Imagination Technologies Announces PowerVR 2NX NNA

Subject: Mobile | September 25, 2017 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, deep neural network

Imagination Technologies is known to develop interesting, somewhat offbeat hardware, such as GPUs with built-in ray tracers. In this case, the company is jumping into the neural network market with a Power VR-branded accelerator. The PowerVR Series2NX Neural Network Accelerator works on massively parallel, but low-precision tasks. AnandTech says that the chip can even work in multiple bit-depths on different layers in a single network, from 16-bit, down to 12-, 10-, 8-, 7-, 6-, 5-, and 4-bit.

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Image Credit: Imagination Technologies via Anandtech

Imagination seems to say that this is variable “to maintain accuracy”. I’m guessing it doesn’t give an actual speed-up to tweak your network in that way, but I honestly don’t know.

As for Imagination Technologies, they intend to have this in mobile devices for, as they suggest, photography and predictive text. They also state the usual suspects: VR/AR, automotive, surveillance, and so forth. They are suggesting that this GPU technology will target Tensorflow Lite.

The PowerVR 2NX Neural Network Accelerator is available for licensing.

Imagination Technologies Agrees to Canyon Bridge Offer

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 23, 2017 - 09:59 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies

Canyon Bridge, a private investment LLC and a believable codename for an Intel processor architecture, has just reached an agreement with Imagination Technologies to acquire most of their company. This deal is valued at £550 million GBP and does not include MIPS Technologies, Inc., which Imagination Technologies purchased on February 8th of 2013.

According to Anandtech, however, MIPS Technologies, Inc. will be purchased by Tallwood Venture Capital for $65 million USD.

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The reason why Imagination Technologies is expected to be split in two like this is because purchasing CPU companies places you under national security review with the United States, and Canyon Bridge is backed by the Chinese government. As such, they can grab everything but the CPU division, which lets another party swoop in for a good price on the leftover.

That said, it is currently unclear what either company, Canyon Bridge Capital Partners or Tallwood Venture Capital, wants to do with Imagination Technologies or MIPS Technologies, Inc., respectively. When Canyon Bridge attempted to purchase Lattice Semiconductor last year, they mentioned that they were interested in their FPGAs, their “video connectivity” products (HDMI, MHL, etc.), and their wireless products (60 GHz, etc.). I would assume that they’re just picking up good technology deals, but it’s also possible that they’re looking into accelerated compute companies in particular.

There’s still a few barriers before the sale closes, but it’s looking like we’re not going to end up with Imagination just merging into an existing player or something.

Source: Reuters

Apple Announces iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X

Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2017 - 07:09 PM |
Tagged:

Apple today announced the successors to the iPhone 7 (and another, more impressive device), and this time the company has decided to forgo the “S” branding of an incremental update as the new phones are simply the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Though receiving the expected annual updates (SoC, camera, etc.) the phones still have largely similar designs and are offered with the same screen sizes (4.7 and 5.5 inches) and resolutions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. So what exactly is new?

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

The new iPhone 8 design, which sports a glass back for the first time since the iPhone 4/4S, allowing Apple to add Qi wireless charging to the iPhone 8/8 Plus, has a new SoC under the hood. Both sizes feature the new 6-core Apple A11 Bionic processor, which combines two high-performance and four "efficiency" CPU cores along with Apple's Neural Engine and M11 motion coprocessor.

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The iPhone 8 Plus (image credit: Apple)

During the announcement much was made of camera advancements with the iPhone 8 Plus specifically, with its dual camera system now sporting optical image stabilization for both wide-angle and telephoto cameras - although Samsung was able to beat Apple to the punch with the Note8 announcement last month, with dual-OIS a major feature of the Note8’s rear camera system.

iPhone X

The biggest announcement was saved for last, with an homage to the Steve Jobs Columbo-inspired "one more thing" from CEO Tim Cook at the end of the keynote presentation. The iPhone X (pronounced ten, as this is the Roman numeral - though I imagine just as many people will say “ex” as they did when Apple used this for their OS) will occupy a new premium iPhone space for Apple, segmenting the iPhone in a way they never did in the first ten years.

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The iPhone X (image credit: Apple)

The 5.8-inch display is OLED, and from Apple's remarks on this it could be inferred that we are going to see the first RGB-stripe OLED display on a phone, rather than the PenTile matrix subpixel layout common to existing AMOLED displays (here's hoping).

“The beautiful 5.8-inch Super Retina display is the first OLED panel that rises to the standards of iPhone, with stunning colors, true blacks, a million-to-one contrast ratio and wide color support with the best system-wide color management in a smartphone. The HDR display supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, which together make photo and video content look even more amazing. The addition of True Tone dynamically adjusts the white balance of the display to match the surrounding light for a more natural, paper-like viewing experience.”

