Shrout Research: Chromebook Platform Impacts Android App Performance

Subject: Mobile | May 23, 2017 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: shrout research, play store, Intel, Chromebook, arm, Android

Please excuse the bit of self-promotion here. Oh, and disclaimer: Shrout Research and PC Perspective share management and ownership.

Based on testing done by Shrout Research and published in a paper this week, the introduction of Android applications on Chromebooks directly though the Play Store has added a new wrinkle into the platform selection decision. Android applications, unlike Chromebook native apps, have a heavy weight towards the Android phone and tablet ecosystem, with "defacto" optimization for the ARM-based processors and platforms that represent 98%+ of that market. As a result, there are some noticeable and noteworthy differences when running Android apps on Chromebooks powered by an ARM SoC and an Intel x86 SoC.

With that market dominance as common knowledge, all Android applications are developed targeting ARM hardware, for ARM processors. Compilers and performance profiling software has been built and perfected to improve the experience and efficiency of apps to run on ARMv7 (32-bit) and ARMv8 (64-bit) architectures. This brings to the consumer an improved overall experience, including better application compatibility and better performance.

Using a pair of Acer Chromebooks, the R11 based on the Intel Celeron N3060 and the R13 based on the MediaTek MT8173C, testing was done to compare the performance, loading times, and overall stability of various Android Play Store applications. A range of application categories were addressed including games, social, and productivity.

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Through 19 tested Android apps we found that the ARM-powered R13 Chromebook performed better than the Intel-powered R11 Chromebook in 9 of them. In 8 of the apps tested, both platforms performed equally well. In 2 of the test applications, the Intel-powered system performed better (Snapchat and Google Maps).

The paper also touches on power consumption, and between these two systems, the ARM-based MediaTek SoC was using 11.5% less power to accomplish the same tasks.

Our testing indicates the Acer R13, using the ARM-powered processor, uses 11.5% less power on average in our 150 minutes of use through our education simulation. This is a significant margin and would indicate that with two systems equally configured, one with the MediaTek ARM processor and another with the Intel Celeron processor, the ARM-powered platform would get 11.5% additional usage time before requiring a charge. Based on typical Chromebook battery life (11 hours), the ARM system would see an additional 75 minutes of usability.

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There is a lot more detail in the white paper on ShroutResearch.com, including a discussion about the impact that the addition of Android applications on Chromebooks might have for the market as whole:

...bringing a vast library of applications from the smart phone market to the Chromebook would create a combination of capabilities that would turn the computing spectrum sideways. This move alleviates the sustained notion that Chromebooks are connected-only devices and gives an instant collection of usable offline applications and tools to the market.

You can download the full white paper here.

Microsoft Announces New Surface Pro Featuring Kaby Lake and Optional LTE

Subject: Mobile | May 23, 2017 - 10:24 AM |
Tagged: Surface Pro, surface, microsoft

As part of its Shanghai Event this morning, Microsoft announced a long-overdue update to the Surface Pro. While the new device retains the design and form factor of its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4, it still packs a few new features that Surface users have been waiting for.

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First off, Microsoft has used this revision to officially drop the numbering scheme from the product lineup. Rather than the expected "Surface Pro 5" moniker, Microsoft is now calling the product simply "Surface Pro," and will presumably use release year to differentiate models going forward.

Internally, the new Surface Pro finally makes the jump to Kaby Lake, with processor options including the Core m3-7Y30 on the low-end, the Core i5-7300U for the mid-range model, and topping out with the Core i7-7660U. These CPUs offer Intel HD 615, 620, and Iris Plus 640 graphics, respectively. The move to Kaby Lake, coupled with Microsoft's battery design improvements, also brings a nice boost to battery life, with the new Surface Pro offering an advertised 13.5 hours of video playback (the only usage scenario that Microsoft has thus far revealed). While we're interested to see other battery-life tests, the new Surface Pro's running time bests its predecessor by an impressive 50 percent, as the Surface Pro 4 was rated for only 9 hours of video playback.

In terms of connectivity, the new Surface Pro offers all of the same ports and I/O as the Surface Pro 4, with one big exception: LTE. Although not available at launch, new Surface Pro models with built-in 4G LTE will be available "later this year." This isn't the first Surface device to feature built-in LTE -- Microsoft offered limited availability of LTE-enabled non-Pro Surface 3 models back in 2015 -- but this is the first time that the feature will be available for the Pro lineup.

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Other design and functionality changes include a redesigned kickstand that will tilt back 165 degrees for a "Studio Mode" experience (Surface Pro 4 only had 150 degrees of tilt), support for the Surface Dial directly on the Surface Pro's screen (it had previously been limited to desktop use), and a new optional "Signature Type Cover," with improved key travel, higher-resolution glass trackpad, and featuring the same Alcantara fabric found on Microsoft's recently-released Surface Laptop.

On the downside, this new Surface Pro doesn't offer any improvements or changes to its display, port selection, RAM and storage capacities, or cameras. Even more disappointingly, the Surface Pen is no longer included, requiring users interested in pen functionality to shell out an extra $60.

