Introduction and Design
Contortionist PCs are a big deal these days as convertible models take the stage to help bridge the gap between notebook and tablet. But not everyone wants to drop a grand on a convertible, and not everyone wants a 12-inch notebook, either. Meanwhile, these same people may not wish to blow their cash on an underpowered (and far less capable) Chromebook or tablet. It’s for these folks that Lenovo has introduced the IdeaPad Flex 14 Ultrabook, which occupies a valuable middle ground between the extremes.
The Flex 14 looks an awful lot like a Yoga at first glance, with the same sort of acrobatic design and a thoroughly IdeaPad styling (Lenovo calls it a “dual-mode notebook”). The specs are also similar to that of the x86 Yoga, though with the larger size (and later launch), the Flex also manages to assemble a slightly more powerful configuration:
The biggest internal differences here are the i5-4200U CPU, which is a 1.6 GHz Haswell model with a TDP of 15 W and the ability to Turbo Boost (versus the Yoga 11S’ i5-3339Y, which is Ivy Bridge with a marginally lower TDP of 13 W and no Turbo Boost), the integrated graphics improvements that follow with the newer CPU, and a few more ports made possible by the larger chassis. Well, and the regression to a TN panel from the Yoga 11S’ much-appreciated IPS display, which is a bummer. Externally, your wallet will also appreciate a $250 drop in price: our model, as configured here, retails for just $749 (versus the $999 Yoga 11S we reviewed a few months back).
You can actually score a Flex 14 for as low as $429 (as of this writing), by the way, but if you’re after any sort of respectable configuration, that price quickly climbs above the $500 mark. Ours is the least expensive option currently available with both a solid-state drive and an i5 CPU.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 6, 2013 - 04:13 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: asus, padfone, PadFone Mini
I will be entirely honest with you: every time I need to look up the PadFone to make sure I am not getting it confused with the FonePad.
An older model but it gets the point across.
The upcoming PadFone Mini is expected to be a phone of some size (probably smaller than the 5" Pad Fone Infinity) with a dock of some other unknown size. The phone was briefly mentioned in a China Times article back in September. There it was expected to have a 4-inch display on the handset and a 7-inch display on the tablet dock. According to Engadget's interpretation of the VR-Zone leak (who saw that coming?) that might have changed since then.
The device itself is expected to be based on the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 SoC, run Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean), and have a handset resolution of 960x540. That is about all that we have even the slightest clue about at this point.
No word yet on whether this device will even be available in North America though. For that, we will probably need to wait until the actual announcement (or even later).
Subject: General Tech, Systems, Mobile | December 5, 2013 - 02:47 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: WQHD+, msi, 3K
High resolution displays are very nice to have especially when you are looking at text and symbols (or edges of 3D geometry). WQHD+ is one of the resolutions classified under the 3K moniker with dimensions of 2880 x 1620. It has slightly more pixels than 1440p.
MSI has launched two notebooks with a 15.6" display in this resolution: one gaming and one workstation. Both laptops are remarkably similar except for a few key differences.
Both laptops include:
- Intel Core i7-4700MQ CPU (2.4 GHz w/ 3.4 GHz Turbo)
- 16 GB RAM
- 15.6" 2880x1620 (16:9) display
- 128GB SSD + 1TB HDD
- Killer E2200 networking (yes, the workstation too)
- Killer N1202 a/b/g/n wireless (yes, workstation too)
- SDXC card reader
- HDMI 1.4, 2x USB 3.0, etc.
- Backlit Keyboard from SteelSeries
The GT60 2OD-261US (Gaming) also includes:
- Windows 8
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M GPU (4GB)
- Blu-ray reader
The GT60 2OKWS-278US (Workstation) instead includes:
- Windows 7 Professional
- NVIDIA Quadro K3100M (4GB)
- Blu-ray recorder
These laptops are currently available at two price points: $2200 for the gaming version and $2800 for the workstation. Press release after the break!
Streaming games straight from NVIDIA
Over the weekend NVIDIA released a December update for the SHIELD Android mobile gaming device that included a very interesting, and somewhat understated, new feature: Beta support for NVIDIA GRID.
You have likely heard of GRID before, NVIDIA has been pushing it as part of the companies vision going forward to GPU computing in every facet and market. GRID was aimed at creating GPU-based server farms to enable mobile, streaming gaming to users across the country and across the world. While initially NVIDIA only talked about working with partners to launch streaming services based on GRID, they have obviously changed their tune slightly with this limited release.
If you own a SHIELD, and install the most recent platform update, you'll find a new icon in your NVIDIA SHIELD menu called GRID Beta. The first time you start this new application, it will attempt to measure your bandwidth and latency to offer up an opinion on how good your experience should be. NVIDIA is asking for at least 10 Mbps of sustained bandwidth, and wants round trip latency under 60 ms from your location to their servers.
