Computex 2017: ASUS Details the ROG Zephyrus, Its First Max-Q Gaming Laptop

Subject: Mobile | May 30, 2017 - 08:18 AM |
Tagged: max-q design, max-q, gaming laptop, computex 2017, ASUS ROG, asus

First teased during NVIDIA's event late Monday, ASUS provided more information on its upcoming high performance gaming laptop, Zephyrus, during its ROG Computex keynote this morning.

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Based on NVIDIA's new "Max-Q" design specifications, the Zephyrus is a 15.6-inch laptop targeted at what ASUS is calling its "AAA" gaming audience. It packs up to a Kaby Lake i7-7700HQ CPU, NVIDIA GTX 1080 graphics, up to 24GB of DDR4 memory, and up to 1TB of NVMe flash storage into relatively thin 17.9mm chassis weighing just under 5 pounds.

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ASUS engineers were able to accommodate these high performance components with an "Active Aerodynamic System" (AAS) design, which exposes additional cooling area beneath the hinge when the laptop is open. This design approach slightly increases the thickness of the rear of the device while in use, but keeps it as thin as possible for easier mobility while closed. ASUS claims that the AAS design improves the overall airflow of the Zephyrus by 32 percent, allowing it to run cooler than competing gaming laptops equipped with the same, or even lower-end, components.

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This design also means that the Zephyrus can run quieter than many of its competitors, with ASUS claiming significant improvements in the "noise generated per Watt" among gaming laptops.

Beyond the pure hardware capabilities, the ROG Zephyrus includes a full RGB-backlit keyboard with support for the ROG Aura lighting platform and a right-aligned gaming trackpad that can double as a touch-sensitive numeric keypad. The device's 15.6-inch display has a resolution of just 1080p, but is clocked at 120Hz and supports G-Sync. It includes one USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 port, along with four USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) Type-A ports, HDMI 2.0, and a 3.5mm combo audio jack for additional connectivity.

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Finally, while the ROG Zephyrus looks more like an ultrabook than a gaming laptop, its on-the-go running time will be more in line with the latter rather than the former. While ASUS did not release specific battery life estimates, its thin and lightweight chassis means that the Zephyrus will ship with only a 4 cell, 50 watt-hour battery

ASUS has yet to announce specific pricing or availability, other than to promise that the ROG Zephyrus will hit retailers "soon."

We have information on both pricing and availability to share! The GX501VI model, which includes the GTX 1080 and a 512GB SSD, is priced at $2699 and will be available at the end of June. The GX501VS model, which has a GTX 1070 and a 256GB SSD, is going to be priced at $2299 with availability in July.

Source: ASUS ROG

Computex 2017: NVIDIA GeForce GTX Max-Q Design Notebooks are Thinner, Lighter

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 30, 2017 - 12:48 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, mobile, max-q design, max-q, GTX 1080, geforce

During CEO Jensen Huang’s keynote at Computex tonight, NVIDIA announced a new initiative called GeForce GTX with Max-Q Design, targeting the mobile gaming markets with a product that is lighter, thinner yet more powerful than previously available gaming notebooks.

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The idea behind this technology differentiation centers around gaming notebooks that have seen limited evolution over the last several years in form factor and design. The biggest stereotype of gaming notebooks today is that they must big, bulky and heavy to provide a competitive gaming experience when compared to desktop computers. NVIDIA is taking it upon itself to help drive innovation forward in this market, in some ways similar to how Intel created the Ultrabook.

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Using “typical” specifications from previous machines using a GeForce GTX 880M (admittedly a part that came out in early 2014), NVIDIA claims that Max-Q Designs will offer compelling gaming notebooks with half the weight, nearly a third of the thinness yet still see 3x the performance. Utilizing a GeForce GTX 1080 GP104 GPU, the team is focusing on four specific hardware data points to achieve this goal.

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First, NVIDIA is setting specifications of the GPUs in this design to run at their maximum efficiency point, allowing the notebook to get the best possible gaming performance from Pascal with the smallest amount of power draw. This is an obvious move and is likely something that has been occurring for a while, but further down the product stack. It’s also likely that NVIDIA is highly binning the GP104 parts to filter those that require the least amount of power to hit the performance target of Max-Q Designs.

