Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 15, 2014 - 02:59 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Sound Blaster E3, Sound Blaster E1, Creative
Okay, so these products (SoundBlaster E1 and SoundBlaster E3) are confusing because they have several roles. Both are billed as "headphone amplifiers" with battery power. These types of products are somewhat rare and niche on the whole. Probably the main reason for using the amplifier portion is if you had high impedance headphones. Creative claims to support 600 Ohm headphones with both of these models.
And this is where Creative started tossing other features in.
Both the E1 and E3 can be used as an external sound adapter for PCs and Macs. While features, such as EAX, have gone by the wayside due to modern audio APIs, there is still room for sound devices to differentiate in terms of signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), and so forth, especially when compared to some on-board solutions. Speaking of SNR, the E1 advertises 106dB while the E3, 110dB. Also, sometimes you just want another sound card and USB is convenient. Both include ASIO drivers which is especially useful, although not too uncommon, for professional recording software.
The E3 then goes off on a tangent. Its USB hookup can attach not just to PCs and Mac, but also Android and iOS mobile devices. While it also has Bluetooth for iOS 5+ and Android 3.1+, it can be used as a wired, external sound card over USB on Android 4.2+ (using USB Streaming over Android Open Accessory Protocol 2.0) and iOS 7+ (using a Lightning USB adapter). This allows users to bypass the built-in amplifiers of their smartphones and tablets without Bluetooth compression. I would be interested to see reviews of this unit compared with the 3.5mm jack quality of typical mobile devices.
Subject: Mobile | May 8, 2014 - 11:02 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: nvidia, tegra, shield, half-life 2
Remember that cake we got last week? It was sent by NVIDIA to celebrate the release of Portal (May 12th) on SHIELD. They are at it again...
When you get a FedEx box meant for a poster or tube of some kind, but you didn't order said poster, you are likely to be confused. Imagine my surprise when I opened it up and found...a bright green crowbar. This might become a habit for them; we received a pry bar from NVIDIA in April of 2012 to tease the release of the GeForce GTX 690.
Based on the message on the crow bar it seems that a Half-Life 2 release on SHIELD is going to be following soon. Sorry to disappoint anyone that was expecting Half-Life 3...
Subject: General Tech, Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 7, 2014 - 02:26 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Thunderbolt 2, thunderbolt, nvidia, GeForce GTX 780 Ti
Externally-attached GPUs have been a topic for many years now. Numerous companies have tried, including AMD and Lucid, but no solution has ever been a widely known and available product. Even as interfaces increase in bandwidth and compatibility with internal buses, it has never been something that a laptop salesperson could suggest to users who want to dock into a high-performance station at home. At best, we are seeing it in weird "coin mining" racks to hang way more GPUs above a system than could physically mount on the motherboard.
Apparently that has not stopped the DIY community, according to chatter on Tech Inferno forums. While the above video does not really show the monitor, MacBook Pro, and GPU enclosure at the same time, let alone all wired together and on, it seems reasonable enough. The video claims to give the MacBook Pro (running Windows 8.1) access to a GeForce GTX 780 Ti with fairly high performance, despite the reduced bandwidth. Quite cool.
Upgrades from Anker
Last year we started to have a large amount of mobile devices around the office including smartphones, tablets and even convertibles like the ASUS T100, all of which were charged with USB connections. While not a hassle when you are charging one or two units at time, having 6+ on our desks on any day started to become a problem for our less numerous wall outlets. Our solution last year was Anker's E150 25 watt wall charger that we did a short video overview on.
It was great but had limitations including different charging rates depending on the port you connected it to, limited output of 5 Amps total for all five ports and fixed outputs per port. Today we are taking a look at a pair of new Anker devices that implement smart ports called PowerIQ that enable the battery and wall charger to send as much power to the charging device as it requests, regardless of what physical port it is attached to.
We'll start with the updated Anker 40 watt 5-port wall charger and then move on to discuss the 3-port mobile battery charger, both of which share the PowerIQ feature.