The new Surface Pro starts at $799 and is available for pre-order now. It is expected to ship mid-June. Check out the Microsoft Store for pricing and specs on all Surface Pro configurations.

Source: Microsoft

Google Daydream Standalone VR Headset Powered by Snapdragon 835

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 17, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, google io 2017, google, daydream

During the Google I/O keynote, Google and Qualcomm announced a partnership to create a reference design for a standalone Daydream VR headset using Snapdragon 835 to enable the ecosystem of partners to have deliverable hardware in consumers’ hands by the end of 2017. The time line is aggressive, impressively so, thanks in large part to the previous work Qualcomm had done with the Snapdragon-based VR reference design we first saw in September 2016. At the time the Qualcomm platform was powered by the Snapdragon 820. Since then, Qualcomm has updated the design to integrate the Snapdragon 835 processor and platform, improving performance and efficiency along the way.

Google has now taken the reference platform and made some modifications to integrate Daydream support and will offer it to partners to show case what a standalone, untethered VR solution can do. Even though Google Daydream has been shipping in the form of slot-in phones with a “dummy” headset, integrating the whole package into a dedicate device offers several advantages.

First, I expected the free standalone units to have better performance than the phones used as a slot-in solution. With the ability to tune the device to higher thermal limits, Qualcomm and Google will be able to ramp up the clocks on the GPU and SoC to get optimal performance. And, because there is more room for a larger battery on the headset design, there should be an advantage in battery life along with the increase in performance.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

It is also likely that the device will have better thermal properties than those using high smartphones today. In other words, with more space, there should be more area for cooling and thus the unit shouldn’t be as warm on the consumers face.

I would assume as well that the standalone units will have improved hardware over the smartphone iterations. That means better gyros, cameras, sensors, etc. that could lead to improved capability for the hardware in this form. Better hardware, tighter and more focused integration and better software support should mean lower latency and better VR gaming across the board. Assuming everything is implemented as it should.

The only major change that Google has made to this reference platform is the move away from Qualcomm’s 6DOF technology (6 degrees of freedom, allowing you to move in real space and have all necessary tracking done on the headset itself) and to Google calls WorldSense. Based on the Google Project Tango technology, this is the one area I have questions about going forward. I have used three different Tango enabled devices thus far with long-term personal testing and can say that while the possibilities for it were astounding, the implementations had been…slow. For VR that 100% cannot be the case. I don’t yet know how different its integration is from what Qualcomm had done previously, but hopefully Google will leverage the work Qualcomm has already done with its platform.

Google is claiming that consumers will have hardware based on this reference design in 2017 but no pricing has been shared with me yet. I wouldn’t expect it to be inexpensive though – we are talking about all the hardware that goes into a flagship smartphone plus a little extra for the VR goodness. We’ll see how aggressive Google wants its partners to be and if it is willing to absorb any of the upfront costs with subsidy.

Let me know if this is the direction you hope to see VR move – away from tethered PC-based solutions and into the world of standalone units.

Source: Qualcomm

A dock for your Samsung S8? That would be DeX

Subject: Mobile | May 12, 2017 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, DeX, galaxy s8, galaxy s8+

Move over Surface, the new Galaxies are getting a docking station too.  The Dex is a charging port with talent, adding USB-A 2.0, ethernet, HDMI, and a USB-C charging port to your phone's capabilities.  Plug the dock into a monitor and you will be presented a limited Android system which supports various Samsung apps, as well as Microsoft Office apps, Gmail and YouTube; The Inquirer tested out a few others for compatibility in their review.  There is a virtual desktop app that will let you take over a desktop computer as well, according to the page on Samsung.  Gaming is not particularly good, unless you utilize the workaround The Inq discovered; pick up a USB C to HDMI adapter and bypass the DeX as opposed to the native screen mirroring which occurs with the DeX software.

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"In a nutshell, DeX is a dock for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ that outputs a desktop experience from your phone to a big screen. It acts as little more than a portal, relying entirely on your phone's processing power to generate the experience, doing so via HDMI, making it compatible with most TVs and monitors."

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Source: The Inquirer

How To: Add AptX Bluetooth Audio to a Windows PC

Subject: Mobile | May 10, 2017 - 05:11 PM |
Tagged: windows, sony, qualcomm, mdr1000x, CSR Harmony, bluetooth, aptX, a2dp

Recently, to prepare for a long plane flight I bought a pair of Sony MDR-1000X Bluetooth noise canceling headphones. While I won't get into the specifics of these headphones other than that I have been really satisfied with them, when I returned from my trip I wanted to start using them at the office.

Seemingly that would be easy, as these headphones feature a 3.5mm input, but I am frequently walking around the office and I wanted to fully utilize the wireless features. While I could have just used any Bluetooth adapter compatible with Windows, I wanted to test out one of the features of these headphones —  AptX technology.

