Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Samsung

Introduction and Specifications

The Galaxy S8 Plus is Samsung's first ‘big’ phone since the Note7 fiasco, and just looking at it the design and engineering process seems to have paid off. Simply put, the GS8/GS8+ might just be the most striking handheld devices ever made. The U.S. version sports the newest and fastest Qualcomm platform with the Snapdragon 835, and the international version of the handset uses Samsung’s Exynos 8895 Octa SoC. We have the former on hand, and it was this MSM8998-powered version of the 6.2-inch GS8+ that I spent some quality time with over the past two weeks.

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There is more to a phone than its looks, and even in that department the Galaxy S8+ raises questions about durability with that large, curved glass screen. With the front and back panels wrapping around as they do the phone has a very slim, elegant look that feels fantastic in hand. And while one drop could easily ruin your day with any smartphone, this design is particularly unforgiving - and screen replacement costs with these new S8 phones are particularly high due to the difficulty in repairing the screen, and need to replace the AMOLED display along with the laminated glass.

Forgetting the fragility for a moment and just embracing the case-free lifestyle I was so tempted to adopt, lest I change the best in-hand feel I've had from a handset (and I didn't want to hide its knockout design, either), I got down to actually objectively assessing the phone's performance. This is the first production phone we have had on hand with the new Snapdragon 835 platform, and we will be able to draw some definitive performance conclusions compared to SoCs in other shipping phones.

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Samsung Galaxy S8+ Specifications (US Version)
Display 6.2-inch 1440x2960 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (MSM8998)
CPU Cores 4x 2.45 GHz Kryo
4x 1.90 GHz Kryo
GPU Cores Adreno 540
RAM 4 / 6 GB LPDDR4 (6 GB with 128 GB storage option)
Storage 64 / 128 GB
Network Snapdragon X16 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 5.0; A2DP, aptX
USB 3.1 (Type-C)
NFC
Battery 3500 mAh Li-Ion
Dimensions 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1 mm, 173 g
OS Android 7.0

Continue reading our review of the Samsung Galaxy S8+ smartphone!

Qualcomm Partners with Bosch, OmniVision, and Ximmerse to Shore Up Mobile VR Sensors

Subject: Mobile | June 27, 2017 - 08:00 PM |
Tagged: xr, VR, qualcomm, google, daydream, AR

Qualcomm has put forward steady work on creating the vibrant hardware ecosystem for mobile VR to facilitate broad adoption of wireless, dedicated head mounted displays. Though the value of Samsung’s Gear VR and Google’s Daydream View cannot but overstated in moving the perception of consumer VR forward, the need to utilize your smart phone in a slot-in style design has its limitations. It consumes battery that you may require for other purposes, it limits the kinds of sensors that the VR system can utilize, and creates a sub-optimal form factor in order to allow for simple user installation.

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The Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 VR Reference Device

Qualcomm created the first standalone VR HMD reference design back in early 2016, powered by the Snapdragon 820 processor. Google partnered with Qualcomm at I/O to create the Daydream standalone VR headset reference design with the updated Snapdragon 835 Mobile Platform at its core, improving performance and graphical capability along the way. OEMs like Lenovo and HTC have already committed to Daydream standalone units, with Qualcomm at the heart of the hardware.

Qualcomm Technologies recently announced a HMD Accelerator Program (HAP) to help VR device manufacturers quickly develop premium standalone VR HMDs. At the core of this program is the standalone VR HMD reference design. It goes beyond a simple prototype device, offering a detailed reference design that allows manufacturers to apply their own customizations while utilizing our engineering, design, and experience in VR. The reference design is engineered to minimize software changes, hardware issues, and key component validation.

- Hugo Swart, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

As part of this venture, and to continue pushing the VR industry forward to more advanced capabilities like XR (extended reality, a merger of VR and AR), Qualcomm is announcing agreements with key component vendors aiming to tighten and strengthen the VR headset ecosystem.

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Hugo Swart, Senior Director, Product Management, Qualcomm Atheros, Inc.

Ximmerse has built a high-precision and drift-free controller for VR applications that offers low latency input and 3DoF (3 degrees of freedom) capability. This can “provide just about any interaction, such as pointing, selecting, grabbing, shooting, and much more. For precise 6 DoF positional tracking of your head, tight integration is required between the sensor fusion processing (Snapdragon) and the data from both the camera and inertial sensors.”

