The Yoga Book gets a squirt from the electronic octopus

Subject: Mobile | November 8, 2018 - 02:44 PM |
Tagged: Lenovo, yoga book 2018, e ink

Lenovo chose to use more traditional hardware for the keyboard on the new Yoga Book, E Ink instead of their previous Halo design.  This update means that screen will accept touch and pen input without needing extra steps, making it much easier to draw directly on the screen after a second or two for it to refresh to the new interface.  The lack of physical keys may be a drawback for some, Ars Technica had some issues when trying to compose lengthy texts though those used to touchscreens may never notice.  Sadly Lenovo has not included the ability to read anything but PDFs on the E Ink screen, hopefully that will change soon.

Check out the review in full here.

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"Lenovo's quirky Yoga Book is back with some significant updates for 2018. The original Yoga Book was a unique hybrid of a tablet sporting a "halo" keyboard panel with no actual keys and a real paper drawing pad. Part netbook and part convertible, this year's edition remains quirky but seems more practical and less cumbersome than the original."

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Source: Ars Technica

OnePlus 6T; cheap, fast and well designed?

Subject: Mobile | November 1, 2018 - 03:41 PM |
Tagged: oneplus 6t, oneplus

The new OnePlus 6T comes with an attractive pricetag, the model with 8GB RAM and 128GB storage can be yours for $579 or double the storage to 256GB for $629.  The main processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 with Adreno 630, behind a 6.41", 2340×1080 AMOLED screen.  That screen also has a built in fingerprint reader, the first of it's type for sale on the American market. The 6T is not without a few flaws but overall Ars Technica found the phone to not only be less expensive than other Android devices but also a better product overall.

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"There's a new design with a teardrop camera notch on the front, a bigger display, a new baseline of 128GB of storage, and a bigger 3700mAh battery. Most interestingly, there's now an in-display optical fingerprint reader, which makes the 6T the first US-bound smartphone with this new fingerprint tech."

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Source: Ars Technica

ZTE Axon 7 Oreo Update... But Probably Don't Install It.

Subject: Mobile | October 17, 2018 - 05:17 PM |
Tagged: zte, Oreo, nougat, Android

The ZTE Axon 7 had a troubled news cycle over the last year or so. While the company was working on updates, they were essentially slapped out of existence by the US Department of Commerce for business with embargoed nations. This caused a lot of issues, to the say least, including the shutdown of their OTA update servers.

Yadda yadda yadda. ZTE has just released their Oreo update.

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This image is from the Nougat update. I'm not upgrading. It's still my primary phone.

But you probably don’t want to install it. This seems to be a release for the enthusiasts to make good on their original intentions, but it comes with a few major downsides. Before we get too much further, those downsides are:

  1. The update will completely wipe your phone.
  2. Daydream VR will completely stop working after the update.
  3. Might not be able to roll back to Nougat?
  4. You need to manually install it from the SD card. No simple OTA.

Of course, the fourth issue is a good thing. ZTE doesn’t want to erase important photos or remove a major feature unless the user explicitly accepts the side-effects. If they do, however, then the Oreo update also replaces the ZTE MiFavor with their newer Stock+ interface. (This switchover is apparently the specific element that will destroy local data.)

It’s up to you. ZTE gave the enthusiasts what they asked for – and it's nice that they did – but it’s probably a step back from Nougat if you still use it as your primary phone. Check it out on their forums.

Source: ZTE

ASUS ROG Strix performs Hero-ics

Subject: Mobile | October 15, 2018 - 02:48 PM |
Tagged: asus, ROG Strix, ASUS ROG Strix Hero II, GL504GM, gaming laptop

ASUS released the updated ROG Strix Hero II, which Kitguru grabbed for review.  The 15.6" laptop is powered by an Intel i7-8750H and GTX 1060, with 16GB DDR4-2666 and a 256GB PCIe SSD paired with a 1TB hybrid drive.  The screen is 1080p IPS, with a top refresh rate of 144Hz sadly lacking in either Freesync or GSYNC.  The gaming performance was as expected, but Kitguru did find a couple of things they wish ASUS would improve, which you can find out about in the full review.

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"That brings us to today where we finally have our hands on the Strix Hero II GL504GM. In this review we put it through its paces to find out if this is a must have laptop for gamers on the go and whether it is worth the £1800 asking price."

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Source: Kitguru

Dell announces Alienware m15 thin-and-light gaming notebook

Subject: Mobile | October 4, 2018 - 03:00 AM |
Tagged: nvidia, m15, Intel, gtx 1070 max-q, gtx 1060, dell, alienware

Dell today unveiled their latest gaming notebook, the Alienware m15. Weighing in at just under 5 lbs, the Alienware m15 is Dell's smallest 15-in gaming notebook ever.

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Buyers have the choice of either the quad-core Intel Core i5-8500H or the six-core i7-8750H. On the graphics side, the Alienware m15 will be offered with an "overclocked" GTX 1060, as well as with the GTX 1070 Max-Q.

