Announced just this past June at last year’s Google I/O event, Android TV is a platform developed by Google, running Android 5.0 and higher, that aims to create an interactive experience for the TV. This platform can be built into a TV directly as well as into set-top style boxes, like the NVIDIA SHIELD we are looking at today. The idea is to bring the breadth of apps and content to the TV through the Android operating system in a way that is both convenient and intuitive.
NVIDIA announced SHIELD back in March at GDC as the first product to use the company’s latest Tegra processor, the X1. This SoC combines an 8-core big.LITTLE ARM processor design with a 256-core implementation of the NVIDIA Maxwell GPU architecture, providing GPU performance previously unseen in an Android device. I have already spent some time with the NVIDIA SHIELD at various events and the promise was clearly there to make it a leading option for Android TV adoption, but obviously there were questions to be answered.
Today’s article will focus on my early impressions with the NVIDIA SHIELD, having used it both in the office and at home for a handful of days. As you’ll see during the discussion there are still some things to be ironed out, some functionality that needs to be added before SHIELD and Android TV can really be called a must-buy product. But I do think it will get there.
And though this review will focus on the NVIDIA SHIELD, it’s impossible not to marry the success of SHIELD with the success of Google’s Android TV. The dominant use case for SHIELD is as a media playback device, with the gaming functionality as a really cool side project for enthusiasts and gamers looking for another outlet. For SHIELD to succeed, Google needs to prove that Android TV can improve over other integrated smart TV platforms as well as other set-top box platforms like Boxee, Roku and even the upcoming Apple TV refresh.
But first, let’s get an overview of the NVIDIA SHIELD device, pricing and specifications, before diving into my experiences with the platform as a whole.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 28, 2015 - 02:04 AM | Ken Addison
Shortly after the keynote at Lenovo Tech World today,we got hands on with the Dual-Screen Smartwatch concept, the Magic View.
The Magic View is an Android Wear device, which integrates a unique “virtual interactive display" via a small prism on the watch band. Users must bring the device up to their face and look through the prism to see a secondary display for tasks such as video viewing.
Looking inside the Magic View reminded us a lot of Google Glass. As you put your eye up to the prism on the watch band, you could see what looked like a display off in the distance. It was difficult to determine the relative size, but Lenovo claims this display is 20x bigger than the display on the smartwatch itself. Resolution was also undetermined, but it seemed to be low and about on par with the original Google Glass units.
The device itself was a bit warm and the additional display unit added some bulk, but these weren't immediate deal breakers. The design was still ergonomic and seemed like something that you wouldn't have an issue wearing all-day long.
This is definitely an early concept, but the fact that Lenovo are showing off demo units here means that they are serious about the ideas presented in the Magic View. If additional development can solve some of the heat issues, it seems like this would be a feature that doesn't detract from the core use of the device and can provide a potentially value new interaction method.
Subject: General Tech, Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 10:55 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: wearable, tech world, smartwatch, smartphone, smart cast, magic view, lenovo tech world, Lenovo, concept
Today at the Lenovo Tech World keynote presentation, Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius took the opportunity to show some of the far reaching concepts for smartphones and smartwatches.
The Magic View smartwatch is a stylish, round smartwatch reminiscent of the Moto 360 that seems from the concept renderings to be based around Android Wear. However, the uniqueness comes from what Lenovo is claiming makes it the only smartwatch with two screens.
Optical reflection is used inside of a portion of the strap in order to project a second “virtual interactive display” more than 20 times larger than the integrated display. This is made possible through Lenovo-designed silicon aimed at miniaturizing the components for this type of projection while maintaining the same performance.
Lenovo claims this secondary screen will be useful for things like maps, as well as photo and video viewing, but it be remains to be seen if users would favor a virtual display like this over simply using their existing smartphone display. Privacy is also a big part of what Lenovo is pitching with the Magic View. Since users must place the lens portion next to their eye, other people in the same area cannot look over their shoulders and view potientially sensitive information.
The Lenovo Smart Cast concept plays on a similar idea as the Magic View. Through the use of a build in laser projector, as well as specialized sensors, Lenovo aims at allowing users to project a large virtual touch screen onto tabletop surfaces.
