Design and Compute Performance
I'm going to be honest with you right off the bat: there isn't much more I can say about the MSI GT72S notebook that hasn't already been said either on this website or on the PC Perspective Podcast. Though there are many iterations of this machine, the version we are looking at today is known as the "GT72S Dominator Pro G Dragon-004" and it includes some impressive hardware and design choices. Perhaps you've heard of this processor called "Skylake" and a GPU known as the "GTX 980"?
The GT72S is a gaming notebook in the truest sense of the term. It is big, heavy and bulky, not meant for daily travel or walking around campus for very long distances. It has a 17-in screen, more USB 3.0 ports than most desktop computers and also more gaming horsepower than we've ever seen crammed into that kind of space. That doesn't make it perfect for everyone of course: battery life is poor and you may have to sell one of your kids to be able to afford it. But then, you might be able to afford A LOT if you sold the kids, amiright?
Let's dive into what makes the new MSI GT72S so impressive and why every PC gamer that has a hankering for moving their rig will be drooling.
Subject: Mobile | December 30, 2015 - 11:09 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: Android, oracle, google, Java, openjdk
The Android ecosystem was built atop a Java-like framework, although a native development kit was added later. Oracle, current owner of the Java copyrights and trademarks, was not too happy with this. The two companies, Google and Oracle, were in a legal battle for the last three-and-a-half years. The courts have not ruled overwhelmingly in favor of either side.
Google is now replacing their implementation with one that is derived from OpenJDK. Officially, this is so Google has more say in how the language evolves. This would also circumvent all legal issues, because OpenJDK is supported by Oracle, but Google is not commenting on that advantage. They are in an ongoing legal battle, so that is not surprising. It wouldn't immunize them from damages that are ruled for existing products. Changing now only limits the number of products that infringe, if it is eventually ruled illegal, and remove an awkward gap where nothing is legal until a fix is implemented.
From a performance and feature standpoint, the two JDKs are supposedly equivalent nowadays.
Subject: Mobile | December 22, 2015 - 02:08 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: nvidia, shield, shield tablet k1, android 6.0, marshmallow, Android M, ota update
NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet K1 Software Upgrade 1.0 brings Android 6.0 Marshmallow to the gaming tablet, and the OTA update is being pushed to devices now.
NVIDIA listed some benefits to the updated OS on the tablet K1:
Android 6.0 Marshmallow Upgrades
- Now on Tap – This new feature from Google anticipates what you need, the moment you need it. With a simple tap, you’ll be able to quickly find information related to what you are seeing on the screen, as well as inside an app.
- Adoptable Storage – Expandable storage moves internal. MicroSD cards can now be integrated with main internal storage, auto managed by the system, cutting out the need to manage where apps and files are stored. This replaces SHIELD’s move to SD functionality.
- Improved App Permissions – Permissions are now managed centrally, meaning you have more freedom to grant access as you wish.
- App Standby – Battery life is a big factor when choosing a device. App Standby can improve it in a big way. App Standby will automatically put an app into a standby state based on when you last used it, pausing network access and sync; it ends once the tablet starts charging. You’ll also get improved Bluetooth Low Energy scanning power efficiency.
More Upgrades from NVIDIA
- New NVIDIA SHIELD Camera – We’re adding a new camera app to SHIELD tablet K1, with a user interface inspired by Material Design. It brings improved burst photo functionality and adds new real-time HD image effects, accelerated by Tegra K1’s Kepler-based GPU.
- Fallout Shelter and Bonus Lunchboxes – Bethesda’s acclaimed post-apocalyptic world, Fallout Shelter, is part of the upgrade. As a bonus, the first 50,000 SHIELD tablet K1 gamers can score five free lunchboxes, each containing four Fallout Shelter cards for in-game currency, consumables and more. Click here to learn more.
- User Interface Upgrades – Personalize Home and Lock screens with different wallpapers, including new NVIDIA wallpapers. You can launch Google Now voice commands from the lock screen. And you can personalize your Quick Settings menu, adding, removing or rearranging toggles.
