Verizon ALLSET Pre-Paid Plans Offer Rollover Mobile Data

Subject: Mobile | March 4, 2014 - 01:33 AM |
Tagged: verizon, rollover data, mobile data, data caps, allset

Verizon has taken the wraps off of a new pre-paid cell phone plan called “ALLSET.” The plans offer unlimited calling, unlimited texting, and 500MB of base data for $35/month for feature phones and $45 a month for smartphones. At first glance, they are pretty standard fare, and not the cheapest pre-paid option either. However, Verizon has added a bit of a twist to the pre-paid equation by allowing ALLSET users to add “Bridge Data” on top of the base plan’s 500MB cap that can be rolled over to future months if not used right away.

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The ALLSET plans come with a 500MB (or 1GB if enrolled in Auto Pay) of cellular data each month that cannot be saved. From there, users can purchase up to two data packages that can be saved or rolled over to future months if not used right away. The Bridge Data packs work out to $5 for 500MB, $10 for 1GB, or $20 for 3GB. Users can save the $5 (500MB) pack for a month while the $10 (1GB) and $20 (3GB) packs can be saved or have the remaining bits rolled over for up to three months after purchase. The base data is used first, after which the first package is used completely before dipping into the second package (if purchased at all), which is important to consider in relation to the expiration dates.

In another bit of good news for ALLSET users, Verizon allows the mobile hotspot feature which is extremely rare for the cellphone industry (without charging an additional fee).

The system is not perfect due to the short expiration dates (at most 90 days) for rollover and the fact that base data cannot be saved (only the additional bridge data packs), but it is definitely a step in the right direction and a feature I have been wanting to see for years now. Hopefully this encourages other providers to consider rollover data plans, and the competition forces relaxed restrictions on the expiry of rollover data.

Samsung Launching 11-Inch and 13-Inch Chromebook 2s

Subject: Mobile | March 3, 2014 - 05:58 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, exynos 5, chromebook 2, Chromebook, chrome os, arm

Samsung is bringing a new Chromebook to market next month. Coming in 11-inch and 13-inch form factors the new Samsung Chromebook 2 offers updated hardware and more than eight hours of battery life.

The Chromebook 2 will be available in 11.6” and 13.3” models. The smaller variant will come in white or black while the larger SKU is only available in gray. The lids use a soft touch plastic that resembles stitched leather like that found on some Samsung smartphones. The 11.6” is 0.66-inches thick and weighs 2.43 pounds. The 13.3” model is 0.65-inches thick and weighs 3.09 pounds. The 11.6” Chromebook 2 has a 1366x768 display while the 13.3” Chromebook uses a 1920 x 1080 resolution display.

Samsung Chromebook 2 11-Inch In Black.jpg

Internally, the Chromebook 2 is powered by an unspecified Exynos 5 Octa SoC at either 1.9GHz (11.6”) or 2.1GHz (13.3”), 4GB of DDR3L memory, and 16GB internal SSD storage. Internal radios include 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. Samsung rates the battery life at 8 hours for the 11.6” Chromebook and 8.5 hours for the 13.3” Chromebook.

Beyond the wireless tech, I/O includes one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0 port, one HDMI, one headphone output, and one micro SD card slot. This port configuration is available on both Chromebook 2 sizes.

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Samsung is launching its Chromebook 2 in April at $319.99 and $399.99 for the 11.6” and 13.3” respectively. This new Chromebook is coming to a competitive market that is increasingly packed with Bay Trail-powered Windows 8.1 notebooks (and tablets) that are getting cheaper and Android tablets that are getting more features and more powerful thanks to new ARM-based SoCs. I'm interested to see what platform users start gravitating towards, is the cloud-connected Chrome OS good enough when paired with good battery life and a physical keyboard?

Are you looking forward to Samsung's new Chromebook 2?

Source: Ars Technica

Samsung Galaxy S5 Coming To Sprint MVNOs In Q2 2014

Subject: Mobile | March 2, 2014 - 12:21 AM |
Tagged: virgin mobile, Sprint, Samsung, mvno, galaxy s5, boost mobile

Samsung officially launched the Galaxy S5 at MWC last month, with tweaked software and slightly improved hardware specifications. The new smartphone will launch in 150 countries, including the US, on April 11th. Unfortunately, Samsung did not disclose the exact pricing and carriers that will offer the device at launch. Naturally, the big US carriers will all get the latest flagship at some point this year, but beyond that it is hard to say who will pick it up and who will pass. With that said, at least two MVNOs are confirmed to be offering up the Galaxy S5 later this year.

Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile are MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators) that run pre-paid cell phone plans without contracts that run hardware on Sprint's cellular network. The two carriers announced on their respective Facebook pages that the Galaxy S5 is officially coming to their network in the second quarter of this year. Both companies are remaining silent on the pricing of the smartphone though, with a Virgin Mobile representative stating that the company did not have pricing information yet.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Coming to Virgin Mobile and Boost Mobile Sprint MVNOs.jpg

Users can expect to pay nearly full price for the Galaxy S5 as the pre-paid carriers do not subsidize the price over a multi-year contract. I would expect the phone to go for around $800, however. While it may seem counter-intuitive to pay upwards of $800 out of pocket only to run it on a cheap MVNO, there are still cost savings to be realized so long as you are not upgrading every year. More options are always nice, and seeing a flagship smartphone coming to MVNOs so soon after launch is a welcome change. Here's hoping more MVNOs jump on board, especially those using alternative networks for pre-paid customers living in areas with poor Sprint coverage.

Source: Engadget

HP Launches Bay Trail-Powered X360 Convertible Laptop

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | February 26, 2014 - 09:20 PM |
Tagged: x360, Windows 8.1, tablet, hp, convertible tablet, convertible, Bay Trail

At MWC 2014, HP showed off an interesting convertible laptop similar in form factor to Lenovo's Yoga lineup. The HP X360 is a Bay Trail-powered laptop running Windows 8.1 that brings the 360-degree hinged hybrid laptop/tablet form factor to an affordable $460 price point. The red plastic and brushed aluminum PC is available for purchase now and will begin shipping in early March.

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HP's new X360 tablet measures 12.12” x 8.46” x 0.86” and weighs in at a portable 3.08 pounds. It is noticeably larger than other Bay Trail tablets like the ASUS T100 and Dell Venue series, but it also has an integrated keyboard and trackpad attached via a permanently attached double hinge to the 11.6” LED-backlit touchscreen with a resolution of 1366x768. The chassis is a glossy red plastic while the keyboard cover and palm rest use a brushed aluminum surface that surrounds a large gesture compatible touchpad and a chiclet-style keyboard that appears to be well spaced for an 11.6” machine (excluding the arrow keys which are bunched up in the bottom-right corner in order to allow full sized shift and enter keys). A silver chassis version is also in the works, but will not be available until later this year.

HP X360 Back Panel.png

The HP X360 features external I/O more akin to a traditional laptop than a tablet with the following connectivity options.

  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 2 x USB 2.0
  • 1 x HDMI
  • 1 x RJ45 (10/100 Ethernet)
  • 1 x headphone/mic combo jack
  • 1 x SD card slot
  • 1 x SIM card slot

Internally, the HP X360 uses an Intel Pentium N3520 processor, 4GB or 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth radios, and a 2 cell Lithium Ion battery rated for up to four and a half hours of use. HP has further packed its tablet with Beats Audio technology. Interestingly, the Pentium N3520 CPU is a quad core chip based on Intel's Bay Trail (Atom) architecture which uses Silvermont cores and Intel HD graphics. The CPU is clocked at 2.166 GHz base and 2.42 GHz Turbo with 2MB of cache.

The X360 can be used as a laptop or a tablet in several configurations by swinging the display around appropriately. It is very similar to Lenovo's Yoga system, though HP is using a slightly different hinge design.

HP X360 Tablet Mode.png

The real advantage of the HP X360 is its price. At a starting price of $389 for the 4GB model, the X360 is much cheaper than the (admittedly more powerful) Yoga alternatives while still being a capable machine for note taking and media consumption. It lies in a middle ground between Bay Trail-powered tablets and Haswell-powered laptops. For an $80 premium over the ASUS T100, users get a more traditional convertible PC with more storage (albeit slower mechanical storage) and a faster clocked processor.

Personally, I'm tempted and have been debating between this and the T100 as a second portable machine to replace my aging Dell XT with comparably abysmal battery life (heh).

You can find more information on the new X360 (HP Pavilion 11t-n000 x360 PC) on this HP product page.

Source: HP

Phone companies branding tablets? What's next; dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria ...

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2014 - 07:49 PM |
Tagged: verizon, Ellipsis 7, 4g lte, phablet

Not content with selling phones and hotspots, Verizon combined both into a phablet called the Ellipsis 7 4G LTE tablet.  It features a 1280x800 7" HD IPS display and runs Android 4.2.2 on an quad-core ARM Cortex A7 @ 1.2GHz with 1GB of RAM.  At $120 with a 2 year contract, plus connectivity charges of course, it is not a bad price for an LTE capable tablet and even the $300 price tag without a contract beats the price of many phones on the market.  Of course price is not everything, which is why you should check out Legit Reviews full coverage of the tablet here.

