IFA 2017: Dell announces refreshed Quad-Core XPS 13 Notebook

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | August 28, 2017 - 10:20 PM |
Tagged: ifa, IFA 2017, dell, XPS 13, 8th generation core, i7-8550U, i5-8250U

As expected, this year's IFA trade show in Berlin is proving busy for notebook manufacturers. Hot on the heels of Intel's announcement of 15W 8th Generation quad-core processors in the Kaby-Lake refresh family earlier in the month, we are starting to see some announcements of actual products utilizing these new processors.

Not to be left behind, Dell has officially announced the refreshed version of their well-received XPS 13 notebook. 

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It appears that there has been little physical change to the XPS 13 centered around these new processor options. Customers will still find 2 USB-A Ports upgraded to USB 3.1 Gen 2, a Thundebolt 3 Port, full-size SD card slot, a standard headphone jack, and a power connector (although charging over Thunderbolt 3 is supported). There's no indication yet as to the Thunderbolt 3 implementation, but we hope Dell has gone with the full PCIe x4 bandwidth instead of x2 as found on the current XPS 13.

Same as the current XPS 13, customers will be able to choose from a 1080p non-touch display or a 3200x1800 touchscreen, up to 16GB of RAM, and SSD options including SATA and NVMe.

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Battery size remains at 60Wh, which Dell claims has a MobileMark battery life score of 22 hours on the 1080p display model and 12 hours with the 3200x1800 QHD+ Touchscreen option.

Expect a longer rollout than usual with these new 8th generation parts from Dell, with the highest end i7-8550U to be available starting September 12th, and the i5 parts coming later in October. We have no current indications of pricing, but I would expect it to fall along the current XPS 13 models, in which the i7 model starts at $1349 along with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB NVMe SSD, and the 1080p display.

Source: Dell

ASUS Announces the ZenBook Flip S UX370

Subject: Mobile | August 28, 2017 - 05:54 PM |
Tagged: ZenBook Flip S UX370, UX370, asus

ASUS has announced their newest ZenBook Flip, the UX370 which will be available through the Microsoft store for $1399 USD some time in the near future. It is powered by a Kaby Lake i7-7500U with HD 620 graphics, 16GB of DDR3-2133 and a 512GB PCIE SSD.  The 13.3" screen has a 1080p resolution, the size of which keeps the UX370 down to a svelte 2.43lb and a mere 10.9mm thickness.

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Connectivity us handled by a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C plugs and an audio plug; networking is handled wirelessly via 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.1.  The speakers are Harman Kardon-certified and powered by ASUS' SonicMaster audio technology; hopefully we will soon have a chance to hear what that actually means in terms of sound quality.

Here are the specs, the PR is below.

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Source: ASUS

Samsung Officially Unveils the Galaxy Note 8 Smartphone

Subject: Mobile | August 23, 2017 - 12:40 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 835, smartphone, Samsung, s pen, phablet, OIS, Note 8, Note, galaxy note, dual camera

The wait is over: Samsung has officially announced the Galaxy Note 8 (or Note8), which will be their first large-format (or phablet) smartphone since the Note 7, which obviously did not remain on the market for long. So what is Samsung doing with such a negative history behind them? Looking forward and not back, of course. That was the message of the event. But Samsung was on stage to do more than apologize for the failure of the late Note, and there were some subtle jabs at the Apple's large phone, with a particularly damning camera comparison with the iPhone 7 Plus making a big splash.

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We are familiar with the processing power behind the Note 8 already: the Snapdragon 835 currently powers the U.S. version of both Galaxy S8 handsets. While there won't be added speed compared to rest of the Galaxy line, this was never the point of the Note series. Note phones have been about a larger format, with the overall device and screen size being the key difference compared to Samsung's other smartphones. But the Note 8 is just 0.1 inches larger than the Galaxy S8+. In fact, the design and screen of the new Note is essentially the same as that of the S8+, other than the bump from 6.2 to 6.3 inches from the 2960x1440 AMOLED displays.