Second, NVIDIA is depending on the use of GeForce Experience software to set in-game settings optimally for power consumption. Though details are light, this likely means running the game with frame rate limiting enabled, keeping gamers from running at refresh rates well above their screen’s refresh rate (static or G-Sync) which is an unnecessary power drain. It could also mean lower quality settings than we might normally associate with a GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card.

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Comparing a 3-year old notebook versus a Max-Q Design

The third and fourth points are heavily related: using the best possible cooling solutions and integrating the best available power regulators targeting efficiency. The former allows the GPU to be cooled quickly, and quietly (with a quoted sub-40 dbA goal), keeping the GTX 1080 at its peak efficiency curve. And putting the GPU in that state without inefficient power delivery hardware would be a waste, so NVIDIA is setting standards here too.

UPDATE: From the NVIDIA news release just posted on the company's website, we learned of a couple of new additions to Max-Q Design:

NVIDIA WhisperMode Technology
NVIDIA also introduced WhisperMode technology, which makes laptops run much quieter while gaming. WhisperMode intelligently paces the game's frame rate while simultaneously configuring the graphics settings for optimal power efficiency. This reduces the overall acoustic level for gaming laptops. Completely user adjustable and available for all Pascal GPU-based laptops, WhisperMode will be available soon through a GeForce Experience software update.

Availability
MaxQ-designed gaming laptops equipped with GeForce GTX 1080, 1070 and 1060 GPUs will be available starting June 27 from the world's leading laptop OEMs and system builders, including Acer, Aftershock, Alienware, ASUS, Clevo, Dream Machine, ECT, Gigabyte, Hasee, HP, LDLC, Lenovo, Machenike, Maingear, Mechrevo, MSI, Multicom, Origin PC, PC Specialist, Sager, Scan, Terrans Force, Tronic'5, and XoticPC. Features, pricing and availability may vary.

Jensen showed an upcoming ASUS Republic of Gamers notebook called Zephyrus that hit all of these targets – likely NVIDIA’s initial build partner. On it they demonstrated Project Cars 2, an impressive looking title for certain. No information was given on image quality settings, resolutions, frame rates, etc.

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The ASUS ROG Zephyrus Max-Q Design Gaming Notebook

This design standard is impressive, and though I assume many gamers and OEMs will worry about having an outside party setting requirements for upcoming designs, I err on the side this being a necessary step. If you remember notebooks before the Intel Ultrabook push, they were stagnant and uninspiring. Intel’s somewhat forceful move to make OEMs innovate and compete in a new way changed the ecosystem at a fundamental level. It is very possible that GeForce GTX with Max-Q Design will do the same thing for gaming notebooks.

An initiative like this continues NVIDIA’s seeming goal of creating itself as the “PC brand”, competing more with Xbox and PlayStation than with Radeon. Jensen claimed that more than 10 million GeForce gaming notebooks were sold in the last year, exceeding the sales of Xbox hardware in the same time frame. He also called out the ASUS prototype notebook as having compute capability 60% higher than that of the PS4 Pro. It’s clear that NVIDIA wants to be more than just the add-in card leader, more than just the leader in computer graphics. Owning the ecosystem vertical gives them more control and power to drive the direction of software and hardware.

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The ASUS ROG Zephyrus Max-Q Design Gaming Notebook

So, does the Max-Q Design technology change anything? Considering the Razer Blade B5 is already under 18mm thin, the argument could be made that the market was already going down this path, and NVIDIA is simply jumping in to get credit for the move. Though Razer is a great partner for NVIDIA, they are likely irked that NVIDIA is going to push all OEMs to steal some of the thunder from this type of design that Razer started and evangelized.

That political discussion aside, Max-Q Design will bring new, better gaming notebook options to the market from many OEMs, lowering the price of entry for these flagship designs. NVIDIA did not mention anything about cost requirements or segments around Max-Q, so I do expect the first wave of these to be on the premium end of the scale. Over time, as cost cutting measures come into place, and the necessity of thinner, lighter gaming notebooks is well understood, Max-Q Designs could find itself in a wide range of price segments.