The update was released yesterday to SHIELD tablet K1 users, and it appears that it will be available for the original SHIELD tablet soon according to a post by a Customer Care rep on NVIDIA’s Official SHIELD Tablet K1 OTA 1.0 Feedback Thread.
Design - A Tablet and a Notebook
For the last 30 days or so, I have been using both Microsoft's new Surface Book and Surface Pro 4 as every day computing devices. The goal was to review these items from not just a handful of days of testing and benchmarking, but with some lengthy time under my belt utilizing both products in a real-world environment. The following is my review with that premise. Enjoy!
A lot has already been said about the design and style of both the updated Surface Pro 4 and the new Surface Book. Let’s start with the Surface Pro 4 as it sees the least dramatic changes from previous product.
The Surface Pro 4 uses the same kickstand tablet design that made the Surface brand so memorable as well as functional. Many different OEMs are starting to copy the design style because it has a lot of positive merits to it. For instance, it allows viewing angles from nearly 90 degree to flat. The Surface Pro 4 is a tablet in its purest form, though. It doesn’t have a keyboard or trackpad standard – you’ll have purchase the optional Type Cover. It’s only 8.5mm thick and weighs in at 1.73 lbs, without the added keyboard.
The kickstand works exceptionally, with unlimited positions between the starting and stop point of the hinge, and it allows smooth movement between them. It’s strong enough to stand up when being slid around on the tablet or desk. The biggest concern I have with the kickstand is that using it on your lap (or on an airplane tray table) is difficult to impossible, depending on the exact configuration or your legs / tray. Because the hinged kickstand needs a surface to make contact with, pushing the Surface Pro back on your legs where the hinged portion extends past your knees won’t work.
From a design and style perspective, I still think the Surface products are among the best that exist on the market today. The magnesium body is sleek and the angles are both professional and aggressive. Even when coupled with the magnetic Type Cover, it won’t look like a toy at the office or on the road.
The new Surface Book is a completely different beast – a unique design and a new product. I am sure that there are some people that simply won’t like the way the notebook looks, but I am not one of them. Though it is technically a tablet and a keyboard dock, the Surface Book only ships as a complete unit so calling this a notebook or a 2-in-1 convertible feels more accurate than calling it a tablet. It has a larger and more pronounced 13.5-in screen than the Pro, which makes it larger, heavier and bulkier in your bag as well. The magnesium body shares a lot of design cues with the Pro 4, but it’s the hinge on the Book that really makes it different than any notebook I have used.
Subject: Mobile | December 18, 2015 - 07:06 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm
The mobile processors that were previously known as the Snapdragon 618 and the Snapdragon 620 are now known as Snapdragon 650 and Snapdragon 652, respectively. This is not how we typically see products rebranded. Normally, such as the desktop GPU market, individual products are carried between generations, and their model number is incremented to reflect that. This case is the exact opposite: Qualcomm feels that the new products are numbered too similar to existing models, so they're widening the gap between them.
An SoC is only useful if it is installed in a compelling device, though. While I would hope that these sorts of branding changes influence consumers more than device manufacturers, there exists a part of me that wonders how much this rebranding will affect their amount of design wins. You would think that bumping a model number up a few digits wouldn't affect experimentation at Samsung, LG, or other phone companies. Yet, it might, and that would be interesting to see. Either way, it should affect the semi-enthusiast phone users who buy based on breakdowns of tech specs.
Subject: Mobile | December 16, 2015 - 06:32 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: yoga 900, yoga, Skylake, Lenovo, Intel
You may remember that back in November Ryan took a look at the Lenovo Yoga 900 with its snazzy watchband hinge and 3200x1800 resolution. If not then now is the perfect time to revisit that video review but if you do still remember perhaps you would like a second opinion on the Skylake powered 2-in-1 device. At 324x225x14.9mm and weighing 1.3kg in the complete package it is very portable, though you could just pop the 13.3" IPS display around the keyboard for use as a tablet. The Inquirer takes a look at the good, the bad and the ugly attributes of the Yoga 900 in their review.
