Rumor: GP104 Might Arrive in Laptops... Soon.

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 4, 2016 - 04:28 PM |
Tagged: nvidia, GTX 1080, gtx 1070, pascal

Normally, when a GPU developer creates a laptop SKU, they re-use the desktop branding, add an M at the end, but release a very different, significantly slower part. This changed with the GTX 980, as NVIDIA cherry-picked the heck out of their production to find chips that could operate full-speed at a lower-than-usual TDP. With less power (and cooling) to consider, they were sent to laptop manufacturers and integrated into high-end designs.


They still had the lower-performance 980M, though, which was confusing for potential customers. You needed to know to avoid the M, and trust the product page to correctly add the M as applicable. This is where PCGamer's scoop comes into play. Apparently, NVIDIA will stop “producing separate M versions of its desktop GPUs”. Also, they are expected to release their 10-series desktop GPUs to their laptop partners by late-summer.


Last time, NVIDIA took almost a year to bin enough GPUs for laptops. While we don't know how long they've been stockpiling GP104 GPUs, this, if the rumors are true, would just be about three months of lead-time for the desktop SKUs. Granted, Pascal is significantly more efficient than Maxwell. Maxwell tried to squeeze extra performance out of an existing fabrication node, while Pascal is a relatively smaller chip, benefiting from the industry's double-shrink in process technology. It's possible that they didn't need to drop the TDP threshold that far below what they accept for desktop.

For us desktop users, this also suggests that NVIDIA is not having too many issues with yield in general. I mean, if they were expecting GPU shortages to persist for months, you wouldn't expect that they would cut their supply further with a new product segment, particularly one that should require both decent volume and well-binned chips. This, again, might mean that we'll see desktop GPUs restock soon. Either that, or NVIDIA significantly miscalculated demand for new GPUs, and they needed to fulfill partner obligations that they made before reality struck.

Call it wishful thinking, but I don't think it's the latter.

Source: PCGamer

ASUS Announces Zenfone 3 Smartphone Family

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2016 - 02:14 PM |
Tagged: zenfone 3, snapdragon 820, Snapdragon 625, smartphone, ips, computex 2016, computex, asus, Android, AMOLED

The Zenfone 3 family has been officially announced, and ASUS has provided all of the details of these new Android smartphones from Computex 2016.


The Zenfone 3 family is comprised of three phones; the Zenfone 3, Zenfone 3 Deluxe, and the massive Zenfone 3 Ultra. The first of these is the standard Zenfone 3, which replaces the Zenfone 2 not only in number, but architecture. While the previous version was powered by an Intel SoC, this new Zenfone contains a conventional ARM-based SoC; the Snapdragon 625.


A 5.5-inch device with a FHD (1920x1080) IPS display protected by Gorilla Glass 4, the 7.69 mm thick Zenfone 3 also boasts a 16MP “PixelMaster” camera with OIS and “ultra-fast 0.03s instant focus” for clear photos. Other features include a sizable 4GB of RAM, a “5-magnet” speaker design and 24-bit/192kHz high-resolution audio support, and a 3000 mAh battery. The phone uses USB Type-C connectivity, and arrives with Android 6.0 with ZenUI 3.0.


Moving to the Zenfone 3 Deluxe, this higher-end model offers a slightly larger 5.7” FHD AMOLED display (rather than IPS), and adds Quick Charge 3.0 for the 3000 mAh, and USB 3.0 speed to the Type-C connector. The SoC powering the Deluxe is the biggest upgrade over the standard Zenfone 3, with the powerful Snapdragon 820 replacing the base model’s Snapdragon 625.

If you enjoy a more tablet-like experience, the 6.8-inch (!) Zenfone 3 Ultra might be for you!


While still FHD at this tablet-like size, the rear camera on the Ultra is a big upgrade, with a 23MP PixelMaster Camera (via the Sony IMX318 sensor). The battery is also a big upgrade over the smaller phones, as the larger chassis allows a 4600 mAh capacity. The big question (pun intended) becomes, will people want to use a 6.8-inch smartphone? To which the answer must be, no, we will hold out for the 7+ inch phones! (Or not.)

