Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 04:26 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: asus, smartwatch, zenwatch
The ASUS ZenWatch is their "first wearable device produced in partnership with Google". It is a smart watch from the Android Wear platform. It has a curved glass display of unknown resolution, a leather strap, and a "quick-release clasp". It ships with numerous faces... because it's software and it is basically free after you pay the designer, especially with the price of storage these days. It requires a phone with Android 4.3 or later.
ASUS has customized the user interface with their ZenUI. Its main usability features either interact with your phone or track your fitness activity. It acts as a pedometer, calorie counter, heart rate monitor, and fitness goal tracker. Each of these are integrated around their ZenUI.
ASUS has not publicly announced pricing or availability. According to VR-Zone, ASUS representatives state "under $200". This is significantly less than Apple's "starting at $349".
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 10, 2014 - 03:59 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: sdk, logitech g, logitech, arx control
The Arx platform is created by Logitech G to deliver "second screen experience" to PC gamers through their iOS or Android devices. Arx Control will have the ability to adjust your mouse DPI, rebind macros, and see the status of their gaming machine. Logitech did not specify the system information that would be given by app, but it does not matter in the end because they are releasing an SDK for it.
The Arx Control SDK, along with the LED Illumination SDK and the G-Key Macro SDK, will allow game and application developers to interact with "Logitech G" devices and the Arx Control app. This could range from providing ammo meters and timers, to offers of in-app purchases. That last point is clearly aimed more at developers than customers because that sounds really scary to me. Then again, it can be done correctly -- such as Team Fortress 2, in my opinion.
What could be cool is if a friend, watching you play, could contribute to the gameplay in some way. Then again, if a developer wanted to put that much effort, they could probably create a mobile web app. This is probably more useful for small things, like the aforementioned ammo and health status indicators, that would otherwise not be worth a developer's effort, without Logitech's platform.
The Logitech G Arx Control SDK is available now for free and the Arx Control App will be available soon on the iOS App Store and Google Play.
Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 08:38 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: x86, VIA, centaur technologies
In early July, we reported on VIA's Centaur Technology division getting a new website. At the time, we anticipated that it would coincide with an announcement about Isaiah II, their rumored to be upcoming x86-based SoC (maybe even compatible with ARM, too).
Fifty-one days later, on August 31st, 2014, we came back at quarter-to-four EDT and let the website run its course, refreshing occasionally. 4 PM hit and... the counter stayed at 0 days, 0 hours, 0 minutes, and 0 seconds. Okay, I said. For about an hour, I refreshed occasionally because things could have happened on Labour Day weekend. I, then, came back late in the evening, and the day after. I next thought about it the week after, at which point the website was updated... with a timer that expires on September 30th, 2014.
So by the end of the month, we may find out what Centaur is trying to announce. I am a little less confident in the breadth of the announcement, given that the company waited for the timer to lapse before correcting their mistake. I would expect that if their big announcement, like a new SoC, were to hold up the launch, the company would have known ahead of time. At the moment, it sounds like a typical website redesign which got delayed.
I will hopefully be pleasantly surprised come the end of the month.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 05:51 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: apple, smartwatch, ios
After Apple announced the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and Apple Pay, they unveiled their smart watch project: the Apple Watch. Technically, they actually announced three families, the Apple Watch, the Apple Watch Sport, and the Apple Watch Edition, with a combined total of 34 different models. They will launch early next year with a base price of $349. About half of the 34 models are a few millimeters smaller, 38mm vs 42mm, although both are unisex.
The main feature is its "Digital Crown". It is basically a mouse wheel which can be clicked as a Home button. This wheel can be adjusted to zoom in, adjust meters, and so forth (like a mouse wheel). Below the "Crown" is a Contacts button which, well, brings up your contacts. It has a touchscreen with force sensors, to differentiate between touch and press. The screen also provides haptic feedback for tactile sensations, which actually interests me (in terms of what developers learning what it can do if it is accessible).
Apple Watch Sport
Each model charges with a magnetic attachment on the back, although battery life is not described. I would be surprised if it was anything less than a full, woken day, but it is possible that it will not stay awake as long as you are. We just do not know at this point. This is probably the best reason to wait for a review before purchasing, if you have any level of interest. That could easily be a deal breaker.
