Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Not Just a Better Camera

Samsung’s updated Galaxy phones are available now, and while the external designs - while beautiful - look the same as last year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ feature faster internals and an improved camera system. Is it worth an upgrade over the Galaxy S8? How does this new flagship from Samsung compare to Apple’s more expensive iPhone X? Read on to find out!

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During the Galaxy S9 at Samsung’s “Unpacked” event unveiling the new phones, much was made about the GS9’s camera - and particularly its video recording capability, which features an ultra slow-motion mode. While camera is a vital part of the experience, and can make or break a handset for many people, it is the application processor that constitutes a bigger upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S8 phones.

In the USA, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, while many of the international versions of the phone use Samsung’s own Exynos SoC. We took an early look at performance with the Snapdragon 845 during Qualcomm’s recent media day, and now with shipping hardware and far more time for benchmarking we can really put this new mobile platform to the test. You can take or leave synthetic benchmark results, of course; I can offer my own subjective impressions of overall responsiveness, which is as much a test of software optimization as hardware.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845)
CPU Cores 8x Kryo 385 up to 2.8 GHz
GPU Cores Adreno 630
RAM 6 GB LPDDR4X
Storage 64 / 128 / 256 GB
Network Snapdragon X20 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm, 189 g
OS Android 8.0

Samsung has opted to bring back the same industrial design introduced with last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+, but this was already a class-leading design so that is not a bad thing.

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Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S9+!

Acer Launches Updated Chromebook Spin 11 Starting at $349

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | January 25, 2018 - 12:12 AM |
Tagged: wacom, convertible tablet, Chromebook, chrome os, apollo lake, Android, acer

Acer is bringing an updated convertible Chromebook to market in March with the Chromebook Spin 11 being available to consumers and not just through educational channels like the previous models. The 2.75-pound notebook with 360-degree hinge and 11.6” IPS display (1366x768) runs Chrome OS, supports Android apps, and is powered by “all day” battery life and Apollo Lake processors. Unfortunately, Acer is not using Intel’s latest Gemini Lake chips, but the Chromebooks do hit more budget friendly MSRPs as a result with the Chromebook Spin 11 starting at $349.

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Acer’s updated silver colored Chromebook features a 360-degree hinge allowing it to be used in tablet mode, laptop mode, or anything in between. The hinge connects the top half with the 11.6” touchscreen and 1MP webcam to the bottom half which holds the keyboard, trackpad, I/O ports, and 5MP camera (intended to be used in tablet mode) along with all the internal battery and processing hardware. External I/O is fairly modern and includes two USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C ports, two USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a headphone jack, and one micro SD card reader. Users can also opt for a Wacom EMR stylus to get pen input on the touchscreen display.

Internal hardware includes an Intel Apollo Lake processor of dual or quad core varieties that sit at 6W TDPs, either 4GB or 8GB DDR4 memory, and 32GB or 64GB of eMMC storage. The processor options include the dual core Intel Celeron N3350 (2.4 GHz), Intel Celeron N3450 (4 core / 4 thread at up to 2.2 GHz), and quad core Intel Pentium N4200 at up to 2.5 GHz.

The keys look fairly large and well-spaced for an 11.6” device save for the arrow keys which are squished into the bottom right corner. There appear to be two bottom firing stereo speakers as well. I am curious how much travel the keys have though.

The updated Chromebook Spin 11 is slated for availability in March for North America starting at $349 and in April at €379 for the EMEA market (Europe, Middle East, Africa).

Also read:

Source: Ars Technica

Podcast #482 - Spectre, Meltdown, Cord Cutting, and more!

Subject: General Tech | January 4, 2018 - 11:28 AM |
Tagged: Z370, Vega, spectre, msi, meltdown, Koolance, Kaby Lake G, google wifi, cord cutting, apple, Android, 400A-S, podcast

PC Perspective Podcast #482 - 1/04/18

Join us for discussion on Spectre, Meltdown, Cord Cutting, and more!

You can subscribe to us through iTunes and you can still access it directly through the RSS page HERE.