Specifications:

  • Display: 6.3-inch Quad HD+ Super AMOLED, 2960 x 1440 resolution (521ppi)
  • AP (U.S. market): Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • Memory: 6GB LPDDR4 RAM
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
  • Dual Rear Cameras with Dual OIS
    • Wide-angle: 12MP Dual Pixel AF, F1.7, OIS
    • Telephoto: 12MP AF, F2.4, OIS, 2X optical zoom, up to 10X digital zoom
  • Battery: 3,300mAh
  • Dimensions: 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6 mm, 195 g
  • OS: Android 7.1.1

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The advantages of the Note 8 over an S8+ are still obvious, even if the handsets themselves seem very close at first glance. First there is the new dual-camera system on the back of the device, which boasts an industry first by incorporating OIS (optical image stabilization) into both of the rear lenses. During the presentation direct comparisons to an iPhone 7 Plus were made with both still and video capture, and if these dual-OIS cameras provide the same results in the real world Apple is in trouble.

Sure, this Samsung dual camera is very similar to the iPhone 7 Plus, right down to the 2x optical zoom in the telephoto lens and including a portrait mode effect (though Samsung's is adjustable similar to what we saw with the Huawei solution on the Mate 9). But having both lenses suspended with optical stabilization allows for more clarity and better low-light performance, at least in theory. It will be facinating to test this new camera system.

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The real star of the event: that stage! Full floor projection along with giant rear screens.

The other advantage of the Note 8 over the Galaxy S8+ is the S Pen, and such a pen has been at the heart of the Note experience since the beginning. For dedicated S Pen users this alone will tip the scales in the Note 8's favor (the ability to take up to 100 pages of notes with the screen off sounds very cool), though with this design the speculation that battery capacity was sacrificed to make room for the pen's internal storage seems to be spot on, as the 3300 mAh capacity is lower than even the S8+ at 3500 mAh. Even with that pen, however, the Note 8 still offers an IP68 rating for water and dust resistance, though drops are still going to be the primary worry (for me, anyhow) with a 6.3-inch device that is nearly all curved screen.

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The various colors of the Note 8 - which vary by region.

The Note 8 is launching September 15, with pre-orders going up soon at prices ranging from $930 to $960, depending on your mobile operator.

Source: Samsung

ASUS Announces ZenFone 4, Pro, Selfie, and Selfie Pro

Subject: Mobile | August 22, 2017 - 09:35 PM |
Tagged: asus, zenfone, zenfone 4, zenfone 4 selfie

At their “We Love Photo” event in Taiwan, ASUS has announced an updated ZenFone line-up. As you would expect, given the name of the conference, these devices will be focused (heh heh) on camera performance. In fact, they’re split into two categories, each with a regular and a pro variant: ZenFone 4, and ZenFone 4 Selfie. The latter pair of devices differentiate themselves with dual front-facing cameras, but more on that later.

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ZenFone 4 Pro

Let’s start with the ZenFone 4 Pro, because it has the highest computational performance. This device is based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, which includes an Adreno 540 GPU. This is the fastest Adreno GPU on the market today, and it is more-than capable of running Vulkan if ASUS ships the appropriate driver for it. It is backed with 6GB of RAM. The phone also has a pair of rear-facing cameras, one of which is optically zoomed in, and the other has 1.4 micrometer pixels (Sony IMX362) for good low-light performance.

asus-2017-zenfone4.png

ZenFone 4

On to the ZenFone 4. It still has a Sony IMX362 main camera, but they don’t mention the specifications of its pair. Its SoC is a more mainstream Snapdragon 660, which includes the Adreno 512 GPU. It will be a little slower, but it’s still a fairly beefy processor.

