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.

depth1.png

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.

depth2.png

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.

2017-08-14-thumb.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

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.

Alienware-13-R3-Review-on-KitGuru-Open-Right-34.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

 

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.

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Various

Specifications

In the original premise for today’s story, I had planned to do a standard and straight-forward review of the iPad Pro 10.5-inch model, the latest addition to Apple’s line of tablet devices. After receiving the 12.9-in variant, with the same processor upgrade but a larger and much more substantial screen, I started using them both as my daily-driver computing device. I was surprised at how well both handled the majority of tasks I tossed their way but there was still some lingering doubt in my mind about the usefulness of the iOS system as it exists today for my purposes.

The next step was for me to acquire an equivalent Windows 10-based tablet and try making THAT my everyday computer and see how my experiences changed. I picked up the new Surface Pro (2017) model that was priced nearly identical to the iPad Pro 12.9-in device. That did mean sacrificing some specifications that I would usually not do, including moving down to 4GB of memory and a 128GB SSD. This brought the total of the iPad Pro + Pencil + keyboard within $90 of the Surface Pro and matching accessories.

IMG_4814.JPG

I should mention at the outset that with the pending release of iOS 11 due in the fall, the Apple iPad Pro line could undergo enough of a platform upgrade to change some of the points in this story. At that time, we can reevaluate our stance and conclusions.

Specifications

Let’s start our editorial with a comparison of the hardware being tested in the specification department. Knowing that we are looking two ARM-based devices and an x86 system, we should realize core counts, clocks, and the like are even less comparable and relatable than in the Intel/AMD debates. However, it does give us a good bearing on how the hardware landscape looks when we get into the benchmarking section of this story.

Surface Pro (2017) vs. iPad Pro (2017) Comparison
Processor Intel Core i5-7300U (Kaby Lake)
2-core/4-thread
Apple A10X
(3x high performance Hurrican, 3x high efficiency Zephyr cores)
Graphics Intel HD Graphics 620 12-core Custom PowerVR
Memory 4GB 4GB
Screen 12.3-in 2736x1824 IPS 12.9-in 2732x2048 IPS 120 Hz
10.5-in 2224x1668 IPS 120 Hz
Storage

128GB SSD

256GB SSD
Camera 5MP Front
8MP Rear
7MP Front
12MP Rear + OIS
Wireless 802.11ac 802.11ac
Connections USB 3.0
Mini DisplayPort
Headphone
Lightning
Headphone
Battery 45 Wh 12.9-in: 41 Wh
10.5-in: 30.4 Wh
Dimensions 11.50-in x 7.93-in x 0.33-in 12.9-in: 12.04-in x 8.69-in x 0.27-in
10.5-in: 9.87-in x 6.85-in x 0.24-in
OS Windows 10 iOS 10
Price $999 - Amazon.com 12.9-in: $899
10.5-in: $749 - Amazon.com

Continue reading our comparison of the 2017 Surface Pro and iPad Pro!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Overview

A few months ago at Computex, NVIDIA announced their "GeForce GTX with Max-Q Design" initiative. Essentially, the heart of this program is the use of specifically binned GTX 1080, 1070 and 1060 GPUs. These GPUs have been tested and selected during the manufacturing process to ensure lower power draw at the same performance levels when compared to the GPUs used in more traditional form factors like desktop graphics cards.

slide1.png

In order to gain access to these "Max-Q" binned GPUs, notebook manufacturers have to meet specific NVIDIA guidelines on noise levels at thermal load (sub-40 dbA). To be clear, NVIDIA doesn't seem to be offering reference notebook designs (as demonstrated by the variability in design across the Max-Q notebooks) to partners, but rather ideas on how they can accomplish the given goals.

slide2.png

At the show, NVIDIA and some of their partners showed off several Max-Q notebooks. We hope to take a look at all of these machines in the coming weeks, but today we're focusing on one of the first, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus.

