of empty space below the display with the LG logo, the G3 has super thin bezels. In fact, the phone is not much larger than the display (certainly width wise).
The LG G3's display looks amazing with sharp text and extremely detailed videos (the included 4k content is great). It is highly reflective and I had to crank the brightness all the way up to be able to read it under direct sunlight (my S4 was similar in this respect). In other lighting situations, it worked really well.
An infrared transmitter, microphone, micro USB port, and 3.5mm audio jack are placed along the top and bottom edges of the phone. Like its predecessor (the G2), LG has placed the power and volume buttons on the back of the device rather than the sides (Update: I am generally liking this setup now). The recessed buttons sit beneath the camera lens and are easier to find and use than I expected them to be. Now that I am getting used to them, I think LG is onto something (good) with this button placement. There is also a 1-watt speaker in the lower left corner of the back cover for media playback and speakerphone calls. For a smartphone speaker it can get fairly loud and does what it is supposed to. It is not spectacular but it is also not bad. I mostly use headphones but it's nice to know that I have a decent speaker should I want to share my music.
The curved back cover makes it easy to hold in one hand (even if I can't hit all the on-screen buttons without a longer thumb heh) and I feel like it will be dropped less frequently than my previous phone (the Galaxy S4) as a result of the form factor. One big change with the G3, for me, is the lack of buttons below the display (capacitive or physical), but I am slowly getting used to the on-screen navigation on Android (especially once I figured out I could long press the recent apps button to regain the menu button I miss from my S4).
Aside from the display, the G3 features a 2.1MP front facing camera and a 13MP rear camera. The rear camera is where things get interesting because it is paired with a dual LED flash, laser focus, and optical image stabilization (OIS) technology. Outdoor shots were excellent and indoor shots with enough lighting were great. In low light situations, the camera left something to be desired, and I was kind of disappointed. Using the flash does help and it is quite bright. However, I tend to not like using the flash unless I have to as photos always look less natural. For as small as the camera is though (the lens and sensor are tiny), it does pretty well. In good lighting conditions it is trounces my S4 but the (upgrade) is much less noticeable with less light (the G3 does have a much brighter flash).
The laser focus is a really cool feature that works as advertised. The camera focuses extremely quickly (even in low light) allowing me a much better chance to capture the moment. It also refocuses (tap to focus) quickly.
The camera software is not as full featured as other smartphones I have used, however. I was put off by this at first as someone that likes to tinker with these things but at the end of the day it does what it is supposed to and it does it well (which is to take photos). You can swipe to switch between the front and back cameras, choose from a couple preset modes, and adjust basic settings like resolution, voice controls, HDR, and shutter timer. For "selfie" fans, LG has a feature where you can make a fist in the air and it will start a countdown timer. While I have not tried the voice commands, I did try the gesture and it does work well.
Anyways, before this turns into a full review (heh), it might help to know what's under the hood as well. The G3 is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC which pairs four Krait 400 CPU cores clocked at 2.5 GHz with an Adreno 330 GPU. The phone comes with either 16GB internal storage and 2GB of RAM or 32GB internal storage and 3GB RAM. I chose the higher end model to get the extra RAM just in case as I plan to have this phone for a long time. It supports 4G LTE, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, GPS, and NFC (Near Field Communication). You can also use it with Qi-enabled wireless chargers if you purchase a supporting back cover. The G3 is running Android 4.4.2 on T-Mobile but it does support Android 5.0 and some carriers have already pushed out updates.
The G3 comes with a 3,000 mAh battery and a 1.8 amp USB charger. It does take awhile to charge this thing (my 2.1 amp Samsung charger is a bit faster), but once it is fully charged it will easily last all day including listening to streaming music and audiobooks, text messaging, and web browsing. (Update: I don't have specific battery life numbers yet, but I generally only need to charge it once a day so long as I keep the display brightness around half. If I crank the brightness all the way up I can almost feel the battery draining by the second heh.)
