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

Galaxy Note8_App Pair.jpg

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.

asus-2017-zenfone4pro.png

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.

asus-2017-zenfone4.png

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.

asus-2017-zenfone4selfie.png

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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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.

Caption - VIVE Standalone VR headset designed for the Chinese market and....jpg

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

Qualcomm Partners with Bosch, OmniVision, and Ximmerse to Shore Up Mobile VR Sensors

Subject: Mobile | June 27, 2017 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, qualcomm, google, daydream, AR

Qualcomm has put forward steady work on creating the vibrant hardware ecosystem for mobile VR to facilitate broad adoption of wireless, dedicated head mounted displays. Though the value of Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View cannot but overstated in moving the perception of consumer VR forward, the need to utilize your smart phone in a slot-in style design has its limitations. It consumes battery that you may require for other purposes, it limits the kinds of sensors that the VR system can utilize, and creates a sub-optimal form factor in order to allow for simple user installation.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

Qualcomm created the first standalone VR HMD reference design back in early 2016, powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor. Google partnered with Qualcomm at I/O to create the Daydream standalone VR headset reference design with the updated Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform at its core, improving performance and graphical capability along the way. OEMs like Lenovo and HTC have already committed to Daydream standalone units, with Qualcomm at the heart of the hardware.

Qualcomm Technologies recently announced a HMD Accelerator Program (HAP) to help VR device manufacturers quickly develop premium standalone VR HMDs. At the core of this program is the standalone VR HMD reference design. It goes beyond a simple prototype device, offering a detailed reference design that allows manufacturers to apply their own customizations while utilizing our engineering, design, and experience in VR. The reference design is engineered to minimize software changes, hardware issues, and key component validation.

- Hugo Swart, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

As part of this venture, and to continue pushing the VR industry forward to more advanced capabilities like XR (extended reality, a merger of VR and AR), Qualcomm is announcing agreements with key component vendors aiming to tighten and strengthen the VR headset ecosystem.

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Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

Ximmerse has built a high-precision and drift-free controller for VR applications that offers low latency input and 3DoF (3 degrees of freedom) capability. This can “provide just about any interaction, such as pointing, selecting, grabbing, shooting, and much more. For precise 6 DoF positional tracking of your head, tight integration is required between the sensor fusion processing (Snapdragon) and the data from both the camera and inertial sensors.”

Bosch Sensortec has the BMX055 absolute orientation sensor that performs the function that its name would imply: precisely locating the user in the real world and tracking movement via accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.

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Finally, OmniVision integrates the OV9282 which is a 1MP high speed shutter image sensor for feature tracking.

These technologies, paired with the work Qualcomm has already done for the Snapdragon 835 VR Development Kit, including on the software side, is an important step to the growth of this segment of the market. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t believe standalone, wireless headsets are the eventual future of VR and AR and the momentum created by Qualcomm, Google, and others continues its steady pace of development.

Source: Qualcomm

Imagination Technologies Pursues Acquisition Talks

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 23, 2017 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, imagination, apple, gpu

According to a press release from Imagination Technologies, the group has been approached by multiple entities who are interested in acquiring them. None of these potential buyers have been mentioned by name, however. The press release also makes it clear that the group is only announcing that discussions have started, and that other interested parties can contact their financial adviser, Rothschild, to join in.

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It’s entirely possible that nothing could come from these discussions, but Imagination Technologies clearly wants as many options to choose from as possible.

This announcement is clearly related to the recent news that Apple plans to stop licensing technology from them, which made up about half of the whole company’s revenue at the time. The press release states that they are still in dispute with Apple with a dedicated, highly visible, single-line paragraph. As far as I know, Apple hasn’t yet provided proof that they are legally clear of Imagination Technology’s licenses, and the press release claims that they still dispute Apple’s claims.

Hopefully we’ll hear more concrete details in the near future.

