I often think of ASUS as the PC’s answer to Apple. Their products are not up to Apple’s rigorous engineering, nor is the customer service as accessible, but ASUS does offer a number of products that were obviously designed to meet a set of high standards. I’ve always enjoyed the company’s G-Series gaming laptops, ultraportables like the U33 Bamboo and high-end multimedia laptops like the N53 and N56.
The original Zenbook didn’t impress me, however. PC Perspective never reviewed it, but I did have some hands-on time with one courtesy of Intel’s CES 2012 ultrabook giveaway. The build quality wasn’t great, the touchpad was quite poor and the overall look and feel proved a bit tacky (the cursive lettering below the display panel being the most obvious example).
ASUS has now followed up the original Zenbook with the new Zenbook Prime. There are a couple of different variants. We received the 13-inch UX31A which come equipped with the 1080p IPS display panel. As for the rest? Well, see below.
This is one well equipped ultrabook, which explains why it comes with a nearly $1500 price tag. You don’t have to spend that much, however. The basic Zenbook Prime, which still has the IPS display but downgrades to a Core i5, is $999 on Amazon.
Does the flagship of ASUS design deliver the goods? Let’s find out.
Lenovo has become an important player in the mainstream laptop market. Five years ago the offerings from Lenovo were not great, but today the IdeaPad line has matured. This has been reflected in Lenovo’s growth. The company has posted gains in global market share over the last few years.
In this review we’re looking at the Z580, a laptop that’s smack dab in the middle of the company’s IdeaPad brand. It’s a 15.6” laptop that starts at $469 but can be optioned to around $900. Our review unit is a well configured version which includes an Intel Core i5-3210M processor. Lenovo’s website prices it out at a cool $599.
What else will six Benjamin Franklins buy you? Let’s take a look.
The $600 price point is important. Studies of the laptop market have consistently shown that the average price of a new laptop hovers around $600 (much to the dismay of manufacturers, who’d rather people spent more).
This market is extremely completive as a result. If you want a portable laptop with an IPS display you don’t have many options, but consumers who want a powerful and competent laptop for $600 have a buffet to choose from. Can the Z580 make room for itself in this crowd?
Subject: Mobile | August 24, 2012 - 06:41 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows phone 8, smartphone, nokia, microsoft
While Windows 8 on the desktop (and ARM devices) have occupied much of the spotlight for Microsoft’s products, it is not the only Windows 8 product coming out soon. Namely, the mobile variant that is Windows Phone 8 is set to officially release later this year. In line with, and suggesting a release day, the launch are leaked details on two Nokia smartphones that will run the next-generation Microsoft mobile operating system.
According to sources in the know, Nokia is planning to launch two new smartphones under its Lumia brand during a media event in NYC on September 5th 2012. As the event will see both Nokia and Microsoft on stage, the September 5th date seems very likely to be the official Windows Phone 8 debut. On the Nokia side of things specifically, the company plans to launch both a mid-range handset as well as the Windows Phone 8 flagship smartphone. The Nokia mobile devices are currently known by their code names of “Arrow” and “Phi” respectively. While specifications on the mid-range handset are unknown, the flagship Phi smartphone will reportedly feature similar design aesthetics to the company’s other Lumia-series smartphones–including a curved glass display and polycarbonate body.
The Phi will be an AT&T exclusive device while the Arrow will be available on both AT&T and T-Mobile. Interestingly, if the rumors hold true Verizon will not have a launch WP8 device. It will see a tweaked version of the mid-range Arrow codenamed Atlas but it is not going to launch with the other two Nokia devices.
Image credit: CNET.
Windows Phone 8 improves on hardware support, adds features, and tweaks the software interface to be more user friendly. Some of the more interesting new features include a shared codebase with Windows 8 RT and Windows 8 (x86-64) where only minor tweaks will be necessary to deploy “Metro” Modern UI apps to phones, tablets, and desktops. Further, hardware requirements have been upgraded to support 720p or 1280x768 (WXGA) displays, NFC (Near Field Communication. Think RFID but at shorter distances (and some other differences)), multi-core processors, and the inclusion of SD card slots.