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ZenFone 4 Selfie

Now we get to the Selfie line. So ASUS has been adding dual-cameras to their phones since the ZenFone 3 Zoom. The premise is that a zooming mechanism requires a lot of depth, because movable lenses need a space to travel, and that’s difficult to put in a phone... so just have two cameras, each zoomed to a different value. These phones do the opposite: the second camera provides a wider angle, so that multiple people can get into the photo. They call it a “wefie” in the press release, which has apparently been on Urban Dictionary since 2013, and so can’t blame them for it... I guess.

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ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro

The ZenFone 4 Selfie Pro is built around a Snapdragon 625, backed with 4GB of RAM, while the regular ZenFone 4 Selfie uses the Snapdragon 430 (RAM unspecified).

Each of these phones will launch in Asia, but eventually make their way to other regions, too.

Source: ASUS

Back to school or just the beach, the best mobile devices to drag with you

Subject: General Tech, Mobile | August 21, 2017 - 11:49 AM |
Tagged: laptop, cellphone

The Tech Report have polled their crew to build a list of the best mobile devices on the market to help you enjoy your summer.  Amazon's tablets were a top pick thanks to the reasonable prices you can purchase them at; they won't be able to play Crysis but there are plenty of other things you can do.  For those who need a bigger screen without overly increasing the price you can peruse the Chromebooks or you could just head straight to the big ticket items in the gaming laptop section.  Drop by for a look at what you might be interested in over at TR.

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"It's time for another edition of The Tech Report's mobile staff picks, where we comb the worlds of tablets, laptops, and phones to separate the best from the rest."

Here is some more Tech News from around the web:

Tech Talk

 

Depth-sensing tech from Qualcomm challenges Apple

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: qualcomm, spectra, depth sensing, apple

New camera and image processing technology from Qualcomm promises to change how Android smartphones and VR headsets see the world. Depth sensing isn’t new to smartphones and tablets, first seeing significant use in Google’s Project Tango and Intel’s RealSense Technology. Tango uses a laser-based implementation that measures roundtrip times bouncing off surfaces but requires a bulky lens on the rear of the device. Early Tango phones like the Lenovo Phab 2 were hindered by large size requirements as a result. Intel RealSense was featured in the Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet and allowed the camera to adjust depth of field and focal points after the image had been capturing. It used a pair of cameras and calculated depth based on parallax mapping between them, just as the human eye works.

Modern devices like the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8 offer faux-depth perception for features like portrait photo modes. In reality, they only emulate the ability to sense depth by use different range camera lenses and don’t provide true depth mapping capability.

New technology and integration programs at Qualcomm are working to improve the performance, capability, and availability of true depth sensing technology for Android-based smartphones and VR headsets this year. For the entry-level market devices that today do not have the ability to utilize depth sensing, a passive camera module was built to utilize parallax displacement and estimate depth. This requires two matching camera lenses and a known offset distance between them. Even low-cost phones will have the ability to integrate image quality enhancements like blurred bokeh and basic mixed or augmented reality, bringing the technology to a mass market.

The more advanced integration of the Qualcomm Spectra module program provides active depth sensing with a set of three devices. A standard high resolution camera is paired with both an infrared projector and an infrared camera that are utilized for high resolution depth map creation. The technology projects an infrared image with a preset pattern into the world, invisible to the human eye, but picked up by the IR camera. The Spectra image processor on the Qualcomm Snapdragon mobile platform then measures the displacement and deformations of the pattern to determine the depth and location of the items in the physical world. This is done in real-time, at high frame rates and high resolution to create a 10,000 data point “cloud” in a virtual 3D space.

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For consumers this means more advanced security and advanced features on mobile devices. Face detection and mapping that combines the standard camera input along with the IR depth sensing combination will allow for incredibly accurate and secure authentication. Qualcomm claims that the accuracy level is high enough to prevent photos of faces and even 3D models of faces from unlocking the device thanks to interactions of human skin and eyes with IR light.

