Subject: Mobile | February 27, 2019 - 08:10 PM | Tim Verry
Tagged: nokia, HMD, android one, pie, light, camera, photography, pOLED, snapdragon 845, qualcomm
Finnish company HMD Global Oy unveiled an interesting new smartphone under its Nokia brand at Mobile World Congress that, in typical Nokia fashion, focuses on camera quality. The Nokia PureView 9 offers up five rear cameras along with the hardware and software to harness computational photography techniques to deliver high quality HDR images.
The PureView 9 nestles a 5.99-inch QHD+ pOLED HDR10 certified display (2880x1440 resolution) in a two-tone Midnight Blue body with front and back glass faces and aluminum sides with curved stylized edges. There is an optical fingerprint reader under the display and a small front facing camera sitting above the display. If you are looking for an edge-to-edge display, the PureView 9 is not the phone for you as it does have small bezels top and bottom and the front face does not curve into the sides. Ars Technica compares the design to the LG V30 which I would say is fair as both phones have similar bezels with curved display corners. For a most specific comparison, the V30 puts the “selfie” camera on the left not the right like the PureView 9, the bezels on the Nokia may be ever so slightly thicker and there is also a Nokia logo in the top right corner while there is no branding on the front of the V30. Nokia’s PureView 9 features a single USB-C port on the bottom edge along with what looks to be a single speaker. The right side holds the volume and power buttons while the left side is blank. The top edge appears to be the SIM tray slot.
I like the blue colors HMD has chosen, and while a good portion of the back is taken up by the camera system, the lenses sit flush with the body which is nice to see (Nokia has never been one afraid of cameras protruding from the phone in the name of photo and lens quality). There are five Zeiss camera lenses, one LED flash, and a sensor suite including time of flight grouped in a hexagonal shape.
The cameras are the star of the show with the Nokia PureView 9 and where most of the money was focused. HMD/Nokia partnered with Light to design a system with five 12MP f/1.8 camera sensors two of which have the RGB color filters and three of which are monochrome sensors that let it far more light than your usual camera sensor thanks in large part to not having a color filter which absorbs most of the light that enters the camera. In fact, HMD claims that the PureView 9’s five camera sensor system captures 10 times as much light as single sensor of the same type. Light provided its Lux Capacitor co-processor to allow all five cameras (it supports up to six) to shoot simultaneously allowing Nokia to use up to 60MP of total data from a single shot from each of the five 12MP cameras or up to 240MP of data when doing temporal image stacking with each camera taking four shots each combined and then downstacked/downsampled into, ideally, a much better 12MP (JPG or RAW DNG) image than would be possible with a single camera on its own using various computational photography and “Image stacking” techniques. The camera should do really well in low-light situations as well as being able to offer depth of field and bokeh effects that are much closer to reality and DSLR cameras than to your typical smartphone that can fake it. Nokia’s also partnered with Google to allow photographers to save shots to Google Photos with GDepth at up to 1200 layers of dept of field data that can be adjusted later to get customized photos in editing. Speaking of editing, Nokia and Adobe are supporting the PureView 9 in the Android version of Lightroom with a camera profile allowing you to work with the RAW DNG images right on your phone which is interesting, at least in theory (it’s not clear what performance will be like with the SD845).
In typical Nokia fashion, its Pro Camera UI offers a full manual mode as well as features like long exposure (with a tripod), time lapse, bokeh, filters, scenes, and more.
What is powering this camera that happens to make calls and run Android though? Well, here is where Nokia has compromised in the design with the use of the older Snapdragon 845 chipset though it is paired with 6GB of RAM and 128GB of UFS 2.1 internal memory (not expandable as there is no microSD card support). There is a 3320 mAh battery though and a stock Android One (Pie) OS experience.
HMD’s Nokia PureView 9 will reportedly be a limited production run product with an MSRP of $699. The flagship pricing may be difficult for some smartphone enthusiasts to justify especially with competing flagships also being announced at MWC featuring newer designs with edge-to-edge displays, newer processors, and support for 2TB microSD cards. For amateur photographers and anyone that uses their smartphone as their primary camera and love taking photos though the Nokia PureView 9 may be the niche product to beat in 2019 so long as the usual build quality, I’ve come to expect from Nokia holds up.
I do worry about the glass back and how that will hold up (it is Gorilla Glass 5 at least and the phone is IP67 rated for dust/water resistance) and 9-to-5 Google’s hands-on video mentions that the optical fingerprint reader was hit-or-miss (which can hopefully be improved between now and launch). No microSD card slot and no headphone jack may also turn off buyers (one advantage the V30 retains), and while many photo-happy users could live without the headphone jack, no expandable storage is a real disappointment and the 128GB of internal storage simply may not be enough.