With the use of infrared sensors, users can touch the surface underneath the projection and interact just as if it were a physical display. Lenovo points towards this being useful for such applications as virtual keyboards in productivity apps, or even for media control of projected movies and light gaming such as Fruit Ninja.
The projected display is also independent of the smartphone display, allowing things such as two separate views for video chatting applications.
It remains to be seen if these concepts will ever actually make it into production devices, and if those devices will ever hit North America, but it's always interesting to see what R&D divisions of large companies like Lenovo are up to.
Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 27, 2015 - 12:27 AM | Ken Addison
Tagged: z51, z41, tech world, r9 m375, r9 m360, Lenovo, ideapad 100, amd
Today at their Tech World event in Beijing, Lenovo is taking the opportunity to announce some new mainstream notebook options.
First off, we have simply the Lenovo Z41 and Z51. The 14-inch Z41 and 15.6-inch Z51 aim to refresh the previous Z40 and Z50 with Broadwell CPUs as well as new AMD discrete GPU options.
Lenovo is using the Broadwell-U class of CPUs here as you would find in ultra books, so don't expect a CPU powerhouse, but for productivity style tasks these machines should hit the sweet spot of Price vs Performance with a starting price of $549 for the base Z51.
Paired with the new AMD R9-M360 (Z41) or M375 (Z51) these notebooks should also be able to play mainstream titles on the integrated 1080p display while coming in just over $800.
Lenovo also announced a low-cost entry into the ideapad line utilizing Intel's BayTrail-M processors. The ideapad 100 is available in both 14-inch and 15-inch variants and seems to be aimed at the low-cost Chromebook market.
Starting at $249, the ideapad 100 seems like it will be a good option for users looking for a secondary option for basic web browsing and office tasks.
Stay tuned for more from Lenovo's Tech World Event this week!
Introduction: Improving Portable Sound
The Calyx PaT is very small USB DAC and headphone amp that can be used with PCs and mobile devices, offering the possibility of better sound from just about any digital source. So how does it sound? Let’s find out!
The PaT is a very interesting little device, to be sure. It rather resembles a large domino and weighs less than 1 ounce thanks to an ultra-light aluminum construction. It requires no battery or power source other than its micro USB connection, yet it provides sufficient power (0.8 V output) for in-ear monitors and efficient headphones through its 3.5mm headphone jack. Inside is a proprietary mix of DAC and amplifier circuitry, and like other products produced by Calyx, a Korean company with little presence in the United States, there is the promise of a dedication to great sound. Did Calyx pull it off with the diminutive PaT?
Improving Portable Sound
Outboard DACs and headphone amplifiers for computers and mobile devices are nothing new, with recent products like AudioQuest’s Dragonfly a prime example in the portable USB DAC market (though it offers no mobile support). When I first heard about the PaT during CES it was still in the prototype stage, but I was interested because of the Calyx name if nothing else, as I already owned the Calyx M DAP and had been quite honestly blown away by the sound.
So what need might I have for the interestingly-named PaT (pronounced "paat", meaning "bean" in reference to the small size), which is itself a DAC that requires another device to play music files? It wasn’t until I had the opportunity to speak with Calyx president Seungmok Yi during CES (via video chat as I couldn’t attend the show) that I started realize that this could be a compelling product, not just for the $99 price tag - a bargain for an audiophile product - but because of how versatile the PaT can be. You don't have to identify as an "audiophile" to appreciate the clearer and more detailed sound of a good DAC, especially when so many of us simply haven't heard one (especially on mobile devices).
Subject: Mobile | May 25, 2015 - 01:27 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: asus, transformer book, T300 Chi
The ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi comes in a number of models, with the base mode running just under $700. The Tech Report had a chance to review the higher end model which is more expensive and harder to find. This particular model sports a 2.9GHz Broadwell based Core M 5Y71, 8GB DDR3-1600 and an internal 128GB internal SanDisk iSSD. The 12.5" IPS 2560x1440 screen is common to all models, as is WiFi connectivity and Windows 8.1, 64-bit. The keyboard portion of this Transformer Book is more of a screen stand than a dock as it uses Bluetooth to connect to the tablet as opposed to a physical interface, magnets keep the tablet in place when you are docked. Check out how well it performs in The Tech Report's full review.