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AptX is an alternate Bluetooth audio codec from Qualcomm which aims to feature higher audio quality. Sebastian took a look at a pair of AptX-enabled headphones earlier this year, and I have wanted to check out the technology ever since.

I went to Amazon, and did a search for "AptX Bluetooth USB" and found a wide array of options, so I did what anyone would naturally do — I bought the cheapest one and hoped it would work

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After receiving the USB adapter, I first installed the CSR Harmony software from the Azio website. This is a piece of software that sits on top of the Windows Bluetooth Stack and enabled advanced Bluetooth features, including AptX, on certain Bluetooth chipsets.

Once the software was installed, I plugged in the device and found a new Bluetooth icon sitting in my Windows tray.

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From here, you can simply right click the icon and search for a new Bluetooth device.

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Once I put the headphones into pairing mode I was able to pair to them successfully.

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And, that's it! Once you are successfully paired to an AptX device, you should see this popup from the Windows tray confirming that AptX is working. From here, you can use the headphones just like you would with any Windows audio playback device. 

This certainly isn't a review of AptX audio quality, I will defer to Sebastian's analysis for that in which he calls the headphones he tested "audiophile-approved Bluetooth."

For a $12 investment, it seems like a no-brainer for users who already have an AptX-enabled device that they use on their smartphone.

Source: Azio

Qualcomm Launches Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 9, 2017 - 01:55 PM |
Tagged: spectra, snapdragon mobile platform, snapdragon, qualcomm, Kryo, isp, hexagon, dsp, adreno, 660, 630

Today Qualcomm took the covers off of an update to the Snapdragon 600 family of processors, now known as mobile platforms. The Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platforms are important products in the company’s portfolio as they address a larger segment of the consumer market than the premium-tier Snapdragon 800 while still offering performance and feature sets above the budget segments of the 400s. The Snapdragon 820 and 835 traditionally get all of the attention from media, the 600-series is at the heart of popular devices like the Sony Xperia X, Asus Zenfone 3 Ultra, HTC 10 Lifestyle and over 1000 more designs.

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The biggest changes to both new platforms come in the form of LTE connectivity and GPU performance. In a bid to bring previously unseen capabilities to the 600-series of solutions, Qualcomm has taken the Snapdragon X12 LTE modem that shipped with the Snapdragon 820/821 SoC and integrated it on both the 660 and 630. This creates mainstream mobile platforms that can run Cat 12/13 modems and speeds as high as 600 Mbps downstream (3x carrier aggregation) and 150 Mbps upstream (2x carrier aggregation).

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That is a significant move and should result in a massive amount of high speed devices saturating the market (and carriers’ networks) starting later this year. Along with that higher performance comes the same X12 feature set that we saw with Snapdragon 820/821 including adaptive antenna tuning capability (TruSignal) and dynamic signal quality adjustments for power efficiency optimizations.

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The GPU performance of both the Snapdragon 660 and 630 get a boost over the previous competitors (653 and 626 respectively) though they do so with different Adreno implementations. The SD 660 uses the Adreno 512 GPU that offers up to 30% better performance compared to the Adreno 510 used on the SD 650 series. While we don’t have details yet on where that advantage comes from (clocks or core improvements), I have a feeling that much of it comes from improved frequencies. The Snapdragon 630 uses the Adreno 508 GPU, compared to the 506 from the SD 626 processor, and also claims to have a 30% performance advantage over the previous generation.

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Continue reading about the new Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 and 630 Mobile Platform!

Source: Qualcomm

New Microsoft Surface Laptop Announced with Windows 10 S

Subject: Mobile | May 2, 2017 - 11:33 AM |
Tagged: Windows 10 S, touchscreen, surface laptop, surface, microsoft, Intel, core i7, core i5

Microsoft has announced their new Surface Laptop, which notably leaked just yesterday, but the surprising part was not the hardware at all - however sleek and impressive it might be. Yes, it seems I spoke too soon with the Windows 10 S news, as this consumer (I assume) product is shipping with that new version of the OS which only allows apps to be installed from the Windows Store.

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As to the hardware, it is milled from a block of aluminum (as shown in a very Apple-like video) and the heat pipes for the processor are milled into the bottom case to help make this so thin, but the laptop will undoubtedly feel warm to the touch during use (a fact which was mentioned on stage as a positive thing). The palmrest/keyboard is coated in a fabric material called Alcantara, rather than being bare metal and plastic. The combination of warmth (literally) and the fabric surface is supposed to make the new laptop feel very friendly, as the narrative went.

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Thankfully (in my opinion, anyway) the bizarre flexible hinge of the prior Surface laptop is gone in favor of a conventional one - and with it the air gap from he previous design. Among the features mentioned for this new Surface were its PixelSense screen, which is the “thinnest LCD touch panel ever in a laptop”, and a very impressive 14.5 hour battery life. The standby power consumption was described as effectively zero, which suggests that a suspend state of some kind is standard to prevent drain when not in use. rather than a low-power sleep.

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Image via Thurrott.com

Microsoft stated that two versions (Intel Core i5 and Core i7) will be available for pre-order beginning today, with the Core i5 model starting at $999. (Pricing on the Core i7 version was not mentioned.)

