Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 03:24 PM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: snapdragon 845, smartphone, Samsung, MWC 2018, MWC, mobile, Galaxy S9+, galaxy s9, exynos
Samsung unveiled their not-so-secret Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones at their 'unpacked' event at MWC today, coming after months of leaks and an accidental post of the launch video yesterday. So, while the existence of these new Galaxy phones was a foregone conclusion, does the final product meet expectations?
As previously leaked, the design of the Galaxy S9/S9+ is carried over from last year, as Samsung is updating their lineup in the manner of Apple's second-year iPhone "S" refresh. What we have are devices with faster internals courtesy of the Snapdragon 845 in the U.S. and China (read our performance preview of the 845 here), Samsung's Exynos 9810 Octa in the rest of the world, and improved cameras - the latter of which was the focus of the event (sorry).
The newest term in the smartphone space is "dual iris" thanks to Samsung's adoption of an adjustable iris on one of the dual 12MP rear cameras, which moves from f1.5 to f2.4 based on light level (the second camera is fixed at f2.4). This should result in much better exposures in low light without sacrificing daylight performance. But as vital as still camera quality is on mobile phones, as for so many is has replaced the need for a dedicated point-and-shoot, there is also video to consider. And not just any video.
Water bottle antics from Samsung's slo-mo demonstration video
Much was made during the event of the Galaxy S9/S9+ exclusive "Super Slow-mo", which takes just 0.2 seconds of video and produces 6 seconds of the sort of slow motion you never knew you couldn't live without before seeing it...in slow motion. (Some impressively slow cat videos were also shown during the event, as well as popcorn being thrown... AND MORE.) Regardless of the usefulness of capturing 0.2 seconds of action at 960 FPS (in HD, no less) - which you can do up to 20 times per video - these slo-mo treasures can be exported right from the phone in GIF format! (Expect uploads of such videos to fill your social feeds later this spring.)
From a design standpoint we are not seeing a new device, but that is not a bad thing in this case. Fans would always like to see the next big thing, of course, but the S8 was already an advanced design when it launched a year ago, marking the start of the all-display trend that Apple joined later on with the iPhone X. Speaking of displays, we know that Samsung has a killer screen already with the Galaxy S8/S8+, and on paper the S9/S9+ have identical 5.8-inch, 1440x2960 18.5:9 aspect AMOLED with the S9 and slightly larger 6.2 inches of the same on the S9+, both still covered in Gorilla Glass 5.
Samsung's cluster of camera and iris scanning tech is hidden from view
Two obvious nods to Apple's confusingly-named "X" handset were also introduced by Samsung, with both face/iris unlocking and animated emojis. First, it will be possible to unlock your Galaxy S9/S9+ by looking at it, but have no fear as the fingerprint reader remains - and is no longer next to the camera sensor on the back!
The fingerprint scanner is now below the camera sensors
Far more important, as everyone knows: animated emoji. Animoji is not the only facial-recognition-powered animated emoji game in town anymore, though Samsung's implementation of this is a little different since it is creating an avatar based on your own face, which you can then customize. The result is something possibly a little more realistic than an early 2000s sports game create-a-player, but with considerably less work. Progress!
March 16 is the release date for both the Galaxy S9 and S9+, with retail prices starting at $719.99 for the S9 and $839.99 for the S9+. Pre-orders are up now on Samsung's official web store.
Subject: Mobile | February 25, 2018 - 10:49 AM | Sebastian Peak
Tagged: thin and light, notebook, mx150, MWC 2018, MWC, MateBook X Pro, matebook, laptop, Huawei
Huawei has introduced their new MateBook with the X Pro, an ultra slim design which features a nearly bezel-less 13.9-inch display that boasts a 91% screen-to-body ratio. More than just display, which is a 3:2 ratio 3K LTPS panel, the MateBook X Pro offers a choice between 8th-gen Intel Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors, and the option of a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce MX150 GPU.