Anker 40 watt 5-Port Wall Charger
The new Anker 5-port wall charger is actually smaller than the previous generation but offers superior specifications at all feature points. This unit can push out more than 40 watts total combined through all five USB ports, 5 volts at as much as 8 amps. All 8 amps can in fact go through a single USB charging port we are told if there was a device that would request that much - we don't have anything going above 2.3A it seems in our offices.
Any USB port can be used for any device on this new model, it doesn't matter where it plugs in. This great simplifies things from a user experience point of view as you don't have to hold the unit up to your face to read the tiny text that existed on the E150. With 8 amps spread across all five ports you should have more than enough power to charge all your devices at full speed. If you happen to have five iPads charging at the same time, that would exceed 8A and all the devices charge rates would be a bit lower.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 6, 2014 - 02:48 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Lenovo, Chromebook, celeron, Intel
Today, Lenovo announced its first set of Chromebooks aimed at consumers. The N20 Chrome and N20p Chrome Chromebooks join the existing ThinkPad branded Chromebooks which targeted the education sector. The new N20 series devices are 11.6” laptops weighing less than 3.1 pounds powered by an Intel Celeron chip and running Google’s Chrome OS.
The base N20 Chrome is a traditional laptop sans touchscreen or Yoga-style acrobatics.
Both the N20 Chrome and N20p Chrome sport an 11.6” display with a resolution of 1366x768, a 1 megapixel webcam, stereo speakers, AccuType keyboards, and large trackpads. Further, the Chromebooks have two USB ports, one HDMI output, a SD card slot, and an audio mic/headphone combo jack. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.2.
The N20 Chrome has a traditional laptop clamshell design while the N20p Chrome features a 300° hinge that allows the display to flip around into tent mode as well as the traditional laptop mode. Further, the N20p Chrome adds a 10-point multi-touch digitizer to the 11.6” display. The N20 Chrome weighs 2.8 lbs (1.3 kg) whereas the N20p Chrome weighs 3.1 lbs (1.4 kg) because of the added hinge and digitizer. Both models come in Graphite Grey with silver accents.
Internally, Lenovo has gone with an unspecified Intel Celeron processor (with Intel integrated graphics), up to 4GB of DDR3L memory, and up to 16GB of eMMC storage (expandable via SD card). Lenovo is pairing the device with up to 100GB of Google Drive cloud storage as well. Lenovo claims up to 8 hours of battery life which bodes well for students and office workers on the go.
The N20p Chrome with its 11.6" 10-point multi-touch display and 300° hinge.
The N20 Chrome will be available in July for $279 while the N20p Chrome is coming in August with an MSRP of $329. Lenovo’s first take at consumer Chromebooks looks to have all the right pieces. The company should have a very successful product on its hands so long as the keyboards and overall build quality hold up to reviews.
Read more about Chromebooks @ PC Perspective!
Subject: Mobile | May 2, 2014 - 10:34 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Windows 8.1, thinkpad tablet, thinkpad 10, Lenovo, Intel, Bay Trail
Details on a new 10-inch tablet from Lenovo emerged following a product page being posted on the Lenovo Australia site prior to an official announcement. The page was quickly taken down, but not before German technology site TabTech snagged all of the details and photos of the new ThinkPad branded mobile.
The leaked ThinkPad 10 joins the existing ThinkPad 8 tablet which was first shown off at CES 2014 earlier this year. The business-focused device runs x86 hardware and the full version of Microsoft's Windows 8.1 operating system. The ThinkPad 10 sports rounded edges, a hefty bezel, (and if it follows the ThinkPad 8) a machine cut aluminum back panel with ThinkPad branding. The front of the device hosts a 10-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1200, a 2MP webcam, and Windows button. The top corner of the tablet hosts an 8MP rear camera with LED flash. Exact dimensions and weight are still unknown.
Internally, Lenovo is using a quad core Bay Trail SoC clocked at 1.6 GHz, up to 4GB of RAM, and up to 128GB of internal storage. If the ThinkPad 8 is any indication, the base models should start with 2GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a Wi-Fi chip. From there, users will be able to choose versions of the ThinkPad 10 with more memory, more storage, LTE cellular data connections, and stylus options.