Windows Central has posted specs for the new machines, reproduced below:

  • Display: 13.5-inch Pixel Sense display, 10 point multi-touch
  • Display Resolution: 2256 x 1504, at 201 ppi, Aspect Ratio: 3:2
  • Software: Windows 10 S
  • Processor: 7th Gen Intel Core i5 or i7
  • Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB Solid State Drive (SSD)
  • Memory: 4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM
  • Graphics: i5: Intel HD graphics 620, i7: Intel Iris Plus Graphics 640
  • Front Camera: 720p, Windows Hello face authentication
  • Speakers: Omnisonic Speakers with Dolby Audio Premium
  • Ports: One full-size USB 3.0, Mini DisplayPort, Headset jack, Surface Connect
  • Sensors: Ambient light sensor
  • Security: TPM chip for enterprise security
  • Battery Life: 14.5 hours of use
  • Pen: Surface Pen
  • Weight: 2.76 lbs
  • Dimensions: 12.13 inches x 8.78 inches x 0.57 inches

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Image via Thurrott.com

I will briefly editorialize here to mention the Windows 10 S problem here. That limitation might make sense for education, if Microsoft is providing a suite of apps that make sense for a school, but consumers will undoubtedly want more flexibility from their own devices. This is less consumer-friendly than even the Starter Edition of Windows from the past, which limited the number of running applications but not their provenance.

Source: Microsoft

Move over Razer Blade, we want to see the Razer Core

Subject: Mobile | April 25, 2017 - 05:24 PM |
Tagged: external gpu, razer, razer blade, Razer Core

Razer updated their Blade gaming laptop with a GTX 1060 and i7-7700HQ along with a bump in the 16GB of memory to DDR4-2400 and an 256GB M.2 Samsung PM961 SSD.  That is not what makes this review from Kitguru interesting, it is the additional product which came with the Blade that does.  The Razer Core is a housing for an external GPU which connects over Thunderbolt 3.  You can install either an AMD or NVIDIA GPU which 310mm or less in length which can be powered by a 500W PSU, which is pretty much any GPU on the market.  Kitguru installed a GTX 1080 and compared the performance of the integrated GTX 1060 to the higher end card; you can see the results here.

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"We began our recent review of the 2017 Razer Blade by telling you that Razer had updated the graphics chip from GTX 970M to GTX 1060. The laptop has continued to evolve and now it’s the turn of the CPU which has been changed from Intel Core i7-6700HQ Skylake to Core i7-7700HQ Kaby Lake."

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Source: Kitguru

Lenovo Announces the Flex 11 Chromebook

Subject: Systems, Mobile | April 19, 2017 - 08:00 AM |
Tagged: notebook, Lenovo, laptop, Flex 11, convertible, Chromebook, 2-in-1

Lenovo’s Flex 11 is a 2-in-1 convertible notebook design powered by a 2.1 GHz quad-core ARM processor and running Google’s Chrome OS. It features an 11.6-inch IPS multi-touch HD display, up to 10-hour battery life, and a weight under 3 lbs.

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"Packing the fun of a tablet with the power punch of a PC, and designed with Android apps in mind, the Flex 11 is a 2-in-1 laptop optimized for entertainment and productivity. Its 360° hinge and 11.6" multi-touch display gives users the flexibility to shift between four dynamic modes (watch, tent, laptop, and tablet) for any combination of work and play activities."

Lenovo says the Flex 11's hardware is designed to be rugged, with drop and liquid spill resistance including a water-resistant keyboard (up to 1 cup) with “channels beneath the keyboard to drain liquid, keeping it away from sensitive electrical components”. In addition to Chrome apps the Flex 11 will support the Google Play store (Lenovo says this is "coming soon").

Flex 11 02.jpg

I/O includes USB 3.0, USB Type-C, HDMI, a mic/audio jack, and an SD card slot. As to pricing/availability, the Flex 11 Chromebook starts at $279 and will be available this month.

Source: Lenovo

T-Mobile promises expanded LTE coverage to all with $8 billion purchase of 600 MHz spectrum

Subject: Mobile | April 13, 2017 - 04:48 PM |
Tagged: X20, t-mobile, spectrum, qualcomm, LTE, Gigabit LTE, FCC, Carrier Aggregation, 600mhz, 5G

This afternoon, T-Mobile's ardent CEO John Legere announced the results of the FCC's recent spectrum auction concerning the low-band 600MHz range. In a $7.99 Billion deal, T-Mobile is set to gain 45% of all of the low-band spectrum being auctioned.

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T-Mobile is quick to point out that the spectrum they purchased covers 100% of the United States and Puerto Rico, with a nationwide average of 31 MHz of spectrum acquired. Having this wide of a range of spectrum available nationwide will help T-Mobile with their rollout of Carrier Aggregation, on the road to Gigabit-Class LTE and 5G.

