Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

How a ThinkPad is born

During Lenovo's recent ThinkPad 25th Anniversary Event in Yokohama, Japan, we were given an opportunity to learn a lot about the evolution of the ThinkPad brand over the years.

One of the most significant sources of pride mentioned by the Lenovo executives in charge of the ThinkPad division during this event was the team's Yamato Laboratory. Formerly located in Yamato City (hence the name) and relocated to Yokohama in 2011, the Yamato Labs have been responsible for every ThinkPad product, dating back to the IBM days and the original ThinkPad 700C.

This continuity from the earliest days of ThinkPad has helped provide a standard of quality and education passed down from engineer to engineer over the last 25 years of the ThinkPad brand. In fact, some of the original engineers from 1987 are still with the company and working on the latest and greatest ThinkPad innovations. It's impressive to see such continuity and pride in the Japanese development team considering Lenovo's acquisition of the brand back in 2005.

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One of the most exciting things was a peek at some of the tests that every device bearing the ThinkPad name must go through, including non-notebook devices like the X1 Tablet.

Click here to continue reading our article about ThinkPad testing

Microsoft Once Again Backs Away from Windows 10 Mobile

Subject: Mobile | October 8, 2017 - 03:14 PM |
Tagged: microsoft, windows 10 mobile, windows 10

Windows 10 Mobile has been in a holding pattern for a couple of years now. Microsoft has not really announced any new hardware initiatives, but they were also saying, consistently, that the platform would get revisited in some other year. Likewise, they were keeping the mobile OS up-to-date, even tying Insider builds roughly in lockstep with PC build releases. If you were also paying attention to the Windows on ARM announcements, you could assume that Microsoft was waiting for several pieces to fall into place before pushing, once more, with all of their weight.

 

 

Today, Joe Belfiore of Microsoft has tweeted that features and hardware “aren’t the focus”. Windows Central goes on to note that some enterprises have already adopted Windows 10 Mobile.

 

 

He also goes on to discuss initiatives that they’ve attempted to attract app developers. They commissioned works, and even built apps to get third-parties started. They didn’t take off because there wasn’t enough users. (Personally, I was scared off by development requirements and restrictions back in the Windows 8 Developer Preview days, which is an ongoing issue with UWP. That said, the developers that Joe Belfiore is talking about are the type who would publish on iOS, so that’s not an issue for them.)

But let’s think about this for a second. Microsoft still seems to be pushing Windows 10 for ARM, and it’s ever-less likely to be for an upcoming mobile initiative. So, why are they doing that? I can see how they would be concerned that Intel and AMD, in the future, repeat the mistakes of ~2007-2010 and fail to keep up with ARM vendors on an important market segment (which was tablets and mobile phones at the time, but might not be going forward). It could be a good opportunity to make this big change while the rest of the company is struggling with many other big changes, rather than waiting for the dust to settle to try again (although that’s already happened a few time over the last several years). Also, there are some implications for the server market, although I always assumed things like x86 emulation was for the consumer and enterprise markets.

It’s also possible that they don’t really have a cohesive plan. Some of these ideas could be running on momentum alone, until they gradually come to a stop.

Lenovo Announces Limited-Edition ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25

Subject: Mobile | October 5, 2017 - 08:30 AM |
Tagged: thinkpad 25, Thinkpad, t470, Lenovo

It's official! After several years of teasing, Lenovo today has finally unveiled the "Retro ThinkPad."

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Coinciding with the exact 25th anniversary of the release of the first ThinkPad model, the ThinkPad 700C, the ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25 harkens back to some of the features that have made the ThinkPad brand special over the years.

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Built on the same chassis as the current generation ThinkPad T470, the Anniversary Edition has been updated with some features ThinkPad fans have been yearning for. The IBM-era 7-row keyboard is back, along with the traditional blue accented enter key and the key switch design that helped make the ThinkPad known as the premier option for business users throughout the years.

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The return of a retro-style RGB ThinkPad Logo is a nice additional detail for longtime ThinkPad fans.

We don't know about the complete specifications yet, but so far we know that the base configuration will feature an Intel i7-7500U CPU with an NVIDIA 940MX GPU and a 14-in 1080p matte touchscreen. 