Like Samsung, LG has a battery saving feature that will kick in at 30% to conserve battery but turning down the screen brightness, turning off radios that are not active, and a few other configurable battery drainers (haptic feedback, notification lights, and account syncing). I do like their battery settings page as it will estimate the time needed to charge and the time remaining as it discharges along with a nice graph of battery percentages over time. Other Android phones have something similar but LG has fleshed it out a bit more.
Just for fun, I installed 3DMark and ran the Ice Storm benchmark. The LG G3 maxed out the Ice Storm test and scored 10,033 points in Ice Storm Extreme. Further, it scored 16,151 in Ice Storm Unlimited. In comparison, the (apparently extremely popular judging by the feedback) Samsung Galaxy Centura scored 536 in Ice Storm and 281 in Ice Storm Extreme respectively (hehe). My Galaxy S4 is no longer available for me to test, but TweakTown was able to get 6,723 in the Ice Storm Extreme test.
LG packs light with only the smartphone, USB cable, USB charger, and a quck start guide included in the box. No headphones or extra accessories here.
In all, so far so good with the LG G3. I am very happy with my purchase and would recommend checking it out if you are in the market for a large display-packing smartphone that's not an iPhone 6 Plus or Galaxy Note 4 (which Ryan recently reviewed). If you want the latest and greatest Android phone and can afford the premium (about $300 more in my case when I compared them), grab the Note 4. On the other hand, if you are looking for a Android smartphone with a large display, good battery life, and decent hardware specifications, the LG G3 is a respectible choice that delivers and doesn't break the bank.
Have you tried out the G3? What do you think about the trend for larger and thinner smartphones? This is hardly an exhaustive review and there are things I didn't get into here. After all, I'm still checking out my G3. With that said, from first impressions and about a week of usage it seems like a really solid device. I've since fitted it with a screen protector and a case so as to not break it – especially that hi-res display!
Subject: Mobile | April 2, 2015 - 05:26 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: razer, blade 14, gaming laptop
Razer has refreshed their Blade series gaming laptop for 2015, thankfully keeping the M.2 SSD and the 3200×1800 resolution but unfortunately they stuck with the glossy panel. The i7-4720HQ stays but the GPU has been replaced with a GTX970m 3GB and have doubled the RAM to 16GB, at least in the model which Kitguru tested. The 14" size helps keep the weight down to 4.5lbs but also ensures the price is high, Amazon is selling the 512GB model for $2700 currently. If you have the money and require a gaming laptop for some reason this is a great choice, otherwise spend less on a more powerful desktop machine.
"Gaming laptops have a huge audience, but not everyone wants to lug around a 17 inch behemoth weighing more than 5KG. Razer have enjoyed success in recent years with their Blade range of laptops … even if the price has been prohibitive for many."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Gigabyte P37X Laptop @ HardwareHeaven
- HIS Multi-View X2 USB Docking Station Review @ Madshrimps
- Samsung Galaxy A5 Smartphone Review @ Hardware Secrets
- Acer Liquid Jade Smartphone @ Kitguru
Subject: Mobile | March 30, 2015 - 03:43 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Tegra X1, tegra, shield portable, shield, portable, nvidia
UPDATE (3/31/15): Thanks to another tip we can confirm that the new SHIELD P2523 will have the Tegra X1 SoC in it. From this manifest document you'll see the Tegra T210 listed (the same part marketed as X1) as well as the code name "Loki." Remember that the first SHIELD Portable device was code named Thor. Oh, so clever, NVIDIA.
Based on a rumor posted by Brad over at Lilliputing, it appears we can expect an updated NVIDIA SHIELD Portable device sometime later in 2015. According to both the Bluetooth and Wi-Fi certification websites, a device going by the name "NVIDIA Shield Portable P2523" has been submitted. There isn't a lot of detail though:
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac dual-band 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz WiFi
- Bluetooth 4.1
- Android 5.0
- Firmware version 3.10.61
We definitely have a new device here as the initial SHIELD Portable did not includ 802.11ac support at all. And though no data is there to support it, you have to assume that NVIDIA would be using the new Tegra X1 processor in any new SHIELD devices coming out this year. I already previewd the new SHIELD console from GDC that utilizes that same SoC, but it might require a lower clocked, lower power version of the processor to help with heat and battery life on a portable unit.