Source: NVIDIA

Computex 2017: ASUS ZenBook Pro UX550 Packs i7 CPU, 1050Ti, and 15-inch 4K Screen Into a 4-Pound Package

Subject: Mobile | May 29, 2017 - 11:54 AM |
Tagged: zenbook pro, laptop, computex 2017, asus zenbook, asus

ASUS kicked off the day by unveiling its svelte new 13-inch convertible laptop, but didn't forget about users who need more power from their portable. Following the introduction of the new ZenBook Flip S, the company turned its attention to the higher-end ZenBook Pro line and announced the ZenBook Pro UX550, a 15.6-inch laptop packed with power that measures in at 18.9mm thick and 1.8kg (3.97 pounds).

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The latest ZenBook Pro is slated to ship with i7 (7700HQ) and i5 (7300HQ) processor options, a 4GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti, up to 16GB of DDR4 2400MHz memory, and up to 1TB of NVMe flash storage.

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As a 2017 product, the ZenBook Pro UX550 unsurprisingly includes two USB Type-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, but it also retains plenty of "legacy" connectivity options as well, including two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (5Gbps) Type-A ports, a full-sized HDMI port, a 3.5mm combo audio jack, and an integrated Micro SD Card reader.

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Other features include Full HD and 4K display choices with optional pen and touch support, a backlit keyboard, glass-covered trackpad with integrated fingerprint sensor and Windows Hello support, four 3-watt speakers with Harman Kardon surround-sound audio, and a 73 watt-hour battery capable of up to 14 hours of advertised battery life with fast-charging support.

ASUS has not yet announced a release date for the ZenBook Pro UX550, but it is expected to have a starting price of $1,299.

Source: ASUS

Computex 2017: ASUS ZenBook Flip S UX370, The World's Thinnest 13-inch 2-in-1 Featuring Windows 10 S

Subject: Mobile | May 29, 2017 - 03:38 AM |
Tagged: zenbook, Windows 10 S, UX370, computex 2017, asus zenbook, asus

ASUS kicked off its Computex 2017 schedule with the announcement early Monday of a number of new laptops. The company's headlining product is the new ZenBook Flip S UX370, the "world's thinnest" (as of right now, at least) 13-inch 2-in-1 convertible notebook. Measuring 10.9mm thin with a weight of 1.1kg (2.4 pounds), the ZenBook Flip S is thinner and lighter than competing 13-inch convertibles, while still packing up to an Intel Core i7-7500 processor, 1TB of NVMe flash storage, and 16GB of memory.

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As a convertible, the ZenBook Flip S UX370 display folds back onto the underside of the keyboard via "the world's most compact" ErgoLift 360-degree hinge. The display itself packs an unsurprising 3840-by-2160 UHD resolution, with ASUS instead choosing to turn heads with the device's bezel, or lack thereof. The device includes what ASUS is calling a "NanoEdge" display, which is saddled by just a 6.11mm side bezel for a class-leading 80 percent "screen-to-body ratio." The ZenBook Flip S also touts touch and pen support, although the company's presentation and press materials don't yet indicate if it will include the ASUS Pen in the box.

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The convertible offers two USB Type-C ports, with a 39 watt-hour battery and fast charging support (achieving a 60 percent charge in 49 minutes). Once fully charged, ASUS claims that users can expect up to 11.5 hours of battery life.

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As for operating system, the Flip S will ship in base configurations with the recently announced Windows 10 S, and it includes a built-in fingerprint sensor for compatibility with Windows Hello. This means that users will be limited to running Windows Store applications and the Microsoft Edge browser but, just like Microsoft's own Surface Laptop, ZenBook Flip S owners will have the option to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro post-purchase.

The ZenBook Flip S UX370 will start at $1,099 and is expected to launch in September.

Source: ASUS
Author:
Manufacturer: ARM

ARM Refreshes All the Things

This past April ARM invited us to visit Cambridge, England so they could discuss with us their plans for the next year.  Quite a bit has changed for the company since our last ARM Tech Day in 2016.  They were acquired by SoftBank, but continue to essentially operate as their own company.  They now have access to more funds, are less risk averse, and have a greater ability to expand in the ever growing mobile and IOT marketplaces.