3D reconstruction of physical objects will also be possible with active depth sensing, allowing gamers to bring real items into virtual worlds. It also allows designers to accurately measure physical spaces that they can look through in full 3D. Virtual reality and augmented reality will benefit from the increased accuracy of its localization and mapping algorithms, improving the “inside-out” tracking capabilities of dedicated headsets and slot-in devices like Samsung’s Gear VR and Google Daydream.

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Though the second generation Qualcomm Spectra ISP (image sensor processor) is required for the complex compute tasks that depth sensing will create, the module program the company has created is more important for the adoption, speed of integration, and cost of the technology to potential customers. By working with companies like Sony for image sensors and integration on modules, Qualcomm has pre-qualified sets of hardware and provides calibration profiles for its licensees to select from and build into upcoming devices. These arrangements allow for Qualcomm to remove some of the burden from handset vendors, lowering development time and costs, getting depth sensing and advanced photo capabilities to Android phones faster.

It has been all but confirmed that the upcoming Apple iPhone 8 will have face detection integrated on it and the company’s push into AR (augmented reality) with iOS 11 points to a bet on depth sensing technology as well. Though Apple is letting developers build applications and integrations with the current A9 and A10 processors, it will likely build its own co-processor to handle the compute workloads that come from active depth sensing and offset power consumption concerns of using a general purpose processor.

Early leaks indicate that Apple will focus its face detection technology on a similar path to the one Qualcomm has paved: security and convenience. By using depth-based facial recognition for both login and security (as a Touch ID replacement), users will have an alternative to fingerprints. That is good news for a device that is having problems moving to a fingerprint sensor design that uses the entire screen.

It now looks like a race to integration for Android and Apple smartphones and devices. The Qualcomm Spectra ISP and module program will accelerate adoption in the large and financially variable Android market, giving handset vendors another reason to consider Qualcomm chipsets over competing solutions. Apple benefits from control over the entire hardware, software, and supply chain, and will see immediate adoption of the capabilities when the next-generation iPhone makes its debut. 

Source:

The overclocked laptop, Gigabyte's Aorus X5

Subject: Mobile | August 15, 2017 - 02:11 PM |
Tagged: X5, i7-7820HK, gtx 1070, gigabyte, gaming laptop, factory overclocked, aorus

The Aorus X5 gaming laptop comes with a 300MHz overclock on the i7-7820HK, with a top frequency of 4.2 GHz and a 50 MHz overclock on the GTX 1070 base clock.  This is not usual for gaming laptops, which tend to be thermally stressed at stock clocks, which shows the benefit of this particular design.  Gigabyte obviously did some serious testing, Techspot tried manual overclocking but could only squeeze another 100MHz from the CPU and another 50MHz from the GPU while remaining stable.  The CPU overclock did have some effect, however there was little real performance gained from the extra 50MHz on the GPU as it runs warm enough that thermal throttling is the limitation.  Drop by to see how well this 2.5kg, 15.6" G-Sync capable laptop performs in Techspot's full review.

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"Gigabyte's enthusiast gamer brand, Aorus, never skimps on hardware and the brand new Aorus X5 v7 is no exception: we're looking at an overclockable quad-core i7-7820HK CPU, GTX 1070 graphics,a high-resolution G-Sync display, 32GB RAM and for storage comprises an M.2 SSD and a hard drive."

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Source: Techspot

Alien organics displaying on scan! Alienware's 13 R3 gaming laptop

Subject: Mobile | July 28, 2017 - 03:10 PM |
Tagged: alienware, Alienware 13 R3, oled, 1440p, gtx 1060, Tobii

Alienware is continuing to provide impressive hardware in their high end laptops, along with a price tag to match.  The new R3 model contains impressive hardware, a Core i7-7700HQ, 16GB DDR4-2400MHz, a GTX 1060 and a 256GB Toshiba XG3 NVMe.  Those components are not what makes this laptop stand out however, it is the 1440p OLED touch screen and Tobii Aware eye tracking software which make this laptop interesting.  Kitguru did have some issues with the screen brightness adjusting during usage however "the OLED screen is absolutely amazing."  Check out the review but remember, if you have to ask you can't afford it.

