T'is but a flesh wound! The PC market shrinks by about 10% this Q1

Subject: General Tech | April 12, 2016 - 12:41 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, apple, asus, market share, doom

That rustling you hear outside your door is the press getting ready to once again predict the impending doom of the PC industry, ready with bon mots describing how the world, including statisticians, engineers and animation creators will be using tablets for their work from now on.  As is always the case, these doomsayers are vastly overstating their case, though this is not to say there are some hurdles facing the PC industry as a whole.

Windows 10 has failed to drive consumers to update their hardware, for a variety of reasons obvious to everyone but Gartner, IDC and Microsoft's marketing team.  Intel's latest offerings have not provided a solid reason for enthusiasts to upgrade their machines and AMD is worryingly quiet lately.  This has lead to a fall in sales compared to this time last year of between 9.6-11.5% depending on which of the two sources The Inquirer quoted you choose to believe is more accurate

Apple and ASUS are the only two companies showing growth and a 1% increase is nothing you should brag about, even if you are beating the competition.  Even Lenovo is seeing their sales shrink, to the tune of roughly 10%.  There is new hardware slated to arrive soon and the falling price of M.2 and PCIe SSDs may provide some impetus for enthusiasts to pick up a new motherboard at the very least, so hopefully we will see this trend begin to reverse itself before the end of the year.


"Gartner's report said that PC shipments reached 64.8 million units in the first quarter of 2016, while IDC offered the more pessimistic figure of 60.6 million. This represents a decline of 9.6 per cent or 11.5 percent, depending on which figure you go on."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: The Inquirer
Subject: Editorial, Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Hardware Experience

Seeing Ryan transition from being a long-time Android user over to iOS late last year has had me thinking. While I've had hands on with flagship phones from many manufacturers since then, I haven't actually carried an Android device with me since the Nexus S (eventually, with the 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade). Maybe it was time to go back in order to gain a more informed perspective of the mobile device market as it stands today.


So that's exactly what I did. When we received our Samsung Galaxy S7 review unit (full review coming soon, I promise!), I decided to go ahead and put a real effort forth into using Android for an extended period of time.

Full disclosure, I am still carrying my iPhone with me since we received a T-Mobile locked unit, and my personal number is on Verizon. However, I have been using the S7 for everything but phone calls, and the occasional text message to people who only has my iPhone number.

Now one of the questions you might be asking yourself right now is why did I choose the Galaxy S7 of all devices to make this transition with. Most Android aficionados would probably insist that I chose a Nexus device to get the best experience and one that Google intends to provide when developing Android. While these people aren't wrong, I decided that I wanted to go with a more popular device as opposed to the more niche Nexus line.

Whether you Samsung's approach or not, the fact is that they sell more Android devices than anyone else and the Galaxy S7 will be their flagship offering for the next year or so.

Continue reading our editorial on switching from iOS to Android with the Samsung Galaxy S7!!

It's all in your Imagination; Apple is not on an expensive shopping trip

Subject: General Tech | March 22, 2016 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: apple, Imagination Technologies, rumours

Various sites have been abuzz this morning with rumours of Apple seeking to acquire the manufacturer of the PowerVR graphics chips they utilize, Imagination Technologies.  Apple has now flatly denied this rumour; which means simply that they have denied that they are making an offer at this time.  That makes sense regardless of the truth of the rumour, driving up the stock price makes the acquisition more expensive for Apple so a public denial makes financial sense whether they do plan to buy the company in the future.

It does make some sense to own your hardware provider and their patents, but it is not as advantageous as it once was.  Many companies have found outsourcing their manufacturing to make more sense financially, preferring to buy out competitors to gain market share and patents instead.  We will keep an eye out for any new developments but it does not seem likely that we will see a deal go through in the near future. 


"From time to time, Apple talks with companies about potential acquisitions. We had some discussions with Imagination, but we do not plan to make an offer for the company at this time."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

Source: Mac Rumors

Podcast #387 - ASUS PB328Q, Samsung 750 EVO SSD, the release of Vulkan and more!