As for pricing and availability, the ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25 should be available today, October 5th, on Lenovo's web store for a price starting at $1899. We've been told there's a special deal available today only for the 25th anniversary, but we have no indication of how much that discount is right now.

$1899 is a high price for the specifications, especially compared to other machines in Lenovo's lineup like the T470, but this seems like it will be a low-volume special edition SKU produced for the most dedicated ThinkPad fans.

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We're still waiting to get some hands-on time with the device at the 25th-anniversary event, but we'll report back with more impressions on the ThinkPad Anniversary Edition 25!

Source: Lenovo

Google Announces Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL Smartphones

Subject: Mobile | October 4, 2017 - 04:32 PM |
Tagged: smartphone, pOLED, Pixel 2 XL, Pixel 2, pixel, phone, Oreo, google, DxOMark, Android 8, AMOLED

Google has announced the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL smartphones, the second-gen versions of the Nexus-replacement Pixel which launched last October. We looked at that first Pixel phone, which was the premier Android device at the time, and these new Pixel 2 devices hope to place Google at the top of the heap again (with stiff competition from Samsung, of course).

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The Google Pixel 2 XL (image credit: Google)

The Pixel 2 arrives in a standard version with a 5-inch 1920x1080 AMOLED display, and an XL version with a new 6-inch pOLED display with 2880x1440 resolution. Both phones are powered by the 8-core Snapdragon 835 and feature 4GB of RAM and the option of either 64GB or 128GB of storage (no card slot on either phone).

While the design of the Pixel 2 is largely unchanged compared to last year, with large bezels above and below the display, the Pixel 2 XL comes closer to the ever-popular “all screen” look with its smaller top/bottom bezels.

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The Google Pixel 2 (image credit: Google)

Both phones offer dual front-facing stereo speakers as well, unlike iPhones which have to combine an earpiece speaker and bottom-firing speaker for their stereo effect. The battery capacities are a little different than last year with both Pixel 2 phones, with a 2700 mAh battery (down from 2770 mAh) in the Pixel 2, and a 3520 mAh battery (up from 3450 mAh) in the Pixel 2 XL.

It’s all about camera

Once again, Google is proclaiming the Pixel 2 camera as the best in the industry, and again this is based on testing from DxOMark which has it ranked #1 overall among smartphones. with an incredible 98 out of a possible 100 in their scoring system.

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Image credit: DxOMark

Both sizes of Pixel 2 offer a single 12.2 MP rear camera (sorry, no dual cameras here) with 1.4μm pixels, laser + dual pixel phase detection autofocus, OIS, and a f/1.8 aperture. Fans of simulated lens bokeh have no fear, as Google’s dual-pixel sensor design is said to allow for better portrait-style photos than the original Pixel. Video of up to 4k (but only at 30 FPS) is supported, and an 8 MP f/2.4 camera handles front-facing duties.

More on those new displays

Google has improved the display technology with the Pixel 2, as both versions now offer wide color gamut support (95% DCI-P3 coverage from the Pixel 2, and a full 100% DCI-P3 from the Pixel 2 XL). The displays are now ‘always on’, a handy feature that makes sense from a power standpoint when working with AMOLED panels (and hard to give up once you’ve grown accustomed to it as I did with the Galaxy S8+). Last but not least, covering these new displays is Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which is the most drop-resistant version to date (and is also found on the Galaxy S8/S8+ among other phones).

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A comparison of LCD and OLED technologies (image credit: Android Authority)

The Pixel 2 XL’s “pOLED” display designation suggests a polymer OLED panel, which has the advantage of being much thinner than traditional glass OLED substrates. (Read more about AMOLED vs. P-OLED here.)

The Pixel 2 phones ship with the new Android 8.0 Oreo, with the promise of “minimum” 3 years of OS and security updates. Vanilla Google phone owners (previously Nexus) have enjoyed being the first to new OS updates, and that should still be the case with these new devices. And if you are coming over from another platform - say, Apple, for instance - a “quick switch” adapter is in every box to help transfer data quickly between phones.

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The Quick Switch Adapter in action (image credit: Google)

Google is offering the (unlocked) phone for sale directly from their website, and have partnered with Verizon as the exclusive mobile carrier as they did with the original Pixel. The price? $649 gets you the 5-inch Pixel 2 with 64GB of storage, or double that to 128GB for $100 more. The Pixel 2 XL is available for $849 for the 64GB capacity, with the same $100 premium for a 128GB version. There are also four color options this year, with the whimsical naming fully intact from the previous generation: Just Black, Clearly White, Kinda Blue, and Black & White.