Apple Watch Edition
The watches are all basically the same from a technological standpoint. Every model, besides the Apple Watch Sport, has a Sapphire-protected screen (the Sport uses "Ion-X glass" which we currently know nothing about). The bands are replaceable via a button latch on the back, allowing the strap to slide off of the face. The "Watch Edition" (that name...) is created from 18-karat gold. Specifically, "Each has a watch case crafted from 18-karat gold that our metallurgists have developed to be up to twice as hard as standard gold". Yes Apple, because gold is a soft metal... but I digress.
The Apple Watch will arrive in early 2015 and will start at $349. It is currently not certified by the FCC, although I am sure that the major tech blogs will announce when that happens. It requires iPhone 5 (or later).
Subject: Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 03:45 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: mobile gpu, mobile cpu, mobile, iphone 6 plus, iphone 6, iphone, apple, 5.5, 4.7
Today Apple finally catches up with the current smartphone industry as they announce not just a new iPhone, but two new phones - both with much larger screens.
Image credit: Apple, Inc.
In 2007 Steve Jobs proclaimed that the just-announced iPhone was five years ahead of the competition. In many ways, he was correct - though by 2012 the market had more than caught up. In fact, Apple was behind when they announced the 4-inch iPhone 5, which managed to tick the larger-screen checkbox by simply increasing the vertical resolution by 100 pixels or so. In the area of the "phablet" the iterative refresh that followed in 2013 was hardly news, and Samsung, LG, and HTC busied themselves with larger, higher-resolution offerings that made the iPhone look tiny in comparison.
Image credit: The Verge
The new iPhone 6 features a smooth (and widely leaked) design with a thin profile and rounded corners, and the expected 4.7-inch screen. However this screen is a disappointing (and very odd) 1334x750 resolution. Contrast the Nexus 5’s 4.95-inch 1080p screen, which represents what has simply become an industry standard for smartphones in the 5-inch range.
But the bigger news here (literally) is the announcement of the iPhone 6 Plus. This 5.5-inch phone has a full 1920x1080 resolution, and there are UI tweaks to iOS 8 that are only enabled on this larger version, such as an expanded landscape keyboard and horizontal home screen. The Plus also features a better camera than its 4.7-inch sibling, with optical image stabilization (OIS) implemented along with the same new image sensor.
Speaking of the image sensor, which is “all-new” according to Apple, the next-gen 8 MP iSight camera has same 1.5(micron) pixel size as before, f/2.2 aperture. True Tone flash returns, and the new camera also boasts faster “phase detection” autofocus. The image signal processor in the A8 chip is also custom designed by Apple. Another change is video slo-mo support, with up to 240fps capture.
Image credit: The Verge
The A8 itself is a second generation 64-bit chip, with 2 billion transistors on a 20nm process. This is 13% smaller than the A7, and Apple claims a 20% faster CPU, 50% faster graphics than its predecessor. Apple is also placing emphasis on sustained performance with this new chip, showcasing graphs with maintained speed within their thermal envelope during extended use. This is accompanied by the new M8 motion coprocessor, which adds new functionality for motion applications (just in time for iOS 8).
Image credit: The Verge
The screen is ion-strengthened glass (no sapphire here) with an “improved polarizer", and photo-aligned IPS LCD technology. Whatever that is. If you're interested, Sharp previously published a paper with technical details on this technology here (PDF).
Image credit: Apple, Inc.
The phones are thin, too. The iPhone 6 is 6.9mm thick, and the 6 Plus is only slightly thicker at 7.1mm.
As far as wireless communication goes, these new iPhones feature 20 bands of LTE as well as VoLTE support, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. And Apple users can get ready to start waving their phone wildly at checkout as NFC payments come to the iPhone via “Apple Pay”. Some 22,000 retailers will work with it (it seems to be using conventional wireless credit card infrastructure).
The battery life should be improved with both phones compared to the current iPhone 5S, and particularly so with the larger iPhone 6 Plus. Apple is claiming up to 24 hours of 3G talk time and 12 hours of LTE browsing on the 5.5-inch phone, along with a 16 day standby.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available September 19, with the 16GB versions starting at $199 and $299 respectively with a 2-year contract. Of note, while the entry-level capacity remains at just 16GB, the next model for both phones jumps to 64GB for an additional $100 each.