Subject: General Tech | February 18, 2016 - 02:16 PM |
Tagged: x16 LTE, vulkan, video, ssd, Samsung, qualcomm, podcast, pb328q, opengl, nvidia, micron, Khronos, gtx 950, asus, apple, 840 evo, 750ti, 750 evo, 3d nand

PC Perspective Podcast #387 - 02/18/2016

Join us this week as we discuss the ASUS PB328Q, Samsung 750 EVO SSD, the release of Vulkan 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, Jeremy Hellstrom, Josh Walrath, and Allyn Malventano

Program length: 1:34:18

  1. Week in Review:
  2. 0:35:00 This episode of the PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Audible, the world's leading provider of audiobooks with more than 180,000 downloadable titles across all types of literature including fiction, nonfiction, and periodicals. For your free audiobook, go to audible.com/pcper
  3. News items of interest:
  4. 1:07:00 This episode of PC Perspective Podcast is brought to you by Braintree. Even the best mobile app won’t work without the right payments API. That’s where the Braintree v.0 SDK comes in. One amazingly simple integration gives you every way to pay. Try out the sandbox and see for yourself at braintree­payments.com/pcper
  5. Hardware/Software Picks of the Week
  6. Closing/outro

Subscribe to the PC Perspective YouTube Channel for more videos, reviews and podcasts!!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

It's Easier to Be Convincing than Correct

This is a difficult topic to discuss. Some perspectives assume that law enforcement have terrible, Orwellian intentions. Meanwhile, law enforcement officials, with genuinely good intentions, don't understand that the road to Hell is paved with those. Bad things are much more likely to happen when human flaws are justified away, which is easy to do when your job is preventing mass death and destruction. Human beings like to use large pools of evidence to validate assumptions, without realizing it, rather than discovering truth.

Ever notice how essays can always find sources, regardless of thesis? With increasing amounts of data, you are progressively more likely to make a convincing argument, but not necessarily a more true one. Mix in good intentions, which promotes complacency, and mistakes can happen.



But this is about Apple. Recently, the FBI demanded that Apple creates a version of iOS that can be broken into by law enforcement. They frequently use the term “back door,” while the government prefers other terminology. Really, words are words and the only thing that matters is what it describes -- and it describes a mechanism to compromise the device's security in some way.

This introduces several problems.

The common line that I hear is, “I don't care, because I have nothing to hide.” Well... that's wrong in a few ways. First, having nothing to hide is irrelevant if the person who wants access to your data assumes that you have something you want to hide, and is looking for evidence that convinces themselves that they're right. Second, you need to consider all the people who want access to this data. The FBI will not be the only one demanding a back door, or even the United States as a whole. There are a whole lot of nations that trusts individuals, including their own respective citizens, less than the United States. You can expect that each of them would request a backdoor.

You can also expect each of them, and organized criminals, wanting to break into each others'.

Lastly, we've been here before, and what it comes down to is criminalizing math. Encryption is just a mathematical process that is easy to perform, but hard to invert. It all started because it is easy to multiply two numbers together, but hard to factor them. The only method we know is dividing by every possible number that's smaller than the square root of said number. If the two numbers are prime, then you are stuck finding one number out of all those possibilities (the other prime number will be greater than the square root). In the 90s, numbers over a certain size were legally classified as weapons. That may sound ridiculous, and there would be good reason for that feeling. Either way, it changed; as a result, online banks and retailers thrived.

Apple closes their letter with the following statement:

While we believe the FBI’s intentions are good, it would be wrong for the government to force us to build a backdoor into our products. And ultimately, we fear that this demand would undermine the very freedoms and liberty our government is meant to protect.

Good intentions lead to complacency, which is where the road to (metaphorical) Hell starts.

So That's Where Jim Keller Went To... Tesla Motors...

Subject: General Tech, Processors, Mobile | January 29, 2016 - 05:28 PM |
Tagged: tesla, tesla motors, amd, Jim Keller, apple

Jim Keller, a huge name in the semiconductor industry for his work at AMD and Apple, recently left AMD before the launch of the Zen architecture. This made us nervous, because when a big name leaves a company before a product launch, it could either be that their work is complete... or they're evacuating before a stink-bomb detonates and the whole room smells like rotten eggs.


It turns out a third option is possible: Elon Musk offers you a job making autonomous vehicles. Jim Keller's job title at Tesla will be Vice President of Autopilot Hardware Engineering. I could see this position being enticing, to say the least, even if you are confident in your previous employer's upcoming product stack. It doesn't mean that AMD's Zen architecture will be either good or bad, but it nullifies the earlier predictions, when Jim Keller left AMD, at least until further notice.

We don't know who approached who, or when.

Another point of note: Tesla Motors currently uses NVIDIA Tegra SoCs in their cars, who are (obviously) competitors of Jim Keller's former employer, AMD. It sounds like Jim Keller is moving into a somewhat different role than he had at AMD and Apple, but it could be interesting if Tesla starts taking chip design in-house, to customize the chip to their specific needs, and take away responsibilities from NVIDIA.