This acquisition wasn't without help from the FCC however. In 2014, when the FCC decided to auction off the spectrum that was previously used for broadcast TV, they decided to set aside 30MHz of the available 70MHz specifically for carriers that did not currently have large holdings in low-band spectrum. This means that ATT and Verizon, who both operate large LTE networks in the 700MHz range were excluded from part of the spectrum being auctioned off.

Low-band spectrum in strategically important for LTE rollouts in particular as it can travel further and works better indoors than high-band offerings like Sprint's large available spectrum in the 2.5GHz 

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While it usually takes a significant amount of time to see the results of newly acquired spectrum, T-Mobile promises significant network expansion by the end of 2017. Legere claims that over 1,000,000 square miles of the newly acquires spectrum will be cleared for use by the FCC by the end of this year, and put into production by T-Mobile. T-Mobile plans to use this spectrum to both expand LTE coverage into new markets as well as strengthening their coverage in existing markets to provide more speed and greater density of coverage.

However, there is one side of the 600MHz equation that is out of the hands of T-Mobile, the user equipment. Currently, there are no shipping LTE radios capable of operating in the 600MHz range. Qualcomm has announced that their in-development X20 LTE modem will work with 600MHz, but we have no timeline as to a possible release of devices with the X20.

Hopefully, we don't have to wait too long for user devices capable of 600MHz LTE operation, it would be a real shame to have a newly expanded T-Mobile network that no one can connect to!

The road to Gigabit-class LTE and subsequently 5G seems to be a fierce one, and we look forward to seeing developments from competing carriers.

Source: T-Mobile

LG's G6 beats the G5 but ...

Subject: Mobile | April 7, 2017 - 02:39 PM |
Tagged: LG, g6, smartphone, Snapdragon 821

The new LG G6 sports a 5.7", 2880×1440 IPS LCD powered by the aging Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 with a pair of 2.35GHz Kryo cores and two 1.6 GHz Kryo cores.  The hardware is going to have a hard time competing against other phones powered by newer chips such as the Snapdragon 835or Exynos 8895.  Ars Technica ran the phone through benchmarks in their full review here.  The phone itself is attractively made and does offer a wide variety of features, however it will have trouble once the new Galaxy and iPhone arrive on the market.

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"The LG G6 seems to be launching in the US at the worst possible time. The phone uses Qualcomm's 2016 SoC—the Qualcomm Snapdragon 821—in 2017, making it already seem dated. The G6 is also launching right as Samsung's hype machine for the Galaxy S8 is revving up."

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Source: Ars Technica

Imagination Technologies Releases Apple GPU Loss Statement

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | April 3, 2017 - 06:18 PM |
Tagged: apple, Imagination Technologies, PowerVR

This morning, Imagination Technologies Group released a press statement announcing that Apple Inc. intends to phase out their technology in 15 to 24 months. Imagination has doubts that Apple could have circumvented every piece of intellectual property, and they have requested proof from Apple that their new solution avoids all patents, trade secrets, and so forth. According to Imagination’s statement, Apple has, thus far, not provided that proof, and they don’t believe Apple’s claims.

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On the one hand, it makes sense that Apple would not divulge their own trade secrets to their current-partner, soon-competitor until it’s necessary for them to do so. On the other hand, GPUs, based on previous stories, like the Intel / NVIDIA cross-license six years ago, are still a legal minefield for new players in the industry.

So, in short, Apple says they don’t need Imagination anymore, but Imagination calls bull.

From the financial side of things, Apple is a gigantic chunk of Imagination’s revenue. For the year ending on April 30th, 2016, Apple contributed about £60.7 million GBP (~$75 million USD in today’s currency) to Imagination Technology’s revenue. Over that same period, Imagination Technology’s entire revenue was £120.0 million GBP ($149.8 million USD in today’s currency).

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To see how losing essentially half of your revenue can damage a company, I’ve included a screenshot of their current stock price (via Google Finance... and I apologize for the tall shot). It must be a bit scary to do business with Apple, given how much revenue they can add and subtract on a moment’s notice. I’m reminded of the iPhone 6 sapphire glass issue, where GT Advanced Technologies took on a half-billion dollars of debt to create sapphire for Apple, only to end up rejected in the end. In that case, though, Apple agreed to absolve the company of its remaining debt after GT liquidated its equipment.

As for Apple’s new GPU? It will be interesting to see how it turns out. Apple already has their own low-level graphics API, Metal, so they might have a lot to gain, although some macOS and iOS applications use OpenGL and OpenGL ES.

We’ll find out in less than two years.

Oukitel offers large batteries with bonus smartphone features

Subject: Mobile | March 30, 2017 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: Oukitel, K10000 Pro, K10000 Max, A53

Oukitel is not the most common brand name when comes to smartphones but if you are looking for a device which you can take on the road and depend on it working as long as you do you should take a peek at TechARP's review.  Both of these phones contain 10,000 mAh batteries and the Oukitel K10000 Max is a ruggedized model with a polycarbonate and rubber shell to protect it from moisture and unexpected changes in velocity. They come with Android 7.0 and run ARM A53 chips with graphics powered by a Mali-T860 MP2.  They may not be as pretty as some phones but they will outlast them when being used. 