Bosch Sensortec has the BMX055 absolute orientation sensor that performs the function that its name would imply: precisely locating the user in the real world and tracking movement via accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer.

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Finally, OmniVision integrates the OV9282 which is a 1MP high speed shutter image sensor for feature tracking.

These technologies, paired with the work Qualcomm has already done for the Snapdragon 835 VR Development Kit, including on the software side, is an important step to the growth of this segment of the market. I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t believe standalone, wireless headsets are the eventual future of VR and AR and the momentum created by Qualcomm, Google, and others continues its steady pace of development.

Source: Qualcomm

Imagination Technologies Pursues Acquisition Talks

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 23, 2017 - 10:45 PM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, imagination, apple, gpu

According to a press release from Imagination Technologies, the group has been approached by multiple entities who are interested in acquiring them. None of these potential buyers have been mentioned by name, however. The press release also makes it clear that the group is only announcing that discussions have started, and that other interested parties can contact their financial adviser, Rothschild, to join in.

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It’s entirely possible that nothing could come from these discussions, but Imagination Technologies clearly wants as many options to choose from as possible.

This announcement is clearly related to the recent news that Apple plans to stop licensing technology from them, which made up about half of the whole company’s revenue at the time. The press release states that they are still in dispute with Apple with a dedicated, highly visible, single-line paragraph. As far as I know, Apple hasn’t yet provided proof that they are legally clear of Imagination Technology’s licenses, and the press release claims that they still dispute Apple’s claims.

Hopefully we’ll hear more concrete details in the near future.

Huawei grows its product line, meet the MateBook series

Subject: Mobile | June 12, 2017 - 01:16 PM |
Tagged: Huawei, matebook, MateBook X, MateBook D, fanless

Huawei mobile phones are growing in popularity in North America, with products available on Amazon and brick and mortar stores as well.  They have now expanded their product lineup to include 13" laptops, the MateBook X and the MateBook D.  These laptops are fanless, thanks to their all metal design and the incorporation of Huawei's Space Cooling technology which are microencapsulated phase change materials built into the body of the laptop.  Inside you will find a seventh generation i5 or i7 variant, either 4GB or 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM and a 256GB or 512GB SSD.  The Inquirer were impressed with almost every aspect of this ultramobile, from performance to the nine hours of battery life; read all about it here.

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"LAPTOPS? REALLY? Is there anything Huawei isn't producing these days? We should have known this day would come when Huawei announced its first Windows 10 tablet, the original MateBook. Now, over a year later, the Chinese behemoth has unveiled its successor along with two, very un-tablety laptops: the MateBook X and the MateBook D."

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Source: The Inquirer
Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Dell

Overview

Editor’s Note: After our review of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1, Dell contacted us about our performance results. They found our numbers were significantly lower than their own internal benchmarks. They offered to send us a replacement notebook to test, and we have done so. After spending some time with the new unit we have seen much higher results, more in line with Dell’s performance claims. We haven’t been able to find any differences between our initial sample and the new notebook, and our old sample has been sent back to Dell for further analysis. Due to these changes, the performance results and conclusion of this review have been edited to reflect the higher performance results.

It's difficult to believe that it's only been a little over 2 years since we got our hands on the revised Dell XPS 13. Placing an emphasis on minimalistic design, large displays in small chassis, and high-quality construction, the Dell XPS 13 seems to have influenced the "thin and light" market in some noticeable ways.

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Aiming their sights at a slightly different corner of the market, this year Dell unveiled the XPS 13 2-in-1, a convertible tablet with a 360-degree hinge. However, instead of just putting a new hinge on the existing XPS 13, Dell has designed the all-new XPS 13 2-in-1 from the ground up to be even more "thin and light" than it's older sibling, which has meant some substantial design changes. 

Since we are a PC hardware-focused site, let's take a look under the hood to get an idea of what exactly we are talking about with the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1
MSRP $999 $1199 $1299 $1399
Screen 13.3” FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge touch display
CPU Core i5-7Y54 Core i7-7Y75
GPU Intel HD Graphics 615
RAM 4GB 8GB 16GB
Storage 128GB SATA 256GB PCIe
Network Intel 8265 802.11ac MIMO (2.4 GHz, 5.0 GHz)
Bluetooth 4.2
Display Output

1 x Thunderbolt 3
1 x USB 3.1 Type-C (DisplayPort)

Connectivity USB 3.0 Type-C
3.5mm headphone
USB 3.0 x 2 (MateDock)
Audio Dual Array Digital Microphone
Stereo Speakers (1W x 2)
Weight 2.7 lbs ( 1.24 kg)
Dimensions 11.98-in x 7.81-in x 0.32-0.54-in
(304mm x 199mm x 8 -13.7 mm)
Battery 46 WHr
Operating System Windows 10 Home / Pro (+$50)

One of the more striking design decisions from a hardware perspective is the decision to go with the low power Core i5-7Y54 processor, or as you may be familar with from it's older naming scheme, Core M. In the Kaby Lake generation, Intel has decided to drop the Core M branding (though oddly Core m3 still exists) and integrate these lower power parts into the regular Core branding scheme.

