Introduction, Design, User Interface
In August of 2011 I reviewed the Acer AC700-1099, one of two Chromebooks available in the North American market. The review was almost entirely negative. The hardware wasn’t great and the operating system was a bit of a mess–capable of only the most basic tasks.
Since then, the small surge of hype that surrounded the Chrome OS release has receded. You could be mistaken for thinking Google has abandoned it, but they haven’t. In typical Google fashion it has been slowly, quietly improved. Performance tweaks have allegedly improved web browsing, a proper file manager has been added and Google has just launched Google Drive, its cloud storage service.
Such enhancements could address a lot of the concerns I had with the Acer rendition. Do they? That’s what we’re here to find out. Let’s start with the basics - what’s inside?
The hardware inside the Samsung Series 5 is nearly identical to what was inside the Acer AC700-1099 that we reviewed late last year. We’re talking an Atom processor that must rely on its own IGP, two gigabytes of RAM and a tiny–but quick–16GB solid state drive.
While the equipment is the same, the pricing has changed. When we reviewed the Acer Chromebook it was $349.99. That has been slashed to $279.99. The Series 5, which used to be priced at $429, is now sold for just $299.
Subject: Graphics Cards, Processors, Mobile | June 1, 2012 - 10:52 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, trinity, Ivy Bridge, Intel, i7-3720QM, diablo iii, APU, amd, a10-4600m
So, apparently PC gamers are big fans of Diablo III, to the tune of 3.5 million copies sold in the first 24 hours. That means there are a lot of people out there looking for information about the performance they can expect on various harware configurations with Diablo III. Since we happened to have the two newest mobile processors and platforms on-hand, and because many people seemed to assume that "just about anything" would be able to play D3, we decided to put it to the test.
In our previous reviews of the AMD Trinity and Intel Ivy Bridge reference systems, the general consensus was that the CPU portion of the chip was better on Intel's side while the GPU portion was still weighted towards the AMD Trinity APU. Both of these CPUs, the A10-4600M and the Core i7-3720QM, are the highest end mobile solutions from both AMD and Intel.
The specifications weren't identical, but again, for a mobile platform, this was the best we could do. With the AMD system only having 4GB of memory compared to the Ivy Bridge system with 8GB, that is one lone "stand out" spec. The Intel HD 4000 graphics offer a noticeable upgrade from the HD 3000 on the Sandy Bridge platform but AMD's new HD 7660G (based on Cayman) also sees performance increase.
We ran our tests at 1366x768 with "high" image quality settings and ran through a section of the early part of the game a few times with FRAPs to get our performance results. We did also run some tests to an external monitor at 1920x1080 with "low" presets and AA disabled - both are reported in the video below. Enjoy!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | June 1, 2012 - 10:24 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: x11, ultrabook, u2442, u2440, notebook, gigabyte
Gigabyte, a company mostly known for its motherboard manufacturing, has announced a new lineup of small and lightweight notebooks. Among the new systems are the X11, U2442, and U2440 notebooks. Running Windows 7 and powered by Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processors, the ultra-portables pack plenty of power.
The X11 is an ultra-lightweight 11.6” notebook at 975 grams and .3cm at it’s thinnest point (1.65cm at its thickest point). Constructed of carbon fiber, it was built using a woven diamond technique that resulted in it being lightweight while maintaining rigidity. It is powered by an Intel Ivy Bridge processor and 128GB SSD. It further comes with USB 3.0 and Bluethooth 4.0 connections. A 16:9 LED backlit display connected via an aluminum hinge is another feature of this laptop. Intel’s Rapid Start and Anti-Theft technologies and a Smart Recovery system are also built in.
For those that require dedicated graphics, Gigabyte has also launched a 14” notebook with NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M or GT 640M graphics cards. The U2442 weighs in at 1.57kg and ranges in thickness from 18.5-21mm. The computer also uses Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors, but the larger form factor has allowed Gigabyte to give the notebook a dual vent design for the GPU and CPU respectively. It also comes with a 1600x900 LED backlit display, backlit keyboard, and THX TruStudio Pro audio technology. The U2442 notebook further has a 128GB mSATA SSD paired with a 750GB hard drive as well as WiFi, USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4.0, and HDMI 1.4 connectivity. The “Champagne Gold” colored cover has a brushed aluminum texture that looks nice as well. No carbon fiber here, but it does look to be all aluminum.