Additionally, the ThinkPad 10 will support basic covers, basic docks that allow it to be used in tent mode, keyboard docks, and keyboard cases. Unfortunately, the keyboard dock does not appear to latch onto the tablet, and once docked the screen cannot be rotated further like with devices like the Transformer T100 and upcoming Aspire Switch 10. With that said, from the information available so far, I am interested in the ThinkPad 10 from a mobile productivity standpoint (I have been on the fence on getting a T100 for months now, heh). If Lenovo can maintain ThinkPad quality in this tablet and the keyboard options, I will definitely be considering it.
With the ThinkPad 8 starting at $399 for the WiFi-only model with 2GB RAM and 64GB storage, users can expect the ThinkPad 10 to start at least $499. Unfortunately, as with most product launches and leaks, official pricing and availability are still unknown.
Stay tuned to PC Perspective for more details on the ThinkPad 10. In the meantime, check out our video of the ThinkPad 8 to get an idea of the aesthetics and performance of the upcoming Windows 8.1 tablet!
Subject: Mobile | May 2, 2014 - 12:06 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, Intel, Clover Trail+, atom z2560, Android
Acer is introducing a new 7-inch tablet due for release in June. The upcoming Iconia One 7 is an Intel-powered tablet running Google's Android 4.2 operating system. It is a budget device that cuts corners on the operating system and hardware so that it can reach a starting price of $129.99.
The Iconia One 7 tablet will be available in black, blue, red, pink, and white, and features a 7-inch IPS display with a 16:10 resolution of 1280x800, a 5 megapixel rear camera, and a 0.3 megapixel webcam. The tablet has rounded corners and edges (especially on the back panel).
Internally, Acer has chosen to use a dual core SoC based on Intel's previous generation Clover Trail+ architecture (2-wide, in order cores that support Hyper Threading). The chip features two CPU cores clocked at 1.6 GHz, 1 MB of cache, and a PowerVR SGX544 GPU. THe chip is paired with 1GB of system RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of internal flash storage. The internal storage can be expanded with up to a 32GB microSD card. The tablet is powered by a 3,700 mAh battery.
The tablet hardware is reportedly compatible with Android 4.4, but Acer has yet to outline an upgrade path.
Acer has obviously cut corners here, both on the hardware and software. However, these sacrifices have allowed the company to offer up a tablet at a base price of $129.99. It will not be the fastest device, but it should be a good-enough web browsing and reading tablet for those that prefer the portable 7-inch form factor. (Personally, I would have liked to see a Bay Trail-powered variant at a slightly higher price point.) The Iconia One 7 will be available in Africa, Europe, and the Middle East by the middle of this month and will hit US shores in June.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | April 30, 2014 - 07:06 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Intel, clover trail, Bay Trail, arm, Android
While we are still waiting for those mysterious Intel Bay Trail based Android tablets to find their way into our hands, we met with ARM today to discuss quite few varying topics. One of them centered around the cost of binary translation - the requirement to convert application code compiled for one architecture and running it after conversion on a different architecture. In this case, running native ARMv7 Android applications on an x86 platform like Bay Trail from Intel.
Based on results presented by ARM, so take everything here in that light, more than 50% of the top 250 applications in the Android Play Store require binary translation to run. 23-30% have been compiled to x86 natively, 20-21% run through Dalvik and the rest have more severe compatibility concerns. That paints a picture of the current state of Android apps and the environment in which Intel is working while attempting to release Android tablets this spring.
Performance of these binary translated applications will be lower than they would be natively, as you would expect, but to what degree? These results, again gathered by ARM, show a 20-40% performance drop in games like Riptide GP2 and Minecraft while also increasing "jank" - a measure of smoothness and stutter found with variances in frame rates. These are applications that exist in a native mode but were tricked into running through binary conversion as well. The insinuation is that we can now forecast what the performance penalty is for applications that don't have a natively compiled version and are forced to run in translation mode.
The result of this is lower battery life as it requires the CPU to draw more power to keep the experience close to nominal. While gaming on battery, which most people do with items like the Galaxy Tab 3 used for testing, a 20-35% decrease in game time will hurt Intel's ability to stand up to the best ARM designs on the market.