"Huawei has applied many of its innovative smartphone technologies to the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro to create effortless and intuitive user experiences. Pioneered by Huawei for the HUAWEI MateBook Series, the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro features the super-fast power button 2.0 which enables login in just 7.8 seconds from power off, and 6.6 seconds from hibernation. In addition, the HUAWEI MateBook X Pro features the world’s first recessed camera which discreetly sits on the keyboard – to activate it, all users need to do is press it and it will pop up, ensuring privacy when it’s not being used. This contributes greatly to the perfect experience of FullView Display."
While the look and especially name of the MateBook X Pro evokes memories of similar products from Cupertino, this seems to be more of a Surface Book competitor, down to the multi-touch 3:2 aspect, 3000x2000 display. A couple of the unique features are the combination power button/fingerprint reader, and a camera that is hidden among the function keys and pops up during use. Audio is also premium for a slim notebook with a four-speaker Dolby Atmos system.
A unique recessed camera design that pops up when needed
- FullView Display
- Size: 13.9 inches
- Resolution: 3000 x 2000
- Type: LTPS
- Screen-to-body ratio: 91%
- Aspect ratio: 3:2
- Viewing angle: 178 degrees
- Color: sRGB 100% color gamut
- Contrast: 1500:1
- Maximum brightness: 450 nits
- Touchscreen: 10-point, anti-fingerprint
- Processor: 8th Generation Intel Core i7-8550U / i5-8250U
- GPU: NVIDIA GeForce MX150 with 2GB GDDR5 / Intel UHD Graphics 620
- Memory 8GB / 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz
- Hard Drive: 256GB / 512GB NVMe PCIe SSD
- Wi-Fi: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4/5 GHz 2x2 MIMO
- Bluetooth: BT 4.1 (compatible with 3.0 and 2.1+EDR)
- Camera: Front 1MP
- Audio Configuration: Quad digital microphones and Quad speakers
- Battery Material: Lithium polymer 57.4Wh (Typical Capacity)
- Local video playback: 12 hours (testing conducted by Huawei in a laboratory environment)
- Buttons and Ports
- One touch power button
- 3.5mm stereo headset jack
- USB-C x2 (both allow data transfer, charging and connection with MateDock 2 and one supports Thunderbolt 3)
- Dimensions (H x W x D): 304mm x 217mm x 14.6mm Weight: approximately 1.33kg
- Colors: Mystic Silver and Space Gray
The one touch power button with integrated fingerprint reader
The MateBook X Pro will be available this spring with pricing starting at €1499, or approximately $1850.
Delivering on the Promise of Thunderbolt 3
Despite the greatly increased adoption of Thunderbolt 3 over the previous 2 Thunderbolt standards, the market is still lacking actual devices that take advantage of the full 40Gbps bandwidth that Thunderbolt 3 offers.
External storage seems like a natural use of this PCI-E 3.0 x4 interface available with the Thunderbolt 3 standard, but storage devices that take advantage of this are few and far between. Most of the devices in the market currently are merely bridges for SATA M.2 drives to Thunderbolt 3, which would be limited by the SATA 6Gb/s interface.
However, this market gap seems poised to change. Today, we are taking a look at the TEKQ Rapide Thunderbolt 3 Portable SSD, which advertises sequential transfer speeds up to 2.3 GB/s Read and 1.3 GB/s Write.
Subject: Mobile | February 21, 2018 - 11:10 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: snapdragon, qualcomm, microsoft, always connected pc
With availability scheduled to begin next month, Qualcomm is prepping for its final push to prepare the market for what it believes is a revolutionary product category for the PC market. Just before the mobile media and analysts focus attention on Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next week, Qualcomm hopes it has completed the final step in the launch of its “Windows 10 on Snapdragon” line. Partners like Amazon, the Microsoft Stores, Verizon, and AT&T will provide the cellular LTE connections to maintain an always-connected state and the retail and online locations to purchase them.