Finally, the U2440 is designed to be less powerful–but more portable–than the U2442. This 14” notebook comes with an Intel Ivy Bridge processor, NVIDIA GeForce 630M graphics card, optical disc drive, 1TB mechanical hard drive, and a mSATA slot for SSD upgrades. The system has taken a downgrade on display resolution versus the U2442 with only 1366x768 pixels. It supports up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, 802.11n WiFi, and a 1.3 megapixel webcam. Further, the U2440 has 1 USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, VGA, HDMI, RJ45, microphone input, and headphone output ports. The U2440 comes in a dark gray colored chassis with a brushed aluminum texture on the notebook lid.
As far as pricing and availability, the X11 carbon fiber notebook will be available in July with street prices ranging from $999 to $1299 USD. The U2442 will also retail for between $999 and $1299 USD, but it will be available sooner–towards the middle of June. The U2440 isn’t as light as the X11, or as powerful as the U2442 but it has both of those systems beat on price. The U2440 will have street pricing that starts at $699 USD before tax and will be available for purchase at the end of June.
They seem like interesting systems, and they look nice as well. What do you guys think of the Gigabyte notebooks?
Introduction, Product Specifications And Line-Up
Earlier this year I penned an editorial about ultrabooks. It wasn’t all that nice. I pointed out that they are slow, that they require design sacrifices that not everyone will enjoy and that ultraportables often provide a better experience at the same price or lower.
Since then I’ve also discovered, through various reviews, that ultrabooks so far have not shown any battery life advantage over ultraportables. The advantage of a low-voltage processor is consistently negated by the smaller batteries squeezed into Intel’s thin form-factor.
I’m not on the bandwagon. This, however, should not come as a surprise. It’s exceedingly rare for a company, even of Intel’s size, to knock a new product out of the park on its first try. The models that released so far were decent products in some ways, but they were also the hardware equivalent of a beta. Intel and laptop manufacturers are now responding to what they’ve discovered.
This brings us to Ivy Bridge. As I noted in my Ivy Bridge for mobile review, Intel’s architectural update seems to be more exciting for laptops than for desktops. The Core i7-3720QM we received in our Ivy Bridge reference laptop was a beast, easily defeating all previous processor benchmarks and also posting surprisingly good results in gaming tests. Despite this, battery life seemed to at least remain the same.
Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 29, 2012 - 11:33 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: z2670, windows 8, dell, clover trail, atom
In a leaked slide posted by Neowin.net, details of Dell's upcoming Latitude 10 tablet are coming to light, including hardware specifications like the Intel Atom Z2670 "Clover Trail" SoC.
This 10.1-in Windows 8 based tablet will include a 1366x768 display with a capacitive multi-touch screen and an optional stylus accessory. Weighing in at just over 1.5 pounds, the Latitude 10 is just slightly heavier than the latest generation of iPad (1.46 pounds).
Intel's upcoming Atom processor, the Z2670, will be at the core of the design and will be based on the "Clover Trail" design, a slightly faster and updated version of "Medfield" we have seen implemented on mobile phones early in 2012. With dual-cores capable of HyperThreading, and the ability to enter into "Burst Mode" which offers "quick bursts of extra performance when called upon", the Atom Z2670 should be capable of presenting a reasonable Windows 8 experience.
Other specifications include 2 GB of DDR2-800 lower power memory, up to a 128 GB SSD, 2 and 4 cell swappable batteries and front plus rear facing cameras.
With Computex 2012 right around the corner in Taipei, Taiwan, we expect to see quite a few more tablets and hybrid machines based on Windows 8 including Intel Atom-powered devices as well as ARM-based devices running Windows 8 RT.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | May 26, 2012 - 03:10 AM | Scott Michaud
ZDNet reports that HP will cut 27,000 jobs over the next two years which represents approximately 8 percent of their global staffing. The company claims that it will take those savings -- which are expected to be slightly over 3 billion dollars -- and re-invest them in research and development.