On the software side of things, Windows Phone 8 will integrate the licensed map technology from Nokia and will feature a new Start Screen that allows changing tile size (small, medium, large) and ditches the navigational cue arrow. Nokia does seem to have some decent map technology from what I've used of it, so I'm glad Microsoft is taking advantage of the close relationship between itself and Nokia to get a licensing agreement going (and here's hoping Nokia is making some money off of it, they could always use the boost).
Unfortunately there is no pricing information or clues as to whether the two smartphones will actually be purchasable on announcement day. I guess we will all find out on September 5th!
In spite of the controversy surrounding the Modern UI on the desktop, Windows Phone 8 is looking to be a solid improvement over WP7 and it seems that Microsoft is moving in the right direction. Questions remain on whether or not it will be enough to take on the Google Android and Apple IOS juggernauts, however. Tizen and Firefox OS are going to have a harder time breaking into the market thanks to WP8, however.
That’s just my opinion and bit of speculation, however. What do you think? Will Nokia and Microsoft see better sales and increased adoption with Windows Phone 8 and Nokia’s second try at a smartphone running Microsoft’s OS? Will you be considering an upgrade or switch over to WP8?
Read more Windows Phone coverage using the Windows Phone 8 tag.
Subject: Mobile | August 22, 2012 - 12:51 AM | Matt Smith
Tagged: touchpad, synaptics, notebook, laptop, keyboard
The march towards thinner laptops has challenged computer manufacturers in a number of ways. When designing a laptop that’s just three-quarters of an inch thin or thinner, everything matters. Even the size of thickness of a keyboard or touchpad makes a big difference.
Synaptics is responding to these design realities with the introduction of new user interfaces. One is the ForcePad, a new type of touchpad that is capable of measuring the precise amount of force the user inputs. This makes it possible to drop physical left/right mouse buttons entirely, reducing maximum thickness from 5mm to 3mm. It also provides additional input which can be harnessed by software for precise control.
The company is also introducing a new keyboard design called ThinTouch. This keyboard redesigns (or rather, eliminates) the keyboard switch to reduce overall thickness by 30 to 50 percent without sacrificing an optional backlight. The keyboard is also force sensitive, which means that users can activate alternate characters by pressing harder instead of using the Shift key.
Both new technologies are interesting, though also potentially problematic. Of concern is the lack of key travel in the ThinTouch design, which is evident in the picture above. There’s little movement in the key, which makes me wonder what typing on this keyboard is like. I’d wager it’s not the best experience. I find it very odd that a company responsible for designing user interface elements for a laptop would seek to reduce one of the laptop’s most noticeable advantages over a tablet – a tactile keyboard.
With that said, I'm sure these devices will make their way to ultrabooks in short order. Reducing the size of the keyboard and touchpad will allow for a larger battery and/or better cooling. The battery life increase will be of particular use to OEMs, who see battery life as a nice, easy figure that can be used in marketing materials. A better battery can be explained with a handful of words. Explaining a better keyboard takes more time.
No release dates or launch products have been detailed yet. We'll probably hear more at CES 2013.
Subject: Mobile | August 21, 2012 - 04:00 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: tegra 3, Samsung, nvidia, Exynos 4412, cortex-a9, arm
The participants in this System on a Chip showdown both bear long names, on one side is NVIDIA's Tegra 3 ARM SoC and on the other the ODROID-X Samsung Exynos 4412 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9. NVIDIA's offering is well known by now but the ODROID-X is a relative newcomer to the market, offering their product for about $130. After setting up Linux on these systems Phoronix got to benchmarking and the results will surprise NVIDIA fans as the ARM based system actually came out on top on quite a few of the tests.
