Battle of the Sixes, they call it
GameBench is a low-level application released in 2014 that attempts to bring the technical analysis and benchmarking capability of the PC to the mobile device. You might remember that I showed you some early results and discussed our use of the GameBench testing capability in my Dell Venue 8 7000 review a few months back; my understanding and practice of using the software was just beginning at that time and continues to grow as I spend time with the software.
The idea is simple yet powerful: GameBench allows Android users, and soon iOS users, the ability to monitor frame rates of nearly any game or 3D application that you can run on your phone or tablet to accurately measure real-world performance. This is similar to what we have done for years on the PC with FRAPS and allows us to gather average frames per second data over time. This is something that was previously unavailable to consumers or press for that matter and could be a very powerful tool for device to device comparisons going forward. The ability to utilize actual games and applications and gather benchmark data that is accurate to consumer experiences, rather than simply synthetic graphics tests that we have been forced to use in the past, will fundamentally change how we test and compare mobile hardware.
Image source: GameBench.net
Today, GameBench itself released a small report meant to showcase some of the kinds of data the software can gather while also revealing early support for Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. Primary competitors for the comparison include the Apple iPhone 6, the Samsung Galaxy S6, HTC One M9 and Motorola Nexus 6. I was able to get an early look at the report and offer some feedback, while sharing with our readers my views on the results.
GameBench tested those four devices in a total of 10 games:
- Asphalt 8: Airborne
- Real Racing 3
- Dead Trigger 2
- Kill Shot
- Modern Combat 5: Blackout
- Boom Beach
- XCOM: Enemy Unknown
- GTA: San Andreas
- Marvel: Contest of Champions
- Monument Valley
These games all vary in price and in play style, but they all are in the top 50 games lists for each platform and are known for their graphically intense settings and look.
Introduction and First Impressions
The ASUS X205 offers the full Windows 8.1 notebook experience for the cost of a Chromebook, and the design offers a surprising amount of polish for the price. Is this $199 Atom-powered notebook a viable solution as a daily driver? We're about to find out.
What do you use a laptop for? A thoughtful answer to this question can be the most important part of the process when selecting your next notebook PC, and if your needs are modest there are a growing number of very low-cost options on the market. For example, I personally do not play games on a laptop, typically alternating between web, email, and Microsoft Office. Thus for myself the most important aspects of a notebook PC become screen quality, keyboard, trackpad, and battery life. High performance is not of utmost importance, and I assure myself of at least speedy load times by always choosing (or installing) a solid-state hard drive. For those reasons when I first read the description and specifications of the ASUS X205 notebook, I took notice.
The X205 is a small notebook with an 11.6” display and 1366x768 resolution, essentially matching the form-factor of Apple's 11.6" MacBook Air. It is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor with 2GB of RAM, and onboard storage is solid-state - though limited to 32GB and of the slower eMMC variety (which is in keeping with many Chromebooks). There is adequate connectivity as well, with the expected wireless card and two USB 2.0 ports. One aspect of this design that intrigued me was the trackpad, which ASUS claims is using "smartphone technology", indicating a touchscreen digitizer implementation. Smoothness and accuracy are the biggest problems I find with most inexpensive notebook trackpads, and if this turns out to be a strong performer it would be a major boon to the X205's overall usability. I opted for the Microsoft Signature Edition of the X205TA, which carries the same $199 retail price but does not come preloaded with any trialware or other junk software.
At the outset this feels like a compelling product simply because it retails for the same price as an average Chromebook, but offers the flexibility of a full Windows 8.1 installation. Granted this is the “Windows 8.1 with Bing” version found on low-cost, low-power devices like this, but it offers the functionality of the standard version. While Chrome OS and Google's productivity apps are great for many people, the ability to install and run Windows applications made this highly preferable to a Chromebook for me. Of course beyond the operating system the overall experience of using the laptop will ultimately decide the viability of this inexpensive product, so without further preamble let's dive right into the X205TA notebook!
Motorola has released an updated version of their low-cost Moto E smartphone for 2015, adding faster hardware and LTE support to an unlocked device with an unsubsidized retail of just $149. In this review we'll examine this new phone to find out if there are any significant limitations given its bargain price.
There has been a trend toward affordability with smartphone pricing that accelerated in 2014 and has continued its pace to start this year. Of course expensive flagships still exist at their $500+ unsubsidized retail prices, but is the advantage of such a device worth the price premium? In most cases a customer in a retail space would be naturally drawn to the more expensive phones on display with their large, sharp screens and thin designs that just look better by comparison. To get the latest and greatest the longstanding $500 - $700 unsubsidized cost of popular smartphones have made 2-year contract pricing a part of life for many, with contract offers and programs allowing users to lease or finance phones positioned as attractive alternatives to the high initial price. And while these high-end options can certainly reward the additional cost, there are rapidly diminishing returns on investment once we venture past the $200 mark with a mobile device. So it’s this bottom $200 of the full-price phone market which is so interesting not just to myself, but to the future of smartphones as they become the commodity devices that the so-called “feature phones” once were.
One of the companies at the forefront of a lower-cost approach to smartphones is Motorola, now independent from Google after Motorola Mobility was sold to Lenovo in October of 2014. A year before the sale Motorola had released a low-cost smartphone called the Moto G, an interesting product which ran stock Android for a fraction of the cost of a Google Play edition or even Nexus device; though it was underpowered with decidedly low-end specs. After a redesign in 2014, however, the 2nd edition Moto G became a much more compelling option, offering a unique combination of low price, respectable hardware, a stock Android experience, and Motorola’s now trademark design language, to a market drowning in bloated MSRPs. There was just one problem: while the 2014 Moto G had solid performance and had (quite importantly) moved larger 5-inch screen with a higher 720x1280 resolution IPS panel, there was still no LTE support. Selling without a contract for just $179 unlocked made the lack of LTE at least understandable, but as carrier technology has matured the prevalence of LTE has made it an essential part of future devices - especially in 2015. Admittedly 3G data speeds are fast enough for many people, but the structure of the modern mobile data plan often leaves that extra speed on the table if one’s device doesn’t support LTE.
Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2015 - 03:33 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Samsung, galaxy s6, Android 5.0
Samsung's new Galaxy S6 is unique in that it has metal sides and Gorilla Glass on both the back and front of the phone. The body is 143x71x6.8mm and it weighs a total of 138g, compared the the iPhone 6 at 138x67x6.9mm and 129g. The screen is 2560x1440, a density of 577PPI which compares favourably to the iPhone's 1334x750 at 326 PPI. The Inquirer was impressed by the quality of the screen as well as the colour calibration that they felt was significantly better than on the S5. As far as performance, the phone was tested by playing three hours of XCOM and it did so without stuttering or becoming uncomfortably warm. They tested the non-removable battery by looping a video, which the phone could manage for just over eight hours, slightly better than the competition though they lose the benefit of battery swapping thanks to the new design. Check out the images taken with the new camera and answers to other specific questions in their full review.
"Aware of customers' and reviewers' complaints, Samsung made a sweep of reforms in its smartphone division and "went back to the drawing board" with the 2015 Galaxy S6."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Asus ZenFone 5 LTE @ Kitguru
- Blackview Omega Smartphone Review @ Madshrimps
- Adam Elements Bella Power 6000mAh Portable Power Bank Review @ NikKTech
- XMG A505 Gaming Laptop @ HardwareHeaven
- Razer Blade Pro @ Kitguru
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.