The first time he was at AMD, he was the lead architecture of the Athlon 64 processor, and he co-authored x86-64. When he worked at Apple, he helped design the Apple A4 and A5 processors, which were the first two that Apple created in-house; the first three iPhone processors were Samsung SoCs.

Android to iPhone Day 31: Battery Life and Closing

Subject: Mobile | October 29, 2015 - 09:46 AM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android, A9

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:


It has been too long since my last update to this story, and I promised a final answer when it comes to our view of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in terms of battery life. If you remember back to some of our previous posts, the iPhone 6s actually has a smaller battery in it than the previous iPhone 6 did; the same is true for the Plus model as well.

Model Battery Size
iPhone 6 1810 mAh
iPhone 6s 1715 mAh
iPhone 6 Plus 2910 mAh
iPhone 6s Plus 2750 mAh

Clearly Apple knew that would be a contentious specification change from year to year, but the company has clearly done a lot to make sure it doesn't affect the battery life and usability of the iPhone. First, the new Apple A9 SoC is built on a smaller process technology; both Samsung and TSMC are making chips for the phones at 16nm and 14nm, and along with that process technology change comes an inherent power efficiency gain. Changing process nodes does not always magically make an existing architecture better performing or more efficient, but Apple's engineers are more than capable of being able to achieve that. After all, when you have unlimited funds and an edict never make a misstep, it helps.

The other change that came with the iPhone 6s and Plus is the move to iOS 9, which promises to improve battery and processing efficiency along the way. In the past, we have all heard rumors or had experiences with users of older phone models seeing decreased performance or decreased battery life when upgrading to the latest version of iOS. That may be the true, and I am not going to attempt to validate those claims here today, but it does make some sense that the latest OS would be tuned for the latest hardware.

If you're Apple, you don't want to have to make the battery in the new phones smaller than the old phones. It's a line item in a review that stands out to the general consumer - "WHAT? This year's model has a SMALLER battery??" - and could have a dramatic impact on sales and perception. But Apple also couldn't make the new phone any thicker as the same immediate response would take place. In order to add in support for the new 3D Touch and Taptic Engine technology the phones had to sacrifice a bit of space behind the screen. The result is a slightly thinner, and smaller capacity, battery.


Image source: iFixit iPhone 6s Teardown

But let's talk about usability. In several instances in this series of editorials I have mentioned my extremely positive impressions from battery life in my normal use. The phone just seems to last longer than my Motorola Droid Turbo did, even with the Droid Turbo's much larger (3000 mAh) battery. Apple's control over the operating system, and to some extent the amount of interaction and capability that third party applications have, allows them to do more with less. And as a result you can drastically improve surrounding experiences: phone size, weight, design, included hardware features, etc.

There have definitely been days where my iPhone 6s would have been dead before I made it to my bed had I not had an external battery with me. But those were always extreme cases and include little to no service at a camp ground with the family, a wedding where I took hundreds of photos and videos, a 7am to 2am day where we had a site maintenance issue and I was on the phone (yes, talking!) for several hours in total. I don't think there is a scenario of use where the Android devices I have had would ever surpass the battery life of the iPhone 6s. And that's an impressive feat all things considered.

But like many of you reading this, I like hard numbers. Data, graphs and empirical results. To get some numbers I ran the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus through our standard PC Perspective Wi-Fi Battery testing process. We have a custom site that allows us to cycle through legit, real websites in a cycle of 20, pausing and scrolling on each to closely simulate how a user would surf.


The biggest winner here is the iPhone 6s Plus, pulling in nearly 9 hours of continuous use in our web browsing test. The OnePlus 2, with a battery size of 3,300 mAh, can't keep up with the flagship iPhone product of the class of form factor, able to muster only 7.5 hours of use, a full 20% less than the 6s Plus. The iPhone 6s, using the same Apple A9 processor, pulls in than 6.6 hours of battery life in our Wi-Fi test, more than 1.5 hours more than the LG G4, one of the flagship Android phones of this past summer.

It's not exhaustive, but I think the results speak clearly about where the iPhone 6s stands in the current smartphone ecosystem. It has outstanding battery life, though there are plenty of rival Android phones on market currently that could match it. The key difference is that Apple is able to do it with less physical battery, and thus make a sleeker device. Seeing the added battery life of the iPhone 6s Plus does make me wonder if I would be willing to sacrifice my pockets for the extra security it offers. What I really want though is an iPhone 6s that is a bit thicker, offering up the same level of battery capacity as the larger phone. I know many users would be willing to swap the cache of sexy iPhone industrial design for the ability to make last call without a wall plug completely reliably.