By combining Windows 10 and the company’s Snapdragon mobile platform with efficiency and connectivity advantages other PC chip vendors can’t match, Qualcomm is hoping that its creation of this new sub-category of PC that focuses on being always connected through a smartphone-like cellular connection will pay dividends. Compared to Intel processors that target similar form factors of notebook PCs including 2-in-1s and detachable tablets, the Qualcomm chips differentiate by including the capability for LTE connectivity on every design, without having to pay an upgrade cost.
The ability for a Qualcomm-powered Windows 10 PC to have an “instant on” button to turn on the screen without a boot or wake-from-sleep process, again in the same way your smartphone works today, is another touted feature. Battery life is the other tent pole, with Qualcomm often citing disingenuous battery life estimates on Intel-powered systems but “beyond all day” battery life for its own.
Getting these Qualcomm-chip Windows notebooks into the market might seem like a trivial task but inserting a new totally new product category into retail and e-tail takes careful management. Qualcomm will have to educate consumers on how its platform is different and what advantages it can offer over other laptops. Retailers will have to undertake most of that education process, as the customer will need guidance to avoid costly returns and support calls.
The added complexity of a cellular connection will mean that some kind of registration process will have to occur before the PC is truly “always connected.” It will need to be added to a data plan on an existing carrier agreement (think adding a new phone to your cell account) or through a pre-paid arrangement.
A touchier subject surrounds the retail channel and how PCs are sold in today’s market. Despite the years of legal disputes and resolutions, most in the industry still view Intel as wielding incredible power in the retail and online e-tail sales channels. Through practices like rebates, education programs, and sales clerk discounts, it can be hard for a new player to battle the incumbent without a similar amount of marketing muscle and dollars behind them. Even AMD, with years of practice selling its own processors and systems, struggles at time to get the attention and retail shelf space its products deserve.
In the US market, Microsoft will be taking the helm at the retail channel, stocking and selling the three first Qualcomm Snapdragon Windows 10 PCs from HP, Lenovo, and ASUS. Though the quantity of Microsoft stores is limited, placement here is a big win for Qualcomm and its partners. The Microsoft Stores are generally considered the presentation point for the flagship Windows devices, indicating that Microsoft itself puts a lot of weight behind the category that Qualcomm is creating.
For the online markets, Amazon will be the primary location in the US for sales. In talks with Qualcomm executives, it appears that the online giant will be handling a lot of that education and cellular activation. While I am certain that Qualcomm would love to have had a nationwide brick-and-mortar retailer like Best Buy in the mix, the Minneapolis-based company did not buy in.
Qualcomm has other retailers lined up across the globe, including in Australia, Italy, France, and the UK. China will have sales through JD.com, one of the largest online retailers in the world with more than 266M active users. Qualcomm still has many regions to address with availability and wider distribution as the second wave of PCs comes to market in the holiday of 2018, but it believes it has a solid start under its belt.
Graphic Source: TechSpot
Operator support is just as crucial for Qualcomm’s new PC category as retail availability. If a consumer buys a device but isn’t offered service from a mobile telecommunications provider along with it, much of the appeal of the device is lost. Carriers in the UK, Italy, China, France, Germany, Ireland, Spain, Switzerland, and US (including all four major players Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile), will begin offering plans for the Windows 10 on Snapdragon PCs. Details of what the specific costs will be aren’t being shared and will vary for each carrier.
Affordability of these plans will be critical to the mass market success of the Always Connected PC. Consumers will not pay exorbitant amounts of money to add a device to their existing cell phone plan but providers may be hesitant to offer discounts for a platform that inherently will have potential for greater data consumption. Users on smartphones often get lower resolution video or web pages because of the smaller screen size. But these full capability PCs will likely stream full resolution content and could create additional strain on the networks.
Subject: Mobile | February 19, 2018 - 07:36 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 9, qualcomm, snapdragon 845
So there’s a lot to say about this story. The first bit is that the follow up to my current phone, which is a ZTE Axon 7, will be launching later this year. It will be called the ZTE Axon 9, and a bunch of rumored leaks have just dropped on it.