IMG_4744.JPG

ASUS ROG Zephyrus  (configuration as reviewed)
Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake)
Graphics NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1080 with Max-Q Deseign (8GB)
Memory 24GB DDR4  (8GB Soldered + 8GBx2 DIMM)
Screen 15.6-in 1920x1080 120Hz G-SYNC 
Storage

512GB Samsung SM961 NVMe

Camera HD Webcam
Wireless 802.11ac
Connections Thunderbolt 3
HDMI 2.0
4 x USB 3.0
Audio combo jack
Power 50 Wh Battery, 230W AC Adapter
Dimensions 378.9mm x 261.9mm x 17.01-17.78mm (14.92" x 10.31" x 0.67"-0.70")
4.94 lbs. (2240.746 g)
OS Windows 10 Home
Price $2700 - Amazon.com

As you can see, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus has the specifications of a high-end gaming desktop, let alone a gaming notebook. In some gaming notebook designs, the bottleneck comes down to CPU horsepower more than GPU horsepower. That doesn't seem to be the case here. The powerful GTX 1080 GPU is paired with a quad-core HyperThread Intel processor capable of boosting up to 3.8 GHz. 

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Zephyrus Max-Q Gaming Notebook!

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.

swift-3.jpg

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.

8250u-geekbench.png

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.

kaby-lake-r.jpg

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!

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Specifications

The ZenBook 3 UX390UA is a 12.5-inch thin-and-light which offers a 1920x1080 IPS display, choice of 7th-generation Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors, 16GB of DDR4 memory, and a roomy 512GB PCIe SSD. It also features just a single USB Type-C port, eschewing additional I/O in the vein of recent Apple MacBooks (more on this trend later in the review). How does it stack up? I had the pleasure of using it for a few weeks and can offer my own usage impressions (along with those ever-popular benchmark numbers) to try answering that question.

DSC_0144.jpg

A thin-and-light (a.k.a. ‘Ultrabook’) is certainly an attractive option when it comes to portability, and the ZenBook 3 certainly delivers with a slim 0.5-inch thickness and 2 lb weight from its aluminum frame. Another aspect of thin-and-light designs are the typically low-power processors, though the “U” series in Intel’s 7th-generation processor lineup still offer good performance numbers for portable machines. Looking at the spec sheet it is clear that ASUS paid attention to performance with this ZenBook, and we will see later on if a good balance has been struck between performance and battery life.

Our review unit was equipped with a Core i7-7500U processor, a 2-core/4-thread part with a 15W TDP and speeds ranging from 2.70 - 3.50 GHz, along with the above-mentioned 16GB of RAM and 512GB SSD. With an MSRP of $1599 for this configuration it faces some stiff competition from the likes of the Dell XPS line and recent Lenovo ThinkPad and Apple MacBook offerings, though it can of course be found for less than its MSRP (and this configuration currently sells on Amazon for about $1499). The ZenBook 3 certainly offers style if you are into blade-like aluminum designs, and, while not a touchscreen, nothing short of Gorilla Glass 4 was employed to protect the LCD display.

“ZenBook 3’s design took some serious engineering prowess and craftsmanship to realize. The ultra-thin 11.9mm profile meant we had to invent the world’s most compact laptop hinge — just 3mm high — to preserve its sleek lines. To fit in the full-size keyboard, we had to create a surround that’s just 2.1mm wide at the edges, and we designed the powerful four-speaker audio system in partnership with audiophile specialists Harman Kardon. ZenBook is renowned for its unique, stunning looks, and you’ll instantly recognize the iconic Zen-inspired spun-metal finish on ZenBook 3’s all-metal unibody enclosure — a finish that takes 40 painstaking steps to create. But we’ve added a beautiful twist, using a special 2-phase anodizing process to create stunning golden edge highlights. To complete this sophisticated new theme, we’ve added a unique gold ASUS logo and given the keyboard a matching gold backlight.”

DSC_0147.jpg

Continue reading our review of the ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390UA laptop!

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.

spectrex22017_1-1440x960.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

 

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.

11-1-1440x1080.jpg

"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."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

Source: Ars Technica