Currently, servers are ONLY located in Northern California so the further out you are, the more likely you will be to run into problems. However, oing some testing in Kentucky and Ohio resulted in a very playable gaming scenarios, though we did run into some connection problems that might be load-based or latency-based.
After the network setup portion users are shown 8 different games that they can try. Darksiders, Darksiders II, Street Fighter X Tekken, Street Fighter IV, Alan Wake, The Witcher 2, Red Faction: Armageddon and Trine 2. You are free to play them free of charge during this beta though I think you can be sure they will be removed and erased at some point; just a reminder. Saves work well and we were able to save and resume games of Darksiders 2 on GRID easily and quickly.
Starting up the game was fast, about on par with starting up a game on a local PC, though obviously the server is loading it in the background. Once the game is up and running, you are met with some button mapping information provided by NVIDIA for that particular game (great addition) and then you jump into the menus as if you were running it locally.
Subject: Mobile | December 3, 2013 - 01:58 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: Lenovo, yoga, arm, jellybean, tablet
Both the 8" and 10" models of the Lenovo Yoga tablet have a 1280x800 IPS display and run on a 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A7 processor, sport 1GB of DDR2 and have 16GB of onboard storage. The only difference apart from the size of the tablet is the battery 9000mAh on the larger model as compared to 6000mAh on the 8". Benchmark Reviews liked the rather unique look of the tablet though they would have preferred a newer version of Android and a higher resolution screen to be available. Check out the OS and included apps in their full review.
"The Android-based tablet market is exploding, with new entries almost every day. We’re even seeing what once were dedicated e-readers, like the Nook and Kindle, re-marketed as general purpose tablets. Lenovo’s been in this market for a while, and thus it’s no surprise to see them introduce another entry, the Lenovo Yoga tablet computers."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Amazon Kindle Paperwhite E-reader @ Benchmark Reviews
- Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 @ The Inquirer
- Advent Vega Tegra Note 7 @ The Inquirer
- Google Nexus 5: The TechSpot Review
- iPad Air vs iPad 4 head to head @ The Inquirer
- MSI Primo 81 (Snow White) 8" Tablet @ Kitguru
- Apple iPad Air: The TechSpot Review
- The HTC One Max Tech Report @ TechARP
- Motorola Moto G @ The Inquirer
- Patriot Fuel+ 9000mAh Mobile Rechargeable Battery @ eTeknix
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | December 3, 2013 - 10:32 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, usb, charger, anker
In my eternal goal to find the perfect USB charging solution for my varied use cases, I came across a 5-port unit from a company called Anker that is as close as I have found thus far. My needs are pretty concrete: lots of ports, high power to those ports and the ability to sit on a desk or table. The Anker E150 5V/5A 5-port wall charger is pretty close.
Though ideally I would like to see more than 5 ports, this capacity seems to be reasonable for most people with the standard allotment of electronics. As the name suggests, the Anker unit maxes out at 5A of output TOTAL for all 5 ports, though each port is rated at different amperage. The two ports labeled iPad will output up to 2.1A, the rest vary a bit.
Obviously the total amp output of those ports goes PAST the 5A maximum of the unit, so expect charging to slow down if you have all ports populated. I also wish that Anker would just label the outputs with their respective amperage rather than attempting to get product SEO with the current naming scheme.
Even better, the Anker E150 5V/5A 5-port wall charger can be picked up at Amazon for an impulse purchase price of $19!
Check out my full video overview below!!
Subject: Mobile | November 26, 2013 - 05:46 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: video, Lenovo, Ideapad, yoga, yoga 2 pro, haswell
The Yoga has easily been the most successful convertible notebook brand in my book and I think Lenovo would agree. The 4-option form factor allows for a standard laptop stance, tablet mode, tent mode and stand mode, all of which have unique benefits and trade offs.
The new Yoga 2 Pro offers the same style chassis as the previous Yoga laptops but offers several dramatic improvements. First, this notebook is Haswell based, a 4th Generation Intel Core processor, and that will equal better performance and better battery life than the previous Ivy Bridge based design.
Also, this unit has a 13.3-in 3200x1800 resolution display; that's correct a 5.7 MP screen in a 13.3 inch form factor. That is better than the retina MacBook Air that has a resolution of 2560x1600 and is even higher than the 2880x1800 display on the 15-in retina MacBook. In use the screen is bright (up to 350 nits now) and crisp.
The keyboard is backlit, the edge has a rubber ring around it to prevent slipping and damage in tent mode and it is both lighter and slimmer than the previous Yoga.