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"The Verizon Ellipsis 7 Tablet is a new release from 'The Worlds Most Reliable Network'. The Ellipsis 7 is targeted at those looking for productivity on the go, as well as a touch of entertainment. A 7" tablet is small enough to toss into a jacket pocket or purse, but large enough to use for most tasks without an issue. The Verizon Ellipsis 7 Tablet isn't just a Wi-Fi tablet like many of the tablet out there, the Ellipsis 7 is connected to the Verizon 4G LTE network and has all the benefits that come with it. If you're interested in the Verizon Ellipsis 4G LTE tablet you can pick it up on Amazon.com for as little as $119.99 with a 2 year contract, or $299.99 without a contract. Read on to see how it performs!"

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Mobile

Video Perspective: CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Laptop Cooler by Cooler Master

Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2014 - 06:24 PM |
Tagged: video, laptop cooler, cooler master, CM Storm SF-17, CM Storm

When we were testing the ORIGIN PC EON17-SLX gaming notebook over the last few weeks we wanted to try out another component that high end laptop gamers might be interested in: notebook coolers.  Obviously with a beast of a machine like the EON17-SLX, we couldn't just go with something you might find on the shelves at Best Buy.  Instead, today we have a video overview of the CM Storm SF-17 Gaming Laptop Cooler by Cooler Master.

This cooler includes a 180mm fan, 4-port USB hub and a red LED light bar to give some style to your gaming setup.

You can find the Cooler Master CM Storm SF-17 cooler on Amazon.com for $59.

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design

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Alongside our T440s review unit was something slightly smaller and dear to our hearts: the latest entry in the ThinkPad X series of notebooks.  Seeing as this very review is being typed on a Lenovo X220, our interest was piqued by the latest refinements to the formula.  When the X220 was released, the thin-and-light trend was only just beginning to pick up steam leading into what eventually became today’s Ultrabook movement.  Its 2012 successor, the ThinkPad X230, went on to receive our coveted (and rarely bestowed) Editor’s Choice Award, even in spite of a highly controversial keyboard change that sent the fanbase into a panic.

But all of that has since (mostly) blown over, primarily thanks to the fact that—in spite of the minor ergonomic adjustments required to accustom oneself with what was once a jarringly different keyboard design—the basic philosophy remained the same: pack as many powerful parts as possible into a 12.5-inch case while still maintaining good durability and battery life.  These machines were every bit as capable as most other 13- and 14-inch notebooks of their time, and they were considerably smaller, too.  About the only thing they lacked was higher-resolution screens, discrete graphics, and quad-core CPUs.

PC163887.jpg

But with the X240 (and the T440s), portability has truly taken center stage, suggesting a complete paradigm shift—however subtly—away from “powerful (and light)” and toward “light (and powerful)”.  Coupled with Intel’s Haswell CPUs and Lenovo’s new Power Bridge dual-battery design, this will certainly yield great benefits in the realm of battery life.  But that isn’t all that’s different: we also find a (once again) revamped keyboard, as well as a completely new touchpad design which finally dispenses with the physical buttons entirely.  Like in the X230’s case, these changes have roiled the ThinkPad purists—but is it all just a matter of close-minded traditionalism?  That’s precisely what we’ll discover today.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X240 Ultrabook!!

MWC 2014: Qualcomm Snapdragon 610 and 615 are 64-bit, 8-core with LTE

Subject: Processors, Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 05:30 PM |
Tagged: snapdrdagon 615, snapdragon 610, snapdragon 410, snapdragon, qualcomm, MWC 14, MWC, adreno 405, adreno

Intel, Mediatek and Allwinner have all come out with new SoC announcements at Mobile World Congress and Qualcomm is no different.  By far the most interesting release is what it calls the "first commercial" 64-bit Octa-Core chipset with integrated global LTE support.  The list of features and technologies included on the chipset is impressive.  

The Snapdragon 615 integrates 8 x ARM Cortex-A53 cores that opterate on the newer 64-bit ARMv8 architecture while supporting 32-bit for backwards compatibility.  Qualcomm is not using a custom designed CPU core for this chipset but the company has stated it will have its own custom 64-bit core sometime in 2015.  This 8-core model is divided into a pair of quad-core clusters that will be tuned to different clock speed and power levels, offering the ability to run slightly more efficiently than would be possible with all cores tuned to the highest performance.

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Snapdragon 610 is essentially the same design but is limited to a quad-core, single cluster setup.  

Both of these parts will integrate the Qualcomm custom built Adreno 405 GPU that brings a DX11 class feature set, along with OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.2.  The Adreno 405 performance is still unknown but it should be able to compete with the likes of PowerVR's Series6 used in the Apple A7 and Intel Merrifield parts.  Quad HD resolutions are supported up to 2560x1600 and Miracast integration enables wireless display.  H.265 hardware decode acceleration also found its way into the 615/610.