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Display options on the Alienware m15 include two 1080p options, a 60Hz TN and a 144Hz IPS, as well as a 4K 60Hz IPS panel. Despite the availability for a high-refresh display, none of these displays seem to support G-SYNC variable refresh technology. 

Considering the relatively small size for a gaming notebook, the Alienware m15 still features an impressive array of ports including Ethernet, 3 USB 3.0 Type-A ports, a Thunderbolt 3 port, HDMI 2.0 as well as Mini DisplayPort 1.3.

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The Alienware m15 continues support for the Alienware Graphics Amplifier, which utilizes a proprietary PCI-Express cable to connect external graphics to a given notebook. While the m15 also features a Thunderbolt 3 port, it remains unclear if Thunderbolt 3 graphics will also be supported.

The Alienware m15 will become available on October 25th, at a starting price of $1,299.99.

Source: Dell

Walks like a laptop but folds in your hand, Y O G A

Subject: Mobile | September 28, 2018 - 03:25 PM |
Tagged: yoga, thinkpad x1, lenovo thinkpad x1 yoga, Lenovo

Lenovo's new ThinkPad X1 offers a unique choice, you can get a silver model if for some reason you wish to commit such a heretical action.  The connectivity options include two Thunderbolt 3 and two USB-C 3 ports, along with a mini-LAN port if you can't go wireless at some point, which should be quite infrequently as you can install a SIM card in these Yogas.  The IPS screen is HDR, though not OLED and The Register was quite taken with it.  Check out their full review as well as the rather important note at the very end right here.

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"The Yoga form factor has been one of Lenovo’s biggest successes, and in 2013 the company slapped a business suit on it and brought the it into the Thinkpad fold. Three years later it added the X1 branding, and a premium OLED display."

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Source: The Inquirer

Facebook announces Oculus Quest All-in-One VR System

Subject: Mobile | September 26, 2018 - 01:37 PM |
Tagged: VR, rift, oculus quest, oculus go, Oculus, htc vive, facebook, 6 dof

Today, at their Oculus Connect 5 developer conference, Facebook announced the Oculus Quest standalone VR headset.

 

Oculus Quest (previously codenamed Santa Cruz) is similar to the Oculus Go launched last year in that it's an entirely self-contained solution, with no need for an external device like a PC or phone. 

Oculus Quest builds on what the Go offers in several significant ways. Quest provides 6 Degree of Freedom (DoF) movement and room scale tracking, compared to the 3-DoF system on the Go. This means that you will now be able to walk around a room, instead of just moving your head. For reference, both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive (via external trackers), and the Lenovo Mirage Google Daydream headset offer 6-DoF movement functionality.

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Additionally, Oculus Quest will ship with a full set of touch controllers, similar to the Oculus Rift, where Go only ships with a single controller that is more akin to a remote than a full game controller.

Compared to the Oculus Go's 1280 x 1440 per eye, the Oculus Quest also offers a much higher resolution of 1600x1440 resolution per eye.

quest-5.png

Oculus Quest will sit alongside the Oculus Rift and Oculus Go, offering VR experiences at several different price points. Facebook has said the addition of this third device completes their roadmap, and that app compatibility will be retained for future products in each of these segmentations (e.g., Oculus Go apps will run on Oculus Go 2).

Facebook has said the Oculus Quest will offer "Rift-like" experiences, touting Quest versions of Robo Recall, The Climb, and Moss. However, we aren't exactly sure what hardware is powering the Oculus Quest to accomplish this. However, due to the form factor, we expect it to be similar to the Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered Oculus Go, especially given the limited 64GB on-board storage.

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Oculus Quest is set to ship in Spring 2019, for a price of $399 (including the touch controllers). 

Stay tuned for more details from Oculus Connect 5!

Source: Oculus

Apple Announces iPhone XS, XS Max, and XR Smartphones with 7nm A12 Bionic Processor

Subject: Mobile | September 12, 2018 - 04:24 PM |
Tagged: SoC, smartphone, mobile, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XS, iPhone XR, iphone, ios, apple, A12 Bionic, 7nm

Apple’s event today included expected (and previously leaked) iPhone announcements for the faster “S” variant of the iPhone X, as well as a new, larger iPhone XS Max, and finally the new, lower-cost iPhone XR. All three phones include Apple’s latest mobile processor, the A12 Bionic, as well as new cameras and other improvements.

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The design is unchanged, but the 6.5-inch form-factor is new (image via Apple)

Beginning with the primary announcement, the new 5.8-inch and 6.5-inch iPhone XS and XS Max phones both feature Super Retina OLED displays which Apple says now offer wider dynamic range, and the glass protecting them is “the most durable glass ever” in a smartphone. The new XS Max offers the same 458 ppi density as the iPhone XS with its 2688x1242 resolution (the iPhone XS has the same 2436x1125 resolution as the iPhone X), and both phones are now IP68 water and dust resistant and dual-SIM capable (using eSIM).

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Apple says the A12 Bionic chip will be the first to market at 7nm (Hauwei's 7nm Kirin 980 was previously announced but not shipping until mid-October), and the move to this smaller process should allow for lower power consumption and increased performance.