Other downsides to this binary translation include longer load times for applications, lower frame rates and longer execution time. Of course, the Galaxy Tab 3 10.1 is based on Intel's Atom Z2560 SoC, a somewhat older Clover Trail+ design. That is the most modern currently available Android platform from Intel as we are still awaiting Bay Trail units. This also explains why ARM did not do any direct performance comparisons to any devices from its partners. All of these results were comparing Intel in its two execution modes: native and translated.
Without a platform based on Bay Trail to look at and test, we of course have to use the results that ARM presented as a placeholder at best. It is possible that Intel's performance is high enough with Silvermont that it makes up for these binary translation headaches for as long as necessary to see x86 more ubiquitous. And in fairness, we have seen many demonstrations from Intel directly that show the advantage of performance and power efficiency going in the other direction - in Intel's favor. This kind of debate requires some more in-person analysis with hardware in our hands soon and with a larger collection of popular applications.
More from our visit with ARM soon!
Subject: Mobile | April 28, 2014 - 04:52 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: msi, gs70, stealth
Back during CES we saw several teasers showing off the MSI GS70 STEALTH gaming laptop and now we finally have a review thanks to Hardware Secrets. The insane specs of this machine mean that the power cord is rated at 120W although at a hair under 6lbs it is surprisingly light. If you can afford the price tag this is a serious contender for the most powerful gaming laptop currently available, barring some that have opted for SLI graphics.
"The MSI GS70 STEALTH is a gaming laptop computer with a fourth-generation Core i7-4700HQ processor, 16 GiB of RAM, 17" Full HD screen, two SSD units in RAID 0, a GeForce GTX 765M video card, high-end Gigabit Ethernet and Wi-Fi controllers, and much more. Let's analyze this powerful machine."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Dell XPS 12 2-in-1 Ultrabook @ Kitguru
- Dell XPS 15 @ The Inquirer
- MSI GE60 2PE Apache Pro 15.6in gaming notebook @ Kitguru
- Acer Chromebook C720 SSD Upgrade To MyDigitalSSD M.2 (NGFF) 128GB SSD – Worlds Easiest Upgrade @ The SSD Review
- Enermax TwisterOdio 16 CP-008 Notebook Cooling Pad Review @HiTech Legion
- Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet @ The Inquirer
- Gigabyte Tegra Note 7 @ Legion Hardware
- S5 vs Nexus 5: Touchwiz vs vanilla Android 4.4 Kitkat @ The Inquirer
- HTC One M8 Smartphone Performance Review @ Legit Reviews
- HTC One M8 @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | April 27, 2014 - 03:30 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, sheild, shield 2, AnTuTu
VR-Zone is claiming that this is the successor to NVIDIA's SHIELD portable gaming system. An AnTuTu benchmark was found for a device called, "NVIDIA test model(SHIELD)" with an "NVIDIA Gefroce(Kepler Graphics)" GPU, typos left as-is. My gut expects that it is valid, but I hesitate to vouch the rumor. If it even came from NVIDIA, which the improper spelling and capitalization of "GeForce" calls into question, it could easily be an internal prototype and maybe even incorrectly given the "SHIELD" (which is properly spelled and capitalized) label.
Image Credit: AnTuTu.com
As far as its camera listing, it would make sense for the SHIELD to get one at standard definition (0.3MP -- probably 640x480). The fact that the original SHIELD shipped without any, at all, still confuses me. The low resolution sensor still does not make sense, seeming like an almost pointless upgrade, but it could be used by NVIDIA for a specific application or built-in purpose.
Or, it could be an irrelevant benchmark listing.
Either way, there are rumors floating around about a SHIELD 2 being announced at E3 in June. It is unlikely that NVIDIA will give up on the handheld any time soon. Whether that means new hardware, versus more software updates, is anyone's guess. The Tegra K1 would have been a good launching SoC for the SHIELD, however, with its full OpenGL 4.4 and compute support (the hardware supports up to OpenCL 1.2 although driver support will apparently be "based on customer needs". PDF - page 8).
Waiting. Seeing. You know the drill.