As to pricing, the Zenfone 3 is nearly as aggressive as the previous version, with an MSRP of $249. The Deluxe version is priced much more like premium handset at $499, and the Ultra is just behind it at $479. Availablity has not been announced.

Source: ASUS

A trio of high powered gaming laptops

Subject: Mobile | May 19, 2016 - 03:12 PM |
Tagged: msi, origin, eurocom, gaming laptop, GTX 980M

You have likely run into the 17.3" MSI GT72S Dominator Pro Dragon Edition but have you seen either the Origin EON17-SLX or Eurocom SKY X9 gaming laptop.  The Eurocom especially is rather impressive, a 4K panel powered by two GTX 980Ms in SLI, the other two have only a single GPU, though it is the desktop version of the GTX 980.

The least expensive of these laptops is $2899, the most expensive is $4837.  Take a look at how these beasts perform over at Hardware Canucks.


"Gaming performance of high end gaming notebooks is quickly closing the gap with desktops. In this roundup we look at over $11,000 worth of desktop replacement options from MSI, Origin and Eurocom."

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Rumor: Apple's A11 SoC Reaches Tapeout at TSMC 10nm

Subject: Processors, Mobile | May 9, 2016 - 01:42 PM |
Tagged: apple, a11, 10nm, TSMC

Before I begin, the report comes from DigiTimes and they cite anonymous sources for this story. As always, a grain of salt is required when dealing with this level of alleged leak.


That out of the way, rumor has it that Apple's A11 SoC has been taped out on TSMC's 10nm process node. This is still a little way's away from production, however. From here, TSMC should be providing samples of the now finalized chip in Q1 2017, start production a few months later, and land in iOS devices somewhere in Q3/Q4. Knowing Apple, that will probably align with their usual release schedule -- around September.

DigiTimes also reports that Apple will likely make their split-production idea a recurring habit. Currently, the A9 processor is fabricated at TSMC and Samsung on two different process nodes (16nm for TSMC and 14nm for Samsung). They claim that two-thirds of A11 chips will come from TSMC.

Source: DigiTimes

Not to be outdone by hard drives, ARCHOS releases the 70b Helium Tablet

Subject: Mobile | April 29, 2016 - 06:19 PM |
Tagged: archos, 70b Helium Tablet

ARCHOS has decided that bigger is not always better and released the 7" 70b Helium tablet.  It is powered by a quad-core Mediatek MT8735M running at 1GHz with 1GB of RAM and Android Lollipop 5.1.  At 278g and 188x108x9.9mm it is much smaller than many current generation tablets and costs less as well.  The resolution of 1024x600 is going to disappoint many prospective buyers, on the other hand bloatware is as sparse as the PPI which is a nice benefit to this tablet.  If you have need of a tablet which is not overly powerful and which is inexpensive enough to pass onto a kid or use in unfriendly places such as the beach pop on over to Kitguru to take a peek.


"Recently there has been a definite trend to having bigger mobile devices. Smartphone flagships are well over 5 inches in size now, and tablets are getting bigger too – just take a look at the 13.3 inch iPad Pro. It is refreshing, then, to see ARCHOS buck the trend with its 70b Helium tablet.

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Source: Kitguru

Acer Debuts Liquid-Cooled Switch Alpha 12 Convertible Tablet

Subject: Mobile | April 21, 2016 - 06:56 PM |
Tagged: windows 10, tablet, switch alpha 12, liquid cooling, convertible tablet, acer, 2-in-1

Acer has unveiled their latest detachable 2-in-1 tablet/laptop with the Switch Alpha 12, and this device features some impressive specs - not the least of which is a liquid-cooling loop for the CPU.