Connectivity features of the Snapdragon 615/610 include 802.11ac wireless as well as the company's 3rd generation LTE modem.  Category 4 and carrier aggregation are optional.

Qualcomm has publicly stated that the move to 8-core processors with software lacking the capability to manage them properly was a poor decision.  But it would appear that the "core race" has infected just about everyone.

Check out the full details in the press release after the break!!

MWC 2014: Allwinner launches UltraOcta A80 processor with big.LITTLE and PowerVR

Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 02:17 PM |
Tagged: ultraocta a80, PowerVR, MWC 14, MWC, big.little, Allwinner

The wheels keep turning from Mobile World Congress 2014 in Barcelona with Allwinner's announcement of the UltraOcta A80 SoC.  Dubbed the "world's first big.LITTLE octa-core (8-core) heterogeneous SoC to included PowerVR Series6 GPU technology", the UltraOcta A80 combines four Cortex-A7 and four Cortex-A15 cores in a single chip design.  

The UltraOcta A80 is aimed at tablets, portable game consoles, set-top boxes, media players and other devices that require "premium performance" level parts.  The first devices will apparently hit "soon" but no other details were offered.  

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ARM is definitely on-board with Allwinner for this product as it is the poster child example of how the big.LITTLE design philosophy can be implemented to offer both high performance and low power results in one SoC.  This chip is built on 28nm process technology and also includes high performance graphics with the PowerVR G6230 GPU.  This GPU includes two "clusters" for a total of 64 ALUs (called cores in other SoC).  Keep in mind that this Series6 GPU is about half the performance of the G6400 series included in the iPhone 5s and even Intel's new Merrifield and Moorefield processors.

The Allwinner UltraOcta A80 will also support 4K video encode and decode with H.265 thrown in for good measure.  I am very curious to see the load on the SoC during these types of high quality video processes as the amount of acceleration on the chip isn't known yet.

View the full press release after the break!

MWC 2014: Intel Announces XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced Wireless Modem

Subject: Mobile | February 24, 2014 - 04:00 AM |
Tagged: xmm, MWC 14, MWC, lte-advanced, LTE, Intel, 7260

Intel also announced Merrifield and Moorefield SoCs at Mobile World Congress today.

In 2011, Intel acquired SysDSoft to improve and accelerate the companies transition into the mobile wireless controllers, LTE in particular.  As a result, Intel released the XMM 7160 modem in 2013 which included the X-GOLD 716 baseband controller that could support LTE and HSPA functions.  This modem was adopted by a handful of OEMs in the market with Cat 4 bandwidth up to 150 Mbps (downstream) and 50 Mbps (upstream), LTE voice implementation and globally capability with 15 bands.

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This modem was available as a multi-chip solution for mobile device vendors to implement but was shipped in a M.2 module. The latter form gave a quick option for notebook and tablet vendors to include in ready-built systems.

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At Mobile World Congress today though, Intel is announcing its next generation modem, the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced.  As the name implies, this update includes support for LTE-Advanced that adds in features like carrier aggregation and a pair of downlink channels for up to 300 Mbps data rates.  Carrier aggregation can be used for additional bandwidth performance or to disperse spectrum in a more efficient way to improve reliability.  Intel claims that this controller and modem meets the maximum specification levels of LTE today.

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The XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced includes the X-GOLD 726 that is truly a global market ready part with frequency compatibility on LTE FDD/TDD, WCDMA/HSPA+, TD-SCDMA/TD-HSPA/EDGE.  This iteration uses fewer components, thus is smaller and easier to integrate than the 7160, and will be "on shelf" as early as next quarter.  There is no CDMA support included, though. For users on Verizon and Sprint, we'll have to see if handset makers for those carriers have adjusted their timelines for LTE-only devices.  AT&T and T-Mobile, in the US, will have no issues with 4G and 3G support.

This modem is meant to compete directly with the stranglehold that Qualcomm has on the LTE market (and one source tells me that carriers "are dying for an alternative" to help drive down costs).  Though it might seem odd in some ways, I fully expect this XMM 7260 modem to be paired with non-Intel SoC devices, including smartphones and tablets.  In fact, it is quite possible that the XMM 7260 LTE-Advanced modem might have more successful adoption than the upcoming Merrifield SoCs, also announced today. Device manufacturers might be satisfied with their choice in SoCs, not demanding an alternative in x86, but also might appreciate a new modem.

As a side note, the XMM 7260 is being built on TSMC's 28nm process technology rather than on Intel's own fabs (this isn't the first time it has happened).  I don't expect this to be a concern for performance but it is interesting to see a chip that Intel is placing so much emphasis on being constructed outside its own walls.

The XMM 7269 LTE-Advanced modem is currently in certification and is expected to be available for integration in Q2, 2014.