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The top of the display houses the TrueDepth camera system (image credit: Apple)

iPhone X is a striking design, though far less impressive than it might have been if Samsung had not released the Galaxy S8 - with its beautiful edge-to-edge display - beforehand. A (nearly) full-body OLED front display (featuring what Apple is calling "Super Retina HD" resolution) on the iPhone X is interrupted by an upper area occupied by a cluster of cameras and other devices required to make the new FaceID system function, which creates an odd protrusion into the screen that is especially cumbersome when the device is in its horizontal position (as a result full-screen videos do not use the full width of the display, either).

In what this editor considers a concession masquerading as progress, FaceID likely replaces an in-display fingerprint sensor which neither Apple nor Samsung have been able to successfully implement. For their part Samsung slapped a clunky sensor on the rear of their GS8/GS8+, next to the camera sensor (which for some users will be eternally smeared as a result). Apple decided against implementing a rear fingerprint sensor, leaving only a facial recognition tech for biometrically securing the device. This is fine as long as iPhone X users are fine with appearing to take a selfie every time they want to unlock their phone, and the technology (which does work in the dark thanks to IR) seems impressive.

Specs for this new iPhone X include (view the rest from Apple here):

  • SoC: A11 Bionic with Neural engine and embedded M11 motion coprocessor
  • Display: 5.8-inch OLED, 2436x1125 resolution (458 ppi), HDR, True Tone, P3 color
  • Rear Cameras: 12MP wide-angle and telephoto, optical zoom, dual OIS, quad-LED True Tone flash, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting (beta)
  • Front Camera: 7MP TrueDepth camera, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting (beta)
  • Face ID: Enabled by TrueDepth camera for facial recognition

The battery "lasts up to 2 hours longer than iPhone 7", but actual capacity was not announced for the iPhone X.

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The dual rear cameras on the iPhone X are in a vertical orientation (image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are priced starting at $699 and $799 for a 64GB model. The iPhone X starts at $999 for 64GB. Pricing for the iPhone 8, which rose $50 from last year's iPhone 7 launch, provides double the base storage capacity to justify the increase. As to the iPhone X, its $999 price tag seems rather shocking at first glance, though Samsung's Note8 is over $900 as well. Needless to say, installment plans will be very popular with this new flagship iPhone.

Source: Apple

Apple 2017 iPhone Keynote from the PC Perspective - 12:45pm ET / 9:45am PT

Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2017 - 10:01 AM |
Tagged: live, video, apple, keynote, iphone, iphone x, iphone 8

Today we are going to re-broadcast and talk over the Apple keynote, giving you some perspective on the new announcements from a more technical standpoint. We will look into the new CPU and GPU architectures as much as Apple will allow us, and we have a diverse crowd of Apple and Android users to discuss and dissect the new features that the iPhones, Apple TV, Apple Watches, etc. might provide.

We will have the live chat open to take questions and comments as we go! (You can find the live chat over on our PCPer Live! page right here.)

Join us at 12:45pm ET / 9:45am PT!

Source: PCPer Live!

The Aorus X5 v7 gaming laptop comes with G-SYNC and overclockability

Subject: Mobile | September 5, 2017 - 03:01 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, aorus, aorus X5 v7, gaming laptop, i7-7820HK, gtx 1070

The interior components of the Aorus X5 v7 are impressive but it is the screen on this 15.6" gaming laptop that deserves attention.  The IPS display is G-SYNC capable with a pre-installed colour scheme and is available in either 2880x1620 or 4k, though the GTX 1070 it contains may have some performance issues at that resolution.  The i7-7820HK and GTX 1070 installed in the laptop are both overclockable though when The Tech Report tested the Command & Control software they found overclocking was far more effective at raising temperatures than performance.  Additional features include a installed 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD with an empty M.2 2280 slot for future upgrading, 16GB of DDR4-2400 and two USB 3.1 Type-C ports one of which supports Thunderbolt 3.  Read more here.

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"Gigabyte's Aorus X5 v7 notebook puts a GTX 1070 and a high-resolution G-Sync display in a relatively thin-and-light package. We thoroughly tested it to see just how much of a slice of gaming goodness it offers on the go."

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ZTE Axon 7 (US) Update Available

Subject: Mobile | September 2, 2017 - 10:39 PM |
Tagged: zte, axon 7

It’s been a while since ZTE has released an update for their Axon 7, but it looks like they’re still supporting the device with both security updates and new features. The Android version number is still 7.1.1, but 7.1.2 was mostly for Pixel phones, and it would be a little eager to expect Android 8.0. While all cellphone manufacturers should push security updates as quick as possible, because particularly nasty issues can be exploited within hours of a patch being publicly available, not months, at least they are still doing them at all.