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The ARM of today certainly is quite different than what we had known 10 years ago when we saw their technology used in the first iPhone.  The company back then had good technology, but a relatively small head count.  They kept pace with the industry, but were not nearly as aggressive as other chip companies in some areas.  Through the past 10 years they have grown not only in numbers, but in technologies that they have constantly expanded on.  The company became more PR savvy and communicated more effectively with the press and in the end their primary users.  Where once ARM would announce new products and not expect to see shipping products upwards of 3 years away, we are now seeing the company be much more aggressive with their designs and getting them out to their partners so that production ends up happening in months as compared to years.

Several days of meetings and presentations left us a bit overwhelmed by what ARM is bringing to market towards the end of 2017 and most likely beginning of 2018.  On the surface it appears that ARM has only done a refresh of the CPU and GPU products, but once we start looking at these products in the greater scheme and how they interact with DynamIQ we see that ARM has changed the mobile computing landscape dramatically.  This new computing concept allows greater performance, flexibility, and efficiency in designs.  Partners will have far more control over these licensed products to create more value and differentiation as compared to years past.

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We have previously covered DynamIQ at PCPer this past March.  ARM wanted to seed that concept before they jumped into more discussions on their latest CPUs and GPUs.  Previous Cortex products cannot be used with DynamIQ.  To leverage that technology we must have new CPU designs.  In this article we are covering the Cortex-A55 and Cortex-A75.  These two new CPUs on the surface look more like a refresh, but when we dig in we see that some massive changes have been wrought throughout.  ARM has taken the concepts of the previous A53 and A73 and expanded upon them fairly dramatically, not only to work with DynamIQ but also by removing significant bottlenecks that have impeded theoretical performance.

Continue reading our overview of the new family of ARM CPUs and GPU!

Shrout Research: Chromebook Platform Impacts Android App Performance

Subject: Mobile | May 23, 2017 - 12:25 PM |
Tagged: shrout research, play store, Intel, Chromebook, arm, Android

Please excuse the bit of self-promotion here. Oh, and disclaimer: Shrout Research and PC Perspective share management and ownership.

Based on testing done by Shrout Research and published in a paper this week, the introduction of Android applications on Chromebooks directly though the Play Store has added a new wrinkle into the platform selection decision. Android applications, unlike Chromebook native apps, have a heavy weight towards the Android phone and tablet ecosystem, with "defacto" optimization for the ARM-based processors and platforms that represent 98%+ of that market. As a result, there are some noticeable and noteworthy differences when running Android apps on Chromebooks powered by an ARM SoC and an Intel x86 SoC.

With that market dominance as common knowledge, all Android applications are developed targeting ARM hardware, for ARM processors. Compilers and performance profiling software has been built and perfected to improve the experience and efficiency of apps to run on ARMv7 (32-bit) and ARMv8 (64-bit) architectures. This brings to the consumer an improved overall experience, including better application compatibility and better performance.

Using a pair of Acer Chromebooks, the R11 based on the Intel Celeron N3060 and the R13 based on the MediaTek MT8173C, testing was done to compare the performance, loading times, and overall stability of various Android Play Store applications. A range of application categories were addressed including games, social, and productivity.

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Through 19 tested Android apps we found that the ARM-powered R13 Chromebook performed better than the Intel-powered R11 Chromebook in 9 of them. In 8 of the apps tested, both platforms performed equally well. In 2 of the test applications, the Intel-powered system performed better (Snapchat and Google Maps).

The paper also touches on power consumption, and between these two systems, the ARM-based MediaTek SoC was using 11.5% less power to accomplish the same tasks.

Our testing indicates the Acer R13, using the ARM-powered processor, uses 11.5% less power on average in our 150 minutes of use through our education simulation. This is a significant margin and would indicate that with two systems equally configured, one with the MediaTek ARM processor and another with the Intel Celeron processor, the ARM-powered platform would get 11.5% additional usage time before requiring a charge. Based on typical Chromebook battery life (11 hours), the ARM system would see an additional 75 minutes of usability.

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There is a lot more detail in the white paper on ShroutResearch.com, including a discussion about the impact that the addition of Android applications on Chromebooks might have for the market as whole:

...bringing a vast library of applications from the smart phone market to the Chromebook would create a combination of capabilities that would turn the computing spectrum sideways. This move alleviates the sustained notion that Chromebooks are connected-only devices and gives an instant collection of usable offline applications and tools to the market.