Click here to continue reading our review of the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Google

Introduction and Design

In case you have not heard by now, Pixel is the re-imagining of the Nexus phone concept by Google; a fully stock version of the Android experience on custom, Google-authorized hardware - and with the promise of the latest OS updates as they are released. So how does the hardware stack up? We are late into the life of the Pixel by now, and this is more of a long-term review as I have had the smaller version of the phone on hand for some weeks now. As a result I can offer my candid view of the less-covered of the two Pixel handsets (most reviews center around the Pixel XL), and its performance.

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There was always a certain cachet to owning a Nexus phone, and you could rest assured that you would be running the latest version of Android before anyone on operator-controlled hardware. The Nexus phones were sold primarily by Google, unlocked, with operator/retail availability at times during their run. Things took a turn when Google opted to offer a carrier-branded version of the Nexus 6 back in November of 2014, along with their usual unlocked Google Play store offering. But this departure was not just an issue of branding, as the price jumped to a full $649; the off-contract cost of premium handsets such as Apple’s iPhone. How could Google hope to compete in a space dominated by Apple and Samsung phones purchased by and large with operator subsidies and installment plans? They did not compete, of course, and the Nexus 6 flopped.

Pixel, coming after the Huawei-manufactured Nexus 6p and LG-manufactured Nexus 5X, drops the “Nexus” branding while continuing the tradition of a reference Android experience - and the more recent tradition of premium pricing. As we have seen in the months since its release, the Pixel did not put much of a dent into the Apple/Samsung dominated handset market. But even during the budget-friendly Nexus era, which offered a compelling mix of day-one Android OS update availability and inexpensive, unlocked hardware (think Nexus 4 at $299 and Nexus 5 at $349), Google's own phones were never mainstream. Still, in keeping with iPhone and Galaxy flagships $649 nets you a Pixel, which also launched through Verizon in an exclusive operator deal. Of course a larger version of the Pixel exists, and I would be remiss if I did not mention the Pixel XL. Unfortunately I would also be remiss if I didn't mention that stock for the XL has been quite low with availability constantly in question.

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The Pixel is hard to distinguish from an iPhone 7 from a distance (other than the home button)

Google Pixel Specifications
Display 5.0-inch 1080x1920 AMOLED
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (MSM8996)
CPU Cores 2x 2.15 GHz Kryo
2x 1.60 GHz Kryo
GPU Cores Adreno 530
RAM 4GB LPDDR4
Storage 32 / 128 GB
Network Snapdragon X12 LTE
Connectivity 802.11ac Wi-Fi
2x2 MU-MIMO
Bluetooth 4.2
USB 3.0
NFC
Dimensions 143.8 x 69.5 x 8.5 mm, 143 g
OS Android 7.1

Continue reading our review of the Google Pixel smartphone!

WWDC 2017: Apple Updates MacBook line-up with Kaby Lake, Improved Graphics

Subject: Mobile | June 5, 2017 - 03:58 PM |
Tagged: wwdc, radeon pro 560, radeon pro 550, radeon pro, macbook pro, MacBook Air, macbook, kaby lake, iris plus6540, iris plus 650, i7-7700hq, i5-7360U, i5-7267u, apple

Alongside other updates, Apple at its World Wide Developers Conference this morning announced some modest updates to the MacBook line of notebooks.

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Starting with the MacBook Pro, we see an across the board upgrade to Kaby Lake processors. As we saw on the desktop side with Kaby Lake, there aren't radical differences with these new processor,  however we do see a 200MHz bump across the line on clock speeds. Essentially these are the same relative chips in Intel's Kaby Lake processor lineup as Apple used in the Skylake generation.