There’s no information about the processor, screen, or other hardware. But if the new Shield portable is anything like the original, it’ll probably consist of what looks like an Xbox-style game controller with an attached 5 inch display which you can fold up to play games on the go.
And if it’s anything like the new NVIDIA Shield console, it could have a shiny new NVIDIA Tegra X1 processor to replace the aging Tegra 4 chip found in the original Shield Portable.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it also had a higher-resolution display, more memory, or other improvements.
Keep an eye out - NVIDIA may be making a push for even more SHIELD hardware this summer.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | March 25, 2015 - 09:51 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, core m, atom, surface, Surface 2, Windows 8.1, windows 10
The stack of Microsoft tablet devices had high-end Intel Core processors hovering over ARM SoCs, the two separated by a simple “Pro” label (and Windows 8.x versus Windows RT). While the Pro line has been kept reasonably up to date, the lower tier has been stagnant for a while. That is apparently going to change. WinBeta believes that a new, non-Pro Surface will be announced soon, at or before BUILD 2015. Unlike previous Surface models, it will be powered by an x86 processor from Intel, either an Atom or a Core M.
This also means it will run Windows 8.1.
The article claims, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that Windows RT is dead. No. But still, the device should be eligible for a Windows 10 upgrade when it launches, unlike the RT-based Surfaces. Whether that is a surprise depends on the direction you view it from. I would find it silly for Microsoft to release a new Surface device, months before an OS update, but design it to be incompatible with it. On the other hand, it would be the first non-Pro Surface to do so. Either way, it was reported.
The “Surface 3”, whatever it will be called, is expected to be a fanless design. VR-Zone expects that it will be similar to the 10.6-inch, 1080p form factor of the Surface 2, but that seems to be their speculation. That is about all that we know thus far.
The perfect laptop; it is every manufacturer’s goal. Obviously no one has gotten there yet (or we would have all stopped writing reviews of them). At CES this past January, we got our first glimpse of a new flagship Ultrabook from Dell: the XPS 13. It got immediate attention for some of the physical characteristics it included, like an ultra-thin bezel and a 13-in screen in the body of a typical 11-in laptop, all while being built in a sleek thin and light design. It’s not a gaming machine, despite what you might remember from the XPS line, but the Intel Core-series Broadwell-U processor keeps performance speedy in standard computing tasks.
As a frequent traveler that tends to err on the side of thin and light designs, as opposed to high performance notebooks with discrete graphics, the Dell XPS 13 is immediately compelling on a personal level as well. I have long been known as a fan of what Lenovo builds for this space, trusting my work machine requirements to the ThinkPad line for years and year. Dell’s new XPS 13 is a strong contender to take away that top spot for me and perhaps force me down the path of an upgrade of my own. So, you might consider this review as my personal thesis on the viability of said change.
The Dell XPS 13 Specifications
First, make sure as you hunt around the web for information on the XPS 13 that you are focusing on the new 2015 model. Much like we see from Apple, Dell reuses model names and that can cause confusion unless you know what specifications to look for or exactly what sub-model you need. Trust me, the new XPS 13 is much better than anything that existed before.
Subject: Mobile | March 24, 2015 - 07:02 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Android, linux, smartwatch
Linux.com offers you a shopping list of smartwatches which are all less expensive than the fruit flavoured models and run Android or Linux. From familiar models like the Pebble and the older and less impressive Neptune Pine and Omate TrueSmart to leaked models like the Tizen-based Samsung Orbis you have quite a few choices to look through. There is even Monohm's large Runcible that is more of a pocket watch than a wrist watch to consider. In many cases the details are a bit lacking but the model names are known so you can get a leg up on your research for when they are finally revealed with full specifications.
