Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Google

Introduction and Design

In case you have not heard by now, Pixel is the re-imagining of the Nexus phone concept by Google; a fully stock version of the Android experience on custom, Google-authorized hardware - and with the promise of the latest OS updates as they are released. So how does the hardware stack up? We are late into the life of the Pixel by now, and this is more of a long-term review as I have had the smaller version of the phone on hand for some weeks now. As a result I can offer my candid view of the less-covered of the two Pixel handsets (most reviews center around the Pixel XL), and its performance.

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There was always a certain cachet to owning a Nexus phone, and you could rest assured that you would be running the latest version of Android before anyone on operator-controlled hardware. The Nexus phones were sold primarily by Google, unlocked, with operator/retail availability at times during their run. Things took a turn when Google opted to offer a carrier-branded version of the Nexus 6 back in November of 2014, along with their usual unlocked Google Play store offering. But this departure was not just an issue of branding, as the price jumped to a full $649; the off-contract cost of premium handsets such as Apple’s iPhone. How could Google hope to compete in a space dominated by Apple and Samsung phones purchased by and large with operator subsidies and installment plans? They did not compete, of course, and the Nexus 6 flopped.

Pixel, coming after the Huawei-manufactured Nexus 6p and LG-manufactured Nexus 5X, drops the “Nexus” branding while continuing the tradition of a reference Android experience - and the more recent tradition of premium pricing. As we have seen in the months since its release, the Pixel did not put much of a dent into the Apple/Samsung dominated handset market. But even during the budget-friendly Nexus era, which offered a compelling mix of day-one Android OS update availability and inexpensive, unlocked hardware (think Nexus 4 at $299 and Nexus 5 at $349), Google's own phones were never mainstream. Still, in keeping with iPhone and Galaxy flagships $649 nets you a Pixel, which also launched through Verizon in an exclusive operator deal. Of course a larger version of the Pixel exists, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the Pixel XL. Unfortunately I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that stock for the XL has been quite low with availability constantly in question.

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The Pixel is hard to distinguish from an iPhone 7 from a distance (other than the home button)

Google Pixel Specifications
Display 5.0-inch 1080x1920 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996)
CPU Cores 2x 2.15 GHz Kryo
2x 1.60 GHz Kryo
GPU Cores Adreno 530
RAM 4GB LPDDR4
Storage 32 / 128 GB
Network Snapdragon X12 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 4.2
USB 3.0
NFC
Dimensions 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm, 143 g
OS Android 7.1

Continue reading our review of the Google Pixel smartphone!

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.

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"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?"

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

More Mobile Articles

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.

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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. 

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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.

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(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.

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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

Computex 2017: The ASUS ROG Strix GL702ZC Is the World's First 8-Core Laptop Powered by Ryzen 7

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2017 - 11:45 PM |
Tagged: strix, Ryzen 1700, ryzen, gaming laptop, computex 2017, ASUS ROG, asus, amd

AMD and ASUS have teamed up at Computex to announce the first laptop powered by Ryzen processors. The ROG Strix GL702ZC features up to an 8-core Ryzen 7 1700 CPU and 8GB Radeon RX 580 graphics, along with a 17.3-inch FreeSync 2.0-capable display at 1080p or 4K resolutions.

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The ROG Strix GL702ZC can be configured with up to 32GB of DDR4 memory and two storage drives: a 512GB NVMe SSD and a 2.5-inch SATA III SSD or HDD. Connectivity options include Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1, three USB 3.0 Type-A ports, one USB 3.1 Type-C port, HDMI 2.0, and an SD Card reader.

At 1.3 inches thick and weighing in at just under 7 pounds, the device is not as thin or light as the just-introduced Intel-based ROG Zephyrus with NVIDIA's "Max-Q" design, but the ROG Strix GL702ZC also isn't as large as some of the behemoth gaming laptops seen in recent years, especially considering its unique hardware.

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While most games won't yet be able to take full advantage of the GL702ZC's 8-core/16-thread Ryzen 7 1700 processor, those interested in productivity and media applications, or heavy multitasking, should see a significant performance advantage over competing Intel-based laptops, which are currently limited on the high end to 4 cores and 8 threads. As pointed out by ASUS ROG lead Derek Yu, the GL702ZC is the world's first consumer-targeted 16-thread laptop.

For AMD fans who don't need all those cores, the Strix GL702ZC will also be configurable with the 6-core Ryzen 5 1600 and, when it launches in the third quarter, the 4-core Ryzen 3 1200.

As usual, ASUS did not announce pricing or availability, other than to note that the Strix GL702ZC should hit retailers "later this summer."

Source: ASUS

Computex 2017: AMD Demos Ryzen Mobile SoC with Vega Graphics

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 30, 2017 - 10:43 PM |
Tagged: amd, ryzen, mobile, Vega

As part of the company’s press conference from Computex 2017, AMD displayed for the first time to the public a working notebook utilizing the upcoming Ryzen SoC with on-die Vega graphics. The CPU is a 4-core / 8-thread design and the system was shown playing back some basic video.