According to Acer, the Switch Alpha 12 "is the industry’s first fanless 2-in-1 notebook to use a 6th Generation Intel Core i7, Core i5 or Core i3 processor," and these Intel offerings power a 12-inch 2160x1440 resolution IPS display.

Acer offers this video to showcase the device's features, including the water cooling loop:

Storage will range from 128GB - 512GB, with memory available in either 4GB or 8GB capacities. The magnetically attached keyboard offers full-sized keys with 1.4mm travel, and a full touchpad, and overall battery life is said to be 8 hours. The unit is 11.5 x 7.93 x 0.62 inches, and weighs 2.76 pounds (with keyboard connected).


The CPU cooling loop (Image taken from Acer promo video)

As to pricing and availability, Acer states that the "Switch Alpha 12 will be available in North America in June starting at $599".

Source: Acer
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: MSI

27 notebooks can't be wrong

A month or so back, I had a friend come to me asking for advice on which gaming notebook he should purchase. He had specific needs that were tailored to a portable gaming machine: he wanted to have a single machine for home and mobile use, he wanted to be able to game while traveling and he had a pretty reasonable budget. As the "guy that runs the gaming hardware website" I was expected to have an answer...immediately. But I didn't. As it turns out, dissecting and digesting the gaming notebook field is pretty complex.

I sent a note to MSI, offering to build a video and a short story around its products if they sent me one of each of line of gaming notebooks they sold. Honestly, I didn't expect them to be able to pull it together, but just a couple of weeks later, a handful of large boxes arrived and we were staring at a set of six powerful gaming notebooks to analyze. 

  GE62 Apache Pro-014 GS40 Phantom-001 GS60 Ghost Pro-002 GS72 Stealth Pro 4K-202 GT72S Dominator Pro G-220 GT80S Titan SLI-002
MSRP $1299 $1599 $1699 $2149 $2599 $3399
Screen 15.6-in 1080p 14-in 1080p 15.6-in 1080p 17.3-in 4K 17.3-in 1080p G-Sync 18.4-in 1080p
CPU Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6700HQ Core i7-6820HK Core i7-6820HK
GPU GTX 960M 2GB GTX 970M 3GB GTX 970M 6GB GTX 970M 3GB GTX 980M 8GB GTX 980M 8GB SLI
RAM 16GB 16GB 16GB 16GB 32GB 24GB
Storage 128GB M.2 SATA
Optical DVD Super-multi None None None Blu-ray Burner Blu-ray Burner
Display Output HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
HDMI 1.4
mini-DisplayPort 1.2
Connectivity USB 3.1 Type-C
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 2.0 x 1
Super Port
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 3.0 x 2
USB 3.1 x 2
USB 3.0 x 2 
USB 3.0 x 6
USB 3.0 x 5
Dimensions 15.07-in x 10.23-in x 1.06-in 13.58-in x 9.65-in x 0.87-in 15.35-in x 10.47-in x 0.78-in 16.47-in x 11.39-in x 0.78-in 16.85-in x 11.57-in x 1.89-in 17.95-in x 13.02-in x 1.93-in
Weight 5.29 pounds 3.75 pounds 4.2 pounds 5.7 pounds 8.4 pounds 9.9 pounds

MSI sent this collection along as it appears to match closely with entire range of available options in its own gaming notebook line, without actually sending us ALL 27 OF THE AVAILABLE SKUs! Yes, twenty-seven.


MSI GS40 Phantom

In the video below, I'll walk through the discussion of each of the series of notebooks that MSI offers for gamers, what the prevailing characteristics are for each and what kind of consumer should be most interested in it. I also discuss the specifics of each of the models we received for the project as well as getting into the performance deltas between them.