Pop by to check out the full review.

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"We managed to get our hands on two Oukitel smartphones with 10,000 mAh batteries - the Oukitel K10000 Max and the Oukitel K10000 Pro. Check them out there!"

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Source: TechARP

Early Opinions about Android O Dev Preview Around the Net

Subject: Mobile | March 30, 2017 - 12:37 AM |
Tagged: google, Android, android o

A couple of sites have downloaded the upcoming Android preview and walked through the new features that they found. Google, themselves, published a “what’s changed” video (embed below) to their Android Developers channel, which is mostly about the specific API changes, rather than UI and feature differences.

The first couple of minutes was dominated by new limitations on background applications, increasing the privacy and decreasing the battery impact of apps that are not currently focused. “Notification Channel” interests me personally, because it allows apps to categorize notifications, which users can block individually. While good apps should have that sort of control in their own settings already, a unified implementation in the OS is welcome (if it can limit how many applications I need to outright block everything from).

As for the third-party previewers, Ars Technica has a pretty in-depth look, with screenshots for most differences (often side-by-side with the Nougat equivalent). For a second opinion, Paul Thurrott also has a brief overview with a handful of screenshots.

We should learn a lot more at Google I/O in mid-May.

Source: Google

The New Razer Blade Pro V gaming laptop, THX certified audio included

Subject: Mobile | March 28, 2017 - 01:58 PM |
Tagged: thx, Razer Blade Pro V, razer, gaming laptop, 4k, 1080

THX Certification, likely familiar to any movie-goers, is a standard which details certain display and audio requirements and it would seem that the new Razer Blade is the first gaming laptop to meet their standards.  The display is 4K 17.3" IGZO G-SYNC panel, which has an LED backlight and capacitive multi-touch and is capable of displaying 100% of Adobe RGB colour space.  The audio is a 7.1 Codec which supports Dolby Digital Plus Home Theater Edition as well as a THX Certified 3.5mm combo audio port which can drive high end headphones.

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Inside you will find a Core i7-7820HK, overclocked to reach a peak of 4.3GHz, an 8GB GTX 1080, 32GB of DDR4-2667 and two PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 of up to 2TB in size.  As well the Razer offers an ultra-low-profile mechanical keyboard and Killer DoubleShot Pro, which is a Killer Wireless-AC 1535 NIC as well as a Killer E2500.

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You can read the full PR under the fold or head straight to the website.

Source: Razer

Eurocom's Sky X9E3 Is a Fully Upgradable Gaming Laptop

Subject: Systems, Mobile | March 17, 2017 - 07:21 PM |
Tagged: Sky X9E3, nvidia, notebook, MXM, modular, laptop, Intel Core i7, geforce, gaming, eurocom

Fancy a desktop processor in your laptop? How about dual MXM graphics card slots? While such a machine is likely not as 'portable' as the laptop designation would make it seem, it is interesting to see a notebook product built specifically for upgradability, and that is exactly what Eurocom has done with the Sky X9E3.

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"The Sky X9E3 is an SLI Ready and VR capable super high-performance supercomputer laptop. With an upgradeable desktop CPU and two upgradeable desktop GPUs cooled with high-quality copper heatsinks and IC Diamond thermal paste, and controlled by an unlocked system BIOS for the ultimate in overclocking capability."

One of the things detractors of gaming laptops will point out is the limited lifespan of a product that is often far more expensive than a high-end gaming desktop. Granted, gaming laptops generally do not follow the soldered memory trend from thin-and-light machines, allowing users to swap SODIMMs for more memory down the road, and storage is generally upgradable as well. But what about the most expensive parts of a laptop, namely CPU and (even more expensive) GPU? The use of desktop CPUs in the X9E3 is novel, and translates to ready availability for future upgrades; but MXM graphics is still a very expensive route, though I have ended up at Eurocom's website when researching MXM GPU upgrades in the past, so they are at least readily available.

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What are the specifications? Eurocom sells the machine configured to order, and lists basic specs as follows:

  • Chipset: Intel Z270 Express (Kaby Lake)
  • Processor: socketed desktop LGA1151 CPU, up to Intel i7 7700K
  • Memory: up to 64GB; DDR4-2400/2666/3000/3200; 4 RAM Sockets
  • VGA Technology: NVIDIA Pascal GeForce GTX 1080 8GB DDR5X and GeForce GTX 1070 8GB DDR5; single or Dual SLI; two MXM 3.0 slots; up to 190W per slot
  • Display Technology: supports total of 4 displays including LCD via 2x DP 1.3, 1x HDMI 2.0 and 1x HDMI 2.0 or DP1.2 (via USB 3.1 type C port); Nvidia Surround View
  • Storage: up to 14TB or storage with 5 drives; 2x HDD/SSD (SATA3) + 3x M.2 PCIe Gen3 x4/SATA3; RAID 0/1/5; supports NVMe SSDs
  • Communications: two 1GbE Killer E2400 RJ45 ports + M.2 WLAN/Bluetooth; Killer DoubleShot X3
  • Operating Systems: Microsoft Windows: 10, 8.1 and 7
  • Card Reader: 6-in-1 MMC/RSMMC/SD/miniSD/SDHC/SDXC up to UHS-II
  • Keyboard: Illuminated, backlit with customizable 7-colours
  • Security: TPM 2.0, Fingerprint and Kensington Lock
  • Audio System: Sound Blaster X-Fi MB5; external 7.1CH audio output; headphone out, microphone in, S/PDIF and Line-in port; two built-in FOSTER Speakers (2W)+ Subwoofer (2.5W)
  • Ports: 2x USB 3.1 type C (HDMI 2.0/DP 1.3/Thunderbolt 3); 2x miniDP 1.3; 1x HDMI 2.0; 5x USB 3.0 (1x Powered USB AC/DC); S/PDIF; Headphone; Mic; Line-in; 2x RJ45 (LAN)
  • Weight and dimensions: 5.5kg / 12.1lbs; WxDxH 428x308x47.2mm / 17.12x12.32x1.88-inch

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Pricing begins at $2499, which makes this a hefty proposition at the outset. But for someone looking for desktop experience in a notebook, and wants the ability to purchase faster CPUs and GPUs down the road, it may be worth it.

Source: Eurocom

Sprint, Qualcomm, and Motorola Team up to demonstrate Gigabit Class LTE Network in New Orleans

Subject: Mobile | March 16, 2017 - 11:15 AM |
Tagged: x16, Sprint, snapdragon 835, qualcomm, new orleans, motorola, LTE Plus, LTE Advanced, LTE, gigabit-class

Demoing improvements to mobile phone networks is difficult. Where an individual vendor such as Intel or AMD can show off an improved CPU architecture mostly by themselves, it takes a lot of cooperation between companies to show off advanced mobile data initiatives.

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This is just what Sprint, Qualcomm, and Motorola teamed up to do last week at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The first part of the story revolves around Sprint’s unique placement in the US mobile network market.  While network operators such as Verizon, ATT, and T-Mobile in the US currently operate their LTE networks on low and mid-band LTE frequencies, the vast majority of Sprint's allocated frequency into the high-band range of 2.5GHz. The reason that Sprint has this spectrum is from their short-lived rollout of WiMax technology with Clear.

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High-band frequencies can provide several advantages when deploying technologies enabling Gigabit-class LTE and on the road to 5G.

First, the antenna size needed in the 2.5GHz range is substantially smaller than the antenna size for a more common LTE frequency like 1900MHz. This means that when looking to deploy cellular sites utilizing technologies like 4X4 MIMO antenna arrays, Sprint can make smaller cell sites and be more nimble by placing them in areas where they are seeing substantial network load.

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Continue reading about the push to Gigabit LTE from Qualcomm, Sprint and Motorola!

Dropping all the Docks in the bay

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | March 8, 2017 - 12:50 PM |
Tagged: dell, hp, Lenovo, docking station, usb 3.1, thunderbolt 3, Type-C

Wave goodbye to your old docks as they sail away thanks to a thunderstorm.  The Register reached out to Dell, HP, Lenovo and ASUS about the rumours that the docking station will be a thing of the past and all but the latter responded.  It seems the vendors feel that as USB 3.1 and Thunderbolt 3 have united under the Type-C plug it is time to cover up that slot in the bottom of your PC and use a wire to connect you to docks.  Lenovo will also persist with their WiGig docks, for those who don't want to have to remember to 'undock' a cable.  Their post also has some tidbits on some of the features to expect on laptops from these three companies, so check it out for more info.

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"When you shop for PCs this year your theme tune may well be “Ding, dong, the dock is dead” because now that USB 3.1, USB-C connectors and Thunderbolt all play nicely together there's much less need for dedicated hardware to connect a laptop to peripherals."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Source: The Register

GamersNexus Tears Down a Nintendo Switch

Subject: Systems, Mobile | March 4, 2017 - 07:01 AM |
Tagged: Tegra X1, teardown, switch, nvidia, Nintendo

Here at PC Perspective, videos of Ryan and Ken dismantling consoles on their launch date were some of our most popular... ever. While we didn’t do one for the Nintendo Switch, GamersNexus did, and I’m guessing that a segment of our audience would be interested in seeing what the device looks like when dismantled.

Credit: GamersNexus

As he encounters many chips, he mentions what, if anything, is special about them based on their part numbers. For instance, the NVIDIA SoC is listed as A2, which is apparently different from previous Maxwell-based Tegra X1 SoCs, but it’s unclear how. From my perspective, I can think of three possibilities: NVIDIA made some customizations (albeit still on the Maxwell architecture) for Nintendo, NVIDIA had two revisions for their own purposes and Nintendo bought the A2, or the A2 shipped with NVIDIA's Maxwell-based Shield and my Google-fu is terrible.