Wrapping up the Experiment

It's been just over 30 days now in my Android to iPhone experiment, so the big question needs to be answered: will I be sticking with the iPhone 6s or going back to one of the newer Android devices like the refresh Nexus phones?

The Apple iPhone 6s will stay in my pocket.

Honestly, the answer surprises me - I did not expect this result when I placed the order button on Apple.com those many weeks ago. I have always been a proponent of the openness of Android, the flexibility that offered in terms of applications and OS access, but at the end of the day, I'm just a person using a phone. I have had only one instance of a crash/lock up on the iPhone 6s in my usage and it is reliably fast and responsive, something that eventually faded on the Droid Turbo. The camera takes fantastic photos, the application ecosystem offers more range than the Google Play Store and the global integration of Touch ID makes using LastPass less frustrating, accessing my eTrade bank accounts quicker and much more. Those are just some of the reasons for the switch for me.

I don't propose that everyone should make the same move. If you are a power user that likes to root your phones and change Android ROMs, you won't really find the same level of support for that on iPhones. If you welcome side-loading applications easily to your device (which is something I do miss) for development or experimenting purposes, Android is still the way to go. But it's hard to see the majority of the consumer base of smartphones in this country using both devices for extended periods and not see Apple as the more polished and friendly experience. That's what happened to me.

I look forward to trying out the upcoming Android phones in the near term and I won't ever say that I won't be switching back. Google continues to push the OS development further and offers features sometimes years of ahead of Apple. I'm working on getting both a 6P and 5X Nexus phone to try out; I'm curious to see how the implementation of the fingerprint sensor and improve cameras might shift my view.

And who knows, maybe in early 2016 we'll see a revamped editorial series going back to Android, or even Windows Phone? Easy now, don't get crazy Ryan.

Rumor: Apple to Use Custom AMD SoC for Next-Gen iMac

Subject: Processors | October 19, 2015 - 11:28 AM |
Tagged: Zen, SoC, processor, imac, APU, apple, amd

Rumor: Apple to Use AMD SoC for Next-Gen iMac News about AMD has been largely depressing of late, with the introduction of the R9 Fury/Fury X and Nano graphics cards a bright spot in the otherwise tumultuous year that was recently capped by a $65 million APU write down. But one area where AMD has managed to earn a big win has been the console market, where their APUs power the latest machines from Microsoft and Sony. The combination of CPU and a powerful GPU on a single chip is ideal for those small form-factor designs, and likewise it would be ideal for a slim all-in-one PC. But an iMac?


Image credit: Apple

A report from WCCFtech today points to the upcoming Zen architecture from AMD as a likely power source for a potential custom SoC:

"A Semi-custom SOC x86 for the iMac would have to include a high performance x86 component, namely Zen, in addition to a graphics engine to drive the visual experience of the device. Such a design would be very similar to the current semi-custom Playstation 4 and XBOX ONE Accelerated Processing Units, combining x86 CPU cores with a highly capable integrated graphics solution."

Those who don't follow Apple probably don't know the company switched over almost exclusively to AMD graphics a short time ago, with NVIDIA solutions phased out of all discrete GPU models. Whether politically motivated or simply the result of AMD providing what Apple wanted from a hardware/driver standpoint I can't say, but it's still a big win for AMD considering Apple's position as one of the largest computer manufacturers - even though its market share is very low in the highly fragmented PC market overall. And while Apple has exclusively used Intel processors in its systems since transitioning away from IBM's PowerPC beginning in 2006, the idea of an AMD custom APU makes a lot of sense for the company, especially for their size and heat constrained iMac designs.


Image credit: WCCFtech

Whether or not you'd ever consider buying an iMac - or any other computer from Apple, for that matter - it's still important for the PC industry as a whole that AMD continues to find success and provide competition for Intel. Consumers can only benefit from the potential for improved performance and reduced cost if competition heats up between Intel and AMD, something we really haven't seen on the CPU front in a few years now. With CEO Lisa Su stating that AMD "had secured two new semi-custom design wins" In their recent earnings call it could very well be that we will see Zen in future iMacs, or in other PC all-in-one solutions for that matter.

Regardless, it will be exciting to see some good competition from AMD, even if we will have to wait quite a while for it. Zen isn't ready yet and we have no indication that any such product would be introduced until later next year. It will be interesting to see what Intel might do to compete given their resources. 2016 could be interesting.

