The new solid state standard for laptop vendors?

Subject: General Tech | August 30, 2016 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: ssd, laptop, ultraportable

The increasing use of on-board memory by OEMs in ultraportables has some enthusiasts unhappy, however the trend that DigiTimes mentioned today should cheer them up somewhat.  It is predicted by DRAMeXchange that over half of all laptops will use an SSD for storage by 2018.  There are some rather interesting bits of data in the post, for instance the pricing of SSDs for OEMs have reportedly stabilized for the first time, with a quoted rise in prices of 0-0.5% for MLC and 0-1% TLC based models compared with the prior quarter.  These numbers seem in direct opposition to the retail market where not only have we seen a steady decline in SSD prices, the change has been much greater than 1%.

There is a shadow cast by this silver lined cloud; with more demand by OEMs for NAND there will be more pressure on manufacturers and so it is predicted that supply will be unable to meet demand in Q3 of this year.  One would expect manufacturers to produce for the market segment that offers a greater profit margin and if the pricing mentioned previously is accurate, that is not retail.  It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens to SSD pricing in the fall.


"DRAMeXchange has maintained its estimate given earlier in 2016 that the adoption of SSDs in notebooks would exceed 30% in 2016. The proportion is forecast to reach 56% in 2018, according to the research firm."

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Source: DigiTimes

Love upgrading memory on your laptop? Double check any Apollo Lake machines you like.

Subject: General Tech | August 24, 2016 - 05:01 PM |
Tagged: ultraportable, LPDDR4, Intel, apollo lake

A report from DigiTimes is bad news for those who like to upgrade their ultraportable laptops.  To cut down on production costs companies like Acer, Lenovo, Asustek Computer, HP and Dell will use on-board memory as opposed to DIMMs on their Apollo Lake based machines.  This should help keep the costs of flipbooks, 2 in 1's and other small machines stable or even lower them by a small amount but does mean that they cannot easily be upgraded. Many larger notebooks will also switch to this style of memory so be sure to do your research before purchasing a new mobile system.


"Notebook vendors have mostly adopted on-board memory designs in place of DIMMs to make their Intel Apollo Lake-based notebooks as slim as possible, according to sources from Taiwan's notebook supply chain"

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Source: DigiTimes

Xiaomi Launches Sleek Mi Notebook Air Ultrabooks

Subject: General Tech | July 28, 2016 - 09:33 PM |
Tagged: xiaomi, ultraportable, ultrabook, thin and light, Intel, core m3, core i5

According to the guys over at The Tech Report, Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi is jumping into the notebook game with two new Mi Notebook Air ultrabooks. The all aluminum notebooks are sleek looking and priced very competitively for their specifications. They are set to release on August 2nd in China.

The new Mi Notebook Air notebooks come in 13.3" and 12.5" versions. Both models use all aluminum bodies with edge to edge glass displays (1080p though unknown what type of panel), backlit keyboards, and dual AKG speakers. Users can choose from gold or silver colors for the body and keyboard (Xiaomi uses a logo-less design which is nice).

Xiaomi Mi-Notebook-Air in Gold and SIlver.jpg

Xiaomi Mi Notebook Air via Ars Technica.

Both models sport a single USB Type C port (which is also used for charging), two USB 3.0 Type A ports, one HDMI video output, and a headphone jack. The Xiaomi website shows an USB Type C adapter that adds extra ports as well. Internally, they have a M.2 slot for storage expansion but the notebooks do not appear to be user serviceable (though iFixit may rectify that...). Also shared is support for the company's Mi Sync software and Mi fitness band which can be used to unlock the computer when the user is in proximity.

The smaller 12.5" Mi Notebook Air is 0.51" thick and weighs just over 2.3 pounds. It is powered by an Intel Core M3 processor and Xiaomi claims that this model can hit 11.5 hours ouf battery life. Other specifications include 4 GB of RAM, a 128 GB SATA SSD, and 802.11ac wireless.