"While not as popular as NVIDIA's Tegra 3 ARM SoC, the Samsung Exynos 4412 quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 found on cheaply priced ODROID-X can actually outperform the quad-core NVIDIA ARM processor. Here are benchmarks of the $129 USD ODROID-X benchmarked against the NVIDIA Tegra 3 reference tablet and a PandaBoard ES running the Texas Instruments OMAP4460."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Asus N56VZ-DS71 Review @ TechReviewSource
- iBuyPower Valkyrie CZ-17 Notebook Review: MSI and iBuyPower Tangle With Alienware @ AnandTech
- Samsung Series 7 NP700Z7C @ AnandTech
- Dell Latitude E6430 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Acer TimelineU M5 Review: A 15-inch, 5lb Ultrabook @ TechSpot
- Zero Halliburton S1 @ Phoronix
- Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 vs Toshiba AT300 review: old versus new @ Hardware.info
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 @ The Inquirer
- Wacom Intuos5 touch Medium Tablet Review @ Techgage
Subject: Mobile | August 13, 2012 - 03:44 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, price cuts, nook tablet, nook
The Nook Tablet is bookseller Barnes & Noble’s answer to the Amazon and Kindle Fire combination. Running a 1GHz TI OMAP 4 dual core processor and 1GB of system RAM, it doubled up on the hardware specifications of the Amazon Kindle Fire competition. The Nook tablet further sports a 1024x600 resolution IPS display. With that said, it is rather dated compared to the newly announced Nexus 7 tablet from Google (it has been around since November). The Nexus 7 is packing a NVIDIA Tegra 3 SoC, 1GB of RAM, and a 1280x800 IPS display.
As a result, the 7” tablet space is heating up, and with that come price cuts. According to Maximum PC, the entire family of Nook devices will be getting price cuts. The Nook Color–previously sold for $169–is now listed for $149. Also, the 8GB and 16GB versions of the Nook Tablet have reduced prices of 10% and 20% respectively. This results in an 8GB Nook Tablet for $179 and a 16GB Nook Tablet for $199. The 16GB Nook Tablet is now up against the 8GB Nexus 7, whereas it was previously priced against the 16GB Nexus 7 at $249. Essentially you get twice the flash storage at the same price (16GB Nook, 8GB Nexus 7), but getting that user storage will cost you time (as you need to repartition the internal storage on the Nook Tablet) and the internal hardware is not as fast.
Nook Family Price Cuts:
|Old Price||New Price|
|Nook Tablet 8GB||$199||$179|
|Nook Tablet 16GB||$249||$199|
Still, the price cuts are a positive thing, and if you just want an eReader for reading and organizing your digital B&N library, you can now get one for a bit less money. On the other hand, if you are not already heavily invested in the Barnes & Noble ecosystem, the competition in the 7” tablet space is really heating up. The Nexus 7 has received positive reviews from reviewers, and it brings decent hardware at an attractive price point. Further, with rumors of an updated Kindle tablet, Barnes & Noble has to do something to keep ahead of customers considering the competition before they are hooked on the B&N ecosystem (heh).
As a result, it seems the company has chosen to give its current Nook Tablet lineup some price cuts to try and stay relevant. This is mostly speculation of course, but it does seem to be a reasonable explanation for the price cuts.
What do you think of the Nook Tablet price cuts, is it enough to keep Barnes & Noble in the 7” tablet game?
Subject: Mobile | August 12, 2012 - 11:25 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: windows rt, Windows 8 Pro, windows 8, Thinkpad, tegra 3, tablet, slate, Lenovo
Earlier this year Microsoft unveils its plans for Windows 8 and its self-designed Surface tablets. Most machines will come with the full version of Windows 8, but some OEMs will be shipping ARM-powered mobile devices with the stripped-down Windows RT version. Microsoft is further delving into the hardware game by designing its own hardware with the Surface tablet and accessories. It will come in two versions, one with an ARM processor and Windows RT and another with an Intel Core i5 processor and Windows 8 Pro.