Oh, and one more thing: the 3.5 mm headphone jack is gone.

Source: Google
Subject: Processors, Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

A New Standard

With a physical design that is largely unchanged other than the addition of a glass back for wireless charging support, and featuring incremental improvements to the camera system most notably with the Plus version, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are interesting largely due to the presence of a new Apple SoC. The upcoming iPhone X (pronounced "ten") stole the show at Apple's keynote annoucement earlier this month, but the new A11 Bionic chip powers all 2017 iPhone models, and for the first time Apple has a fully custom GPU after their highly publicized split with Imagination Technologies, makers of the PowerVR graphics found in previous Apple SoCs.

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The A11 Bionic powering the 2017 iPhones contains Apple’s first 6-core processor, which is comprised of two high performance cores (code-named ‘Monsoon’) and four high efficiency cores (code-named ‘Mistral’). Hugely important to its performance is the fact that all six cores are addressable with this new design, as Apple mentions in their description of the SoC:

"With six cores and 4.3 billion transistors, A11 Bionic has four efficiency cores that are up to 70 percent faster than the A10 Fusion chip, and two performance cores that are up to 25 percent faster. The CPU can even harness all six cores simultaneously when you need a turbo boost."

It was left to improvments to IPC and clock speed to boost the per-core performance of previous Apple SoCs, such as the previous A10 Fusion part, which contained a quad-core CPU split in an even arrangement of 2x performance + 2x efficiency cores. Apple's quad-core effort did not affect app performance beyond the two performance cores, with additional cores limited to background tasks in real-world use (though the A10 Fusion did not provide any improvement to battery life over previous efforts, as we saw).

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The A11 Bionic on the iPhone 8 system board (image credit: iFixit)

Just how big an impact this new six-core CPU design will have can be instantly observed with the CPU benchmarks to follow, and on the next page we will find out how Apple's in-house GPU solution compare to both the previous A10 Fusion PowerVR graphics, and market-leading Qualcomm Adreno 540 found in the Snapdragon 835. We will begin with the CPU benchmarks.

Continue reading our look at the performance of Apple's A11 SoC!

Svelte yet powerful, Gigabyte's Aero 15 gaming laptop

Subject: Mobile | September 26, 2017 - 03:48 PM |
Tagged: gigabyte, aero 15, gaming laptop, gtx 1060, i7-7700hq

Gigabyte's Aero 15 gaming notebook is a mere 19.9mm (0.78") at its thickest point and weighs in at 2.1 kg (4.62lbs), yet it manages to hold respectable components inside.  Intels Core i7-7700HQ along with a proper 6GB GTX 1060, a Samsung 512 GB PCIe SSD and 16GB of DDR4-2400.  That list of parts will set you back $1900, about what you should expect from a gaming laptop; if you want to play Prey and Doom on the road you do have to pay.  Check out The Tech Report's full review to see how it handled a variety of other games.

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"Gigabyte's Aero 15 notebook brings together one of Intel's most powerful mobile CPUs and Nvidia's GTX 1060 6GB graphics chip in a chassis that's well under an inch thick. We put the Aero 15 to the test to see if it can keep its cool under the most demanding workloads."

Here are some more Mobile articles from around the web:

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Imagination Technologies Announces PowerVR 2NX NNA

Subject: Mobile | September 25, 2017 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, deep neural network

Imagination Technologies is known to develop interesting, somewhat offbeat hardware, such as GPUs with built-in ray tracers. In this case, the company is jumping into the neural network market with a Power VR-branded accelerator. The PowerVR Series2NX Neural Network Accelerator works on massively parallel, but low-precision tasks. AnandTech says that the chip can even work in multiple bit-depths on different layers in a single network, from 16-bit, down to 12-, 10-, 8-, 7-, 6-, 5-, and 4-bit.

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Image Credit: Imagination Technologies via Anandtech

Imagination seems to say that this is variable “to maintain accuracy”. I’m guessing it doesn’t give an actual speed-up to tweak your network in that way, but I honestly don’t know.