I am looking forward to the reviews on this and am curious to see how the camera performs in the real world and what is possible with video recording as well. I don’t see the PureView 9 winning any popularity contests in 2019 and it appears to be kind of a mixed bag even with its exciting camera system with certain drawbacks dragging it down but I can also appreciate why some users might well choose it even with its compromises.
Subject: Mobile | July 16, 2018 - 06:12 PM | Jeremy Hellstrom
Tagged: nokia 6.1, nokia, HMD, android 8.1
Ah Nokia, what a strange life you have lived. You went from being the eminent cellphone company, to a cell company that didn't actually make any phones, to being purchased and decimated by Microsoft to being taken over by a Finnish company called HMD Global. Ars Technica delves into the story behind how all this happened, as well as reviewing the actual phone in this article. The Nokia 6.1 will cost you ~$270 all told and it's 1080p 5.5" screen is powered by the popular Qualcomm Snapdragon 630, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of local storage. There is a microSD slot to expand this and not only is there a Type-C USB port it also has a headphone jack which leaves that USB port open for use.
Also worth noting is that it runs vanilla Android 8.1, no fancy skins or weird enhancements!
"Enter HMD's Nokia phones, an entire lineup of cheap smartphones ranging from $100 to $400. HMD recently launched the second generation of its lineup, with phones like the Nokia 2.1, 3.1, and 5.1. We recently spent time with the highest end phone in this series that happens to be one of the few HMD devices for sale in the US: the Nokia 6.1."
Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:
More Mobile Articles
- No, seriously, why are you holding your phone like that? @ The Register
- A Notch Above: OnePlus 6 Review @ Techgage
- The ASUS ZenFone 5 @ TechARP
- Huawei P20 @ The Inquirer
- ASUS ZenFone Max Pro M1 @ TechARP
- Asus ZenFone 5 @ The Inquirer
Subject: General Tech | March 21, 2018 - 09:20 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: xr, VR, Tobii, qualcomm, HMD, GDC 2018, GDC, eye-tracking, developers, dev kit, AR
We have recently covered news of Qualcomm's ongoing VR/AR efforts (the two terms now combine as "XR", for eXtended reality), with news of the Snapdragon 845-powered reference HMD and more recently the collaboration with Tobii to bring eye-tracking to the Qualcomm development platform. Today at GDC Qualcomm is mapping out their vision for the future of XR, and providing additional details about the Snapdragon 845 dev kit - and announcing support for the HTC Vive Wave SDK.
For the first time, many new technologies that are crucial for an optimal and immersive VR user experience will be supported in the Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit. These include:
- Room-scale 6DoF SLAM: The Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit is engineered to help VR developers create applications that allow users to explore virtual worlds, moving freely around in a room, rather than being constrained to a single viewing position. Un-tethered mobile VR experiences like these can benefit from the Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit’s pre-optimized hardware and software for room-scale six degrees of freedom (6DoF) with “inside-out” simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM). All of this is designed to be accomplished without any external setup in the room by the users, and without any cables or wires.
- Qualcomm® Adreno™ Foveation: Our eyes are only able to observe significant details in a very small center of our field of vision - this region is called the “fovea”. Foveated rendering utilizes this understanding to boost performance & save power, while also improving visual quality. This is accomplished through multiple technology advancements for multi-view, tile-based foveation with eye-tracking and fine grain preemption to help VR application developers deliver truly immersive visuals with optimal power efficiency.
- Eye Tracking: Users naturally convey intentions about how and where they want to interact within virtual worlds through their eyes. Qualcomm Technologies worked with Tobii AB to develop an integrated and optimized eye tracking solution for the Snapdragon 845 VR Development Kit. The cutting-edge eye tracking solution on Snapdragon 845 VR Development Kit is designed to help developers utilize Tobii’s EyeCore™ eye tracking algorithms to create content that utilizes gaze direction for fast interactions, and superior intuitive interfaces.
- Boundary System: The new SDK for the Snapdragon 845 VR Development Kit supports a boundary system that is engineered to help VR application developers accurately visualize real-world spatial constraints within virtual worlds, so that their applications can effectively manage notifications and play sequences for VR games or videos, as the user approaches the boundaries of the real-world play space.