Subject: Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 01:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: tablet, reference design program, Intel, idf 2014, idf, google, aosp, Android
During today's keynote of the Intel Developer Forum, Google and Intel jointly announced a new program aimed to ease the burden of Android deployment and speed up the operating system update adoption rates that have often plagued the ecosystem.
In today's Android market, whether we are talking about x86 or ARM-based SoC designs, the process to release a point update to the operating system is quite complicated. ODMs have to build unique operating system images for each build and each individual SKU has to pass Google Media Services (GMS). This can be cumbersome and time consuming, slowing down or preventing operating system updates from ever making it to the consumer.
With the Intel Reference Design Program, the company will provide it's partners with a single binary that allows them to choose from a pre-qualified set of components or a complete bill of materials specification. Obviously this BOM will include Intel x86 processors like Bay Trail but it should help speed up the development time of new hardware platforms. Even better, OEMs and ODMs won't have to worry about dealing with the process of passing GMS certification leaving the hardware vendor to simply release the hardware to the market.
But, an even bigger step forward, is Intel's commitment on the software side. Everyone knows how fragmented the Android OS market with just 20% of the hardware on the Play Store running Android KitKat. For devices built on the Reference Design Program, Intel is going to guarantee software updates within 2 weeks of AOSP (Android Open Source Project) updates. And, that update support will be given for two years after the release of the launch of the device.
This combination of hardware and software support from Intel to its hardware ODMs should help ignite some innovation and sales in the x86 Android market. There aren't any partners to announce support for this Reference Design Program but hopefully we'll hear about some before the end of IDF. It will be very interesting to see what ARM (and its partners) respond with. There are plenty of roadblocks holding back the quick uptake of x86 Android tablets but those companies would be blind to ignore the weight that Intel can shift when the want to.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 9, 2014 - 01:49 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Intel, asus, core m, broadwell-y, Broadwell, 14nm, ultrabook
This will probably be the first of many notebooks announced that are based on Core M. These processors, which would otherwise be called Broadwell-Y, are the "flagship" CPUs to be created on Intel's 14nm, tri-gate fabrication process. The ASUS ZenBook UX305 is a 13-inch clamshell notebook with one of three displays: 1920x1200 IPS, 1920x1200 multi-touch IPS, or 3200x1800 multi-touch IPS. That is a lot of pixels to pack into such a small display.
While the specific processor(s) are not listed, it will use Intel HD Graphics 5300 for its GPU. This is new with Broadwell, albeit their lowest tier. Then again, last generation's 5000 and 5100 were up in the 700-800 GFLOP range, which is fairly high (around medium quality settings for Battlefield 4 at 720p). Discrete graphics will not be an option. It will come with a choice between 4GB and 8GB of RAM. Customers can also choose between a 128GB SSD, or a 256GB SSD. It has a 45Wh battery.
Numerous connectivity options are available: 802.11 a, g, n, or ac; Bluetooth 4.0; three USB 3.0 ports; Micro HDMI (out); a 3.5mm headphone/mic combo jack; and a microSD card slot. It has a single, front-facing, 720p webcam.
In short, it is an Ultrabook. Pricing and availability are currently unannounced.
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | September 6, 2014 - 06:03 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: toshiba, tablet, cheap tablet, cheap computer, x86, Windows 8.1
While you should only get a cheap PC if you have a need for one, Toshiba is selling a $120 tablet with Windows 8.1 and a quadcore, Intel Atom processor. It also includes a single year of Office 365 Personal, which contains Word, Excel, Powerpoint, OneNote, Outlook, Publisher, Access, an 1TB of OneDrive storage (normally $69 or twelve installments of $7/mo).
While RAM has not been announced, it contains 16GB of storage, expandable with a microSDXC card of up to 128 GB. It is based on a 7-inch, 1024x600 multi-touch display. Of course, 16GB of internal storage is about as low as you can have Windows 8.1 be installed within. In fact, it is the minimum requirements for 32-bit (64-bit requires 20 GB). You will not be fitting too many applications on your main drive.
The tablet also has a front-facing webcam and a back-facing 2 megapixel camera for photos and video.
The Toshiba Encore Mini is available now for an MSRP of $119.99.