The URL for the podcast is: http://pcper.com/podcast - Share with your friends!

Hosts: Ryan Shrout, Jermey Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, Allyn Malventano

Peanut Gallery: Ken Addison, Alex Lustenberg

Program length: 1:01:54

Podcast topics of discussion:
  1. Week in Review:
  2. News items of interest:
  3. Picks of the Week:
  4. Closing/outro

Source:

Identity theft? Ya, there's an app for that

Subject: General Tech | November 29, 2017 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, security, google play, google, Android

Hopefully you are already well aware that a large number of free Android apps slurp up a lot of personal information about you, however you might not realize the extent of the issue.  Researchers have just released a report which documents the amount of personal data that popular apps such as Uber, Tinder, Skype, Twitter, Spotify, and Snapchat gather about you, which The Inquirer linked to.  These apps collect and then share your name, phone number, e-mail address, login, IP address and device ID with targeted advertisers, something that many of the apps do not make clear when you install or use them.  That data can be used for some rather interesting things, such as tracking the physical location of your phone, so the next time you are installing an app on an mobile phone of any flavour you might want to consider what it may be sharing especially in light of the recently revealed Uber hack.

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"In case you're wondering, yes, there's a good chance at least some of your Android apps have tracked you rather more than you expect."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer

Huawei Announces Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | October 16, 2017 - 10:23 AM |
Tagged: SoC, smartphone, phone, Oreo, mobile, Mate 10 Pro, Mate 10, Kirin 970, Huawei, Android 8, Android

Huawei has announced the successor(s) to the Mate 9 smartphone with the new Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro, which feature a new "3D Glass Body" industrial design along with the new Kirin 970 processor and other improvements.

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The key features from Huawei include:

  • Kirin 970, the world’s first AI processor for smartphones with a dedicated Neural Network Processing Unit (NPU)
  • A 3D Glass Body featuring a barely-there-bezel, HUAWEI FullView Display and HDR10 supported technology for intensely vivid and brighter colors
  • TÜV Fast-Charge Safety Certified HUAWEI SuperCharge and 4000 mAh battery with AI-powered Battery Management
  • New Leica Dual Camera with SUMMILUX-H lenses, with both featuring  an aperture of f/1.6, and intelligent photography including AI-powered Real-Time Scene and Object Recognition and AI-powered Bokeh Effect;
  • An all-new, simplified EMUI 8.0 based on Android 8.0

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The Mate 10 Pro features an 18:9 OLED display

The Mate 10 is a 5.9-inch device with a 16:9 IPS display supporting HDR10, while the Mate 10 Pro offers an 18:9 OLED display (also with HDR10 support).

The new dual-camera system is again a joint effort with Leica, and combines a 12 MP color sensor with a 20 MP monochrome sensor, using lenses with a aperture of f/1.6 - and Huawei says this aperture is the "world's largest" for a smartphone. The digital zoom and bokeh effects are AI-powered, along with real-time scene and object recognition.

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The new Kirin 970 combines an 8-core CPU with a 12-core Mali-G72 GPU, and includes an NPU (neural processing unit) for AI-related tasks as well as a new dual ISP for the AI-powered camera features mentioned above.

Both phones include a 4000 mAh battery which offers "smart battery management" which Huawei states "understands user behavior and intelligently allocates resources to maximize battery life". The new TÜV-certified fast charging feature supports low-voltage charging of 4.5V / 5A, and Huawei states this will charge the phones from 1% to 20% in 10 minutes, or 1% to 58% in 30 minutes.

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The Mate 10 lineup

The Mate 10 and Mate 10 Pro ship with Android 8.0 and a new "simplified" version of Huawei's EMUI interface. Pricing and availablity for the U.S. was not revealed, but the phones will go on sale internationally starting this month for the Mate 10, and mid-November for the Mate 10 Pro.

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The Mate 10 Pro lineup

While we don't have U.S. pricing yet, European pricing for the Mate 10 with 64GB of storage and 4GB memory is set at €699, and the Mate 10 Pro with 128GB/6GB will be €799.