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The ZTE Axon 7 was released a little over a year ago.

The most noticeable update is the multi-user support, which adds a colorful icon to your lock screen. When you click it, you’re able to choose the user to login as, create a new one, or create a guest account. I have noticed that the phone is also significantly more responsive, especially when rotating the display, but they might have just shortened the animation. Either way, it feels a lot faster, which is good, regardless of where that performance comes from.

If you're considering a phone from ZTE, then this should give clues about their intended update schedule. It's not Google-level, but it's at least a year, if the Axon 7 is any indication.

Source: ZTE

IFA 2017: Lenovo Announces Yoga 920 and 720 2-in-1 Laptops

Subject: Mobile | August 31, 2017 - 03:30 PM |
Tagged: Yoga 920, Yoga 720, yoga, watchband, Star Wars, notebook, Lenovo, laptop, ips, Gorilla Glass, digitizer, Active Pen 2, 4k, 2-in-1

The Yoga 920 is Lenovo’s new “flagship consumer 2-in-1”, and features 8th-generation quad-core processor and a big emphasis on voice control with what Lenovo describes as “far-field microphones for Cortana which will recognizes voice commands in standby mode and from up to 4 meters away”.

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There is also optional digitizer/pen capability with the Yoga 920, featuring Lenovo’s Active Pen 2:

“In the case of the Yoga 920, an optional Lenovo Active Pen 2 with 4,096 levels of pen sensitivity dramatically expands the creative and cross-application potential of the PC. Offering pen-on-paper precision designed to give you no discernible lag, the Lenovo Active Pen 2 with Windows Ink lets you sketch and paint original schematics or annotate existing graphics and documents on the fly. Working on a presentation? Use the pen’s shortcut button to open and check email for any last-minute contributions from the team, sketch them into the presentation, add some color and annotations, then send – all without setting down the pen.”

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The display is ‘nearly bezel-less’ and offers a 13.9-inch 4K IPS panel. The familiar ‘watchband’ hinge is back for this new model, and the machine is quite thin at 13.95 mm (0.55 inches), weighing in at 3.02 lbs.

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Special Star Wars designs are also going to be available with the Yoga 920, as Lenovo explains:

“We are particularly excited to bring to customers limited edition Gorilla Glass cover designs: Yoga 920 Vibes, Star Wars Special Edition Yoga 920 Rebel Alliance and Star Wars Special Edition Yoga 920 Galactic Empire.”

The Yoga 720 is a compact 12-inch design which will be offered at a significantly lower price than the 920, and it is also digitizer/pen capable and offers a fingerprint reader as well.

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The Yoga 920 will be offered with a starting price of $1329.99, while the Yoga 720 will start at $649.99.

Source: Lenovo

IFA 2017: Acer announces passively-cooled Switch 7 Black Edition

Subject: Mobile | August 30, 2017 - 12:19 PM |
Tagged: switch 7 black edition, Surface Pro, IFA 2017, ifa, acer, 8th generation core

Today at IFA 2017, Acer's keynote was full of new products arriving in the coming year. The most remarkable product of the bunch is their Switch 7 Black Edition 2-in-1.

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While the Switch 7 Black Edition may not look different than other 2-in-1 devices like Microsoft's Surface Pro initially, there are some surprises underneath the hood.

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First is Acer's innovative cooling solution which they are calling "LiquidLoop." Essentially this is a heatpipe system which circulates through the chassis to cool both the Quad-Core 8th Generation Core processor, as well as a dedicated GPU in the form of the NVIDIA Geforce MX150.

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Omitting the use of any fans in the chassis, Acer claims they can properly cool both the 15W processor and the 25W GPU with this heatpipe system.

As for the GPU, the Geforce MX150 is the Pascal-based successor to the 940MX, which saw popularity in many of these thin and light form-factor devices. While it won't play the latest titles at native resolution, you should expect to be able to play less demanding titles and older games at modest image quality settings. Personally, the idea of a passively cooled computer that can play Rocket League on the go excites me.

Beyond the innovative thermal design, Acer has some more tricks up their sleeve with the Switch 7 Black Edition. 

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Acer AutoStand is a kickstand system designed to operate with one hand, like a traditional notebook hinge. This could be a huge benefit to Acer over the more cumbersome competitors like the Surface Pro where you have to hold the tablet in place as you deploy the kickstand.

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The Switch 7 Black Edition supports Windows Hello through the use of a fingerprint sensor embedded underneath the glass of the screen bezel. This sensor also supports Power on Authentication (POA) so that a single press will turn on the device and log into Windows Instantly.