  MacBook Pro 13" with Function Keys MacBook Pro 13" with Touch Bar MacBook Pro 15" with Touch Bar
MSRP $1,299+ $1,799+ $2,399+
Screen 13.3" 2560x1600 with DCI-P3 Color Gamut, 500-nits 13.3" 2560x1600 with DCI-P3 Color Gamut, 500-nits 15.4" 2880x1800 with DCI-P3 Color Gamut, 500-nits
CPU Core i5-7360U (2.3GHz up to 3.6GHz) Core i5-7267U (3.1GHz up to 3.5GHz) Core i7-7700HQ (2.8GHz up to 3.8GHz)
GPU Intel Iris Plus 640 Intel Iris Plus 650

AMD Radeon Pro 555 (2GB)

AMD Radeon Pro 560 (4GB)

RAM 8 or 16 GB DDR3-1866 (non-upgradeable) 8 or 16 GB DDR3-2133 (non-upgradeable) 16 GB DDR3-2133 (non-upgradeable)
Storage 128, 256, 512, or 1TB NVMe SSD (non-upgradable) 256, 512, or 1TB NVMe SSD (non-upgradable) 256GB, 512GB, 1TB, or 2TB NVMe SSD (non-upgradable)
Connectivity 2 x Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack 4 x Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack 4 x Thunderbolt 3, headphone jack

Disappointingly, we do not see the rumored expandability to 32GB of RAM that many power users have been asking for.

Additionally, graphics are generationally upgraded to Intel's Iris Plus 640 and 650 on the 13" models with and without the touch bar respectively.

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The 15" MacBook Pro models see refreshed Polaris GPUs in the form of the Radeon Pro 555 and 560. It's worth nothing that the old entry level 15" MacBook Pro previously had the Radeon Pro 450 GPU, so the base configuration is now a more capable GPU even after you take away the expected improvements to the improved Polaris architecture seen in the RX 580.

In addition, the MacBook saw an upgrade to Kaby Lake processors. Apple also claimed that the onboard SSDs in this machine have seen a speed bump, but provided no real data on such claims.

Finally, the stalwart MacBook Air sees a processor speed bump. We aren't sure exactly what processor is in the new Air, but it seems to only have a 100MHz speed increase. Interestingly enough it still retains HD graphics 6000branding, which would lead us to believe this is still a Broadwell -based mobile processor.

These updated models are now available from Apple.

Source: Apple

Imagination PowerVR Ray Tracing with UE4 & Vulkan Demo

Subject: Graphics Cards, Mobile | June 2, 2017 - 02:23 AM |
Tagged: Imagination Technologies, PowerVR, ray tracing, ue4, vulkan

Imagination Technologies has published another video that demonstrates ray tracing with their PowerVR Wizard GPU. The test system, today, is a development card that is running on Ubuntu, and powering Unreal Engine 4. Specifically, it is using UE4’s Vulkan renderer.

The demo highlights two major advantages of ray traced images. The first is that, rather than applying a baked cubemap with screen-space reflections to simulate metallic objects, this demo calculates reflections with secondary rays. From there, it’s just a matter of hooking up the gathered information into the parameters that the shader requires and doing the calculations.

The second advantage is that it can do arbitrary lens effects, like distortion and equirectangular, 360 projections. Rasterization, which projects 3D world coordinates into 2D coordinates on a screen, assumes that edges are still straight, and that causes problems as FoV gets very large, especially full circle. Imagination Technologies acknowledges that workarounds exist, like breaking up the render into six faces of a cube, but the best approximation is casting a ray per pixel and seeing what it hits.

The demo was originally for GDC 2017, back in February, but the videos have just been released.

Feel the QWERY typin' and BlackBerry shakin' ...

Subject: Mobile | June 1, 2017 - 03:34 PM |
Tagged: blackberry, keyone

Believe it or not the company formerly known as RIM is indeed stayin' alive.  The KeyOne is a new BlackBerry phone which sports the trademark physical QWERTY keyboard at the bottom, built by TCL Corporation with whom BlackBerry negotiated a deal with back in 2016.  The keyboard reduces the screen size to 4.5" with a 3:2 aspect ratio, in total the phone measures 149x73x9.4mm and 180g. The phone is powered by a 2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 Octa-Core chipset, with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage.  The Inquirer had a chance to review the phone recently which you can check out if you are so inclined.

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"Of course, this is no BlackBerry as you used to know it, coming instead from a deal with TCL Corporation to build the phones. With a £499 retail price in the UK, are the few remaining loyal BlackBerry fans now put off by the new direction, and is the novelty of a keyboard in a touchscreen world enough to keep the brand ticking over?"

