Nexus has been Pixel-ated by Motorola ... Google it!

Subject: Mobile | October 20, 2016 - 05:45 PM |
Tagged: pixel, pixel xl, google, Android, Snapdragon 821, nougat

Ah, the tech industry; blink and suddenly familiar things disappear and yet you are also simultaneously overcome with a sense of deja vu.  Former Motorola President Rick Osterloh now heads a team at Google which is the combination of Nexus, Pixel Chromebooks, Chromecast, OnHub, ATAP, and Google Glass and this team have just released two new Google phones.  The 5" 1920x1080 Pixel and the 5.5" 2560x1440 Pixel XL have arrived on the market, priced to compete with Apple's new lineup, though still far less expensive than the Chromebooks which bore the same name up until recently.  The phones run Android 7.1 Nougat on a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 and are manufactured by HTC.  Ars Technica considers them to now be the best Android phones on the market and yet somehow bland; read their full review to see if you agree.


"Welcome to the age of Google Hardware. Apparently tired of letting third-party Android OEMs serve as the stewards of Android handsets, Google has become a hardware company. (Again)."

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Source: Ars Technica

Putting fingerprints on the Google Pixel

Subject: Mobile | October 6, 2016 - 01:20 PM |
Tagged: google, pixel, pixel xl, nougat, Android 7.1

The Inquirer had a chance to lay their hands on the new Google Pixel and Pixel XL and have shared their experiences here.  We have covered the specs of the phone previously and so will not reiterate them here, check out Tim's coverage for the details.  The impression that The Inq immediately had upon grasping the phone is that it feels very much like a slimmer HTC 10, which they were not overly impressed by. That HTC phone was rated 88 in DxOMark, the Pixel an 89 while the iPhone 7 garnered a rating of 86, if you follow that particular benchmark tool.  They had a strong feeling that Google may have missed too many marks on this phone to justify the pricing, read on to see if you agree with their experiences.


"On first impressions, we can't help but feel that the Pixel is a bit of a wasted opportunity. The handset has a largely boring design, doesn't offer much in the way of innovation and is expensive compared with previous Nexus smartphones."

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Source: The Inquirer

Google Launches High End Pixel Smartphones

Subject: General Tech | October 4, 2016 - 11:47 PM |
Tagged: usb-c, Snapdragon 821, pixel, Kryo, google, android assistant, adreno 530, 802.11ac

Google introduced its own premium smartphone today in the form of the Pixel and Pixel XL. Running Android Nougat 7.1, the Pixel smartphones will not only run the latest operating system but will be the new premium experience with the best Android features including Google Assistant and Smart Storage with unlimited cloud storage of photos and videos.

Google Pixel Smartphone.jpg

Google is definitely taking a greater interest in promoting Pixel than they have with even their Nexus devices. It will be interesting to see how other Android manufacturers react to this news but I would imagine that they are not all that pleased and Google will be in a similar position to Microsoft with its Surface products and Nvidia with it's Founder's Edition graphics cards. 

Google's Pixel lineup includes the Pixel (5.6 x 2.7 x 0.2-0.3") and the Pixel XL (6 x 2.9 x 0.2-0.34") that wrap their respective 5-inch 1080p (441 PPI) and 5.5-inch 1440p (534 PPI) displays in a full aluminum and glass unibody design that will come in one of three colors: Very Black, Quite Silver and Really Blue. The smartphones feature curved corners and rounded edges with Corning Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and half of the back. Google has put a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone and power, volume, three microphones, a USB-C port, and, yes, a 3.5mm audio jack. 

There are both front and rear cameras and Google is claiming that the rear camera in particular is the best smartphone camera yet (with a DxOMark score of 89 points). The rear camera (which sits flush with the back of the phone) is rated at 12.3 MP with a f/2.0 aperture, and 1.55µm pixels. The camera further features an IMX378 sensor. electronic image stabilization, and both phase detection and laser auto focus. The Pixel can take HDR+ photos and videos at up to 4K30, 1080p120, or 720p240. Users can adjust white balance and use automatic exposure or auto focus locking. The front camera is less impressive at 8MP with fixed focus lens and f/2.4.