These features combined with the 12.5-in 2256x1504 IPS display make the Switch 7 Black Edition an attractive alternative to 2-in-1 devices like the Surface Pro. 

All of these cool features come with a steep price tag though. The Acer Switch 7 Black Edition is expected to ship in December in North America for prices starting at $1,699.

Source: Acer

IFA 2017: Dell announces refreshed Quad-Core XPS 13 Notebook

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | August 28, 2017 - 10:20 PM |
Tagged: ifa, IFA 2017, dell, XPS 13, 8th generation core, i7-8550U, i5-8250U

As expected, this year's IFA trade show in Berlin is proving busy for notebook manufacturers. Hot on the heels of Intel's announcement of 15W 8th Generation quad-core processors in the Kaby-Lake refresh family earlier in the month, we are starting to see some announcements of actual products utilizing these new processors.

Not to be left behind, Dell has officially announced the refreshed version of their well-received XPS 13 notebook. 

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It appears that there has been little physical change to the XPS 13 centered around these new processor options. Customers will still find 2 USB-A Ports upgraded to USB 3.1 Gen 2, a Thundebolt 3 Port, full-size SD card slot, a standard headphone jack, and a power connector (although charging over Thunderbolt 3 is supported). There's no indication yet as to the Thunderbolt 3 implementation, but we hope Dell has gone with the full PCIe x4 bandwidth instead of x2 as found on the current XPS 13.

Same as the current XPS 13, customers will be able to choose from a 1080p non-touch display or a 3200x1800 touchscreen, up to 16GB of RAM, and SSD options including SATA and NVMe.

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Battery size remains at 60Wh, which Dell claims has a MobileMark battery life score of 22 hours on the 1080p display model and 12 hours with the 3200x1800 QHD+ Touchscreen option.

Expect a longer rollout than usual with these new 8th generation parts from Dell, with the highest end i7-8550U to be available starting September 12th, and the i5 parts coming later in October. We have no current indications of pricing, but I would expect it to fall along the current XPS 13 models, in which the i7 model starts at $1349 along with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe SSD, and the 1080p display.

Source: Dell

ASUS Announces the ZenBook Flip S UX370

Subject: Mobile | August 28, 2017 - 05:54 PM |
Tagged: ZenBook Flip S UX370, UX370, asus

ASUS has announced their newest ZenBook Flip, the UX370 which will be available through the Microsoft store for $1399 USD some time in the near future. It is powered by a Kaby Lake i7-7500U with HD 620 graphics, 16GB of DDR3-2133 and a 512GB PCIE SSD.  The 13.3" screen has a 1080p resolution, the size of which keeps the UX370 down to a svelte 2.43lb and a mere 10.9mm thickness.

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Connectivity us handled by a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C plugs and an audio plug; networking is handled wirelessly via 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1.  The speakers are Harman Kardon-certified and powered by ASUS' SonicMaster audio technology; hopefully we will soon have a chance to hear what that actually means in terms of sound quality.

Here are the specs, the PR is below.

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Source: ASUS

Samsung Officially Unveils the Galaxy Note 8 Smartphone

Subject: Mobile | August 23, 2017 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 835, smartphone, Samsung, s pen, phablet, OIS, Note 8, Note, galaxy note, dual camera

The wait is over: Samsung has officially announced the Galaxy Note 8 (or Note8), which will be their first large-format (or phablet) smartphone since the Note 7, which obviously did not remain on the market for long. So what is Samsung doing with such a negative history behind them? Looking forward and not back, of course. That was the message of the event. But Samsung was on stage to do more than apologize for the failure of the late Note, and there were some subtle jabs at the Apple's large phone, with a particularly damning camera comparison with the iPhone 7 Plus making a big splash.

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We are familiar with the processing power behind the Note 8 already: the Snapdragon 835 currently powers the U.S. version of both Galaxy S8 handsets. While there won't be added speed compared to rest of the Galaxy line, this was never the point of the Note series. Note phones have been about a larger format, with the overall device and screen size being the key difference compared to Samsung's other smartphones. But the Note 8 is just 0.1 inches larger than the Galaxy S8+. In fact, the design and screen of the new Note is essentially the same as that of the S8+, other than the bump from 6.2 to 6.3 inches from the 2960x1440 AMOLED displays.