You can download the full white paper here.

Microsoft Announces New Surface Pro Featuring Kaby Lake and Optional LTE

Subject: Mobile | May 23, 2017 - 10:24 AM |
Tagged: Surface Pro, surface, microsoft

As part of its Shanghai Event this morning, Microsoft announced a long-overdue update to the Surface Pro. While the new device retains the design and form factor of its predecessor, the Surface Pro 4, it still packs a few new features that Surface users have been waiting for.

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First off, Microsoft has used this revision to officially drop the numbering scheme from the product lineup. Rather than the expected "Surface Pro 5" moniker, Microsoft is now calling the product simply "Surface Pro," and will presumably use release year to differentiate models going forward.

Internally, the new Surface Pro finally makes the jump to Kaby Lake, with processor options including the Core m3-7Y30 on the low-end, the Core i5-7300U for the mid-range model, and topping out with the Core i7-7660U. These CPUs offer Intel HD 615, 620, and Iris Plus 640 graphics, respectively. The move to Kaby Lake, coupled with Microsoft's battery design improvements, also brings a nice boost to battery life, with the new Surface Pro offering an advertised 13.5 hours of video playback (the only usage scenario that Microsoft has thus far revealed). While we're interested to see other battery-life tests, the new Surface Pro's running time bests its predecessor by an impressive 50 percent, as the Surface Pro 4 was rated for only 9 hours of video playback.

In terms of connectivity, the new Surface Pro offers all of the same ports and I/O as the Surface Pro 4, with one big exception: LTE. Although not available at launch, new Surface Pro models with built-in 4G LTE will be available "later this year." This isn't the first Surface device to feature built-in LTE -- Microsoft offered limited availability of LTE-enabled non-Pro Surface 3 models back in 2015 -- but this is the first time that the feature will be available for the Pro lineup.

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Other design and functionality changes include a redesigned kickstand that will tilt back 165 degrees for a "Studio Mode" experience (Surface Pro 4 only had 150 degrees of tilt), support for the Surface Dial directly on the Surface Pro's screen (it had previously been limited to desktop use), and a new optional "Signature Type Cover," with improved key travel, higher-resolution glass trackpad, and featuring the same Alcantara fabric found on Microsoft's recently-released Surface Laptop.

On the downside, this new Surface Pro doesn't offer any improvements or changes to its display, port selection, RAM and storage capacities, or cameras. Even more disappointingly, the Surface Pen is no longer included, requiring users interested in pen functionality to shell out an extra $60.

The new Surface Pro starts at $799 and is available for pre-order now. It is expected to ship mid-June. Check out the Microsoft Store for pricing and specs on all Surface Pro configurations.

Source: Microsoft
Author:
Subject: Systems, Mobile
Manufacturer: Apple

What have we here?

The latest iteration of the Apple MacBook Pro has been a polarizing topic to both Mac and PC enthusiasts. Replacing the aging Retina MacBook Pro introduced in 2012, the Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch with Touch Bar introduced late last year offered some radical design changes. After much debate (and a good Open Box deal), I decided to pick up one of these MacBooks to see if it could replace my 11" MacBook Air from 2013, which was certainly starting to show it's age.

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I'm sure that a lot of our readers, even if they aren't Mac users, are familiar with some of the major changes the Apple made with this new MacBook Pro. One of the biggest changes comes when you take a look at the available connectivity on the machine. Gone are the ports you might expect like USB type-A, HDMI, and Mini DisplayPort. These ports have been replaced with 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports, and a single 3.5mm headphone jack.

While it seems like USB-C (which is compatible with Thunderbolt 3) is eventually posed to take over the peripheral market, there are obvious issues with replacing all of the connectivity on a machine aimed at professionals with type-c connectors. Currently, type-c devices are few and are between, meaning you will have to rely on a series of dongles to connect the devices you already own. 

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I will say however, that it ultimately hasn't been that much of an issue for me so far in the limited time that I've owned this MacBook. In order to evaluate how bad the dongle issue was, I only purchased a single, simple adapter with my MacBook which provided me with a Type-A USB port and a pass-through Type-C port for charging.