If you need a bit more computing power, the 13.3" notebook is slightly bulkier at 0.58" thick and 2.8 pounds with the tradeoff in size giving users a larger display, keyboard, and dedicated graphics card. Specifically, the 13.3" ultrabook features an Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia Geforce 940MX GPU, 8 GB DDR4 RAM, a 256GB NVMe PCI-E SSD, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. This laptop is a bit heavier but I think the extra horsepower is worth it for those that need or want it.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about what many will see as an Apple MacBook Air clone is the pricing. The 12.5" laptop will MSRP for RMB 3499 while that 13.3" notebook will cost RMB 4999. That translates to approximately $525 and $750 USD respectively which is a great value for the specifications and size and seemingly will give Apple a run for its money in China. That's the bad news: Xiaomi does not appear to be bringing these slick looking notebooks to the US anytime soon which is unfortunate.

Also read:

The Huawei MateBook Review: A Denial-of-Surface Attack

Source: Xiaomi

ASUS Introduces Ultra-Slim ZenBook UX305 Notebook with Core M and 1080p IPS for $699

Subject: Mobile | February 16, 2015 - 08:54 AM |
Tagged: zenbook, UX305, ultraportable, ips display, core m, asus, 5Y10

ASUS has announced the availability and pricing for the ZenBook UX305, and the specifications are quite exceptional for the price. Not content to compete on hardware specs alone the design of the notebook is a miniscule 0.48” thick, making the UX305 the world’s thinnest ultraportable notebook according to ASUS.


As impressive as the slim profile of the aluminum design might be, it is more impressive to look over the main specifications of the $699 UX305:

  • Intel Core M 5Y10 processor
  • 8GB of LPDDR3 memory
  • 256GB SSD
  • 13.3-inch 1920x1080 IPS display (matte finish)

I'll let that sink in for a moment. Quite an impressive list given the MSRP for these specifications is, again, only $699. At this price it's going to be very difficult to beat the UX305 considering what’s under the hood, as this configuration contains double the memory and storage space compared to many ultraportables in this price class. And 1080p IPS on top of everything is just icing on the cake. Battery life should be very good considerin the processor the heart of this is Intel's newest low-power Broadwell-based Core M (the 5Y10), which features HD 5300 graphics and a TDP of just 4.5W. Moreover, the processor is passively cooled and the notebook features a completely fanless design for silent operation.


Since there are no fans to expell heat ASUS has made it a point to promise that the palm rest will always stay cool thanks to their “IceCool technology” (whatever that is - but I really hope it’s an ice cube cooling system). The UX305 is powered by a 45Wh Lithium Polymer battery that has a claimed 10-hour battery life, and the notebook features 802.11ac wireless, three USB 3.0 ports, and includes a USB Ethernet adapter (a nice touch). ASUS is also touting a premium sound system with this notebook, employing a B&O ICEpower amplifier and enhanced with their proprietary “SonicMaster audio”. Rounding out the feature list is an SD card reader and 720p webcam.

The notebook weighs in at 2.6 Lbs, and this configuration of the UX305 is available immediately (listed on their official store). With the surprisingly low MSRP it sounds like this ZenBook will be a solid choice for anyone looking for the latest notebook tech on a budget, and depending on performance and real-world battery life it could just be that mythical MacBook Air "killer" (if you're ok with Windows 8 over OS X, of course).

Source: ASUS

CES 2015: Lenovo Shows Off World's Lightest LaVie Z Notebook and Convertible

Subject: General Tech | January 5, 2015 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: ultraportable, tablet, notebook, nec, Lenovo, lavie, ces 2015

Lenovo, in a joint venture with NEC, is bringing the world's lightest notebook and the world's lightest convertible to market. And as the first products from the joint venture to be released outside of Japan, the new LaVie Z HZ550 notebook and LaVie Z HZ750 convertible are impressive.

Both 13.3-inch devices are constructed of a magnesium-lithium body with custom Mg-Li reinforcements to create a sleek looking and lightweight PC that does not compromise strength versus other magnesium alloy products. The HZ550 and HZ750 measure 16.9mm thick and weigh 1.72 pounds and 2.04 pounds respectively.