Subject: Mobile | September 6, 2014 - 12:11 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: snapdragon, smartphone, qualcomm, Lenovo, ifa 2014
In addition to new traditional PCs, Lenovo unveiled two new smartphones under its Vibe series. The Vibe Z2 and Vibe X2 are 64-bit mobiles ready for Android L. Both models will be available in China and select regions later this month.
First up is the Lenovo Vibe X2 which is the successor to the Vibe X. Lenovo's new flagship smartphone is 7.27mm thick and uses a layered design that uses a three color gradient evident when looking at the outside edges of the phone. The Vibe X2 features a large 5-inch 1920 x 1080 IPS display, 5MP webcam, and 13MP rear camera with flash.
The Vibe X2 is powered by a MediaTek MT6595M SoC, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage (no MicroSD expansion), and a 2,300mAh battery. The phone will come in dual and single SIM variants depending on the country. The MediaTek MT6595M "True8Core" processor features eight ARM cores in a big.LITTLE configuration with a maximum clockspeed of 2GHz on the four Cortex A17 cores and 1.5GHz on the four low power Cortex A7 cores. The SoC also features a 16MP image signal processor, video encoding hardware (for recording up to 1080p60), and a PowerVR G6200 GPU clocked at 450MHz.
In all, the Vibe X2 should perform noticeably better than last year's Vibe X thanks to the updated SoC with faster GPU. Moving to the big.LITTLE setup should also net users better battery life, which is always a good thing. For even more battery life though, Lenovo is offering up clip-on attachments – called Lenovo Xtensions – that include an extra battery and a version with a larger speaker.
While the hardware is ready to run Android L, the phone will ship with Android 4.4 KitKat along with Lenovo's Vibe UI 2.0.
The flagship Vibe X2 will be available later this month in China starting at $399 USD.
Lenovo is also releasing the Vibe Z2 which is a stylish metal unibody design with a brushed metal finish. The phone is 7.8mm thick and weighs 155 grams. The front of the Vibe Z2 is dominated by a 5.5-inch 1920x1080 display. An 8MP front camera sits above the display and uses an optional guesture-based shutter that can be triggered by smiling, blinking, or making a "V" sign with your hands. According to Lenovo, the Vibe Z has "mastered the art of the selfie." On the backside of the smartphone sits a 13MP camera with a Sony Exmor BSI (backside illumination) sensor and optical image stabilization which is nice to see on a smartphone.
Inside the Vibe Z2, Lenovo is using a Qualcomm Snapdragon 401 SoC, 2GB RAM, 32GB internal storage, and a 3,000mAh battery. The phone supports Dual SIM cards as well as LTE, HSPA+, WiFi, and Bluetooth networks. The Snapdragon 401 is a recent Qualcomm chip that can be clocked up to 1.2GHz with a Adreno 305 GPU clocked at up to 450MHz (Lenovo did not give specific clockspeeds, but those are the speeds that the 401 is rated at).
The Vibe Z2 will be available in China and other regions where Lenovo has a smartphone presence later this month starting at $429 USD.
Subject: Mobile | September 3, 2014 - 03:02 AM | Tim Verry
Tagged: tablet, tab s8, Lenovo, ifa 2014, ifa, Bay Trail, Atom Z3775, Android
Lenovo launched the TAB S8 at IFA in Berlin today, making it the company's first Intel-powered 8-inch tablet running Google's Android operating system. The TAB S8 packs a decent amount of hardware into a 7.9mm thick and 299 gram package that will be available later this month starting at $199.
The TAB S8 features an 8-inch "Infinity Glass" 1920 x 1200 IPS display, two front facing Dolby Audio speakers, a 1.6 megapixel webcam, and an 8MP rear camera. Lenovo will offer the TAB S8 in white, black, yellow, and blue.
Internally, the TAB S8 uses an Intel Atom Z3775 "Bay Trail" SoC clocked at up to 1.83 GHz, 16GB of eMMC storage, and 2GB DDR3 memory. The tablet runs Android 4.4 and will support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and (optionally) LTE cellular radios.
Exact SKUs and specifications have not yet been announced, but the base 16GB model will be available in September for $199. For the price, the TAB S8 looks to be a good deal, with hardware that is very competitive to other budget Android tablets!