Yes that is right: 27k as in 27,000 jobs over two years.
CEO Meg Whitman made a statement that over the next couple of years HP will cut around eight percent of their workforce to refocus on research and development. They expect that with their projected cuts they will be able to recover $3-3.5 billion from wages to spend on their research into “cloud and big data” technologies.
Let us hope that they can keep their projected revenue even with the lessened workforce.
So many printers -- but none print money.
And let us just think about the announcement for another second. The expectation is to lay off all those employees over the course of two years to reduce the short-term morale dip.
So instead you have practically all of your employees dust off their resumes in case their Russian roulette chance is not an empty chamber?
Congratulations HP -- you now probably have a company full of paranoid personnel.
Once again the loss of jobs is under 10 percent and thus I hesitate to make any guesses about the health of HP as a company. My general rule of thumb is that you can very loosely tell how bad a company is off depending on how many employees they lay off percentage wise. Up to approximately 10 percent is tragic but somewhat standard restructuring for a larger company. Up to 30 percent is seriously hard times. Approximately 100 percent means the company is either attempting to reboot or get picked apart for liquidation.
Again, that is just my rule of thumb when I look at these stories.
Subject: Mobile | May 25, 2012 - 06:16 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: zenbook, ux32vd, ultrabook, optimus, gt 620m, asus
The lucky dogs at The Verge got their hands on a sexy new Ultrabook coming from ASUS very soon while attending the NVIDIA investors day this week. The Zenbook Prime UX32VD will feature a 13-in 1920x1080 resolution IPS display in addition to the discrete NVIDIA GeForce GT 620M Kepler-based GPU. Optimus Technology will obviously be included in order to allow the GPU to completely power off when you aren't gaming or taking advantage of it for the best battery life the platform can muster.
The word is that it will ship with a Core i5 ULV Ivy Bridge processor and be priced somewhere around $1299. The shape of the UX32VD is just slightly different than that of the current wave of Zenbooks, with a "bit of a chin" according to The Verge's Sean Hollister. ASUS' upcoming machine will include three USB 3.0 ports, a memory card reader, HDMI, mini-DisplayPort and an audio jack for a fairly complete connectivity suite.
You can see many more photos of the Zenbook Prime UX32VD at The Verge's gallery.
With discrete GPUs being heavily pushed by NVIDIA, even on Ultrabook designs, we are very eager to see what all the major notebook vendors are able to come up with for Computex next month.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 25, 2012 - 03:54 PM | Scott Michaud
A source for Pocket-Lint claims that Facebook is looking to purchase Opera for a branded web browser. There is still question about whether Opera wants to sell or whether Facebook is able to muscle market share away from Google, Firefox, and Microsoft.
I, personally, find this rumor quite difficult to believe.
I could see Facebook being able to push a web browser -- they have the money and the user-base -- and I could see the deal but not expect it. Facebook would need to push for a web browser and Opera would need to sell.
That said, with what goes on Facebook -- all we would need is Tide ads.
The main reason why this news sounds fictitious is because it occurred so close to the IPO. Going public would not contribute to the ability or desire for Facebook to acquire Opera. If it would not contribute to the acquisition then it is easy to assume it contributed to the rumor…
It is also unclear whether the source suggests that Facebook would like to purchase Opera and/or whether Opera would like to be purchased by Facebook.
I could see Facebook desiring to own a browser but this whole rumor does not smell right. Facebook is still quite good friends with Microsoft and I would expect that getting further involved in the Internet Explorer market share would be more desirable for the time being.
Subject: Mobile | May 24, 2012 - 08:05 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: wayne, tegra 3, tegra, nvidia, LTE, icera, grey
In the middle of 2011, NVIDIA acquired a small company by the name of Icera, a maker of baseband and RF technologies that would eventually allow the company to integrate the two into a single chip. As LTE-capable devices from Verizon, AT&T and even Sprint have been announced and ship, no NVIDIA Tegra-powered phone or tablet has been able to support the feature with the lone exception of the ZTE Mimosa X in February of this year.
