Google, Qualcomm Partner for Faster Android P Upgrade Adoption

Subject: Mobile | May 9, 2018 - 02:21 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon, sd636, sd 845, sd 660, qualcomm, android p

It's no secret that one of the easiest to point out critiques of Android is the lack of major software updates for the majority of handsets. While this has gotten slightly better over the years, new Android releases still take a substantial amount of time to roll out to existing phones, if they do at all.

However, with Android 8.0 (Oreo), Google began to address some of the core technical issues preventing phone manufacturers from quickly releasing software updates through an initiative they call Project Treble.

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Essentially, Project Treble decouples the Android Operating System from the proprietary software bits such as drivers needed to provide support for a given SoC. Instead, Android 8.0 and up moves the SoC support to a separate software layer, which a vendor like Qualcomm can universally implement for their SoCs and pass to a handset maker, instead of needing to be implemented into software updates for each specific model of phone.

Qualcomm announced earlier this week that they have been working with Google ahead of the Android P developer preview release to "pre-integrate" support for the next version of the operating system with Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered devices, specifically devices with Snapdragon 845, 660 and 636.

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We are already starting to see some of this work pay off, with an expanded list of devices that are already compatible with the Android P developer preview, as compared to previous Android betas.

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In addition to the standard Google development devices, the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel 2, and Pixel 2 XL, other various other phone makers are rolling out options to enroll in the Android P developer preview program, including:

  • Essential Phone (Snapdragon 835)
  • Nokia 7 Plus (Snapdragon 660)
  • Oppo R15 Pro (Snapdragon 660)
  • Sony Xperia XZ2 (Snapdragon 845)
  • Vivo X21 & X21UD (Snapdragon 660)
  • Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S (Snapdragon 845)

Despite Qualcomm's work with Google on Android P "pre-integration", the ball remains in the court of OEMs like Samsung, and carriers to push these updates through to consumers.

Source: Qualcomm

Microsoft releases 64-bit SDK for Windows on Arm platforms

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 8, 2018 - 07:30 PM |
Tagged: windows on snapdragon, windows on arm, microsoft, 64-bit

During the Microsoft BUILD developer conference, the Windows initiative for Qualcomm and Arm processors got a much needed shot in the arm (heh) with announced support for a 64-bit SDK.

Visual Studio 15.8 Preview 1 contains the early version of these tools that will give developers the ability to build native 64-bit Arm apps. Microsoft claims that this “represents the next step in the evolution of the Always Connected PC running Windows 10 on ARM” and I couldn’t agree more.

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This gives software developers the ability to target Arm-based processors like the Snapdragon 835 from Qualcomm natively without forcing users to depend on emulation layers provided by Microsoft. While the emulation layer is critical for compatibility, it does slow performance quite a bit compared to native-running code.

While the Windows Store already supports ARM32 packages, ARM64 packages will be supported “soon” based on what Microsoft is telling us. Even more interesting, Microsoft is promoting the ability for developers to post the Win32 (non-Store) ARM64 version of software online, rather than waiting for the Store apps to be approved.

The Microsoft website has details on how developers can start this integration. Qualcomm has its own documentation as well.

From my own view, this a necessary step for Microsoft to take, even if it does seem later than many would have liked. The benefits of Windows 10 running on Snapdragon and Arm are real and substantial, but being hindered by performance due to emulation was always known to be a speedbump. Getting developers access to better, and easier to use, Arm compilation is the next step.

I would also like to see Microsoft take a more proactive role in pushing developers to offer both versions of software. MS simply cannot take a passive, backseat approach to the Always On, Always Connected PC initiative and have it be a success.

Source: Microsoft
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Onyx

Overview

E Ink is one of those initially promising technologies that ultimately has lived a bit of a disappointing life. After the introduction of the original E-reader devices such as the Amazon Kindle, we were promised a future of all signage being replaced with readable, but electronically controllable E Ink displays. Even color E Ink displays teased us with very limited product rollouts.

However, E Ink has not been a magical cure-all. Lower demand and more difficult production methods mean that the cost of these displays remains much higher than other commodity technologies like LCD. Additionally, even though E Ink has substantially improved from the first E Ink displays, refreshing the display remains a slow process and a deal breaker for applications such as notebooks and tablets.

Or does it? For someone who spends a lot of time looking at LCDs all day, the idea of E-Ink still very much appeals to me. This led me to ask myself some questions earlier this year. Would I be willing to accept the trade-offs of E Ink for a solution to eyestrain? Are E Ink displays any better than when I lasted used one? Are there even any modern E Ink devices besides the Kindle?