Continue reading our look at using the MacBook Pro with Windows!

Google Daydream Standalone VR Headset Powered by Snapdragon 835

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | May 17, 2017 - 02:30 PM |
Tagged: snapdragon 835, snapdragon, qualcomm, google io 2017, google, daydream

During the Google I/O keynote, Google and Qualcomm announced a partnership to create a reference design for a standalone Daydream VR headset using Snapdragon 835 to enable the ecosystem of partners to have deliverable hardware in consumers’ hands by the end of 2017. The time line is aggressive, impressively so, thanks in large part to the previous work Qualcomm had done with the Snapdragon-based VR reference design we first saw in September 2016. At the time the Qualcomm platform was powered by the Snapdragon 820. Since then, Qualcomm has updated the design to integrate the Snapdragon 835 processor and platform, improving performance and efficiency along the way.

Google has now taken the reference platform and made some modifications to integrate Daydream support and will offer it to partners to show case what a standalone, untethered VR solution can do. Even though Google Daydream has been shipping in the form of slot-in phones with a “dummy” headset, integrating the whole package into a dedicate device offers several advantages.

First, I expected the free standalone units to have better performance than the phones used as a slot-in solution. With the ability to tune the device to higher thermal limits, Qualcomm and Google will be able to ramp up the clocks on the GPU and SoC to get optimal performance. And, because there is more room for a larger battery on the headset design, there should be an advantage in battery life along with the increase in performance.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

It is also likely that the device will have better thermal properties than those using high smartphones today. In other words, with more space, there should be more area for cooling and thus the unit shouldn’t be as warm on the consumers face.

I would assume as well that the standalone units will have improved hardware over the smartphone iterations. That means better gyros, cameras, sensors, etc. that could lead to improved capability for the hardware in this form. Better hardware, tighter and more focused integration and better software support should mean lower latency and better VR gaming across the board. Assuming everything is implemented as it should.

The only major change that Google has made to this reference platform is the move away from Qualcomm’s 6DOF technology (6 degrees of freedom, allowing you to move in real space and have all necessary tracking done on the headset itself) and to Google calls WorldSense. Based on the Google Project Tango technology, this is the one area I have questions about going forward. I have used three different Tango enabled devices thus far with long-term personal testing and can say that while the possibilities for it were astounding, the implementations had been…slow. For VR that 100% cannot be the case. I don’t yet know how different its integration is from what Qualcomm had done previously, but hopefully Google will leverage the work Qualcomm has already done with its platform.

Google is claiming that consumers will have hardware based on this reference design in 2017 but no pricing has been shared with me yet. I wouldn’t expect it to be inexpensive though – we are talking about all the hardware that goes into a flagship smartphone plus a little extra for the VR goodness. We’ll see how aggressive Google wants its partners to be and if it is willing to absorb any of the upfront costs with subsidy.

Let me know if this is the direction you hope to see VR move – away from tethered PC-based solutions and into the world of standalone units.

Source: Qualcomm

A dock for your Samsung S8? That would be DeX

Subject: Mobile | May 12, 2017 - 04:33 PM |
Tagged: Samsung, DeX, galaxy s8, galaxy s8+

Move over Surface, the new Galaxies are getting a docking station too.  The Dex is a charging port with talent, adding USB-A 2.0, ethernet, HDMI, and a USB-C charging port to your phone's capabilities.  Plug the dock into a monitor and you will be presented a limited Android system which supports various Samsung apps, as well as Microsoft Office apps, Gmail and YouTube; The Inquirer tested out a few others for compatibility in their review.  There is a virtual desktop app that will let you take over a desktop computer as well, according to the page on Samsung.  Gaming is not particularly good, unless you utilize the workaround The Inq discovered; pick up a USB C to HDMI adapter and bypass the DeX as opposed to the native screen mirroring which occurs with the DeX software.

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"In a nutshell, DeX is a dock for the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ that outputs a desktop experience from your phone to a big screen. It acts as little more than a portal, relying entirely on your phone's processing power to generate the experience, doing so via HDMI, making it compatible with most TVs and monitors."

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Source: The Inquirer