Specifications:

  • Display: 6.3-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED, 2960 x 1440 resolution (521ppi)
  • AP (U.S. market): Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • Memory: 6GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
  • Dual Rear Cameras with Dual OIS
    • Wide-angle: 12MP Dual Pixel AF, F1.7, OIS
    • Telephoto: 12MP AF, F2.4, OIS, 2X optical zoom, up to 10X digital zoom
  • Battery: 3,300mAh
  • Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm, 195 g
  • OS: Android 7.1.1

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The advantages of the Note 8 over an S8+ are still obvious, even if the handsets themselves seem very close at first glance. First there is the new dual-camera system on the back of the device, which boasts an industry first by incorporating OIS (optical image stabilization) into both of the rear lenses. During the presentation direct comparisons to an iPhone 7 Plus were made with both still and video capture, and if these dual-OIS cameras provide the same results in the real world Apple is in trouble.

Sure, this Samsung dual camera is very similar to the iPhone 7 Plus, right down to the 2x optical zoom in the telephoto lens and including a portrait mode effect (though Samsung's is adjustable similar to what we saw with the Huawei solution on the Mate 9). But having both lenses suspended with optical stabilization allows for more clarity and better low-light performance, at least in theory. It will be facinating to test this new camera system.

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The real star of the event: that stage! Full floor projection along with giant rear screens.

The other advantage of the Note 8 over the Galaxy S8+ is the S Pen, and such a pen has been at the heart of the Note experience since the beginning. For dedicated S Pen users this alone will tip the scales in the Note 8's favor (the ability to take up to 100 pages of notes with the screen off sounds very cool), though with this design the speculation that battery capacity was sacrificed to make room for the pen's internal storage seems to be spot on, as the 3300 mAh capacity is lower than even the S8+ at 3500 mAh. Even with that pen, however, the Note 8 still offers an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, though drops are still going to be the primary worry (for me, anyhow) with a 6.3-inch device that is nearly all curved screen.

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The various colors of the Note 8 - which vary by region.

The Note 8 is launching September 15, with pre-orders going up soon at prices ranging from $930 to $960, depending on your mobile operator.

Source: Samsung

ASUS Announces ZenFone 4, Pro, Selfie, and Selfie Pro

Subject: Mobile | August 22, 2017 - 09:35 PM |
Tagged: asus, zenfone, zenfone 4, zenfone 4 selfie

At their “We Love Photo” event in Taiwan, ASUS has announced an updated ZenFone line-up. As you would expect, given the name of the conference, these devices will be focused (heh heh) on camera performance. In fact, they’re split into two categories, each with a regular and a pro variant: ZenFone 4, and ZenFone 4 Selfie. The latter pair of devices differentiate themselves with dual front-facing cameras, but more on that later.

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ZenFone 4 Pro

Let’s start with the ZenFone 4 Pro, because it has the highest computational performance. This device is based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, which includes an Adreno 540 GPU. This is the fastest Adreno GPU on the market today, and it is more-than capable of running Vulkan if ASUS ships the appropriate driver for it. It is backed with 6GB of RAM. The phone also has a pair of rear-facing cameras, one of which is optically zoomed in, and the other has 1.4 micrometer pixels (Sony IMX362) for good low-light performance.

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ZenFone 4

On to the ZenFone 4. It still has a Sony IMX362 main camera, but they don’t mention the specifications of its pair. Its SoC is a more mainstream Snapdragon 660, which includes the Adreno 512 GPU. It will be a little slower, but it’s still a fairly beefy processor.

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ZenFone 4 Selfie

Now we get to the Selfie line. So ASUS has been adding dual-cameras to their phones since the ZenFone 3 Zoom. The premise is that a zooming mechanism requires a lot of depth, because movable lenses need a space to travel, and that’s difficult to put in a phone... so just have two cameras, each zoomed to a different value. These phones do the opposite: the second camera provides a wider angle, so that multiple people can get into the photo. They call it a “wefie” in the press release, which has apparently been on Urban Dictionary since 2013, and so can’t blame them for it... I guess.

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ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro

The ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro is built around a Snapdragon 625, backed with 4GB of RAM, while the regular ZenFone 4 Selfie uses the Snapdragon 430 (RAM unspecified).

Each of these phones will launch in Asia, but eventually make their way to other regions, too.

Source: ASUS

Back to school or just the beach, the best mobile devices to drag with you

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 21, 2017 - 11:49 AM |
Tagged: laptop, cellphone

The Tech Report have polled their crew to build a list of the best mobile devices on the market to help you enjoy your summer.  Amazon's tablets were a top pick thanks to the reasonable prices you can purchase them at; they won't be able to play Crysis but there are plenty of other things you can do.  For those who need a bigger screen without overly increasing the price you can peruse the Chromebooks or you could just head straight to the big ticket items in the gaming laptop section.  Drop by for a look at what you might be interested in over at TR.

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"It's time for another edition of The Tech Report's mobile staff picks, where we comb the worlds of tablets, laptops, and phones to separate the best from the rest."