Lenovo LavieZ_black_nontouch.png

The notebooks feature a 13.3" WQHD display, YAMAHA audio, stereo mic and 720p webcam. There are two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI video output, SD card reader, and headphone jack along the edges (and the notebook is just big enough for those full size USB ports). Other features include a dual hinge design reminiscent of other Lenovo (Yoga) products, a chiclet style keyboard, and a wide touchpad sans physical buttons. The dark frame has an angular design. The HZ750 adds a lightweight film touchscreen (no cover glass) and a 360-degree hinge to allow tablet mode.

Lenovo LavieZ_360_black_transparent.png

The Lenovo NEC LaVie Z PCs are powered by Intel's latest Broadwell-U Core i5 processors, 4GB RAM, and a 128GB SSD. The HZ750 can further be upgraded to a Core i7 and 8GB of RAM. Both PCs feature 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0. The HZ550 notebook is fitted with a 29.6 Whr battery while the HZ750 has a 44 Whr battery.

The LaVie Z HZ550 and HZ750 will be available in May starting at $1,299 and $1,499 respectively. They are slick looking notebooks and the magnesium-lithium frame is interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing how they stack up and what else Lenovo NEC has in store (the joint venture agreement was recently extended to 2026).

What do you think about the new PCs?

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Source: Lenovo
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Introduction and Design


Arguably some of the most thoughtful machines on the market are Lenovo’s venerable ThinkPads, which—while sporadically brave in their assertions—are still among the most conservative (yet simultaneously practical) notebooks available.  What makes these notebooks so popular in the business crowds is their longstanding refusal to compromise functionality in the interest of form, as well as their self-proclaimed legendary reliability.  And you could argue that such practical conservatism is what defines a good business notebook: a device which embraces the latest technological trends, but only with requisite caution and consideration.

Maybe it’s the shaky PC market, or maybe it’s the sheer onset of sexy technologies such as touch and clickpads, but recent ThinkPads have begun to show some uncommon progressivism, and unapologetically so, too.  First, it was the complete replacement of the traditional critically-acclaimed ThinkPad keyboard with the Chiclet AccuType variety, a decision which irked purists but eventually was accepted by most.  Along with that were the integrated touchpad buttons, which are still lamented by many users.  Those alterations to the winning design were ultimately relatively minor, however, and for the most part, they’ve now been digested by the community.  Now, though, with the T440s (as well as the rest of Lenovo’s revamped ThinkPad lineup), we’re seeing what will perhaps constitute the most controversial change of all: the substitution of the older touchpads with a “5-button trackpad”, as well as optional touchscreen interface.

Can these changes help to keep the T440s on the cusp of technological progress, or has the design finally crossed the threshold into the realm of counterproductivity?


Compared with nearly any other modern notebook, these specs might not hold many surprises.  But judged side-by-side with its T430s predecessor, there are some pretty striking differences.  For starters, the T440s is the first in its line to offer only low-voltage CPU options.  While our test unit shipped with the (certainly capable enough) Core i5-4200U—a dual-core processor with up to 2.6 GHz Turbo Boost clock rate—options range up to a Core i7-4600U (up to 3.30 GHz).  Still, these options are admittedly a far cry from the i7-3520M with which top-end T430s machines were equipped.  Of course, it’s also less than half of the TDP, which is likely why the decision was made.  Other notables are the lack of discrete graphics options (previously users has the choice of either integrated graphics or an NVIDIA NVS 5200M) and the maximum supported memory of 12 GB.  And, of course, there’s the touchscreen—which is not required, but rather, is merely an option.  On the other hand, while we’re on the subject of the screen, this is also the first model in the series to offer a 1080p resolution, whether traditional or touch-enabled—which is very much appreciated indeed.