That research brought me to what we are taking a look at today, the Onyx Boox Max 2, a 13.3" E-Ink tablet running Android 6.0. 

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Continue reading our review of the Onyx Boox 2 E Ink Tablet!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Microsoft
Tagged:

Overview

2015 seems to have been a turning point for Microsoft's Surface hardware initiative. Despite the failure of Windows RT and the associated Surface RT, the Intel-powered Surface was beginning to gain some real traction and notoriety with the Surface Pro 3 in late 2014, but was still fairly niche.

In October of 2015, Microsoft signaled that they were taking this fledgling Surface thing seriously with the announcement of their second Surface device, the Surface Book. Fitting into a more traditional notebook-style form factor rather than the Surface's approach to the idea of a 2-in-1 design, the Surface Book introduced several radical design elements, both to Microsoft and the entire PC ecosystem at large.

The unique "dynamic fulcrum" hinge design, true detachable discrete graphics on a 2-in-1 device, and almost 10-hour battery life made the Surface Book stand out in the PC market.

But the original Surface Book wasn't without its faults. Hardware reliability became an issue as early adopters started to use these computers for extended amounts of time, and the lackluster of the available GPU option in the Surface Base mitigated some of the intended utility of the Surface Book Ecosystem.

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However, this didn't stop Microsoft from announcing a follow-up in Late 2017, the Surface Book 2. The Surface Book 2 aimed to address some of the hardware issues with the first generation while providing a more powerful unit and introducing a new 15" display option.

On my continued search for a new personal notebook, I decided to purchase a Surface Book 2 13.5" unit for evaluation. 

Continue reading our review of the Surface Book 2!

ZTE Shuts Down Their OTA Servers...

Subject: Mobile | April 28, 2018 - 04:14 PM |
Tagged: zte, axon 7

So, for the last couple of years, ZTE was making a point to keep their devices supported with up-to-date software. They were a bit on the slow side, but devices got their updates eventually, including new features and other improvements.

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Then, recently, the US Department of Commerce banned American companies from exporting goods to ZTE for seven years. This means that they can no longer acquire things like Qualcomm processors. According to the Nikkei Asian Review, Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade followed in the US’s footsteps and banned companies in Taiwan from selling to ZTE, which also rules out sourcing from companies like MediaTek.

At around the same time, ZTE was wrapping up their Oreo update beta. A new wave of participants was added for a couple of weeks, and then it was announced that the program has ended. The export ban occurred between those two points. This could have meant that they were ready to release, and it could have also meant that they gave up.

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It'll just keep doing this... over and over...

Now, if you attempt to run ZTE’s system update app, it just spins forever – they shut their update servers down. It looks like they gave up.

So… yeah. That sucks. It was a good phone, too.

Gigabyte's Aero 15X can work all day and play all night

Subject: Mobile | April 27, 2018 - 02:33 PM |
Tagged: x-rite, laptop, i7-8750h, gigabyte, coffee lake h, aero 15Xv8, 144hz, 1070 Max-Q

Gigabyte's Aero 15X is a working laptop, it may have a GTX 1070 Max-Q powering its 144Hz panel, but it does not offer G-SYNC.  Instead it has X-Rite Pantone certification, perfect for professional work.  The 15.6" laptop is 18.9mm thick and weighs in at 4.4lbs, with a fair amount of that being the 94Wh battery.  TechSpot was somewhat disappointed to discover the 16GB of DDR4-2666  is on a single DIMM, and suggest picking up another immediately to enjoy the benefits of dual channel memory.  If you are looking for a laptop you can design graphics and video on, with enough power for occasional gaming then check out the Aero 15X.

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"Today we're taking a closer look at the Gigabyte Aero 15X, launched alongside Intel's new H-series Coffee Lake processors which brought up to 6 cores and 12 threads to the laptop form factor. Gigabyte is key to stress this isn't just a gaming laptop, but a machine designed for productivity, and that shows with features like an X-Rite certified display."

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Source: TechSpot
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Not Just a Better Camera

Samsung’s updated Galaxy phones are available now, and while the external designs - while beautiful - look the same as last year, the Galaxy S9 and S9+ feature faster internals and an improved camera system. Is it worth an upgrade over the Galaxy S8? How does this new flagship from Samsung compare to Apple’s more expensive iPhone X? Read on to find out!

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During the Galaxy S9 at Samsung’s “Unpacked” event unveiling the new phones, much was made about the GS9’s camera - and particularly its video recording capability, which features an ultra slow-motion mode. While camera is a vital part of the experience, and can make or break a handset for many people, it is the application processor that constitutes a bigger upgrade from last year’s Galaxy S8 phones.