"Asus' Transformer Book T300 Chi combines Intel's Core M processor with a 12.5" high-PPI display. The tablet half of this detachable 2-in-1 is thinner than the iPad Air, and it's backed by a keyboard dock that attaches with neodymium magnets. Read on to see what the T300 Chi is like as a tablet and notebook."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
- Dell Venue 8 7840 Tablet @ Kitguru
- Surface 3 @ The Inquirer
- TSST TB050PA Portable Charger @ Kitguru
- VKWorld VK2015 Smartphone Review @ Madshrimps
Subject: General Tech, Mobile | May 22, 2015 - 03:34 PM | Ken Addison
Tagged: ultrabook, Lenovo, lavie-z, Intel, i7-5500U, Broadwell
After seeing it at CES this January, one our most anticipated products became the Lenovo Lavie-Z laptop. Born out of a partnership between NEC and Lenovo, the Lavie-Z promises to be the world's lightest laptop.
Our old-school postage scale doesn't have the accuracy to reach the 1.87lb that Lenovo clocks the Lavie-Z in at
Even after using the machine breiefly at CES, it is difficult to put into words what picking up a sub-2lb laptop is really like. Even after using the machine off and on today, it still feels like it's not a real machine. Lenovo and NEC have been able to accomplish this weight shedding through the use of a Lithium-Magnisum composite for the external housing of the machine, which seems durable, yet is incredibly light.
This may be a lightweight machine, but the specifications aren't compromised over other ultrabooks. The Lavie-Z is only listed in one configuration on Lenovo's site currently, but it's a high end one. A Broadwell Intel i7-5500U dual core processor, 8GB of RAM, a 2560x1440 IGZO display, 256GB SATA M.2 Samsung SSD, and Intel 802.11AC wireless make up this machine. At $1500 for this configuration, there doesn't seem to be much of a markup over other i7-equipped ultrabooks.
We'll of course put the Lavie-Z through our normal paces including performance and battery life, and we certainly hope they live up to the striking first impressions of this laptop.
Stay tuned for our full review in the coming weeks!
Subject: Mobile | May 18, 2015 - 02:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: ZenFone 2, smartphones, intel atom, atom z3580, asus
ZenFone 2 is the new flagship smartphone from ASUS ZenFone, and features a new design powered by an Intel Atom Z3580 (Moorefield) processor with a massive 4GB of RAM.
The phone has a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS display with 403 PPI for crisp scaling, and the “Ergonomic Arc” design includes a volume-control key on the rear of the phone “within easy reach of the user's index finger”, with a curved profile that tapers to a 0.15 inch at the edges.
The camera also features a 13 MP PixelMaster camera with a f/2.0 aperture and claimed “zero shutter-lag”. The battery weighs in at 3000mAh and features “BoostMaster” fast-charge technology that sounds similar to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard.
But one of the most attractive features will be price, as ASUS will be selling these online through their retail channels as affordable unlocked smartphones:
- 2GB / 16GB storage / Atom 3560 - $199
- 4GB / 64GB storage / Atom 3580 / QuickCharger - $299
Here's look at the specifications:
- CPU: Intel Quad-Core 64-bit Atom Z3580 @ 2.3GHz (Min Clock 333MHz, Max Clock 2333MHz)
- GPU: PowerVR Series 6 G6430 with OpenGL 3.0 Support (Min Clock 457MHz, Max Clock 533MHz)
- Display: 5.5in IPS, 1920x1080 resolution (403 PPI), Corning Gorilla Glass 3 with Anti-Fingerprint Coating
- Memory: 4GB 800 MHz LPDDR3
- Storage: 64GB eMMC
- SIM: Support Dual active micro-SIM
- Micro-SD slot: SDXC support up to 128GB
- Modem: Intel XMM7260 LTE-Advanced
- FDD LTE 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/9/177/18/19/20/28/29
- TDD LTE 38/39/40/41
- WCDMA 850/900/1900
- TD-SCDMA 1900/2100
- EDGE/GPRS/GSM 850/900/1800/1900
- Wireless: WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac
- Rear Camera: 13MP, aperture f/2.0, sensor size 1/3.2 inch
- Front Camera: 5MP
- Maximum Video Resolution: 1080p/30
- Battery: 3000 mAh Lithium-Polymer (11.4 Wh), Boostmaster Fast-Charging
- Colors: Glacier Gray, Osmium Black, Glamour Red, Sheer Gold
- Dimensions: 152.5 mm x 77.2 mm x 10.9-3.9 mm (6 x 3.04 x 0.43-.15 inches)
- Weight: 170g
PR after the break.