"Much to the delight of Apple fanbots everywhere, Apple has now fully unveiled the Apple Watch. The watch, which was previewed in September, will go on sale April 10 and ship on the 24th. Based on its brand name, styling, accessories, and battery life claims, it will likely be a big hit -- at least as far as smartwatches go."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- ASUS ZenFone 6 Mobile @ Kitguru
- Kingston Technologies Mobile Lite G4 Media Reader @ Bjorn3d.com
- Kingston Technologies Data Traveler microDuo 3 @ Bjorn3d
- Seagate Wireless 500GB mobile storage drive @ Kitguru
- Startech Universal USB 3.0 Laptop Docking Station @ Bjorn3d
- MSI GE62 2QD Apache @ HardwareHeaven
Subject: Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:33 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: Razer Blade Pro, razer, notebook, laptop, i7-4720HQ, GTX 960M, gaming notebook
Razer has updated their massive Blade Pro notebook with new dual storage options and NVIDIA’s newly announced GeForce GTX 960M graphics.
Razer targets the Blade Pro at both gamers and professionals, placing emphasis on the usefulness of the device beyond gaming. However, being limited to 1920x1080 on a 17.3-inch display will eliminate this from consideration by most creative professionals (though the display does feature an anti-glare matte finish). Aiding the performance/gaming side of the notebook is Razer’s localized heating system which the company claims “focuses on directing heat away from the main touch surfaces of the notebook, to areas that can dissipate heat quickly and are not commonly touched by the user. This allows the laptop to pack in the highest performance available with NVIDIA’s critically acclaimed GTX graphics”.
The Blade Pro is constructed from aluminum and while reasonably thin at 0.88 inches, the notebook weighs in at a hefty 6.76 pounds (though the probably battery life of such a high-powered system precludes this from a lot of portable use anyway).
One of the most interesting aspects of this design is Razer’s Switchblade User Interface (SBUI), which the company says “is designed for a more efficient and intuitive experience for professionals and gamers.” It combines 10 customizable tactile keys and a unique LCD trackpad (which I would assume features a glass surface). Meanwhile the keyboard is backlit and features anti-ghosting technology as well.
Intel Core i7-4720HQ Quad Core Processor (2.6GHz / 3.6GHz)
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M (4GB GDDR5 VRAM), Optimus Technology
16GB System Memory (DDR3L-1600 MHz)
Windows 8.1 64-Bit
128GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 256GB SSD + 500GB HDD / 512GB SSD + 1TB HDD
17.3" Full HD 16:9 Ratio, 1920 x 1080 LED backlit
Intel Wireless-AC 7260HMW (802.11a/b/g/n/ac + Bluetooth 4.0)
Gigabit Ethernet port
3x USB 3.0 ports
HDMI 1.4a audio and video output
Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater Edition
Built-in stereo speakers
3.5 mm microphone/headphone combo jack
7.1 Codec support (via HDMI)
Built-in full-HD webcam (2.0 MP)
Compact 150 W Power Adapter
Built-in 74 Wh Rechargeable lithium ion polymer battery
Razer Switchblade User Interface (SBUI)
Razer Anti-Ghosting Keyboard (with adjustable backlight)
Razer Synapse Enabled
Kensington Lock interface
16.8 in. (427 mm) Width x 0.88 in. (22.4 mm) Height x 10.9 in. (277 mm) Depth
6.76 lbs. / 3.07 kg
The Razer Blade Pro starts at $2299.99 and is available now from the Razer online store.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 13, 2015 - 09:00 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: haswell, GTX 960M, gaming laptop, g501, ASUS ROG, asus
Today Asus unveiled the Republic of Gamers (ROG) G501 gaming laptop. The G501 is a 4.54 pound 15.6” laptop that packs high end hardware into a thin aluminum shell.