That’s a pretty significant departure from the design of the T430s, which—as it currently appears—could represent the last T4xxs model that will provide such powerhouse options at the obvious expense of battery life.  Although some markets already have the option of the ThinkPad S440 to fill the Ultrabook void within the ThinkPad 14-inch range, that notebook can even be outfitted with discrete graphics.  The T440s top-end configuration, meanwhile, consists of a 15W TDP dual-core i7 with integrated graphics and 12 GB DDR3 RAM.  In other words, it’s powerful, but it’s just not in the same class as the T430’s components.  What’s more important to you?

Continue reading our review of the ThinkPad T440s!!!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Introduction and Design


With few exceptions, it’s generally been taken for granted that gaming notebooks are going to be hefty devices. Portability is rarely the focus, with weight and battery life alike usually sacrificed in the interest of sheer power. But the MSI GE40 2OC—the lightest 14-inch gaming notebook currently available—seeks to compromise while retaining the gaming prowess. Trending instead toward the form factor of a large Ultrabook, the GE40 is both stylish and manageable (and perhaps affordable at around $1,300)—but can its muscle withstand the reduction in casing real estate?

While it can’t hang with the best of the 15-inch and 17-inch crowd, in context with its 14-inch peers, the GE40’s spec sheet hardly reads like it’s been the subject of any sort of game-changing handicap:


One of the most popular CPUs for Haswell gaming notebooks has been the 2.4 GHz (3.4 GHz Turbo) i7-4700MQ. But the i7-4702MQ in the GE40-20C is nearly as powerful (managing 2.2 GHz and 3.2 GHz in those same areas respectively), and it features a TDP that’s 10 W lower at just 37 W. That’s ideal for notebooks such as the GE40, which seek to provide a thinner case in conjunction with uncompromising performance. Meanwhile, the NVIDIA GTX 760M is no slouch, even if it isn’t on the same level as the 770s and 780s that we’ve been seeing in some 15.6-inch and 17.3-inch gaming beasts.

Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with 8 GB of RAM and a 120 GB SSD rounding out the major bullet points. Nearly everything here is on par with the best of rival 14-inch gaming models with the exception of the 900p screen resolution (which is bested by some notebooks, such as Dell’s Alienware 14 and its 1080p panel).

Continue reading our review of the MSI GE40 2OC!!!

Subject: Mobile

Introduction and Design


It seems like only yesterday (okay, last month) that we were testing the IdeaPad Yoga 11, which was certainly an interesting device. That’s primarily because of what it represents: namely, the slow merging of the tablet and notebook markets. You’ve probably heard people proclaiming the death of the PC as we know it. Not so fast—while it’s true that tablets have eaten into the sales of what were previously low-powered notebooks and now-extinct netbooks, there is still no way to replace the utility of a physical keyboard and the sensibility of a mouse cursor. Touch-centric devices are hard to beat when entertainment and education are the focus of a purchase, but as long as productivity matters, we aren’t likely to see traditional means of input and a range of connectivity options disappear anytime soon.

The IdeaPad Yoga 11 leaned so heavily in the direction of tablet design that it arguably was more tablet than notebook. That is, it featured a tablet-grade SOC (the nVidia Tegra 3) as opposed to a standard Intel or AMD CPU, an 11” display, and a phenomenal battery life that can only be compared to the likes of other ARM-based tablets. But, of course, with those allegiances come necessary concessions, not least of which is the inability to run x86 applications and the consequential half-baked experiment that is Windows RT.


Fortunately, there’s always room for compromise, and for those of us searching for something closer to a notebook than the original Yoga 11, we’re now afforded the option of the 11S. Apart from being nearly identical in terms of form factor, the $999 (as configured) Yoga 11S adopts a standard x86 chipset with Intel ULV CPUs, which allows it to run full-blown Windows 8. That positions it squarely in-between the larger x86 Yoga 13 and the ARM-based Yoga 11, which makes it an ideal candidate for someone hoping for the best of both worlds. But can it survive the transition, or do its compromises outstrip its gains?