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Tech Talk

 

Depth-sensing tech from Qualcomm challenges Apple

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, spectra, depth sensing, apple

New camera and image processing technology from Qualcomm promises to change how Android smartphones and VR headsets see the world. Depth sensing isn’t new to smartphones and tablets, first seeing significant use in Google’s Project Tango and Intel’s RealSense Technology. Tango uses a laser-based implementation that measures roundtrip times bouncing off surfaces but requires a bulky lens on the rear of the device. Early Tango phones like the Lenovo Phab 2 were hindered by large size requirements as a result. Intel RealSense was featured in the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet and allowed the camera to adjust depth of field and focal points after the image had been capturing. It used a pair of cameras and calculated depth based on parallax mapping between them, just as the human eye works.

Modern devices like the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8 offer faux-depth perception for features like portrait photo modes. In reality, they only emulate the ability to sense depth by use different range camera lenses and don’t provide true depth mapping capability.

New technology and integration programs at Qualcomm are working to improve the performance, capability, and availability of true depth sensing technology for Android-based smartphones and VR headsets this year. For the entry-level market devices that today do not have the ability to utilize depth sensing, a passive camera module was built to utilize parallax displacement and estimate depth. This requires two matching camera lenses and a known offset distance between them. Even low-cost phones will have the ability to integrate image quality enhancements like blurred bokeh and basic mixed or augmented reality, bringing the technology to a mass market.

The more advanced integration of the Qualcomm Spectra module program provides active depth sensing with a set of three devices. A standard high resolution camera is paired with both an infrared projector and an infrared camera that are utilized for high resolution depth map creation. The technology projects an infrared image with a preset pattern into the world, invisible to the human eye, but picked up by the IR camera. The Spectra image processor on the Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platform then measures the displacement and deformations of the pattern to determine the depth and location of the items in the physical world. This is done in real-time, at high frame rates and high resolution to create a 10,000 data point “cloud” in a virtual 3D space.

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For consumers this means more advanced security and advanced features on mobile devices. Face detection and mapping that combines the standard camera input along with the IR depth sensing combination will allow for incredibly accurate and secure authentication. Qualcomm claims that the accuracy level is high enough to prevent photos of faces and even 3D models of faces from unlocking the device thanks to interactions of human skin and eyes with IR light.

3D reconstruction of physical objects will also be possible with active depth sensing, allowing gamers to bring real items into virtual worlds. It also allows designers to accurately measure physical spaces that they can look through in full 3D. Virtual reality and augmented reality will benefit from the increased accuracy of its localization and mapping algorithms, improving the “inside-out” tracking capabilities of dedicated headsets and slot-in devices like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Daydream.

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Though the second generation Qualcomm Spectra ISP (image sensor processor) is required for the complex compute tasks that depth sensing will create, the module program the company has created is more important for the adoption, speed of integration, and cost of the technology to potential customers. By working with companies like Sony for image sensors and integration on modules, Qualcomm has pre-qualified sets of hardware and provides calibration profiles for its licensees to select from and build into upcoming devices. These arrangements allow for Qualcomm to remove some of the burden from handset vendors, lowering development time and costs, getting depth sensing and advanced photo capabilities to Android phones faster.

It has been all but confirmed that the upcoming Apple iPhone 8 will have face detection integrated on it and the company’s push into AR (augmented reality) with iOS 11 points to a bet on depth sensing technology as well. Though Apple is letting developers build applications and integrations with the current A9 and A10 processors, it will likely build its own co-processor to handle the compute workloads that come from active depth sensing and offset power consumption concerns of using a general purpose processor.

Early leaks indicate that Apple will focus its face detection technology on a similar path to the one Qualcomm has paved: security and convenience. By using depth-based facial recognition for both login and security (as a Touch ID replacement), users will have an alternative to fingerprints. That is good news for a device that is having problems moving to a fingerprint sensor design that uses the entire screen.

It now looks like a race to integration for Android and Apple smartphones and devices. The Qualcomm Spectra ISP and module program will accelerate adoption in the large and financially variable Android market, giving handset vendors another reason to consider Qualcomm chipsets over competing solutions. Apple benefits from control over the entire hardware, software, and supply chain, and will see immediate adoption of the capabilities when the next-generation iPhone makes its debut. 

Source:

The overclocked laptop, Gigabyte's Aorus X5

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2017 - 02:11 PM |
Tagged: X5, i7-7820HK, gtx 1070, gigabyte, gaming laptop, factory overclocked, aorus

The Aorus X5 gaming laptop comes with a 300MHz overclock on the i7-7820HK, with a top frequency of 4.2 GHz and a 50 MHz overclock on the GTX 1070 base clock.  This is not usual for gaming laptops, which tend to be thermally stressed at stock clocks, which shows the benefit of this particular design.  Gigabyte obviously did some serious testing, Techspot tried manual overclocking but could only squeeze another 100MHz from the CPU and another 50MHz from the GPU while remaining stable.  The CPU overclock did have some effect, however there was little real performance gained from the extra 50MHz on the GPU as it runs warm enough that thermal throttling is the limitation.  Drop by to see how well this 2.5kg, 15.6" G-Sync capable laptop performs in Techspot's full review.