Huawei grows its product line, meet the MateBook series

Subject: Mobile | June 12, 2017 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: Huawei, matebook, MateBook X, MateBook D, fanless

Huawei mobile phones are growing in popularity in North America, with products available on Amazon and brick and mortar stores as well.  They have now expanded their product lineup to include 13" laptops, the MateBook X and the MateBook D.  These laptops are fanless, thanks to their all metal design and the incorporation of Huawei's Space Cooling technology which are microencapsulated phase change materials built into the body of the laptop.  Inside you will find a seventh generation i5 or i7 variant, either 4GB or 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 256GB or 512GB SSD.  The Inquirer were impressed with almost every aspect of this ultramobile, from performance to the nine hours of battery life; read all about it here.

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"LAPTOPS? REALLY? Is there anything Huawei isn't producing these days? We should have known this day would come when Huawei announced its first Windows 10 tablet, the original MateBook. Now, over a year later, the Chinese behemoth has unveiled its successor along with two, very un-tablety laptops: the MateBook X and the MateBook D."

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Source: The Inquirer

WWDC 2017: Apple Updates MacBook line-up with Kaby Lake, Improved Graphics

Subject: Mobile | June 5, 2017 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: wwdc, radeon pro 560, radeon pro 550, radeon pro, macbook pro, MacBook Air, macbook, kaby lake, iris plus6540, iris plus 650, i7-7700hq, i5-7360U, i5-7267u, apple

Alongside other updates, Apple at its World Wide Developers Conference this morning announced some modest updates to the MacBook line of notebooks.

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Starting with the MacBook Pro, we see an across the board upgrade to Kaby Lake processors. As we saw on the desktop side with Kaby Lake, there aren't radical differences with these new processor,  however we do see a 200MHz bump across the line on clock speeds. Essentially these are the same relative chips in Intel's Kaby Lake processor lineup as Apple used in the Skylake generation.

  MacBook Pro 13" with Function Keys MacBook Pro 13" with Touch Bar MacBook Pro 15" with Touch Bar
MSRP $1,299+ $1,799+ $2,399+
Screen 13.3" 2560x1600 with DCI-P3 Color Gamut, 500-nits 13.3" 2560x1600 with DCI-P3 Color Gamut, 500-nits 15.4" 2880x1800 with DCI-P3 Color Gamut, 500-nits
CPU Core i5-7360U (2.3GHz up to 3.6GHz) Core i5-7267U (3.1GHz up to 3.5GHz) Core i7-7700HQ (2.8GHz up to 3.8GHz)
GPU Intel Iris Plus 640 Intel Iris Plus 650

AMD Radeon Pro 555 (2GB)

AMD Radeon Pro 560 (4GB)

RAM 8 or 16 GB DDR3-1866 (non-upgradeable) 8 or 16 GB DDR3-2133 (non-upgradeable) 16 GB DDR3-2133 (non-upgradeable)
Storage 128, 256, 512, or 1TB NVMe SSD (non-upgradable) 256, 512, or 1TB NVMe SSD (non-upgradable) 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB NVMe SSD (non-upgradable)
Connectivity 2 x Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack 4 x Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack 4 x Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack

Disappointingly, we do not see the rumored expandability to 32GB of RAM that many power users have been asking for.

Additionally, graphics are generationally upgraded to Intel's Iris Plus 640 and 650 on the 13" models with and without the touch bar respectively.

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The 15" MacBook Pro models see refreshed Polaris GPUs in the form of the Radeon Pro 555 and 560. It's worth nothing that the old entry level 15" MacBook Pro previously had the Radeon Pro 450 GPU, so the base configuration is now a more capable GPU even after you take away the expected improvements to the improved Polaris architecture seen in the RX 580.

In addition, the MacBook saw an upgrade to Kaby Lake processors. Apple also claimed that the onboard SSDs in this machine have seen a speed bump, but provided no real data on such claims.

Finally, the stalwart MacBook Air sees a processor speed bump. We aren't sure exactly what processor is in the new Air, but it seems to only have a 100MHz speed increase. Interestingly enough it still retains HD graphics 6000branding, which would lead us to believe this is still a Broadwell -based mobile processor.

These updated models are now available from Apple.

Source: Apple

Imagination PowerVR Ray Tracing with UE4 & Vulkan Demo

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 2, 2017 - 02:23 AM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, PowerVR, ray tracing, ue4, vulkan

Imagination Technologies has published another video that demonstrates ray tracing with their PowerVR Wizard GPU. The test system, today, is a development card that is running on Ubuntu, and powering Unreal Engine 4. Specifically, it is using UE4’s Vulkan renderer.