Regardless, if you’re interested, it should be an interesting twenty-or-so minutes.

Source: GamersNexus

MWC: BlackBerry KEYone Is Solid Mid-Range Smartphone Priced Too High

Subject: Mobile | March 1, 2017 - 02:26 PM |
Tagged: Snapdragon 625, opinion, MWC, keyone, enterprise, Cortex A53, blackberry, Android 7.1, Android

February is quite the busy month with GDC, MWC, and a flurry of technology announcements coming out all around the same time! One of the more surprising announcements from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona came from BlackBerry in the form of a new mid-range smartphone it is calling the KEYone. The KEYone is an Android 7.1 smartphone actually built by TCL with an aluminum frame, "soft touch" plastic back, curved edges, and (in traditional CrackBerry fashion) a full physical QWERTY keyboard!

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The black and silver candy bar style KEYone (previously known as "Mercury") measures 5.78" x 2.85" x 0.37" and weighs 0.39 pounds. The left, right, and bottom edges are rounded and the top edge is flat. There are two bottom firing stereo speakers surrounding a USB Type-C port (Type-C 1.0 with USB OTG), a headphone jack up top, and volume, power, and convenience key buttons on the right side. The front of the device, which BlackBerry has designed to be comfortable using one handed, features a 4.5" 1620 x 1080 LCD touchscreen (434 PPI) protected by Gorilla Glass 4, a front facing camera with LED flash, and a large physical keyboard with straight rows of keys that have a traditional BlackBerry feel. The keyboard, in addition to having physical buttons, supports touch gestures such as swiping, and the spacebar has a fingerprint reader that early hands on reports indicate works rather well for quickly unlocking the phone. Further, every physical key can be programmed as a hot key to open any application with a long press (B for browser, E for email, ect).

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On the camera front, BlackBerry is using the same sensor found in the Google Pixel which is a Sony IMX378. There is a 12MP f/2.0 rear camera with dual LED flash and phase detect auto focus on the back as well as a front facing 8MP camera. Both cameras can record 1080p30 video as well as support HDR and software features like face detection. Android Central reports that the camera software is rather good (it even has a pro mode) and the camera is snappy at taking photos.

Internally, BlackBerry has opted to go with squarely mid-range hardware which is disappointing but not the end of the world. Specifically, the KEYone is powered by a Snapdragon 625 (MSM8953) with eight ARM Cortex A53 cores clocked at 2GHz and an Adreno 506 GPU paired with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Wireless support includes dual band 802.11ac, FM, Bluetooth 4.2, GPS, NFC, and GSM/HSPA/LTE cellular radios. The smartphone uses a 3,505 mAh battery that is not user removable but at least supports Quick Charge 3.0 which can reportedly charge the battery to 50% in 36 minutes. Storage can be expanded via MicroSD cards. The smartphone is running Android 7.1.1 with some BlackBerry UI tweaks but is otherwise fairly stock. Under the hood however BlackBerry has hardened the OS and includes its DTEK security sftware along with promising monthly updates.

Not bad right? Looking at the specifications and reading/watching the various hands-on reports coming out it is really looking like BlackBerry (finally) has a decent piece of hardware for enterprise customers, niche markets (lawyers, healthcare, ect), and customers craving a physical keyboard in a modern phone. At first glance the BlackBerry KEYone hits all the key marks to a competitive Android smartphone... except for its $549 price tag. The KEYone is expected to launch in April.

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No scroll ball? Blasphemy! (hehe)

Unfortunately, that $549 price is not a typo, and is what kills it even for a CrackBerry addict like myself. After some reflection and discussion with our intrepid smartphone guru Sebastian, I feel as though BlackBerry would have a competitive smartphone on its hands at $399, but at $549 even business IT departments are going to balk much less consumers (especially as many businesses embrace the BYOD culture or have grown accustomed to pricing out and giving everyone whatever basic Android or iPhone they can fit into the budget).

While similarly specced Snapdragon 625 smartphones are going for around $300, (e.g. Asus ZenPhone 3 at $265.98), there is some precedent for higher priced MSM8953-based smartphones such as the $449 Moto Z Play. There is some inherent cost in integrating a physical keyboard and BlackBerry has also hardened the Android 7.1.1 OS which I can see them charging a premium for and that business customers (or anyone that does a lot of writing on the go) that values security can appreciate. It seems like BlackBerry (and hardware partner TCL) has finally learned how to compete on the hardware design front in this modern Android-dominated market, and now they must learn how to compete on price especially as more and more Americans are buying unlocked and off-contract smartphones! I think the KEYone is a refreshing bit of hardware to come out of BlackBerry (I was not a fan of the Priv design) and I would like to see it do well and give the major players (Apple, Samsung, LG, Asus, Huawei, ect) some healthy competition with the twist of its focus on better security but in order for that to happen I think the BlackBerry KEYone needs to be a bit cheaper.

What are your thoughts on the KEYone and the return of the physical keyboard? Am I onto something or simply off my Moto Rokr on this?

Source: BlackBerry