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We don’t really have any more detail than that on the platform, other availability in second half of this year. The system being shown was impressively built, with a sub-15mm ultra-portable form factor, putting to rest concerns over AMD’s ability to scale Zen and Vega to the lower required power numbers. AMD claims that Ryzen mobile will offer 50% better CPU performance and 40% better GPU performance than the 7th Generation AMD APU. I can't wait to test this myself, but with a jump like that AMD should be competitive in the processor space again and continue its dominance in integrated graphics.

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The Vega on-die integration was first mentioned at the company’s financial analyst day, though if you were like me, it went unnoticed in the wave of Threadripper and EPYC news. This iteration is obviously not using a non-HBM2 memory implementation, but I don’t yet know if there is any kind of non-system-memory cache on the processor to help improve integrated graphics performance.

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For a product not slated to be released until the end of this year, seeing a low profile, high performance demo of the platform is a good sign for AMD and a welcome indicator that the company could finally fight back in the mobile notebook space.

Source: AMD

MSI announces four new gaming laptops

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2017 - 02:45 PM |
Tagged: gaming laptop, msi, computex, GT83VR Titan SLI, GT75VR, GT73VR, GT63VR, kaby lake

MSI announced four new laptops today; the GT83VR Titan SLI, the GT75VR, the GS73VR and GS63VR, the latter two also available in a Raider configuration.  Starting off with the most powerful of the quartet is the GT83VR Titan SLI.

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The Titan is not available with a Titan X, what it does offer is either a pair of GTX 1080s or 1070s in SLI along with a choice of high end Kaby Lake processors.  If you are looking to game at 4k or using a VR headset this is mobile solution for you.  You can still enjoy using this laptop without external peripherals, the keyboard is a Cherry MX Silver with RGBs programmable by individual key.  The audio is handled by a ESS Sabre Hi-Fi DAC feeding Dynaudio speakers and Nahimic 2+ software, with Nahamic VR 7.1 audio compatible with current VR headsets to help immerse you in your game.  It will be expensive.

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Next up is the GT75VR, very similar to the Titan SLI but with three GPU choices,  single GTX 1080, GTX 1070 or a pair of GTX 1070's in SLI.  The processor is an i7-7820HK which you can overclock, expect to break 4GHz Turbo with the Cooler Boost Titan system featured in these laptops.  MSI provided specifications for the screen, it is a 120Hz HDR display with a 3ms refresh rate.  It includes the same audio features as its more powerful sibling.

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The GT73VR and GT63VR are very similar, both powered by a GTX 1070 and sporting the aforementioned 120Hz, 3ms HDR display.  The two models feature a SteelSeries keyboard with SteelSeries Engine 3, ESS SABRE HiFi Audio and Nahimic 2 Audio Enhance.  These 15" laptops are 17.7mm at their thickest point and weigh 4.19lbs. 

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The Raider variant of the GT73VR and GT63VR are available in 15" and 17" models and have a more angular shell design, however they do retain the GTX 1070 GPU and the ability to overclock your system. 

Keep your eyes out for more products from MSI appearing here soon.

 

Source: MSI

Computex 2017: Acer Predator Triton 700 Gaming Laptop with NVIDIA GeForce GTX Max-Q Design

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2017 - 12:37 PM |
Tagged: Triton 700, Predator, nvidia, notebook, max-q, laptop, GTX 1080, geforce, gaming, computex 2017, acer

Acer has introduced the Predator Triton 700 gaming laptop, which boasts a very thin and light design as it is built to NVIDIA's newly-announced Max-Q specifications. This allows the Triton to house a "standard-voltage" Intel Core i7 processor (overclockable, no less) and an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GPU.

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"The Predator Triton 700 utilizes Max-Q, NVIDIA’s innovative approach to designing 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 Acer to build laptops that are thinner with more GPU performance of previous generation products."

Storage is just as impressive as the CPU/GPU tandem, with dual NVMe PCIe drives in RAID-0, just in case you would like to experience double to the speed of the fastest available type of solid-state storage (the benchmarks will probably be astonishing). Other specs include a 15.6 FHD display with NVIDIA G-SYNC, memory support for up to 32GB 2400 MHz DDR4, Killer DoubleShot Pro networking, and Thunderbolt 3.

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The design of the Predator Triton 700 is somewhat unusual for a laptop, with a mechanical keyboard that sits flush with the front edge of the palm rest, and a touch pad positioned above. But this is no ordinary touch pad, as Acer explains:

"A large Corning® Gorilla® Glass plate above the keyboard serves as a window into the notebook’s cooling system, showcasing the AeroBlade™ 3D Fan and five heat pipes, and also functions as a Precision Touchpad."

The Predator Triton 700 gaming laptop will be available beginning in August with an MSRP of $2999.

Source: Acer