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Source: The Inquirer

Computex: AORUS Introduces The Most Powerful 15" Gaming Laptop To Date

Subject: Mobile, Shows and Expos | May 31, 2017 - 04:23 PM |
Tagged: aorus, AORUS X5 MD, gaming laptop

The GTX 1080 doesn't seem like a mobile card but there are more than a few laptops which have one inside them, including the newly announced AORUS X5 MD.  In addition to the expected GPU is an overclocked i7-7820HK processor, thought the exact CPU will depend on the model chosen.

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The screen quoted in the PR is a 15.6" 3840x2160 IPS GSYNC panel which has been calibrated with their X-Rite Pantone tool; this is suggested as optional but if you plan on spending the money for a gaming laptop of this calibre it is essentially mandatory.  Audio is provided by the ESS Sabre Audio ES9018 DAC with a DNR of up to 135dB. 

X5-v7_P008-2-gaming-color KB-blue TP.jpg

Outputs include HDMI 2.0 and mDP 1.3 though it is the Thunderbolt 3 port which catches the eye, allowing you to power a 4k monitor with this laptop when you are at home.  The casing is a mere 22.9mm tall, a bit thicker than your average deck of cards.  The keyboard is full of RGBs for those that prefer visual aids, while phonophobes will like the fact the cooling fans are adjustable to 10 different speeds.   Check out the full PR below the specs.

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AORUS, leader in high-end gaming laptops, is proud to announce a new version of its 15.6” X5. Pushing the boundaries even further, AORUS has extended the X5 series with the X5 MD, which incorporates the state of the art NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GDDR5X 8GB GPU.

Packed with plenty of new features, such as overclockable 7th Generation Intel Core i7 processor, Thunderbolt 3, ESS SABRE 32-bit Hi-Fi audio DAC specially-designed cooling vents, the X5 MD also utilizes the new Max-Q design, NVIDIA’s innovative approach to design the world’s thinnest, fastest, and quietest gaming laptops. Max-Q, an integral part of NASA’s mission to launch man into space, is defined as the point at which the aerodynamic stress on a rocket in atmospheric flight is maximized. Thus, the design of the rocket is precision-engineered around Max-Q. NVIDIA has applied a similar philosophy to designing gaming laptops, enabling AORUS to build laptops that are thinner with more GPU performance of previous generation products.

“The NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1070 was already fast, then the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 designed with Max-Q came along to satisfy gamers’ demand for even more performance,” commented Patrick Lai, Product Marketing at AORUS. “The X5 MD with GTX 1080 is an absolute beast. Gamers will love it!”

Step Up the Gaming Performance
The unmatched performance is what makes the X5 MD the most powerful 15” gaming laptop. This is the first Max-Q designed laptop from AORUS and is equipped with the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 GPU. Furthermore, AORUS has paired the powerful GPU with the latest overclockable Intel Core i7-7820HK CPUs running at up to an 15% increase when compared to the 7700HQ, the X5 MD has outperformed any 15” laptops. All this power is fitted within the 22.9mm thin chassis through extensive engineering, allowing the X5 MD to provide the best gaming experience.

ESS Sabre Audio DAC – A 32-bit, 8-channel Hi-Fi Sound Experience
Few things are as important to gaming and movies as high-quality, crystal clear sound. Striving to offer the finest sound possible, AORUS has utilized the top of the line ES9018 DAC from ESS, built on its 32-bit Hyperstream architecture. Capable of output to 8 channels, it also boasts a Digital Noise Ratio of up to 135dB and a Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise (THD+N) figure of -120dB.

Thunderbolt 3, mDP 1.3, Multi-Surround Displays
AORUS’ commitment to versatility is evident in the utilization of the Thunderbolt 3 connector in the X5 MD Thunderbolt 3 truly is the USB Type-C connector that does it all – connect to external graphics cards, connect external 4K display, or even charge your external devices with the 3A/5V output. Added with the upgraded mini DP 1.3 port and the existing HDMI 2.0, Multitasking and surround gaming are made possible.

X-Rite Pantone Calibrated Screen Panels
Further emphasizing the versatility of the AORUS X5 MD laptop is the introduction of fully calibrated screen panels, courtesy of revered color system player X-Rite Pantone. With each X5 MD laptop, you can rest assured that your system’s color reproduction will be second to none, whether you’re enjoying it professionally or casually.

 

Source: Aorus