The demo highlights two major advantages of ray traced images. The first is that, rather than applying a baked cubemap with screen-space reflections to simulate metallic objects, this demo calculates reflections with secondary rays. From there, it’s just a matter of hooking up the gathered information into the parameters that the shader requires and doing the calculations.

The second advantage is that it can do arbitrary lens effects, like distortion and equirectangular, 360 projections. Rasterization, which projects 3D world coordinates into 2D coordinates on a screen, assumes that edges are still straight, and that causes problems as FoV gets very large, especially full circle. Imagination Technologies acknowledges that workarounds exist, like breaking up the render into six faces of a cube, but the best approximation is casting a ray per pixel and seeing what it hits.

The demo was originally for GDC 2017, back in February, but the videos have just been released.

Feel the QWERY typin' and BlackBerry shakin' ...

Subject: Mobile | June 1, 2017 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, keyone

Believe it or not the company formerly known as RIM is indeed stayin' alive.  The KeyOne is a new BlackBerry phone which sports the trademark physical QWERTY keyboard at the bottom, built by TCL Corporation with whom BlackBerry negotiated a deal with back in 2016.  The keyboard reduces the screen size to 4.5" with a 3:2 aspect ratio, in total the phone measures 149x73x9.4mm and 180g. The phone is powered by a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core chipset, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.  The Inquirer had a chance to review the phone recently which you can check out if you are so inclined.

BlackBerryKeyOneside-570x330.jpg

"Of course, this is no BlackBerry as you used to know it, coming instead from a deal with TCL Corporation to build the phones. With a £499 retail price in the UK, are the few remaining loyal BlackBerry fans now put off by the new direction, and is the novelty of a keyboard in a touchscreen world enough to keep the brand ticking over?"

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Source: The Inquirer

Computex: AORUS Introduces The Most Powerful 15" Gaming Laptop To Date

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 31, 2017 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: aorus, AORUS X5 MD, gaming laptop

The GTX 1080 doesn't seem like a mobile card but there are more than a few laptops which have one inside them, including the newly announced AORUS X5 MD.  In addition to the expected GPU is an overclocked i7-7820HK processor, thought the exact CPU will depend on the model chosen.

X5 v7_P001-color KB-orange TP.jpg

The screen quoted in the PR is a 15.6" 3840x2160 IPS GSYNC panel which has been calibrated with their X-Rite Pantone tool; this is suggested as optional but if you plan on spending the money for a gaming laptop of this calibre it is essentially mandatory.  Audio is provided by the ESS Sabre Audio ES9018 DAC with a DNR of up to 135dB. 

X5-v7_P008-2-gaming-color KB-blue TP.jpg

Outputs include HDMI 2.0 and mDP 1.3 though it is the Thunderbolt 3 port which catches the eye, allowing you to power a 4k monitor with this laptop when you are at home.  The casing is a mere 22.9mm tall, a bit thicker than your average deck of cards.  The keyboard is full of RGBs for those that prefer visual aids, while phonophobes will like the fact the cooling fans are adjustable to 10 different speeds.   Check out the full PR below the specs.

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AORUS, leader in high-end gaming laptops, is proud to announce a new version of its 15.6” X5. Pushing the boundaries even further, AORUS has extended the X5 series with the X5 MD, which incorporates the state of the art NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GDDR5X 8GB GPU.

Packed with plenty of new features, such as overclockable 7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, Thunderbolt 3, ESS SABRE 32-bit Hi-Fi audio DAC specially-designed cooling vents, the X5 MD also utilizes the new Max-Q design, NVIDIA’s innovative approach to design the world’s thinnest, fastest, and quietest gaming laptops. Max-Q, an integral part of NASA’s mission to launch man into space, is defined as the point at which the aerodynamic stress on a rocket in atmospheric flight is maximized. Thus, the design of the rocket is precision-engineered around Max-Q. NVIDIA has applied a similar philosophy to designing gaming laptops, enabling AORUS to build laptops that are thinner with more GPU performance of previous generation products.