Source: HUAWEI

iOS and Android have Edge? Lord!

Subject: General Tech | October 5, 2017 - 12:11 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, ios, edge, Android

Microsoft is adding an Edge-y experience to mobile devices not running the rarely seen Windows Mobile.  Android users who never heard of Arrow will now not know it as Microsoft Launcher; those who try will find a Chromium based browser which resembles Edge and knows a few of its tricks.  iOS users will be running Safari WebKit wrapped all the way to the Edge of their screens.  In both cases Edge will offer the same cross-system abilities as it does on PC, allowing you to immediately resume reading a document and sync apps from or to your mobile device.  That functionality does have prerequisites, you would need to be using a PC running Windows as one of your devices and it has to have the Fall Creators Update installed, which hasn't yet been pushed out.  If you haven't yet fallen asleep, you can continue on Ars Technica.

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"As with Edge, the important part of the Launcher is the cross-device experience. Documents and photos has a "continue on PC" option that will open them up on a computer, making it easier to start working on the phone and then resume on a computer."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: Ars Technica

ASUS Launches the ZenFone 4 Max Smartphone

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2017 - 12:03 PM |
Tagged: ZenFone 4 Max, zenfone, Snapdragon 430, smartphone, ips, dual camera, asus, Android

The midrange phone market has a new contendor with the ZenFone 4 Max, launched today by ASUS and featuring some impressive specifications - particularly in the camera department - for an unlocked device with an MSRP of $199.

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The phone offers a 5.5-inch display - though likely due to the price target it is just 1280x720 - and the metal and glass construction gives it a more premium (if familiar) look. It's the back of the device where the dual camera sensors really set this apart from the majority of ~$200 unlocked phones: a pair of 13 MP sensors reside behind both a wide-angle and telephoto lens, which allows for more flexibility in composing shots.

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"ZenFone 4 Max features an advanced dual-camera system designed to take your mobile photography to new heights. Its 13MP main camera is equipped with the wide, F2.0 aperture lens to capture clearer photos. Its 120° wide-angle camera lets your fit more scenery and people in the frame for dramatic landscape shots, better group photos, and a more convenient photography experience in confined indoor spaces."

The application processor is the Snapdragon 430, a capable 8-core design with Adreno 505 graphics which also crucially offers 2x image signal processors for a dual camera setup. One area that is decidedly not midrange is the battery - which is a whopping 5000 mAh (!). Not only does this massive capacity allow for the unusual feature of turning your smartphone into a battery pack to charge other devices, but it should provide some really outstanding real-world battery life as well. The onboard Snapdragon 430 supports Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0, so refilling that huge battery should be efficient as well.

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The unlocked ZenFone 4 Max is available now for $199 on Amazon.com in a 32GB capacity.

Source: ASUS

... and the crowd goes mild. Microsoft's Android integration starts out with a whimper

Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2017 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, Android

Can you imagine a world in which you're able to share links between your phone and computer?  This is the brave new frontier which Microsoft is exploring in Version 16251 of Win10 which will allow you to link to an Android phone via a app for Android on the Windows Store.  Mind you there are a variety of programs out there which already fulfill this purpose, The Inquirer offers an example here,  and if you sign into Chrome it will happily sync itself on all your devices.

On the other hand this is a first step towards admitting that Windows Mobile is not the success they had dreamed.  Microsoft does see this as a much a larger project and taking the initial steps slowly could help in the long run; as long as they can get people to notice what they are doing and attract at least some attention.

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"But it does lay foundations, and it does show intentions. It's hugely unlikely that Windows Mobile is ever going to claw its way back to the levels to compete with iOS and Android, so it is important that as it approaches its second birthday, Windows-as-a-Service is approachable from other mobile operating systems."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Inquirer
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction and Specifications

The Galaxy S8 Plus is Samsung's first ‘big’ phone since the Note7 fiasco, and just looking at it the design and engineering process seems to have paid off. Simply put, the GS8/GS8+ might just be the most striking handheld devices ever made. The U.S. version sports the newest and fastest Qualcomm platform with the Snapdragon 835, and the international version of the handset uses Samsung’s Exynos 8895 Octa SoC. We have the former on hand, and it was this MSM8998-powered version of the 6.2-inch GS8+ that I spent some quality time with over the past two weeks.