Image Credit: ZTE Weibo via GSM Arena
GSMArena cites claims that the device will come with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845. High-end SKUs will have 6GB of RAM and 128 or 256 GB of internal storage. Low-end SKUs will have 4GB of RAM. Personally, I haven’t come close to filling up the 64GB of the original ZTE Axon 7, although that’s just me. This is the first time I checked pretty much since I got the phone, and I still have about 33 GB remaining. That said, you are not me, and you probably know how much space you’ll use.
The choice of SoC is interesting. ZTE seems to go straight for the top of Qualcomm’s product stack with their flagship device, which puts it against the performance of, for instance, Samsung’s latest-and-greatest at the time. The ZTE Axon 7 came out a few months after the Samsung Galaxy S7, had the same processor, and was hundreds of dollars cheaper. ZTE wanted market share, but it looks like they might be continuing the trend.
The new device is said to have a 6-inch screen, which makes it slightly larger than the Axon 7, which has a 5.5-inch screen. Both cameras have also been upgraded. The rear camera will be 20 megapixels, while the front-facing one will be 13 megapixels. This doesn't say much about how it will perform, such as how much light is required to get a good image, but we will find out eventually.
At around the same time, US intelligence agencies are warning against purchasing ZTE and Huawei devices because the two companies have ties with the Chinese government. ZTE and Huawei both rebuke the assertions, of course. Personally, I use the ZTE Axon 7 as my only cellphone.
It doesn’t bother me.
Hot on the heels of the 5G momentum that saw Qualcomm announce working with 18 different device OEMs and 18 different network providers to bring 5G hardware and carriers online for wide adoption in 2019, the mobile giant is launching another 4G LTE modem. The new Snapdragon X24 LTE modem will provide connectivity speeds as high as 2.0 Gbps (Cat 20) and happens to be the first chip officially announced to be built on a 7nm process technology. It will be shipping in products by the end of 2018.
With the 5G wave of products just on the horizon it might seem odd to see Qualcomm launch yet another LTE modem, especially one that offers such high performance and capability. The truth is that while 2019 will see the first nationwide (and global) 5G networks launched, 4G LTE will remain a fallback for the many years going forward. In fact, the first 5G devices (phones, laptops, tablets) will be connected to both 5G and 4G networks simultaneously to maintain connectivity through location changes. This will be temporary as the 5G networks scale to outdoor and internal designs, but expect that to be the case for at least 5 years.
As a result, newer LTE modems will remain a key differentiation point for mobile devices and chipsets. While the Snapdragon 845 Mobile Platform (Sebastian recently posted a story with early benchmarks if you’re interested) uses the Snapdragon X20 LTE modem, which only runs at 1.2 Gbps peak download rate, the new X24 will start by shipping as a discrete modem/chip solution. As has been the case with the X16 and X20 before it, you should then expect to see the X24 integrated into the next-generation of Qualcomm Snapdragon application processor.
Obviously the flagship feature of this new modem is its ability to raise peak download speeds to 2.0 Gbps, doubling that of the X16 modem that brought Gigabit-class LTE to the world. This is possible due to the chips ability to handle 7x CA (carrier aggregation) downlink and improved unlicensed spectrum support. You can see from the diagram above that the X24 modem greatly increases the complexity and potential combinations of spectrum.
The Snapdragon X24 also marks the first publicly announced 7nm chip in the world. Though it wasn’t confirmed by Qualcomm, this is being made at TSMC, the only foundry with currently available 7nm technology in place. This move to a new technology means Qualcomm can offer a chip that is smaller and more power efficiency than would be possible on 10nm or 14nm nodes. The company also has the world’s first 14nm RF transceiver chip to pair with the X24 modem, another improvement in power and space efficiency.
Qualcomm will be demonstrating the new Snapdragon X24 modem technology running at 2.0 Gbps at Mobile World Congress, working with Ericsson, Telstra, and Netgear later this month.