According to several leaks around the web throughout the week, Lenovo is taking the Surface to heart and planning its own two-pronged approach. The Lenovo ThinkPad 2 will be running Windows Pro with an x86-64 processor while the Windows RT version will be packing an NVIDIA Tegra 3 SoC.
Unfortunately, there are essentially no other specifics to the rumor other than sources for the Wall Street Journal confirming its existence and that it will be of the convertible tablet form factor.
The Verge got hands-on with the ThinkPad 2 tablet. A keyboard, touchscreen, stylus, and pointing stick... input options abound!
On the other hand, there is a lot more meat to the ThinkPad 2 rumors, and it looks like a nice lightweight mobile workhorse. Allegedly the ThinkPad 2 is being developed as a “joint effort” with Intel and Microsoft. It weighs in at 1.3 pounds, is 9.8mm thick, and holds a 10.1-inch 1366x768 display. Running a full version of Windows 8, the ThinkPad 2 tablet is powered by an Intel Atom processor. Other features include an 8 megapixel and 2 megapixel camera on the back and front respectively as well as micro-HDMI port, fingerprint reader, and stylus. NFC and Wi-Fi are also very likely to be included, and a 3G/4G cellular radio will be an optional add-on. A separate keyboard accessory will allow users to dock the tablet and have access to a full keyboard with pointing stick. Alternatively, there is a dock attachment that adds an HDMI output, Ethernet jack, and three USB ports.
With the release of Windows 8 on October 26 official, it is likely that the two Lenovo ThinkPad tablets will be launched on–or shortly after–that date (the RT version might be delayed more so than the x86 tablet if I had to guess). No word yet on pricing, but here’s hoping that the prices are competitive with the Surface counterparts.
It is not promising to see Lenovo going with Atom of all things for the x86-64 version, but that may just mean it will be one of the lower-cost tablets able to run the full version of Windows 8. As a fan of ThinkPads and styluses (styli?), I shall try to remain open minded until reviews come out with some benchmarks showing off the performance–or lack thereof (but remember, trying to stay positive here heh).
You can find more photos of the Intel Atom-powered ThinkPad 2 tablet over at The Verge.
Subject: Mobile | August 10, 2012 - 03:40 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Lenovo, ultrabook, ideapad u410, ideapad u310
Lenovo is offering two levels of their new Ultrabook series, the U410 with a Core i7-3517U, 8 GB DDR3-1333 RAM and a 1GB GeForce 610 while the U310 sports a Core i5 3317U, 4GB DDR3-1600 and relies on the built in HD4000. There is another major difference as well, the U310 may be less powerful but its chassis is more attractive and comes in a variety of colours, making it perfect for those who need a bit of mobile power but not something focused on performance. The lack of a discrete GPU also lowers the price and makes it more affordable for students. Hardware.Info reviewed both of them separately, the U310 here and the more impressive U410 here.
"For the price you get a pretty powerful and well-equipped Ultrabook. Most brands offer a Core i5 at this level, but Lenovo includes an energy-efficient Core i7 and 8 GB memory. And instead of the typical 500 GB hard drive you get a 1 TB version and even a dedicated graphics card by Nvidia. While it's just the GeForce 610, it's still a nice addition."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Acer S5 Ultrabook review: with hidden connectors and Thunderbolt @ Hardware.info
- Sony VAIO Z: 1.15 kg with quad-core and Full HD @ Hardware.info
- HP Envy 4-1030us Review @ TechReviewSource
- Apple MacBook Pro 15-Inch (Mid-2012) Review @ TechReviewSource
- Vizio Thin+Light CT14 Review @ TechReviewSource
- Cooler Master NotePal I100 Laptop Cooler @ Pro-Clockers
- Waterfield Designs Muzetto Leather Notebook Satchel @ PC Stats
- Skifta DLNA Controller Application for Android Devices Review @MissingRemote
- Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 review: high-end tablet without Full HD @ Hardware.info
- ASUS Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700T) Android Tablet Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Google Nexus 7 Tablet Review @ HardwareHeaven
- Acer Iconia Tab A700 @ Techspot
- ASUS Nexus 7 review: the first tablet with Jelly Bean @ Hardware.info
- Nokia 808 Pureview @ The Inquirer
Subject: Mobile | August 10, 2012 - 05:12 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: Samsung, Exynos 5250, exynos 5, dual core arm, cortex a15
A few months back, Samsung debuted its latest Exynos 4 quad core mobile System on a Chip (SoC) based on four Cortex A9 cores. The company recently released details of its next generation Exynos processor, only this time it is a dual core variant. The Samsung Exynos 5 Dual (Exynos 5250) is packing the latest mobile ARM technology with two ARM Cortex A15 CPU cores and a Mali T604 graphics core.