MSI GS72 Stealth Pro 4K

  • MSI GE Series
    • $1099-$1499
    • The entry level of gaming notebooks, available in both 15.6 and 17.3-in 1080p screens, limited to GTX 970M or GTX 960M GPUs. You still get 16GB of memory, SSDs in MOST systems, Killer Networking hardware, Steel Series keyboards and weights range from 5.29 to 5.95 pounds.
  • MSI GS Series
    • $1499-2149
    • Varies in screen size from 14-in to 17.3-in but the focus here is on slimmer designs. Both 1080p and 4K screens are available, though you are still maxing out at a GTX 970M graphics solution. 16GB of RAM, NVMe PCIe SSDs are standard, with available models as thin as 0.78-inches and as light as 3.75 pounds.
  • MSI GT72 Series
    • $1599-3499
    • These focus on performance per dollar, getting maximum single GPU performance in the chassis. They all have 17-in screens with available G-Sync integration, and GPUs from the GTX 970M to the GTX 980 (full). 16-32GB of memory, all using SSDs, optical drives, Thunderbolt, six USB 3.0 ports but GT72 systems are bigger and heavier to compensate for all this.
  • MSI GT80 Series
    • $2799-4799
    • These are for the crazy enthusiasts only, all of which include SLI configurations or GTX 970M, 980M or 980. An 18.3-in 1080p screen is the only option for your display, but you get 16-64GB of memory, RAID enabled SSD configurations, Blu-ray burners, Thunderbolt, five USB 3.0 ports and a friggin Cherry Brown mechanical keyboard!


After going through this project, here are a few recommendations I would have for users looking to pick up an MSI gaming notebook.

  • Best Gaming Value
    • GT72 Dominator G-831 - This combines the larger form factor with a GTX 970M GPU, 17.3-in 1080p screen, 16GB of memory, 128GB SSD and priced at $1599. I think this is a good balance of cost and GPU horsepower.
  • Looking for a Slimmer Design
    • GS70 Stealth Pro-006 - For $1699 you lose the optical drive from the above GT72, but get a lighter and thinner design. You have the same technical horsepower, GTX 970M, Core i7 processor, etc., but the integrated fans will likely be noticeably louder to expel the heat from the more narrow chassis.
  • If you need more performance
    • GT72 Dominator Pro G-034 - With a jump from the $1599 GT72 above to $2099, this model gets you a GTX 980M and a 256GB SSD. Based on the performance metrics I ran, that should net you another 40-50% of GPU horsepower.

Let me know if you have any questions or comments about these machines and I'll do my best to answer them!

Android N Developer Preview 2 Includes Vulkan

Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2016 - 04:59 PM |
Tagged: vulkan, google, android n, Android

We knew it was coming. Google was a partner of Vulkan since it launched, but support was coming at some point after the desktop launch. We expected that it would be soon, but now we know that the new graphics API is in Android N Developer Preview 2. Other platforms, like apparently the Samsung Galaxy S7, are able to ship Vulkan drivers, but it is “a part of the platform” in this Android N pre-release.


Vulkan is particularly useful for mobile because those devices tend to have many cores, but relatively slow cores, which drive a decently fast GPU. Whether the benefits end up being higher performance or just better battery life (as the CPU can downclock more and more often) depends on the application, but it can be useful for 3D applications, and eventually even 2D ones, like future Qt applications with many elements, or even web browsers (when drawing complex sites).

It's good that Google is supporting Vulkan, especially after their ban of OpenCL drivers from Nexus devices. We want a single GPU compute interface across as many platforms as possible. While Vulkan isn't as complete as OpenCL, lacking some features such as unified memory, it should be more useful than OpenGL ES compute shaders.

Android N Developer Preview 2 launched (again, as a preview) yesterday.

Source: Google

A 14" Monster; Eurocom's new gaming laptop

Subject: Mobile | April 14, 2016 - 01:46 PM |
Tagged: i7-6700HQ, BGA, gaming laptop, GTX 970M

If there wasn't a market for gaming laptops then we would not see so many companies offering them for sale, nor frequently updating their lineups.  These devices certainly are not for everyone and with the release of products like MSI's Shadow and Razer's Core which allow you to hook your laptop up to an external GPU there is going to be a change in the market.  For now, companies like Eurocom are updating their lineups which brings us to Techgage's review of the Monster 4 14" gaming laptop.  The screen, as reviewed, is 1080p and while the laptop does have HDMI and mini-DisplayPort it lacks the TB3 connector to utilize external GPUs so you will be dependent on the i7-6700HQ and GTX 970M

Check out the full review of this $1500 gaming laptop here if you are interested.