Internally, Google has opted to use the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996) which is a 2+2 design that pairs two Kryo cores at 2.15 GHz with two Kryo cores at 1.6 GHz along with an Adreno 530 GPU, an impressive 4GB of LPDDR4 memory, and either 32GB or 128GB of internal storage which is regrettably non-expandable. The smartphones can tap into up to Category 11 LTE (Cat 9 in the US), 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, and NFC. Sensors include GPS, proximity, accelerometer, gyroscope, magnetometer, barometer, and hall sensors.

The Pixel features a 2,770 mAh battery and the Pixel Xl uses a slightly larger 3,450 mAh battery. In either case, Google rates the Pixel and Pixel XL at 13 hours and 14 hours of internet browsing and video playback respectively. Further, the batteries are able to be quick charged enough for up to "seven hours of use" after just 15 minutes of charging time using the included 18W USB-C charger.

Pricing works out to $649 for the 32GB Pixel, $749 for the 128GB Pixel, $769 for the 32GB Pixel XL, and $869 for the 128GB Pixel XL. In the US Google has partnered with Verizon for brick-and-mortar availability in addition to it being available on the Google store and other online retailers.

Google is banking a lot on these devices and asking a very premium price tag for the unlocked phones. It is certainly a gamble whether users will find the unique features enough to go with the Pixel over other flagships. What do you think about Google's increased interest in the smartphone space with the launch of its own hardware? How well will Pixel fit into the existing environment – will Pixel lead Android hardware and the OS to success or simply fragment it more?

I do like the look of the Pixel (especially the blue one) and the feature lists sounds good enough that maybe I could live without a removable battery and non-expandable storage (I'll be holding onto my old T-Mobile unlimited plan for as long as possible! heh). Pricing is a bit steep though and I think that will trip a lot of people up when searching for their next device.

Source: Google

Google's Pixel C Is A Powerful Convertible Tablet Running Android 6.0

Subject: Mobile | October 2, 2015 - 04:09 PM |
Tagged: Tegra X1, tablet, pixel, nvidia, google, android 6.0, Android

During its latest keynote event, Google unveiled the Pixel C, a powerful tablet with optional keyboard that uses NVIDIA’s Tegra X1 SoC and runs the Android 6.0 “Marshmallow” operating system.

The Pixel C was designed by the team behind the Chromebook Pixel. Pixel C features an anodized aluminum body that looks (and reportedly feels) smooth with clean lines and rounded corners. The tablet itself is 7mm thick and weighs approximately one pound. The front of the Pixel C is dominated by a 10.2” display with a resolution of 2560 x 1800 (308 PPI, 500 nits brightness), wide sRGB color gamut, and 1:√2 aspect ratio (which Google likened to the size and aspect ratio of an A4 sheet of paper). A 2MP front camera sits above the display while four microphones sit along the bottom edge and a single USB Type-C port and two stereo speakers sit on the sides of the tablet. Around back, there is an 8MP rear camera and a bar of LED lights that will light up to indicate the battery charge level after double tapping it.

Google Pixel C Tegra X1 Tablet.jpg

The keyboard is an important part of the Pixel C, and Google has given it special attention to make it part of the package. The keyboard attaches to the tablet using self-aligning magnets that are powerful enough to keep the display attached while holding it upside down and shaking it (not that you'd want to do that, mind you). It can be attached to the bottom of the tablet for storage and used like a slate or you can attach the tablet to the back of the keyboard and lift the built-in hinge to use the Pixel C in laptop mode (the hinge can hold the display at anywhere from 100 to 135-degrees). The internal keyboard battery is good for two months of use, and can be simply recharged by closing the Pixel C like a laptop and allowing it to inductively charge from the tablet portion. The keyboard is around 2mm thick and is nearly full size at 18.85mm pitch and the chiclet keys have a 1.4mm travel that is similar to that of the Chromebook Pixel. There is no track pad, but it does offer a padded palm rest which is nice to see.