"This latest addition to the Yoga line is perhaps its fanciest yet, with a faux-leather finish and a complex ‘watchband' hinge. The real good news, though, is that this Skylake-powered convertible is as speedy and practical as it is eye-catching."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Sony Xperia Z5 Premium @ The Inquirer
- Lumia 950 & 950 XL – The Phone That Works Like Your PC @ Tech ARP
- Evolution Of Google Nexus : Huawei’s Transcendence @ Tech ARP
- Xtorm AL420 Waterproof Power Bank Xtreme 9000mAh Review @ NikKTech
Introduction and CPU Performance
We had a chance this week to go hands-on with the Snapdragon 820, the latest flagship SoC from Qualcomm, in a hardware session featuring prototype handsets powered by this new silicon. How did it perform? Read on to find out!
As you would expect from an all-new flagship part, the Snapdragon 820 offers improvements in virtually every category compared to their previous products. And with the 820 Qualcomm is emphasizing not only performance, but lower power consumption with claims of anywhere from 20% to 10x better efficiency across the components that make up this new SoC. And part of these power savings will undoubtedly come as the result of Qualcomm’s decision to move to a quad-core design with the 820, rather than the 8-core design of the 810.
So what exactly does comprise a high-end SoC like the Snapdragon 820? Ryan covered the launch in detail back in November (and we introduced aspects of the new SoC in a series of articles leading up to the launch). In brief, the Snapdragon 820 includes a custom quad-core CPU (Kryo), the Andreno 530 GPU, a new DSP (Hexagon 680), new ISP (Spectra), and a new LTE modem (X12). The previous flagship Snapdragon 810 used stock ARM cores (Cortex-A57, Cortex-A53) in a big.LITTLE configuration, but for various reasons Qualcomm has chosen not to introduce another 8-core SoC with this new product.
The four Kryo CPU cores found in the Snapdragon 820 can operate at speeds of up to 2.2 GHz, and since is half the number of the octo-core Snapdragon 810, the IPC (instructions per clock) of this new part will help determine how competitive the SD820's performance will be; but there’s a lot more to the story. This SoC design placed equal emphasis on all components therein, and the strategy with the SD820 seems to be leveraging the capability of the advanced signal processing (Hexagon 680) which should help offload the work to allow the CPU to work with greater efficiency, and at lower power.
Subject: Editorial, Mobile, Shows and Expos | December 9, 2015 - 07:04 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: yahoo, mozilla, google, Firefox OS, Android
Author's Disclosure: I volunteer for Mozilla, unpaid. I've been to one of their events in 2013, but otherwise have no financial ties with them. They actually weren't aware that I was a journalist. Still, our readers should know my background when reading my editorial.
Mozilla has announced that, while Firefox OS will still be developed for “many connected devices,” the organization will stop developing and selling smartphones through carriers. Mozilla claims that the reason is because they “weren't able to offer the best user experience possible.” While the statement is generic enough to apply in a lot of contexts, I'm not sure how close to the center of that region it is.
This all occurred at the “Mozlando” conference in Florida.
Firefox OS was born when stakeholders asked Mozilla to get involved in the iOS and Android duopoly. Unlike Windows, Blackberry, and other competitors, Mozilla has a history of leveraging Web standards to topple industry giants. Rather than trying to fight the industry leaders with a better platform, and hoping that developers create enough apps to draw users over, they expanded what Web could do to dig the ground out of their competitors.
The issue is that being able to achieve high performance is different from actually achieving it. The Web, as a platform, is getting panned as slow and “memory hungry” (even though free memory doesn't make a system faster -- it's all about the overhead required to manage it). Likewise, the first few phones landed at the low end, due in part to Mozilla, the non-profit organization remember, wanting to use Firefox OS to bring computing to new areas of the world. A few hiccups here and there added another coat of paint to the Web's perception of low performance.