"Building a gaming desktop can be tough, but building a gaming notebook can be even harder. While most vendors limit your options, Eurocom goes out of its way to provide the most customization possible. As we find out in this review, the company’s offerings are diverse, and based on our findings with the Monster 4, a notebook with professional looks can still be a beast inside."

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Source: Techgage

HP Announces World's Thinnest Laptop - The Spectre 13.3

Subject: Systems, Mobile | April 6, 2016 - 10:01 AM |
Tagged: ultrabook, thinnest laptop, Spectre 13.3, notebook, laptop, Intel Core i7, Intel Core i5, hp

HP announced their thinnest notebook ever - and "the world's thinnest laptop" period, according to HP - yesterday with the new Spectre 13.3.


The 10.4 mm thick HP Spectre 13.3 (Image credit: Engadget)

It's an astonishingly thin design, with a "CNC machined aluminum chassis as thin as an AAA-battery at just 10.4 mm", and yet it manages to avoid using Core M (or even mobile SoC) parts, opting instead for full Intel Core i5 and Core i7 mobile processors.


(Image credit: Anandtech)

Here's a list of the Spectre 13.3's features from HP:

  • A carbon fiber bottom creates a thin profile that is both durable and lightweight, keeping the total weight of the notebook at just 2.45 pounds
  • High gloss copper accents reflect a hand-polished, jewelry-like finish and an innovative hidden piston hinge creates the illusion of a hinge-less design to offer an unmatched premium look-and-feel
  • An innovative hybrid battery split into two thinner pieces delivers the same wattage as a single battery for up to 9 and half hours of battery life while enabling the world's thinnest laptop
  • Full HD IPS edge-to-edge display featuring Corning Gorilla delivers a superb viewing experience for editing photos, perfecting a presentation, or watching a movie.
  • 6th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and a lightning fast PCIe SSD with storage up to 512 GB with up to 8 GB of memory for maximum performance. Integration of Intel hyperbaric cooling system keeps the machine running cool even with powerful processors in a small package
  • Stereo speakers by Bang & Olufsen with HP Audio Boost technology, a combination of hardware and software to give customers the depth they want.
  • Three full function USB Type-C connectors, including two of which support Thunderbolt, to provide a fast, versatile I/O connection.


The hyperbaric cooling system (Image credit: Anandtech)

Note the mention of "Integration of Intel hyperbaric cooling system..." in the above list. We first saw hyperbaric cooling back in 2010 with products like the Dell Vostro V130, and the system is based on pulling cool air from outside of the enclosure, rather than simply pushing it out.


A look inside the Spectre 13.3 (Image credit: PC World)

With the use of regular laptop processors inside an enclosure as thin as this new Spectre 13.3 cooling will be crucial, though (as speculated by Anandtech in their post) actual clock speeds for the processors may have been lowered significantly due on thermal restrictions.

What exactly are the specifications for the Spectre 13.3? Here's what we know (via Anandtech):

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-6200U or Intel Core i7-6500U
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 520
  • RAM: 8 GB
  • Storage: 256 GB or 512 GB PCIe SSD
  • I/O: 3x USB 3.1 Type-C, 2x Thunderbolt, audio jack
  • Thickness: 10.4 mm (0.41 inches)
  • Weight: 1.10 kg (2.45 lbs)
  • Pricing (256 GB SSD): Core i5, $1170; Core i7, $1250

Exact specs on memory standard/speed, Wi-Fi, etc. were not available, and availability has not been announced.

Source: HP