“The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 was already fast, then the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 designed with Max-Q came along to satisfy gamers’ demand for even more performance,” commented Patrick Lai, Product Marketing at AORUS. “The X5 MD with GTX 1080 is an absolute beast. Gamers will love it!”

Step Up the Gaming Performance
The unmatched performance is what makes the X5 MD the most powerful 15” gaming laptop. This is the first Max-Q designed laptop from AORUS and is equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GPU. Furthermore, AORUS has paired the powerful GPU with the latest overclockable Intel Core i7-7820HK CPUs running at up to an 15% increase when compared to the 7700HQ, the X5 MD has outperformed any 15” laptops. All this power is fitted within the 22.9mm thin chassis through extensive engineering, allowing the X5 MD to provide the best gaming experience.

ESS Sabre Audio DAC – A 32-bit, 8-channel Hi-Fi Sound Experience
Few things are as important to gaming and movies as high-quality, crystal clear sound. Striving to offer the finest sound possible, AORUS has utilized the top of the line ES9018 DAC from ESS, built on its 32-bit Hyperstream architecture. Capable of output to 8 channels, it also boasts a Digital Noise Ratio of up to 135dB and a Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N) figure of -120dB.

Thunderbolt 3, mDP 1.3, Multi-Surround Displays
AORUS’ commitment to versatility is evident in the utilization of the Thunderbolt 3 connector in the X5 MD Thunderbolt 3 truly is the USB Type-C connector that does it all – connect to external graphics cards, connect external 4K display, or even charge your external devices with the 3A/5V output. Added with the upgraded mini DP 1.3 port and the existing HDMI 2.0, Multitasking and surround gaming are made possible.

X-Rite Pantone Calibrated Screen Panels
Further emphasizing the versatility of the AORUS X5 MD laptop is the introduction of fully calibrated screen panels, courtesy of revered color system player X-Rite Pantone. With each X5 MD laptop, you can rest assured that your system’s color reproduction will be second to none, whether you’re enjoying it professionally or casually.

 

Source: Aorus

Computex 2017: ASUS, HP, Lenovo to Build Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Windows 10 Machines

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 31, 2017 - 03:30 AM |
Tagged: snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, Lenovo, hp, Gigabit LTE, asus

Back in December of 2016, Qualcomm and Microsoft announced a partnership to bring Windows to platforms based on the Snapdragon platform. Not Windows RT redux, not Windows mobile, not Windows Mini, full blown Windows with 100% application support and compatibility. It was a surprising and gutsy move after the tepid response (at best) to the ARM-based Windows RT launch several years ago. Qualcomm and Microsoft assure us that this time things are different, thanks to a lot of learning and additional features that make the transition seamless for consumers.

The big reveal for this week is the initial list of partners that Qualcomm has brought on board to build Windows 10 system around the Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform. ASUS, HP, and Lenovo will offer machines based around that SoC, though details on form factors, time frames, pricing and anything else you WANT to know about it, is under wraps. These are big time names though, leaders in the PC notebook space, and I think their input to the platform is going to be just as valuable as them selling and marketing it. HP is known for enterprise solutions, Lenovo for mass market share, and ASUS for innovative design and integration.

win10onSD-15.jpg

(If you want to see an Android-based representation of performance on a mobile-based Snapdragon 835 processor, check out our launch preview from March.)

Also on the show floor, Qualcomm begins its marketing campaign aimed to show the value that Snapdragon offers to the Windows ecosystem. Today that is exemplified in a form factor difference comparing the circuit board layout of a Snapdragon 835-based notebook and a “typical” competitor machine.

board1.jpg

board2.jpg

Up top, Qualcomm is showing us the prototype for the Windows 10 Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform. It has a total area of 50.4 cm2 and just by eyeballing the two images, there is a clear difference in scope. The second image shows only what Qualcomm will call a “competing commercial circuit board” with an area of 98.1 cm2. That is a decrease in PCB space of 48% (advantage Qualcomm) and gives OEMs a lot of flexibility in design that they might not have had otherwise. They can use that space to make machines thinner, lighter, include a larger battery, or simply to innovate outside the scope of what we can imagine today.

Continue reading about the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform with Windows 10 announcement!

Source: Qualcomm