Our Yoga 11S came equipped with a fairly standard configuration:


Unless you’re comparing to the Yoga 11’s specs, not much about this stands out. The Core i5-3339Y is the first thing that jumps out at you; in exchange for the nVidia Tegra 3 ARM-based SOC of the original Yoga 11, it’s a much more powerful chip with a 13W TDP and (thanks to its x86 architecture) the ability to run Windows 8 and standard Windows applications. Next on the list is the included 8 GB of DDR3 RAM—versus just 2 GB on the Yoga 11. Finally, there’s USB 3.0 and a much larger SSD (256 GB vs. 64 GB)—all valuable additions. One thing that hasn’t changed, meanwhile, is the battery size. Surely you’re wondering how this will affect the longevity of the notebook under typical usage. Patience; we’ll get to that in a bit! First, let’s talk about the general design of the notebook.

Continue reading our review of the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 11S Convertible Notebook!

MSI Unveils Ultra Portable Laptop and Windows 8 Tablet

Subject: Mobile | June 8, 2012 - 03:22 AM |
Tagged: x460dx, video, ultraportable, tablet, slider s20, notebook, msi, laptop, computex

MSI has been extremely busy at this year’s Computex trade show by releasing tons of new hardware. The company today officially announced two new Ultra series laptops that are less than 1” thick and made to be ultraportable and stylish.

The MSI X460DX is a 14” thin and light notebook with metal alloy chassis, Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor, NVIDIA GT630M graphics card, HDMI, Bluettoth, and USB 3.0 technology. It also supports the company’s Turbo Battery+ technology and a hotkey to turn off idle hardware. The computer sports a stylized trackpad, chiclet keyboard, and metal accents.

MSI X460DX.png

The MSI X460DX weighs in at 2kg and is less than an inch thick. No word yet on pricing or availability.

The other MSI Ultra series notebook is the Slider 20. The 11.6” device is constructed of plastic with brushed metal textures, weighs in at 1.3kg and is stated to be “less than 2 centimeters thin.” The interesting bit about the MSI Slider S20 is the touchscreen, however. The 11.6” screen (which has a resolution of 1366x768) can lay flat over the keyboard in slate mode or slide back and tilt upwards. In laptop mode, the chiclet keyboard is exposed. The computer will run Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 8 operating system. Powering the ultrabook is an Intel Chief River based Core i3 CULV processor, Intel IGP for graphics, and accelerometer. On the outside it features an Ethernet port, two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI port, audio output, and webcam.

MSI Slider S20.png

The MSI Slider S20 is certainly an interesting form factor, and I suspect it will be sturdier than other convertible tablets that utilize a single hinge in the center to connect the display and keyboard. Engadget managed to get their hands on the device. They reported that although the Slider S20’s keyboard is a bit cramped and even a little too flexible, the screen hinge felt sturdy and the device felt rather lightweight. Beyond that, MSI isn't talking detailed specifications.

MSI S20_Windows 8.png


Word around the Internet is that the S20 will be sold for under $1,000 USD which is pretty good (depending on just how far under it is). I’m certainly interested in seeing what this Windows 8 tablet can do.

Source: MSI

Building the ultimate ultraportable ... for $300!

Subject: Mobile | February 16, 2012 - 06:31 PM |
Tagged: ultraportable, DIY

Check out the latest system build at The Tech Report; a lucky find of a 12" X60 devoid of its hard drive, battery, and power adapter for $87 along with some smart shopping lead to a very powerful ultraportable.  What was left inside was the 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo processor and 1GB of DDR2-667 RAM and a lot of empty space.  Another stick of RAM and a power adapter were located in their hoard of equipment so the only peice that had to be purchased was a hard drive and battery.  The battery was easily available for little money and they went all out on the hard drive, picking up a SanDisk Ultra 120GB SSD.  Not a bad build for under $300!


"In his latest blog post, TR's David Morgan pieces together a 12" ultraportable notebook with ThinkPad build quality, a 120GB SSD, and much better performance than budget netbooks for less than $300. Here's how he did it ..."

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