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"Gigabyte's enthusiast gamer brand, Aorus, never skimps on hardware and the brand new Aorus X5 v7 is no exception: we're looking at an overclockable quad-core i7-7820HK CPU, GTX 1070 graphics,a high-resolution G-Sync display, 32GB RAM and for storage comprises an M.2 SSD and a hard drive."

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Source: Techspot

Alien organics displaying on scan! Alienware's 13 R3 gaming laptop

Subject: Mobile | July 28, 2017 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: alienware, Alienware 13 R3, oled, 1440p, gtx 1060, Tobii

Alienware is continuing to provide impressive hardware in their high end laptops, along with a price tag to match.  The new R3 model contains impressive hardware, a Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB DDR4-2400MHz, a GTX 1060 and a 256GB Toshiba XG3 NVMe.  Those components are not what makes this laptop stand out however, it is the 1440p OLED touch screen and Tobii Aware eye tracking software which make this laptop interesting.  Kitguru did have some issues with the screen brightness adjusting during usage however "the OLED screen is absolutely amazing."  Check out the review but remember, if you have to ask you can't afford it.

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"Thankfully the review sample we were sent by Alienware is the Big Kahuna with the OLED screen and a mighty QHD resolution of 2,560×1,440 which is a heck of a lot of pixels packed into a 13.3-inch screen. The screen brightness is 400 nits and it has touch control."

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Source: Kitguru

HTC Vive Standalone VR Headset to expand VR market with low cost, dedicated hardware

Subject: Mobile | July 27, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR, virtual reality, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 835

This article first appeared on MarketWatch and Shrout Research.

During the ChinaJoy 2017 event in Shanghai, VR pioneer HTC announced its standalone VR headset aimed at the China market. This marks the first major player in the virtual reality space to officially reveal a standalone product intended for the broad consumer market that requires a more affordable, portable VR solution.

Standalone VR headsets differ from the current options on the market in two distinct ways. First, they are disconnected from a PC and don’t require attachment to a desktop for processing or display output. The current HTC Vive product that ships in the market, as well as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, require a high-end PC to play VR games and use HDMI and USB connections to power the headsets. This new standalone design also moves away from the slot-in design of the Samsung Gear VR and doesn’t require the user to monopolize their smartphone for VR purposes.

Though mobile-first VR solutions like Gear VR have existed for several years, selling on the market before the PC-based solutions were released, the move of HTC from tethered virtual reality to a wireless standalone unit signals a shift in the market. Consumers see the value and quality experiences that VR can provide but the expense and hassle of in-place configurations have stagnated adoption.

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HTC is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform to power the Vive Standalone VR Headset, the same chipset used in many high-end smartphones on the market today. Qualcomm and HTC can modify traits of the processor to improve performance without worrying about the sensitive battery life of a consumer’s phone. Though we don’t know the specifics of what HTC might have modified for the configuration of this standalone unit, it likely is a mirror of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR hardware development kit that was announced in February. That design includes the capability for six degrees of freedom tracking (moving around a space accurately without external sensors), high resolution displays for each eye, and a full suite of graphics and digital signal processors to handle the complex workloads of VR experiences.

Though HTC is the first to announce and a complete standalone VR product, HTC and others announced their intent to release standalone units in the US later this year through Google’s Daydream program. Lenovo plans to build a VR headset using the same Qualcomm reference design for the Daydream platform.

Facebook-owned Oculus has not officially announced its intent but rumors in July point us to another Qualcomm-powered headset that will sell for around $200. Facebook plans to reveal the hardware in October.

HTC’s decision to target the China market first is driven by its ability to promote its custom Viveport software store in a region that does not offer Google services like the Android Play Store or Daydream. HTC will leverage a customer base that is larger than North America and Western Europe combined, and one that is expected to grow rapidly. IDC statistics show VR headset shipments reaching 10.1 million units this year and target 61 million units by 2020 worldwide. iResearch Consulting estimates Chinese VR market revenues to reach $8.1B in that same time frame.