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"Thankfully the review sample we were sent by Alienware is the Big Kahuna with the OLED screen and a mighty QHD resolution of 2,560×1,440 which is a heck of a lot of pixels packed into a 13.3-inch screen. The screen brightness is 400 nits and it has touch control."

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Source: Kitguru

HTC Vive Standalone VR Headset to expand VR market with low cost, dedicated hardware

Subject: Mobile | July 27, 2017 - 01:12 PM |
Tagged: htc, vive, VR, virtual reality, qualcomm, snapdragon, snapdragon 835

This article first appeared on MarketWatch and Shrout Research.

During the ChinaJoy 2017 event in Shanghai, VR pioneer HTC announced its standalone VR headset aimed at the China market. This marks the first major player in the virtual reality space to officially reveal a standalone product intended for the broad consumer market that requires a more affordable, portable VR solution.

Standalone VR headsets differ from the current options on the market in two distinct ways. First, they are disconnected from a PC and don’t require attachment to a desktop for processing or display output. The current HTC Vive product that ships in the market, as well as Facebook’s Oculus Rift, require a high-end PC to play VR games and use HDMI and USB connections to power the headsets. This new standalone design also moves away from the slot-in design of the Samsung Gear VR and doesn’t require the user to monopolize their smartphone for VR purposes.

Though mobile-first VR solutions like Gear VR have existed for several years, selling on the market before the PC-based solutions were released, the move of HTC from tethered virtual reality to a wireless standalone unit signals a shift in the market. Consumers see the value and quality experiences that VR can provide but the expense and hassle of in-place configurations have stagnated adoption.

Caption - VIVE Standalone VR headset designed for the Chinese market and....jpg

HTC is using the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform to power the Vive Standalone VR Headset, the same chipset used in many high-end smartphones on the market today. Qualcomm and HTC can modify traits of the processor to improve performance without worrying about the sensitive battery life of a consumer’s phone. Though we don’t know the specifics of what HTC might have modified for the configuration of this standalone unit, it likely is a mirror of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR hardware development kit that was announced in February. That design includes the capability for six degrees of freedom tracking (moving around a space accurately without external sensors), high resolution displays for each eye, and a full suite of graphics and digital signal processors to handle the complex workloads of VR experiences.

Though HTC is the first to announce and a complete standalone VR product, HTC and others announced their intent to release standalone units in the US later this year through Google’s Daydream program. Lenovo plans to build a VR headset using the same Qualcomm reference design for the Daydream platform.

Facebook-owned Oculus has not officially announced its intent but rumors in July point us to another Qualcomm-powered headset that will sell for around $200. Facebook plans to reveal the hardware in October.

HTC’s decision to target the China market first is driven by its ability to promote its custom Viveport software store in a region that does not offer Google services like the Android Play Store or Daydream. HTC will leverage a customer base that is larger than North America and Western Europe combined, and one that is expected to grow rapidly. IDC statistics show VR headset shipments reaching 10.1 million units this year and target 61 million units by 2020 worldwide. iResearch Consulting estimates Chinese VR market revenues to reach $8.1B in that same time frame.

Growth in VR and AR (augmented reality) is driven by the consumer markets but it is the enterprise implementations that provide the push for expanded usage models. Medical professionals already utilize VR technology to analyze data and mechanical engineers can dissect and evaluate models of products in a virtual space to improve and speed up workflows. Target fields also include factory workers, emergency personnel, the military, delivery drivers, and nearly all facets of business. As VR technology improve usability, comfort, and general societal acceptance, the merger of virtual and augmented reality hardware will create a new age of connected consumers.

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Various

Specifications

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

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

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

Specifications

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

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

128GB SSD

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

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