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There is more to a phone than its looks, and even in that department the Galaxy S8+ raises questions about durability with that large, curved glass screen. With the front and back panels wrapping around as they do the phone has a very slim, elegant look that feels fantastic in hand. And while one drop could easily ruin your day with any smartphone, this design is particularly unforgiving - and screen replacement costs with these new S8 phones are particularly high due to the difficulty in repairing the screen, and need to replace the AMOLED display along with the laminated glass.

Forgetting the fragility for a moment and just embracing the case-free lifestyle I was so tempted to adopt, lest I change the best in-hand feel I've had from a handset (and I didn't want to hide its knockout design, either), I got down to actually objectively assessing the phone's performance. This is the first production phone we have had on hand with the new Snapdragon 835 platform, and we will be able to draw some definitive performance conclusions compared to SoCs in other shipping phones.

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (MSM8998)
CPU Cores 4x 2.45 GHz Kryo
4x 1.90 GHz Kryo
GPU Cores Adreno 540
RAM 4 / 6 GB LPDDR4 (6 GB with 128 GB storage option)
Storage 64 / 128 GB
Network Snapdragon X16 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g
OS Android 7.0

Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ smartphone!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Google

Introduction and Design

In case you have not heard by now, Pixel is the re-imagining of the Nexus phone concept by Google; a fully stock version of the Android experience on custom, Google-authorized hardware - and with the promise of the latest OS updates as they are released. So how does the hardware stack up? We are late into the life of the Pixel by now, and this is more of a long-term review as I have had the smaller version of the phone on hand for some weeks now. As a result I can offer my candid view of the less-covered of the two Pixel handsets (most reviews center around the Pixel XL), and its performance.

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There was always a certain cachet to owning a Nexus phone, and you could rest assured that you would be running the latest version of Android before anyone on operator-controlled hardware. The Nexus phones were sold primarily by Google, unlocked, with operator/retail availability at times during their run. Things took a turn when Google opted to offer a carrier-branded version of the Nexus 6 back in November of 2014, along with their usual unlocked Google Play store offering. But this departure was not just an issue of branding, as the price jumped to a full $649; the off-contract cost of premium handsets such as Apple’s iPhone. How could Google hope to compete in a space dominated by Apple and Samsung phones purchased by and large with operator subsidies and installment plans? They did not compete, of course, and the Nexus 6 flopped.

Pixel, coming after the Huawei-manufactured Nexus 6p and LG-manufactured Nexus 5X, drops the “Nexus” branding while continuing the tradition of a reference Android experience - and the more recent tradition of premium pricing. As we have seen in the months since its release, the Pixel did not put much of a dent into the Apple/Samsung dominated handset market. But even during the budget-friendly Nexus era, which offered a compelling mix of day-one Android OS update availability and inexpensive, unlocked hardware (think Nexus 4 at $299 and Nexus 5 at $349), Google's own phones were never mainstream. Still, in keeping with iPhone and Galaxy flagships $649 nets you a Pixel, which also launched through Verizon in an exclusive operator deal. Of course a larger version of the Pixel exists, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the Pixel XL. Unfortunately I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that stock for the XL has been quite low with availability constantly in question.

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The Pixel is hard to distinguish from an iPhone 7 from a distance (other than the home button)

Google Pixel Specifications
Display 5.0-inch 1080x1920 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996)
CPU Cores 2x 2.15 GHz Kryo
2x 1.60 GHz Kryo
GPU Cores Adreno 530
RAM 4GB LPDDR4
Storage 32 / 128 GB
Network Snapdragon X12 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 4.2
USB 3.0
NFC
Dimensions 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm, 143 g
OS Android 7.1

Continue reading our review of the Google Pixel smartphone!