The ROG G501 features a dark gray 0.81” thick aluminum chassis with a brushed metal finish and red bezel accents. A 15.6” matte IPS display dominates the top half of the PC with a resolution of 3840x2160 (UHD). The lower half includes a red backlit keyboard (1.6mm key travel) with colored WASD keys and a number pad as well as a large trackpad.
External I/O on this gaming machine is extensive and includes:
- 1 x Thunderbolt
- 3 x USB 3.0
- 1 x HDMI
- 1 x Audio combo jack
- 1 x SD
- 1 x 1.2MP webcam
- Wi-Fi 802.11ac + Bluetooth 4.0
Asus is using the latest mobile technology with the G501 including a 47W Intel Haswell Core i7-4720HQ (4c/8t) processor, NVIDIA GTX 960M (4GB) graphics card, up to 16GB of DDR3 memory, and an impressive 512GB PCI-E x4 solid state drive (rated at 1,400MB/s reads). The laptop also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Asus claims that its Hyper Cool technology will keep the system running cool by using copper heatpipes and giving the CPU and GPU their own heatsink and fan which can be independently controlled to maintain a balance of heat and noise. The laptop is powered by a 96Wh Lithium Polymer battery.
This beastly gaming laptop will be available next month with an MSRP of $1,999 (with the configuration listed above). More information can be found at gseries.asus.com
In addition to the ROG G501, Asus’ GL551 and G751 series are also being refreshed to include NVIDIA’s new GTX 900 series graphics. The GL551JW will get the GTX 960M while the G751JL will use the GTX 965M.
Subject: Mobile | March 12, 2015 - 02:56 PM | Sebastian Peak
Until yesterday virtually all Chromebooks had two things in common: low-end specs and equally low prices. Most sell for around $200 and are available from virtually every manufacturer, and the relative success of these Google Chrome OS laptops in the post-netbook portable space has relied on price. Now Google has announced a new concept for a Chromebook: give it high-end specs and charge $999.
Is it reasonable to assume in 2015 that a user could be perfectly content using cloud storage and web-based apps to accomplish daily tasks? In many cases, yes. But asking $1k on the strength of better hardware is going to be a difficult sell for a Chromebook. The specs are impressive, beginning with a very high resolution 2560x1700 touchscreen, and like the new MacBook this is also sporting USB Type-C connectivity (with the same 5Gbps speed as the Apple implementation).
The pricing for this device continues a disturbing trend, coming just days after Apple's announcement of a Core M MacBook for $1299. In appearance the Pixel seems to borrow rather heavily from the MacBook Air design with a silver finish, glass trackpad, and backlit island-style black keyboard. If the build quality and screen are top notch then Google may have some justification for the price, but with the limitation of just 32GB of local storage (an additional 1TB cloud storage is offered at no cost for 3 years) and an OS that can only run applications from Google's Chrome store, the price does seem high.
Specs from Google below:
- 12.85" multi touch display, 2560 x 1700 (239 ppi), 400 nit brightness, 178° viewing angle
- Intel® Core™ i5 processor @ 2.2GHz, 8GB memory or Intel® Core™ i7 processor @ 2.4GHz, 16GB memory
- Intel® HD Graphics 5500, supports 4K video output over DisplayPort or HDMI with optional Type-C video adapter cable
- 32GB or 64GB of flash storage
Backlit keyboard, fully clickable etched-glass trackpad
- 720P HD wide angle camera with blue glass
- 2x USB Type-C (up to 5Gbps data, 4K display out with optional HDMI or DisplayPort™ adapter, 60W charging)
- 2x USB 3.0
- SD card reader
- Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 2x2, Bluetooth 4.0
- High power stereo speakers, built-in microphone, headphone/mic combo jack
- Universal Type-C USB Charger, 60W
- Up to 12 hours of battery life
- Dimensions: 11.7” x 8.8” x 0.6”, 3.3lbs
If you're ready for the $999 Chromebook experience the Pixel is available now from Google's online store.