Google Pixel C with Keyboard.jpg

Internally, the Pixel C is powered by the NVIDIA Tegra X1 SoC, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB or 64GB of storage (depending on model). The 20nm Tegra X1 consists of four ARM Cortex A57 and four Cortex A53 CPU cores paired with a 256-core Maxwell GPU. The Pixel C is a major design win for NVIDIA, and the built in GPU will be great for gaming on the go.

The Pixel C will be available in December ("in time for the holidays") for $499 for the base 32 GB model, $599 for the 64 GB model, and $149 for the keyboard.

First impressions, such as this hands-on by Engadget, seem to be very positive stating that it is sturdy yet sleek hardware that feels comfortable typing on. While the hardware looks more than up to the task, the operating system of choice is a concern for me. Android is not the most productivity and multi-tasking friendly software. There are some versions of Android that enable multiple windows or side-by-side apps, but it has always felt rather clunky and limited in its usefulness. With that said, Computer World's  JR Raphael seems hopeful. He points out that the Pixel C is, in Batman fashion, not the hardware Android wants, but the hardware that Android needs (to move forward) and is primed for a future of Android that is more friendly to such productive endeavors. Development versions of Android 6.0 included support for multiple apps running simultaneously side-by-side, and while that feature will not make the initial production code cut, it does show that it is something that Google is looking into pursuing and possibly enabling at some point. The Pixel C has an excellent aspect ratio to take advantage of the app splitting with the ability to display four windows each with the same aspect ratio.

I am not sure how well received the Pixel C will be by business users who have several convertible tablet options running Windows and Chrome OS. It certainly gives the iPad-and-keyboard combination a run for its money and is a premium alternative to devices like the Asus Transformers.

What do you think about the Pixel C, and in particular, it running Android?

Even if I end up being less-than-productive using it, I think I'd still want the sleek-looking hardware as a second machine, heh.

Source: Google

It's like you don't even want us to like you Win 8

Subject: General Tech | December 20, 2013 - 02:51 PM |
Tagged: win 8.1, pixel, high ppi

In their latest commentary The Tech Report looks at the nasty way that Win 8.1 renders its GUI on high pixel per inch displays, for instance the majority of high end laptops.  1366x768 panels don't look to bad but if you were to pick up a 13.3" 1920x1080 laptop or for that matter a reasonably sized 4k display you are going to notice blurry text and icons as Win 8.1 is not great at recognizing and scaling for monitors with dense pixels.  Some 3rd party applications are better than others but for the most part you are going to feel like you are starting to lose your sight.  They offer some workarounds that mitigate the issue somewhat, but like proper mouse support this is something the new flavour of Windows really should have gotten right immediately.


"Displays with high pixel densities are pretty much standard in tablets, and we're all waiting for them to become standard in notebooks. Take a trip to your local Best Buy, though, and chances are a majority of systems in the laptop aisle will have 1366x768 panels—even large notebooks that really have no business with a display resolution that low."

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NVIDIA Details Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i Graphics

Subject: Graphics Cards | February 25, 2013 - 08:01 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, tegra, tegra 4, Tegra 4i, pixel, vertex, PowerVR, mali, adreno, geforce


When Tegra 4 was introduced at CES there was precious little information about the setup of the integrated GPU.  We all knew that it would be a much more powerful GPU, but we were not entirely sure how it was set up.  Now NVIDIA has finally released a slew of whitepapers that deal with not only the GPU portion of Tegra 4, but also some of the low level features of the Cortex A15 processor.  For this little number I am just going over the graphics portion.


This robust looking fellow is the Tegra 4.  Note the four pixel "pipelines" that can output 4 pixels per clock.

The graphics units on the Tegra 4 and Tegra 4i are identical in overall architecture, just that the 4i has fewer units and they are arranged slightly differently.  Tegra 4 is comprised of 72 units, 48 of which are pixel shaders.  These pixel shaders are VLIW based VEC4 units.  The other 24 units are vertex shaders.  The Tegra 4i is comprised of 60 units, 48 of which are pixel shaders and 12 are vertex shaders.  We knew at CES that it was not a unified shader design, but we were still unsure of the overall makeup of the part.  There are some very good reasons why NVIDIA went this route, as we will soon explore.