Source: WCCFtech

Android to iPhone Day 17: SoC Performance

Subject: Processors, Mobile | October 12, 2015 - 11:08 AM |
Tagged: iphone 6s, iphone, ios, google, apple, Android, A9

PC Perspective’s Android to iPhone series explores the opinions, views and experiences of the site’s Editor in Chief, Ryan Shrout, as he moves from the Android smartphone ecosystem to the world of the iPhone and iOS. Having been entrenched in the Android smartphone market for 7+ years, the editorial series is less of a review of the new iPhone 6s as it is an exploration on how the current smartphone market compares to what each sides’ expectations are.

Full Story Listing:


My iPhone experiment continues, running into the start of the third full week of only carrying and using the new iPhone 6s. Today I am going to focus a bit more on metrics that can be measured in graph form – and that means benchmarks and battery life results. But before I dive into those specifics I need to touch on some other areas.

The most surprising result of this experiment to me, even as I cross into day 17, is that I honestly don’t MISS anything from the previous ecosystem. I theorized at the beginning of this series that I would find applications or use cases that I had adopted with Android that would not be able to be matched on iOS without some significant sacrifices. That isn’t the case – anything that I want to do on the iPhone 6s, I can. Have I needed to find new apps for taking care of my alarms or to monitor my rewards card library? Yes, but the alternatives for iOS are at least as good and often times I find there are more (and often better) solutions. I think it is fair to assume that same feeling of equality would be prevalent for users going in other direction, iPhone to Android, but I can’t be sure without another move back to Android sometime in the future. It may come to that.


My previous alarm app was replaced with Sleep Cycle

In my Day 3 post I mentioned my worry about the lack of Quick Charging support. Well I don’t know why Apple doesn’t talk it up more but the charging rate for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus is impressive, and even more so when you pair them with the higher amperage charger that ships with iPads. Though purely non-scientific thus far, my through the day testing showed that I was able to charge the iPhone 6s Plus to 82% (from being dead after a battery test) in the span of 1.5 hours while the OnePlus 2 was only at 35%. I realize the battery on the OnePlus 2 is larger, but based purely on how much use time you get for your charging time wait, the iPhones appear to be just as fast as any Android phone I have used.

Photo taking with the iPhones 6s still impresses me – more so with the speed than the quality. Image quality is fantastic, and we’ll do more analytical testing in the near future, but while attending events over weekend including a Bengals football game (5-0!) and a wedding, the startup process for the camera was snappy and the shutter speed never felt slow. I never thought “Damn, I missed the shot I wanted” and that’s a feeling I’ve had many times over the last several years of phone use.


You don't want to miss photos like this!

There were a couple of annoyances that cropped up, including what I think is a decrease in accuracy of the fingerprint reader on the home button. In the last 4 days I have had more bouncing “try again” notices on the phone than in the entirety of use before that. It’s possible that the button has additional oils from my hands on it or maybe that I am getting lazier about placement of my fingers on the Touch ID, but it’s hard to tell.

Continue reading day 17 of my Android to iPhone editorial!!

Who Decided to Call a Lightweight API "Metal"?

Subject: Graphics Cards | October 7, 2015 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: opengl, metal, apple

Ars Technica took it upon themselves to benchmark Metal in the latest OSX El Capitan release. Even though OpenGL on Mac OSX is not considered to be on par with its Linux counterparts, which is probably due to the driver situation until recently, it pulls ahead of Metal in many situations.


Image Credit: Ars Technica

Unlike the other graphics APIs, Metal uses the traditional binding model. Basically, you have a GPU object that you attach your data to, then call one of a handful of “draw” functions to signal the driver. DirectX 12, Vulkan, and Mantle, on the other hand, treat work like commands on queues. The latter model works better in multi-core environments, and it aligns with GPU compute APIs, but the former is easier to port OpenGL and DirectX 11 applications to.

Ars Technica notes that faster GPUs, such as the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680MX, show higher gains than slower ones. Their “best explanation” is that “faster GPUs can offload more work from the CPU”. That is pretty much true, yes. The new APIs are designed to keep GPUs loaded and working as much as possible, because they really do sit around doing nothing a lot. If you are able to keep a GPU loaded, because it can't accept much load in the first place, then there is little benefit to decreasing CPU load or spreading out across multiple cores.

Granted, there are many ways that benchmarks like these could be incorrectly used. I'll assume that Ars Technica and GFXBench are not making any simple mistakes, though, but it's good to be critical just in case.

Source: Ars Technica