In addition to enhancing commercial reach for the VR developer community, Qualcomm Technologies is excited to announce support for the HTC Vive Wave™ VR SDK on the Snapdragon 845 Virtual Reality Development Kit, anticipated to be available later this year. The Vive Wave™ VR SDK is a comprehensive tool set of APIs that is designed to help developers create high-performance, Snapdragon-optimized content across diverse hardware vendors at scale, and offer a path to monetizing applications on future HTC Vive ready products via the multi-OEM Viveport™ application store.
The Snapdragon 845 HMD/dev kit and SDK are expected to be available in Q2 2018.
Subject: General Tech | March 16, 2018 - 09:45 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: xr, VR, Tobii, snapdragon 845, qualcomm, mobile, HMD, head mounted display, eye tracking, AR, Adreno 630
Tobii and Qualcomm's collaboration in the VR HMD (head-mounted display) space is a convergence of two recent stories, with Tobii's impressing showing of a prototype HMD device at CES featuring their eye-tracking technology, and Qualcomm's unvieling last month of their updated mobile VR platform, featuring the new Snapdragon 845.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Reference Platform
What does this new collaboration mean for the VR industry? For now it means a new reference design and dev kit with the latest tech from Tobii and Qualcomm:
"As a result of their collaboration, Tobii and Qualcomm are creating a full reference design and development kit for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Mobile VR Platform, which includes Tobii's EyeCore eye tracking algorithms and hardware design. Tobii will license its eye tracking technologies and system and collaborate with HMD manufacturers on the optical solution for the reference design."
The press release announcing this collaboration recaps the benefits of Tobii eye tracking in a mobile VR/AR device, which include:
- Foveated Rendering: VR/AR devices become aware of where you are looking and can direct high-definition graphics processing power to that exact spot in real time. This enables higher definition displays, more efficient devices, longer battery life and increased mobility.
- Interpupillary Distance: Devices automatically orient images to align with your pupils. This enables devices to adapt to the individual user, helping to increase the visual quality of virtual and augmented reality experiences.
- Hand-Eye Coordination: By using your eyes in harmony with your hands and associated controllers, truly natural interaction and immersion, not possible without the use of gaze, is realized.
- Interactive Eye Contact: Devices can accurately track your gaze in real time, enabling content creators to express one of the most fundamental dimensions of human interaction – eye contact. VR technologies hold the promise of enabling a new and immersive medium for social interaction. The addition of true eye contact to virtual reality helps deliver that promise.
Tobii's prototype eye-tracking HMD
For its part, Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845-powered VR mobile platform promises greater portability of a better VR experience, with expanded freedom on top of the improved graphics horsepower from the new Adreno 630 GPU in the Snapdragon 845. This portability includes 6DoF (6 degrees of freedom) using external cameras to identify location within a room, eliminating the need for external room sensors.
"Together, 6DoF and SLAM deliver Roomscale - the ability to track the body and location within a room so you can freely walk around your XR environment without cables or separate room sensors – the first on a mobile standalone device. Much of this is processed on the new dedicated Qualcomm Hexagon Digital Signal Processor (DSP) and Adreno Graphics Processing Unit within the Snapdragon 845. Qualcomm Technologies’ reference designs have supported some of the first wave of standalone VR devices from VR ecosystem leaders like Google Daydream, Oculus and Vive."
It is up to developers, and consumer interest in VR moving forward, to see what this collaboration will produce. To editorialize briefly, from first-hand experience I can vouch for the positive impact of eye-tracking with an HMD, and if future products live up to the promise of a portable, high-performance VR experience (with a more natural feel from less rapid head movement) a new generation of VR enthusiasts could be born.
3+ Hours of discussion later...
The beginning of QuakeCon is always started by several hours of John Carmack talking about very technical things. This two hour keynote typically runs into the three to four hour range, and it was no different this time. John certainly has the gift of gab when it comes to his projects, but unlike others his gab is chock full of useful information, often quite beyond the understanding of those in the audience.
The first topic of discussion was that of last year’s Rage launch. John was quite apologetic about how it went, especially in terms of PC support. For a good portion of users out there, it simply would not work due to driver issues on the AMD side. The amount of lessons they learned from Rage were tremendous. iD simply cannot afford to release two games in one decade. Rage took some six plus years of development. Consider that Doom 3 was released in 2004, and we did not see Rage until Fall 2011. The technology in Rage is a big step up due to the use of iD Tech 5, and the art assets of the title are very impressive.
iD also made some big mistakes in how they have marketed the title. Many people were assuming that it would be a title more in line with Bethesda’s Fallout 3 with a lot of RPG type missions and storyline. Instead of a 80 hour title that one would expect, it was a 10+ hour action title. So marketing needs to create a better representation of what the game entails. They also need to stay a bit more focused on what they will be delivering, and be able to do so in a timely manner.