Granted, they couldn't compete on the high end without a successful app ecosystem if they tried. Only the most hardcore of fans would purchase a several-hundred dollar smartphone, and intend to put up with just Web apps. Likewise, when I've told people that phones run on the Web, they didn't realize we mean “primarily localhost” until it's explicitly stated. People are afraid for their data caps, even though offline experiences are actually offline and stored locally.
The Dinosaur in the Room
Then there's the last question that I have. I am a bit concerned about the organization as a whole. They seem to be trying to shed several products lately, and narrow their focus. Granted, all of these announcements occur because of the event, so there's plenty of room for coincidence. They have announced that they will drop ad tiles, which I've heard praised.
The problem is, why would they do that? Was it for good will, aligning with their non-profit values? (Update: Fixed double-negative typo) Or was it bringing in much less money than projected? If it's the latter, then how far do they need to shrink their influence, and how? Did they already over-extend, and will they need to compensate for that? Looking at their other decisions, they've downsized Firefox OS, they are thinking about spinning out Thunderbird again, and they have quietly shuttered several internal projects, like their division for skunkworks projects, called “Mozilla Labs.” Mozilla also has a division called "Mozilla Research," although that is going strong. They are continually hiring for projects like "Servo," a potential new browser engine, and "Rust," a programming language that is used for Servo and other projects.
While Mozilla is definitely stable enough, financially, to thrive in their core products, I'm concerned about how much they can do beyond that. I'm genuinely concerned that Mozilla is trying to restructure while looking like a warrior for both human rights and platforms of free expression. We will not see the books until a few months from now, so we can only speculate until then. The organization is pulling inward, though. I don't know how much of this is refocusing on the problems they can solve, or the problems they can afford. We will see.
Subject: Mobile | December 8, 2015 - 06:05 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: USB 3 Type-C, OxygenOS, oneplus 2, Android
OnePlus is not likely the first source you would think of when purchasing an Android phone but perhaps this review over at Techgage might just change that. As you can see below the phones are rather attractive and OxygenOS is an interesting flavour of Lollipop 5.1.1. The charge cable is also an interesting feature, it is USB Type-C, however the cable it ships with is specific to this phone and you should not be charging other USB devices with it as it is out of spec. While there are advantages to a custom USB cable, there is also some danger associated with it so make sure to keep it separate from your other cables if you intend on picking this phone up.
The hardware includes an 8-core 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 and Adreno 430 GPU powering a 5.5" 1080p IPS screen. Depending on the model you choose you will either have 16GB local storage and 3GB of DDR4 or 64GB and 4GB. Techgage liked the phone a lot, with a few caveats; check them out in the full review.
"When a smartphone vendor comes along and offers its latest option as a “flagship killer”, it doesn’t exactly leave much room for leeway: it’s either going to be accurate, or off the mark. On paper, the OnePlus 2’s case seems to be solid, so let’s take a hard look at it and see if its promises are lived up to."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Samsung Gear S2 @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft Surface Pro 4 @ The Inquirer
- Microsoft Demonstrates The Surface Pro 4's Artistic Flair @ Tech ARP
Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | December 6, 2015 - 08:10 AM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: nvidia, graphics drivers, 860m
Users of notebooks with the GeForce GTX 860M GPU have apparently been experiencing crashes in many new titles. To remedy these issues, NVIDIA has published GeForce Hotfix Driver 359.12. If you do not have the GeForce GTX 860M, and all of your games work correctly, then you probably shouldn't install this. It has not been tested as much as official releases, by either Microsoft or NVIDIA, so other issues could have been introduced and no-one would know.
If you do have that specific GPU though, and you are having problems running certain titles, then you can install the driver now. Otherwise, you can wait for future, WHQL-certified drivers too. Some users are apparently claiming that the issues were fixed, while others complain about crashes in games like Mad Max and Shadow of Mordor.