As for Imagination Technologies, they intend to have this in mobile devices for, as they suggest, photography and predictive text. They also state the usual suspects: VR/AR, automotive, surveillance, and so forth. They are suggesting that this GPU technology will target Tensorflow Lite.

The PowerVR 2NX Neural Network Accelerator is available for licensing.

Imagination Technologies Agrees to Canyon Bridge Offer

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | September 23, 2017 - 09:59 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies

Canyon Bridge, a private investment LLC and a believable codename for an Intel processor architecture, has just reached an agreement with Imagination Technologies to acquire most of their company. This deal is valued at £550 million GBP and does not include MIPS Technologies, Inc., which Imagination Technologies purchased on February 8th of 2013.

According to Anandtech, however, MIPS Technologies, Inc. will be purchased by Tallwood Venture Capital for $65 million USD.

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The reason why Imagination Technologies is expected to be split in two like this is because purchasing CPU companies places you under national security review with the United States, and Canyon Bridge is backed by the Chinese government. As such, they can grab everything but the CPU division, which lets another party swoop in for a good price on the leftover.

That said, it is currently unclear what either company, Canyon Bridge Capital Partners or Tallwood Venture Capital, wants to do with Imagination Technologies or MIPS Technologies, Inc., respectively. When Canyon Bridge attempted to purchase Lattice Semiconductor last year, they mentioned that they were interested in their FPGAs, their “video connectivity” products (HDMI, MHL, etc.), and their wireless products (60 GHz, etc.). I would assume that they’re just picking up good technology deals, but it’s also possible that they’re looking into accelerated compute companies in particular.

There’s still a few barriers before the sale closes, but it’s looking like we’re not going to end up with Imagination just merging into an existing player or something.

Source: Reuters
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

Overview

Thanks goes out to CUK, Computer Upgrade King, for supplying the MSI GS63VR notebook for our testing and evaluation

It's been a few weeks since we took a look at our first gaming notebook with NVIDIA's Max-Q design, the ASUS ROG Zephyrus. We briefly touched on the broad array of announced Max-Q Notebooks on that review, and today we are taking a look at the MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro.

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One of the first notebooks to feature the GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design, the MSI GS63VR is a more traditional notebook form factor than the GTX 1080-toting ASUS ROG Zephyrus. In fact, the GS series has been a long running line of thin-and-light gaming notebooks from MSI. What is new though is the avalability of a GTX 1070-class option in this chassis. The GS63VR previously topped out with the GTX 1060 as the highest end option.

MSI GS63VR Stealth Pro-002  (configuration as reviewed)
Processor Intel Core i7-7700HQ (Kaby Lake)
Graphics NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 with Max-Q Design (8GB)
Memory 32GB DDR4
Screen 15.6-in 1920x1080 120Hz
Storage

512GB Samsung PM871a M.2 SATA SSD

1TB Seagate 5400RPM HDD

Camera 1080p
Wireless Intel 8265 802.11ac (2x2) + BT 4.1
Connections

Ethernet
HDMI 2.0
3x USB 3.0
Thunderbolt 3
Mini DisplayPort
1x USB 2.0
Audio combo jack

Battery 57 Wh
Dimensions 379.98mm x 248.92mm x17.53mm (14.96" x 9.80" x 0.69")
3.96 lbs. (1792 g)
OS Windows 10 Pro
Price $2399 - Newegg.com CUKUSA

Taking a look a look at the exact notebook configuration we are testing, we find a well-equipped gaming notebook. In addition to the GTX 1070 Max-Q, we find a 35W Quad-Core mobile CPU from Intel, 32GB of system RAM, and plentiful storage options including both M.2 SSD and traditional 2.5" SATA drive configurations. This specific notebook is equipped with a SATA M.2 SSD, but this notebook will also support PCIe devices with the same M.2 port.

Continue reading our review of the MSI GS63VR Gaming Notebook!

Apple Announces iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X

Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2017 - 07:09 PM |
Tagged:

Apple today announced the successors to the iPhone 7 (and another, more impressive device), and this time the company has decided to forgo the “S” branding of an incremental update as the new phones are simply the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. Though receiving the expected annual updates (SoC, camera, etc.) the phones still have largely similar designs and are offered with the same screen sizes (4.7 and 5.5 inches) and resolutions of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. So what exactly is new?