If NVIDIA were to transition to unified shaders, it would increase the overall complexity and power consumption of the part.  Each shader unit would have to be able to handle both vertex and pixel workloads, which means more transistors are needed to handle it.  Simpler shaders focused on either pixel or vertex operations are more efficient at what they do, both in terms of transistors used and power consumption.  This is the same train of thought when using fixed function units vs. fully programmable.  Yes, the programmability will give more flexibility, but the fixed function unit is again smaller, faster, and more efficient at its workload.


On the other hand here we have the Tegra 4i, which gives up half the pixel pipelines and vertex shaders, but keeps all 48 pixel shaders.

If there was one surprise here, it would be that the part is not completely OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant.  It is lacking in one major function that is required for certification.  This particular part cannot render at FP32 levels.  It has been quite a few years since we have heard of anything not being able to do FP32 in the PC market, but it is quite common to not support it in the power and transistor conscious mobile market.  NVIDIA decided to go with a FP 20 partial precision setup.  They claim that for all intents and purposes, it will not be noticeable to the human eye.  Colors will still be rendered properly and artifacts will be few and far between.  Remember back in the day when NVIDIA supported FP16 and FP32 while they chastised ATI for choosing FP24 with the Radeon 9700 Pro?  Times have changed a bit.  Going with FP20 is again a power and transistor saving decision.  It still supports DX9.3 and OpenGL ES 2.0, but it is not fully OpenGL ES 3.0 compliant.  This is not to say that it does not support any 3.0 features.  It in fact does support quite a bit of the functionality required by 3.0, but it is still not fully compliant.

This will be an interesting decision to watch over the next few years.  The latest Mali 600 series, PowerVR 6 series, and Adreno 300 series solutions all support OpenGL ES 3.0.  Tegra 4 is the odd man out.  While most developers have no plans to go to 3.0 anytime in the near future, it will eventually be implemented in software.  When that point comes, then the Tegra 4 based devices will be left a bit behind.  By then NVIDIA will have a fully compliant solution, but that is little comfort for those buying phones and tablets in the near future that will be saddled with non-compliance once applications hit.


The list of OpenGL ES 3.0 features that are actually present in Tegra 4, but the lack of FP32 relegates it to 2.0 compliant status.

The core speed is increased to 672 MHz, well up from the 520 MHz in Tegra 3 (8 pixel and 4 vertex shaders).  The GPU can output four pixels per clock, double that of Tegra 3.  Once we consider the extra clock speed and pixel pipelines, the Tegra 4 increases pixel fillrate by 2.6x.  Pixel and vertex shading will get a huge boost in performance due to the dramatic increase of units and clockspeed.  Overall this is a very significant improvement over the previous generation of parts.

The Tegra 4 can output to a 4K display natively, and that is not the only new feature for this part.  Here is a quick list:

2x/4x Multisample Antialiasing (MSAA)

24-bit Z (versus 20-bit Z in the Tegra 3 processor) and 8-bit Stencil

4K x 4K texture size incl. Non-Power of Two textures (versus 2K x 2K in the Tegra 3 processor) – for higher quality textures, and easier to port full resolution textures from  console and PC games to Tegra 4 processor.  Good for high resolution displays.

16:1 Depth (Z) Compression and 4:1 Color Compression (versus none in Tegra 3 processor) – this is lossless compression and is useful for reducing bandwidth to/from the frame buffer, and especially effective in antialiasing processing when processing multiple samples per pixel

Depth Textures

Percentage Closer Filtering for Shadow Texture Mapping and Soft Shadows

Texture border color eliminate coarse MIP-level bleeding

sRGB for Texture Filtering, Render Surfaces and MSAA down-filter

1 - CSAA is no longer supported in Tegra 4 processors

This is a big generational jump, and now we only have to see how it performs against the other top end parts from Qualcomm, Samsung, and others utilizing IP from Imagination and ARM.

Source: NVIDIA