Growth in VR and AR (augmented reality) is driven by the consumer markets but it is the enterprise implementations that provide the push for expanded usage models. Medical professionals already utilize VR technology to analyze data and mechanical engineers can dissect and evaluate models of products in a virtual space to improve and speed up workflows. Target fields also include factory workers, emergency personnel, the military, delivery drivers, and nearly all facets of business. As VR technology improve usability, comfort, and general societal acceptance, the merger of virtual and augmented reality hardware will create a new age of connected consumers.

Rumor: Intel to Launch Quad Core Kaby Lake-R CPUs for Ultraportables

Subject: Processors, Mobile | July 17, 2017 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: ultrabook, quad core, Intel, i5-8520u, i5-7200u, hyperthreading, dell xps 13, acer swift 3, 15w

A few days ago, laptopmedia.com uncovered some listings for an unannounced revision to the Acer Swift 3 notebook.

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In addition to the new Pascal-based NVIDIA MX150 GPU announced just before Computex, astute readers will also spot an unannounced CPU from Intel – the Core i5-8250U. While the model number itself doesn't tell us much other than it's a next generation CPU, the description in the Acer product listings notes it as a quad core CPU.

Following Intel's history with the U-series parts, the 8250U would traditionally be a 15W, dual core CPU with hyperthreading enabled, with the true quad core parts starting with the 35W TDP options

We've had an indication that a quad core U-series processor was coming in the second half of this year from Intel's performance claims presented at Computex this year, but we weren't quite sure what form it would take.

Doing some additional research, we can see several results from this processor in the Geekbench database from various notebook manufacturers – including devices we would expect to be refreshed like the Dell XPS 13 and ASUS Zenbook UX490.

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From the Geekbench results of the XPS 13 with the i5-8520U compared to the current generation i5-7200U, we see a 54% increase in multi threaded CPU performance while only a 7% increase in single threaded performance. Keep in mind that these leaked benchmarks should be taken with a grain of salt, but we would be very impressed with these numbers in a shipping notebook.

Geekbench's processor profiler also reveals the i5-8250U to be a 4 core/8 thread processor, pointing to hyperthreading being enabled on the i5 processors as well as the i7's, like we currently see in the U-series.

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Some people have been theorizing that this 8000 series processor is from the upcoming Coffee Lake release. However, based on some of the Intel roadmap leaks from late last year, I think that this is actually a Kaby Lake-R CPU. The leaked roadmap suggests that Kaby Lake-R will launch as the 8th generation processor family, to be released in the second half of 2017.

Either way, I am excited to finally see some push forward in the 15W CPU space, which I consider to be the sweet spot between battery life and performance for most users.

Stay tuned for more information on these new Intel processors and these new notebooks as we get out hands on them!

The Surface doesn't have a ghost of a chance against HP's new convertible

Subject: Mobile | July 11, 2017 - 02:40 PM |
Tagged: spectre x2, hp, convertible tablet

HP's Spectre x2 ships with the keyboard and pen, unlike the competition who only sell you the tablet and charge extra for the two best features of a convertible tablet.  The prices are also more competitive, ranging from the $1150 base model with a Core i5-7260U, 8GB DDR3 and a 128GB PCIe SSD to the $1970 top of the line model with a Core i7-7560U, 16GB DDR3 and a 1TB PCIe SSD.  The IPS touchscreen is 12.3" with a 3000 x 2000 resolution which translates to 293ppi and though the bezel is thinner than previous models it is still quite large.  Ars Technica examines the Spectre x2's performance and aesthetics right here.

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"HP's updated Spectre x2 fine-tunes the original device's design while giving the internals a power boost from Core M to Core i5/i7 for better productivity. The Spectre x2 is also more affordable than the Surface Pro and includes its keyboard and pen in the box rather than forcing customers to pay extra for them."

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Source: Ars Technica

Is the OnePlus 5 a Galaxy S8+ class smartphone for $600

Subject: Mobile | June 29, 2017 - 03:09 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, oneplus 5, oneplus

You can pick up the OnePlus 5 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage for $640, or if really want you could grab the model which Ars Technica reviewed for $620 but you have half the storage and only 6GB of RAM.  There are likely better deals out there if you shop around, Ars found their review model @ $479. 

The phone uses the same Snapdragon 835 SoC and Adreno 540 GPU as the Galaxy S8+ which Sebastian just tested, which shows in the benchmarks Ars Technica ran it through up to and including battery life.  In all but the storage tests we see the OnePlus meet or exceed the S8+, however the screen cannot compete.  It is a 1080p screen with a lot more bezel than you will find on a Galaxy or even iPhone for that matter.  Take a look at the review and decide if you value form over function when it comes to your mobile phone.

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"Today OnePlus is both announcing the OnePlus 5 and lifting the review embargo on the device, which we've had for about two weeks now. $479 (£449) gets you an aluminum-clad pocket computer with a 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery."

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Source: Ars Technica