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus

The new iPhone 8 design, which sports a glass back for the first time since the iPhone 4/4S, allowing Apple to add Qi wireless charging to the iPhone 8/8 Plus, has a new SoC under the hood. Both sizes feature the new 6-core Apple A11 Bionic processor, which combines two high-performance and four "efficiency" CPU cores along with Apple's Neural Engine and M11 motion coprocessor.

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The iPhone 8 Plus (image credit: Apple)

During the announcement much was made of camera advancements with the iPhone 8 Plus specifically, with its dual camera system now sporting optical image stabilization for both wide-angle and telephoto cameras - although Samsung was able to beat Apple to the punch with the Note8 announcement last month, with dual-OIS a major feature of the Note8’s rear camera system.

iPhone X

The biggest announcement was saved for last, with an homage to the Steve Jobs Columbo-inspired "one more thing" from CEO Tim Cook at the end of the keynote presentation. The iPhone X (pronounced ten, as this is the Roman numeral - though I imagine just as many people will say “ex” as they did when Apple used this for their OS) will occupy a new premium iPhone space for Apple, segmenting the iPhone in a way they never did in the first ten years.

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The iPhone X (image credit: Apple)

The 5.8-inch display is OLED, and from Apple's remarks on this it could be inferred that we are going to see the first RGB-stripe OLED display on a phone, rather than the PenTile matrix subpixel layout common to existing AMOLED displays (here's hoping).

“The beautiful 5.8-inch Super Retina display is the first OLED panel that rises to the standards of iPhone, with stunning colors, true blacks, a million-to-one contrast ratio and wide color support with the best system-wide color management in a smartphone. The HDR display supports Dolby Vision and HDR10, which together make photo and video content look even more amazing. The addition of True Tone dynamically adjusts the white balance of the display to match the surrounding light for a more natural, paper-like viewing experience.”

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The top of the display houses the TrueDepth camera system (image credit: Apple)

iPhone X is a striking design, though far less impressive than it might have been if Samsung had not released the Galaxy S8 - with its beautiful edge-to-edge display - beforehand. A (nearly) full-body OLED front display (featuring what Apple is calling "Super Retina HD" resolution) on the iPhone X is interrupted by an upper area occupied by a cluster of cameras and other devices required to make the new FaceID system function, which creates an odd protrusion into the screen that is especially cumbersome when the device is in its horizontal position (as a result full-screen videos do not use the full width of the display, either).

In what this editor considers a concession masquerading as progress, FaceID likely replaces an in-display fingerprint sensor which neither Apple nor Samsung have been able to successfully implement. For their part Samsung slapped a clunky sensor on the rear of their GS8/GS8+, next to the camera sensor (which for some users will be eternally smeared as a result). Apple decided against implementing a rear fingerprint sensor, leaving only a facial recognition tech for biometrically securing the device. This is fine as long as iPhone X users are fine with appearing to take a selfie every time they want to unlock their phone, and the technology (which does work in the dark thanks to IR) seems impressive.

Specs for this new iPhone X include (view the rest from Apple here):

  • SoC: A11 Bionic with Neural engine and embedded M11 motion coprocessor
  • Display: 5.8-inch OLED, 2436x1125 resolution (458 ppi), HDR, True Tone, P3 color
  • Rear Cameras: 12MP wide-angle and telephoto, optical zoom, dual OIS, quad-LED True Tone flash, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting (beta)
  • Front Camera: 7MP TrueDepth camera, Portrait mode, Portrait Lighting (beta)
  • Face ID: Enabled by TrueDepth camera for facial recognition

The battery "lasts up to 2 hours longer than iPhone 7", but actual capacity was not announced for the iPhone X.

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The dual rear cameras on the iPhone X are in a vertical orientation (image credit: Apple)

The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are priced starting at $699 and $799 for a 64GB model. The iPhone X starts at $999 for 64GB. Pricing for the iPhone 8, which rose $50 from last year's iPhone 7 launch, provides double the base storage capacity to justify the increase. As to the iPhone X, its $999 price tag seems rather shocking at first glance, though Samsung's Note8 is over $900 as well. Needless to say, installment plans will be very popular with this new flagship iPhone.

Source: Apple