Subject: Mobile | May 18, 2015 - 02:00 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: zenbook pro, zenbook, UX501, UX305, QHD+, notebooks, ips, asus, 4k, 2560x1440
ASUS has annouced a new QHD+ version of the affordable ZenBook UX305 notebook as well as the new ZenBook Pro UX501.
The ZenBook UX305 was released as a disruptive notebook with specs far above its $699 price tag, and this new version goes far beyond the 1920x1080 screen resolution of the original. This new QHD+ (3200x1800) panel is IPS just like the original, but with this ultra-high resolution it boasts 276 PPI for either incredibly sharp, or incredibly tiny text depending on how well your application scales.
The new ZenBook Pro UX501 takes resolution a step further with a 4K/UHD 3820x2160 IPS panel and a powerful quad-core Intel Core i7-4720HQ processor with 16GB of RAM at its disposal. NVIDIA GeForce GTX 960M graphics power this 15.6-inch, 282 PPI UHD panel, and naturally 4x PCIe storage is available as well.
More information and specs are available in the full PR for both notebooks after the break.
Subject: Mobile | May 16, 2015 - 01:00 PM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: Tegra X1, tegra, shield pro, shield console, shield, nvidia
UPDATE: Whoops! It appears that Amazon took the listing down... No surprise there. I'm sure we'll be seeing them again VERY SOON. :)
Looks like the release of the new NVIDIA SHIELD console device, first revealed back at GDC in March, is nearly here. A listing for "NVIDIA SHIELD" as well as the new "NVIDIA SHIELD Pro" showed up on Amazon.com today.
Though we don't know what the difference between the SHIELD and SHIELD Pro are officially, according to Amazon at least, the difference appears to be the internal storage. The Pro model will ship with 500GB of internal storage, the non-Pro model will only have 16GB. You'll have to get an SD Card for more storage on the base model if you plan on doing anything other than streaming games through NVIDIA GRID it seems.
No pricing is listed yet and there is no release date on the Amazon pages either, but we have always been told this was to be a May or June on-sale date. Both models of the NVIDIA SHIELD will include an HDMI cable, a micro-USB cable and a SHIELD Controller. If you want the remote or stand, you're going to have to pay out a bit more.
For those of you that missed out on the original SHIELD announcement from March, here is a quick table detailing the specs, as we knew them at that time. NVIDIA's own Tegra X1 SoC featuring 256 Maxwell GPU cores powers this device using the Android TV operating system, promising 4K video playback, the best performing Android gaming experience and NVIDIA GRID streaming games.
|NVIDIA SHIELD Specifications|
|Processor||NVIDIA® Tegra® X1 processor with 256-core Maxwell™ GPU with 3GB RAM|
|Video Features||4K Ultra-HD Ready with 4K playback and capture up to 60 fps (VP9, H265, H264)|
|Audio||7.1 and 5.1 surround sound pass through over HDMI
High-resolution audio playback up to 24-bit/192kHz over HDMI and USB
High-resolution audio upsample to 24-bit/192hHz over USB
|Wireless||802.11ac 2x2 MIMO 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi
Two USB 3.0 (Type A)
MicroSD slot (supports 128GB cards)
IR Receiver (compatible with Logitech Harmony)
|Gaming Features||NVIDIA GRID™ streaming service
|SW Updates||SHIELD software upgrades directly from NVIDIA|
|Power||40W power adapter|
|Weight and Size||Weight: 23oz / 654g
Height: 5.1in / 130mm
Width: 8.3in / 210mm
Depth: 1.0in / 25mm
|OS||Android TV™, Google Cast™ Ready|
|In the box||NVIDIA SHIELD
NVIDIA SHIELD controller
HDMI cable (High Speed), USB cable (Micro-USB to USB)
Power adapter (Includes plugs for North America, Europe, UK)
|Requirements||TV with HDMI input, Internet access|
|Options||SHIELD controller, SHIELD remove, SHIELD stand|