The SDM845 Reference Platform and CPU Results
The Snapdragon 845 is Qualcomm’s latest flagship mobile platform, officially announced on December 6 and known officially as the SDM845 (moving from the MSMxxxx nomenclature of previous iterations). At a recent media event we had a chance to go hands-on with a development platform device for a preview of this new Snapdragon's performance, the results of which we can now share. Will the Snapdragon 845 be Qualcomm's Android antidote to Apple's A11? Read on to find out!
The SDM845 QRD (Qualcomm Reference Design) Device
While this article will focus on CPU and GPU performance with a few known benchmarks, the Snapdragon 845 is of course a full mobile platform which combines 8-core Kryo 385 CPU, Adreno 630 graphics, Hexagon 685 DSP (which includes the Snapdragon Neural Processing Engine), Spectra 280 image processor, X20 LTE modem, etc. The reference device was packaged like a typical 5.5-inch Android smartphone, which can only help to provide a real-world application of thermal management during benchmarking.
Qualcomm Reference Design Specifications:
- Baseband Chipset: SDM845
- Memory: 6 GB LPDDR4X (PoP)
- Display: 5.5-inch 1440x2560
- Front: IMX320 12 MP Sensor
- Rear: IMX386 12 MP Sensor
- No 3.5 mm headset jack (Analog over USB-C)
- 4 Digital Microphones
- Connector: USB 3.1 Type-C
- DisplayPort over USB-C
At the heart of the Snapdragon 845 is the octa-core Kryo 385 CPU, configured with 4x performance cores and 4x efficiency cores, and offering clock speeds of up to 2.8 GHz. In comparison the Snapdragon 835 had a similar 8x CPU configuration (Kryo 280) clocked up to 2.45 GHz. The SDM845 is produced on 10 nm LPP process technology, while the SD835 (MSM8998) was the first to be manufactured at 10 nm (LPE). It is not surprising that Qualcomm is getting higher clock speeds from this new chip at the same process node, and increases in efficiency (the new 10nm LPP FinFET process) should theoretically result in similar - or possibly even lower - power draw from these higher clocks.
Subject: Mobile | February 8, 2018 - 11:01 AM | Ryan Shrout
Tagged: qualcomm, 5G, 5g nr, x50, snapdragon, apple, Samsung
This story originally appeared on ShroutResearch.com.
With significant pressure to show the value and growth opportunities for the company with a looming hostile takeover bid from Broadcom, mobile chip design house Qualcomm is hoping that its position in the market of next-generation cellular radio technology will be a foundation of its future. The company revealed today partnerships with 18 global OEMs that will be launching 5G-ready devices in 2019 and 18 worldwide cellular carriers will be completing tests of Qualcomm 5G radios in 2018.
5G is the follow up iteration to the current 4G cellular technology in the majority of the world’s smartphones. It will improve speed of connectivity, lower latency, and transform numerous markets from self-driving cars to industrial automation. And it can do all of this while lowering the load on carrier networks, giving all users a noticeable increase in performance and usability.
Qualcomm has been leaning on this 4G-to-5G transition as a portion of its long-term plan and strategy for many years. As a part of the company’s recent call to action for shareholders to resist the hostile takeover from Broadcom, the San Diego-based company believes that it has a 12-24 month lead over competing connectivity providers, namely Intel. This position will allow Qualcomm to capitalize on what many believe could be the most disruptive and market shifting wireless transition in history.
To maintain the leadership role, despite mass-market availability being limited to 2019 products, Qualcomm has announced partnerships with 18 different OEMs that will build those products using the Snapdragon X50 modem. This modem was the first announced to support the finalized specification of 5G radios. OEMs like LG, HTC, Sony, ASUS, and vivo are committed to using the X50 modem in devices ranging from next-generation smartphones to Windows-based PCs.
There has been talk that 5G products would not be available until 2020, but Qualcomm believes that 5G will have an impact on revenue a year earlier than that. This collection of phone and device providers puts Qualcomm well ahead of Intel in terms of integration and support in the market, something Qualcomm has believed would be the case but is only now finally confirmed. Commercialization of 5G and collaborations with the leading device manufacturers will push Intel further back in the race, with time running out for it to catch up.