Today NVIDIA officially announced support and validation from AT&T on their new and growing LTE network for the Icera 410 LTE multimode chipset. This will finally allow Tegra + LTE devices to be sold and available in the US and other markets when product manufacturers integrate the two processors in future designs.
As to when we will see those designs, we aren't quite sure but nothing was announced during the NVIDIA investors day today. All we know now is that they will be coming "through this year and next."
“Validation with AT&T is an achievement that paves the way for NVIDIA Icera-powered LTE devices on the AT&T network through this year and next,” said Stan Boland, senior vice president of Mobile Communications at NVIDIA.
The NVIDIA Icera 410 LTE modem delivers lightning-fast web browsing, video streaming and multiplayer gaming to tablets and clamshell devices. It is the first Icera modem to implement 4G LTE in NVIDIA’s software defined radio baseband processor. Together with its multimode radio transceiver, the chipset offers 4G LTE at category 2 data rates (up to 50 Mbps) as well as 4G HSPA+, 3G and 2G compatibility.
What we DID learn at the NVIDIA investors meeting is that Mike Rayfield, GM of Tegra business unit, things we'll see as many as 30 Tegra 3 based devices for sale this year.
NVIDIA has 30 devices planned for the year. So far, we've seen just two. Of those 30 devices, some 15 will be planned for sub-$200 pricing. That's certainly the sweet spot for impulse purchases.
NVIDIA's also looking to make inroads into the Chinese market, with 18 of those 30 tablets targeted for the Asian nation. By comparison, NVIDIA only released five devices in China in 2011, Rayfield said.
The big name to know for the rest of the year is Kai. That's the low-cost, high-performance system that NVIDIA is crowing about these days, and it's what will help bring prices down while keeping prices at a more affordable level. Will there be higher-performing tablets? Sure. But will they be $200?
Producing a number of devices, like 30, is impressive but without context the fact means very little. How many of these devices are going to tablets and how many are phones? How many will be running the Microsoft Win RT operating system for ARM due out in fall?
Speaking of Icera though, NVIDIA also showed the roadmap for LTE integration including the upcoming Icera i500 LTE controller for high-end phones and tablets with newly planned integration directly on the Tegra core in a new chip called "Grey". This new processor will run parallel with the planned 2013 release of "Wayne" though it will be targeted at smartphones and lower end tablets; Wayne is planned to find its way into higher end tablets and the onslaught of clamshells we'll see with Windows RT.
There is a lot more to learn and we expect see more news come our way as we approach Computex in Taipei!
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | May 24, 2012 - 06:01 PM | Scott Michaud
Intel has released a report about their environmental efforts in terms of manufacturing efficiency, waste, and the efficiency of their products themselves. Their 2020 mobile and data center product line is expected to use 25-fold less power than their 2010 product line. Intel is hoping to use less water and consume 1.4 TWh less energy between 2012 and 2015 in their manufacturing with no chemical waste to landfill by 2020.
It is not easy been green.
… But, especially now, Intel can afford to try.
The chip manufacturer has set some goals for themselves to decrease their impact on the environment. These plans were published in their 2011 Corporate Responsibility Report (pdf), released last week. The plan highlights goals extending out as far as 2020.
It would seem that for Intel foresight is also 2020.
Yes, those puns were terrible, I admit it.
One of the forefront issues raised is alterations to their supply chain. Their raw materials have been addressed -- not just for eco-friendliness -- but also for human rights violations. By the end of 2012 Intel intends to validate that all tantalum would be “conflict-free” with the other three minerals verified by the end of 2013.
On the topic of environmental impact Intel is also intending on reducing their electrical and water usage at their manufacturing plants. A total of 1.4 TWh of energy is expected to be reduced from 2012 through 2015. Intel is also lauding their solar initiatives although they fell short of committing to any specific future endeavors in clean energy in this report.
Lastly, Intel claims that their mobile and data center products will consume 25-fold less power than their 2010 counterparts. Obviously such a statement falls more under gloating than a vow to promote sustainability but it is respectable none-the-less.