In the USA, Samsung is using Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon 845, while many of the international versions of the phone use Samsung’s own Exynos SoC. We took an early look at performance with the Snapdragon 845 during Qualcomm’s recent media day, and now with shipping hardware and far more time for benchmarking we can really put this new mobile platform to the test. You can take or leave synthetic benchmark results, of course; I can offer my own subjective impressions of overall responsiveness, which is as much a test of software optimization as hardware.

Samsung Galaxy S9+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 (SDM845)
CPU Cores 8x Kryo 385 up to 2.8 GHz
GPU Cores Adreno 630
RAM 6 GB LPDDR4X
Storage 64 / 128 / 256 GB
Network Snapdragon X20 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 158.1 x 73.8 x 8.5 mm, 189 g
OS Android 8.0

Samsung has opted to bring back the same industrial design introduced with last year’s Galaxy S8/S8+, but this was already a class-leading design so that is not a bad thing.

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Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S9+!

Author:
Manufacturer: Intel

Overview

Despite the recent launch of the high-powered Hades Canyon NUC, that doesn't mean the traditional NUC form-factor is dead, quite the opposite in fact. Intel continues to iterate on the core 4-in x 4-in NUC design, adding new features and updating to current Intel processor families.

Today, we are taking a look at one of the newest iterations of desktop NUC, the NUC7i7DNHE, also known as the Dawson Canyon platform.

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While this specific NUC is segmented more towards business and industrial applications, we think it has a few tricks up its sleeves that end users will appreciate.

Intel NUC7i7DNHE
Processor Intel Core i7-8650U (Kaby Lake Refresh)
Graphics Intel UHD 630 Integrated
Memory 2 X DDR4 SODIMM slots
Storage

Available M.2 SATA/PCIe drive slot

Available 2.5" drive slot

Wireless Intel Wireless-AC 8265 vPro
Connections Gigabit Ethernet
2 x HDMI 2.0a
4 x USB 3.0
Price $595 - SimplyNUC

Click here to contiune reading our NUC7i7DNHE review!

Running Windows on Qualcomm is a Snap with the HP Envy x2

Subject: Mobile | April 16, 2018 - 03:40 PM |
Tagged: hp envy x2, qualcomm, snapdragon 835

The first laptop to hit the market running Windows and powered by a Snapdragon 835 is a bit of a strange duck.  When you see an ARM powered device you expect a low price tag so you are in for a bit of a shock; $1000 is the going price for the HP Envy x2.  The price comes from the extras, the body is constructed entirely of metal, the screen is Gorilla Glass and audio is provided by Bang & Olufsen.  When TechSpot benchmarked the device the issues with this price point became very obvious, as it performs as you would expect and lags significantly behind laptops with more traditional CPUs.  The battery life is quite good but during video playback the Dell XPS 13 lasts longer than the Envy x2 so not even the lower power draw helps this notebook.

It is an interesting product but priced at twice what you would expect; all the details are here for your perusal.

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"Today we're looking closely at the first Snapdragon 835 device running Windows: the HP Envy x2. Having used it for a few weeks, there's a lot of things HP did well to make this a hardware experience to rival the Microsoft Surface."

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Source: TechSpot

Don't have a meltdown, pick up on Coffee Lake instead with the Gigabyte Aero 15Xv8

Subject: Mobile | April 4, 2018 - 04:22 PM |
Tagged: Intel, gigabyte, gaming laptop, coffee lake h, coffee lake, aero 15Xv8, Aero

Intel have stated that their new Coffee Lake processors are immune to Spectre and Meltdown, which is one of the more compelling reasons to consider an upgrade in several generations of chips.  Gigabyte's new Aero 15Xv8 contains such a chip, the i7-8750H which runs at 2.2 GHz base and 4.2 GHz in Turbo Boost 2.0 mode.  Along with the new CPU is a GTX 1070 Max-Q which makes this 0.7" (18 mm) thick, 4.4lb (2 kg) laptop an impressively compact gaming machine.  Take a look at The Tech Report's review to see how this new CPU performs, as well as the laptop overall.

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"Gigabyte's Aero 15Xv8 mixes Intel's Coffee Lake Core i7-8750H and Nvidia's GTX 1070 Max-Q graphics card into a potent blend of gaming and productivity potential. We put those parts to the test to see whether the Aero 15X's thin-and-light chassis is up to the task of keeping all of that processing power in check."

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