Two big OEMs are missing from the list in Qualcomm’s announcement: Samsung and Apple. While it makes sense that Apple would not want to be included in the public statements from Qualcomm considering the continuing legal dispute between the two companies, there is a legitimate question as to whether Apple will be an early-adopter of 5G technology at all. It has shown in the past that it is more than willing to let others experiment and drive wireless technology shifts on the networks, with both the iPhone 3G and first iPhone with LTE (iPhone 5) lagging behind other smartphones by several quarters. If Apple choses to not integrate the Qualcomm modem, it will depend on Intel to provide a solution instead, and could miss out on 5G technology for all of 2019.
Not seeing Samsung as a part of this announcement from Qualcomm is more surprising, but likely an omission of politics than of technology. I recently wrote about the extension and expansion of the licensing agreement between Samsung and Qualcomm and it is unlikely that this contract would not have included the X50 modem for 5G. I expect the 2019 models of Samsung’s Galaxy devices to include the Qualcomm chip as well.
The second part to this story is that 18 different global cellular carriers, including Verizon and AT&T in the US, China Mobile, and SK Telecom, will be testing 5G with Qualcomm devices and infrastructure in 2018. These validation tests are used to demonstrate the capabilities of new wireless technology and finalize the implementation methods for the hardware in the field.
These two announcements put Qualcomm in the driver’s seat for 5G adoption and integration. 5G will offer consumers speeds 4-5x faster than today’s top offerings, lower latency for more responsive web browsing and new capabilities like streaming virtual reality. It will make Wi-Fi less necessary. The cellular carriers will take advantage of 5G for its ability to run more data through existing infrastructure, opening capacity for more users, devices, and upgradable services.
For the first time in several years, the notebook market has gotten very interesting from a performance standpoint. First, we had Intel’s launch of its Kaby-Lake Refresh 8th Generation processors which packed a true quad-core CPU into a 15W package. Then, we heard about AMD’s Raven Ridge which aimed to combine a quad-core mobile CPU with Radeon Vega graphics into that same 15W power target.
Even though the excitement over Raven Ridge may have subsided a bit after Intel and AMD’s joint announcement of Vega graphics combined with Intel CPUs in the Kaby-Lake G platform, that is still yet to be released and will reside in a significantly higher class of power usage.
So today we are taking a look at AMD’s Raven Ridge, what may be AMD’s first worthy entry into the thin-and-light notebook market.
For our Raven Ridge testing, we are taking a look at the HP Envy x360, which at the time of writing is the only machine to be shipping with these Ryzen Mobile processors (although more machines have been announced and are coming soon). Additionally, we also wanted to wait a while for the software ecosystem on this new platform to stabilize (more on that later).
Subject: Mobile | January 27, 2018 - 11:01 PM | Scott Michaud
Tagged: zte, axon 7
Until this weekend, the ZTE Axon 7 was running on the August patch level of Android 7.1.1. The phone manufacturer was hinting that Oreo could be provided, and a few leaks have shown Android 8.0 running on the device. My assumption was that ZTE was just holding off on updates until their build of Android 8.0 is ready.
Today, my phone was updated to Android 7.1.1 with the December patch level.
To me, this says that – well, one, the Blueborne and KRACK vulnerabilities are finally fixed. Two: if ZTE was holding out on updates until Android 8.0, then they no longer expect to ship it in the immediate future. They could still be working on it, and I’m guessing that they are unless they found a showstopper bug that simply cannot be worked around, but it’s slower than they projected.
That said, I’m glad that ZTE is still patching their device, two years later. The availability of updates is a major factor in my choice of which phone to buy. While I’ve had some hiccups with it, it’s been well worth the price, and software support is a big differentiator in that category. Sure, it’s not going to compete with Google’s first-party devices, especially in terms of update frequency, but it’s not competing with Google’s first-party devices.
Let’s see how long the support will last.