The dual core processor is running at 1.7 GHz and features the NEON fixed function hardware for accelerated video decoding. Further, the Mali T604 GPU is based on ARM’s new Midgard architecture. The T604 includes a unified shader design with support for OpenGL ES 3.0 and the full OpenCL 1.1 profile. Not too shabby for a mobile GPU!
The Exynos 5250 also sees an upgrade (from 6.4 GB/s in the Exynos 4) in memory bandwidth to 12.8 GB/s between the processor and two port LPDDR3 memory at up to 800Mhz. The increased memory bandwidth along with the new–and more powerful–processor and graphics hardware enables Samsung to offer support for much higher resolution displays up to WXQGA or 2560x1600 pixels.
Other features of the new Exynos 5 dual core processor include USB 3.0 support, wireless display support, and a claimed ability to playback 1080p video at 60 FPS using Google’s VP8 video decoder (no word on H.264 performance, though the ARM processor’s NEON hardware should handle those videos well enough). The GPU is also able to allegedly use 20-times less power when displaying a static image (such as a web page or ebook page) called PSR mode.
According to the Android Authority, the first product to be powered by the new Samsung Exynos 5 processor will likely be the company’s upcoming Galaxy Tab 11.6 tablet. Quad core variants of the Exynos 5 should come out following the successful dual core launch.
The Cortex A15-based mobile processor is packing some impressive specifications, and it will be interesting to see Exynos 5-powered devices. Specifically, it will be interesting to see how it stacks up compared to products like NVIDIA’s Tegra 3, TI’s OMAP 5, and even Samsung’s own Exynos 4 quad core SoC. Are you excited about the new dual core SoC?
Subject: Editorial, General Tech, Graphics Cards, Motherboards, Cases and Cooling, Processors, Memory, Systems, Storage, Mobile, Shows and Expos | August 9, 2012 - 10:30 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, workshop, streaming, quakecon, prizes, live, giveaways
It is that time of year again: another installment of the PC Perspective Hardware Workshop! Once again we will be presenting on the main stage at Quakecon 2012 being held in Dallas, TX August 2-5th.
Main Stage - Quakecon 2012
Saturday, August 4th, 2pm CT
Our thanks go out to the organizers of Quakecon for allowing us and our partners to put together a show that we are proud of every year. We love giving back to the community of enthusiasts and gamers that drive us to do what we do! Get ready for 2 hours of prizes, games and raffles and the chances are pretty good that you'll take something out with you - really, they are pretty good!
Our thanks for this year's workshop logo goes to John Pastor!!
Our primary partners at the event are those that threw in for our ability to host the workshop at Quakecon and for the hundreds of shirts we have ready to toss out! Our thanks to NVIDIA, MSI Computer and Corsair!!
If you can't make it to the workshop - don't worry! You can still watch the workshop live on our page right here as we stream it over one of several online services. Just remember this URL: http://pcper.com/workshop and you will find your way!
Case Mod Competition
Along with the Hardware Workshop, PC Perspective is working with Modders Inc on the annual case mod contest! There are two categories for the competition: "Scratch Built" and "In the Box" that will allow those that build their computer enclosures from the ground up to compete separately from those that heavily modify their existing cases and systems.
For more details, be sure to check out the on going thread at the Modders Inc Forums!
Prize List (will continue to grow!)