Overall, the Yoga 2 Pro looks to be an amazing sequel to the original. Look for a full review on PC Perspective soon!!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 19, 2013 - 11:36 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: typeguard, synaptics, clickpad 2.0, clickpad
Human interface solutions developer Synaptics, makers of touchpads, touchscreens and touch interpretation software, are showcasing a pair of new technologies today that will be included in upcoming notebooks and Ultrabooks this holiday. ClickPad 2.0 improves the company's design and mechanical implementation on the first iterations of ClickPad while TypeGuard aims to improve recognition of false input from users to improve performance and experience. Even better, this combination has been recognized as a CES Innovation 2104 Design and Engineering Award honoree.
In 2010 Synaptics released the ClickPad, a solution for hardware vendors that included the design and manufacture of the entire touchpad solution. This was a shift for the company that had previously done product licensing and custom solutions for specific vendors. There were some issues with the technology in its 1.0 and 1.5 iterations that prevented users from clicking near the top of the touchpad, for example, as well as the new wrinkle of Windows 8 gestures that weren't implemented perfectly.
With ClickPad 2.0, Synaptics claims to have addressed all of these issues including top and corner clicking capability as well making the feel of the click consistent no matter where the user might push down on the pad. Window 8 gestures can now be support by a separate, but integrated, side-pad integration option. The sides of the touch pad would be textured differently and only function as gesture controls, leaving the entirety of the touchpad face for primary input functionality.
TypeGuard is a set of software algorithms that improves false inputs that might occur during use of a laptop. Palm rejection while typing is one of the biggest annoyances for users that are frequently writing on their notebooks and with TypeGuard Synaptics claims to nearly completely remove false cursor movements, taps and scrolls.
As touchpads become larger, palm contact is going to be much more likely on notebooks and preventing these kinds of accidental inputs is going to be crucial to providing a good experience for the consumer. Apple has long been considered the leader in this area (and with touchpads in general) but Synaptics believes it has matched them with this combination of ClickPad 2.0 and TypeGuard. Doing its own in-house studies has revealed a 73% decrease in false movements but we will obviously need our own hands on time with an integrated product to see how it acts over extended use.
The good news is that might be pretty soon. The HP Spectre 13 Ultrabook actually implements both of these technologies and is available for preorder in various locations.
HP will be offering this machine for $999 with a 128GB SSD, 4GB of memory, Intel Haswell processors and Windows 8.1. I am hoping to get one of these units in for a review and to use it to evaluate the strong claims that Synaptics is making about its new touch technologies.
As a frequent user of Apple portable devices, the touch experience on them has always exceeded that of the Windows environment and I'm hopeful that we can finally level the playing field.
See the full CES Innovation award press release after the break!
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | November 12, 2013 - 07:24 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Lucidlogix, GameXtend
I can smell a Post-PC joke waiting to pounce (and that smells like Starbucks).
LucidLogix has, for desktops and laptops, used its research into GPU virtualization to accomplish a large number of interesting tasks. With Hydra, they allowed separate GPUs to load balance in a single game; with Virtu, fast (and high wattage) graphics can be used only when necessary leaving the rest for the integrated or on-processor offering; one unnamed project even allowed external graphics over Thunderbolt. Many more products (like Virtual VSync) were displayed and often packaged with motherboards.
Now they are dipping their toe into the mobile space. The Samsung GALAXY Note 3 has licensed their technology, GameXtend, to increase battery life. While concrete details are sparse, they claim to add two to three hours of battery life by tweaking power settings according to the actual game workload.
The unsung news is that, now, LucidLogix has a few mobile contacts in their address book (although a lot of that is probably due to the merger with CellGuide). Knowing Lucid, this could be the beginning of many products addressing an array of small problems typically centered around utilizing one or more GPUs.
NVIDIA Tegra Note Program
Clearly, NVIDIA’s Tegra line has not been as successful as the company had hoped and expected. The move for the discrete GPU giant into the highly competitive world of the tablet and phone SoCs has been slower than expected, and littered with roadblocks that were either unexpected or that NVIDIA thought would be much easier to overcome.
The truth is that this was always a long play for the company; success was never going to be overnight and anyone that thought that was likely or possible was deluded. Part of it has to do with the development cycle of the ARM ecosystem. NVIDIA is used to a rather quick development, production, marketing and sales pattern thanks to its time in high performance GPUs, but the SoC world is quite different. By the time a device based on a Tegra chip is found in the retail channel it had to go through an OEM development cycle, NVIDIA SoC development cycle and even an ARM Cortex CPU development cycle. The result is an extended time frame from initial product announcement to retail availability.
Partly due to this, and partly due to limited design wins in the mobile markets, NVIDIA has started to develop internal-designed end-user devices that utilize its Tegra SoC processors. This has the benefit of being much faster to market – while most SoC vendors develop reference platforms during the normal course of business, NVIDIA is essentially going to perfect and productize them.
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