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The A12 Bionic has a 6-core CPU design as we saw with the A11, and uses the same Apple-designed Fusion architecture. Apple says its two performance cores are “up to 15% faster and 40% lower power”, and the four efficiency cores offer “up to 50% lower power” with no stated increase in performance.  Other than stating that it is a proprietary design little was revealed about the GPU other than it is now a 4-core design, which Apple says is “50% faster” than before.

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The camera system on the new phones offers a new “advanced bokeh” feature which allows for f-stop adjustment after the photo has been taken, and during the presentation this feature appears to work in a very realistic way comparable to dedicated lenses with a DSLR. Other features include improved speakers, stereo audio recording with video, and "Gigabit-class" LTE.

iPhone_XR.PNG

The iPhone XR is an LCD variant with lower cost (image via Apple)

The “one more thing” at the even was a new lower-cost iPhone based on the iPhone X design, but with an LCD display that Apple is calling “Liquid Retina”. This 6.1-inch device has a display resolution of 1792x828 (326 ppi), uses the new A12 chip, and while it is a single-camera phone like the iPhone 8 it uses the latest wide-angle camera from its “S” model siblings.

XR_Screen.png

The display also features “120 Hz touch-sensing” - which may be independent of display refresh, but that is unknown at this point - a wide color gamut, and is a True Tone display like the iPhone X. The phone drops 3D Touch, using instead what appears to be a long-press detection with haptic feedback. The phone does not offer the "Gigabit-class LTE" of the XS/XS Max, is IP67 rather than IP68 water and dust resistant, but does retain the new “most durable glass” from the "S" models.

iPhone_Lineup.PNG

Pricing for the new lineup is as follows:

  • iPhone XS 64GB - $999
  • iPhone XS 256GB - $1149
  • iPhone XS 512GB - $1349
  • iPhone XS Max 64GB - $1099
  • iPhone XS Max 256GB - $1249
  • iPhone XS Max 512GB - $1449
  • iPhone XR 64GB - $749
  • iPhone XR 128GB - $799
  • iPhone XR 256GB - $899

The new iPhones XS and XS Max will be available next week, with a September 21 launch day (pre-ordering begins on Friday, September 14). The iPhone XR launches on October 26 (pre-order October 19).

Source: Apple

Huawei Kirin Cheating Extends to Geekbench, P20 Pro Tested

Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 9, 2018 - 04:50 PM |
Tagged: p20 pro, Kirin 970, Kirin, Huawei

This story first appeared on ShroutResearch.com.

Last week the gang at Anandtech posted a story discovering systematic cheating by Huawei in smartphone benchmarks. In its story, AT focused on 3DMark and GFXBench, looking at how the Chinese-based silicon and phone provider was artificially increasing benchmark scores to gain an advantage in its battles with other smartphone providers and SoC vendors like Qualcomm.

As a result of that testing, UL Benchmarks (who acquired Futuremark) delisted several Huawei smartphones from 3DMark, taking the artificial scores down from the leaderboards. This puts the existing device reviews in question while also pulling a cloud over the recently announced (and impressive sounding) Kirin 980 SoC meant to battle with the Snapdragon 845 and next-gen Qualcomm product. The Kirin 980 will be the first shipping processor to integrate high performance Arm Cortex-A76 cores, so the need to cheat on performance claims is questionable.

Just a day after this story broke, UL and Huawei released a joint statement that is, quite honestly, laughable.

"In the discussion, Huawei explained that its smartphones use an artificial intelligent resource scheduling mechanism. Because different scenarios have different resource needs, the latest Huawei handsets leverage innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence to optimize resource allocation in a way so that the hardware can demonstrate its capabilities to the fullest extent, while fulfilling user demands across all scenarios.

To somehow assert that any kind of AI processing is happening on Huawei devices that is responsible for the performance differences that Anandtech measured is at best naïve and at worst straight out lying. This criticism is aimed at both Huawei and UL Benchmarks – I would assume that a company with as much experience in performance evaluation would not succumb to this kind of messaging.

After that AT story was posted, I started talking with the team that builds Geekbench, one of the most widely used and respected benchmarks for processors on mobile devices and PCs. It provides a valuable resource of comparative performance and leaderboards. As it turns out, Huawei devices are exhibiting the same cheating behavior in this benchmark.

Below I have compiled results from Geekbench that were run by developer John Poole on a Huawei P20 Pro device powered by the Kirin 970 SoC. (Private app results, public app results.) To be clear: the public version is the application package as downloaded from the Google Play Store while the private version is a custom build he created to test against this behavior. It uses absolutely identical workloads and only renames the package and does basic string replacement in the application.

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gb-multi.png

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Clearly the Huawei P20 Pro is increasing performance on the public version of the Geekbench test and not on the private version, despite using identical workloads on both. In the single threaded tests, the total score is 6.5% lower with the largest outlier being in the memory performance sub-score, where the true result is 14.3% slower than the inaccurate public version result. Raw integer performance drops by 3.7% and floating-point performance falls by 5.6%.

The multi-threaded score differences are much more substantial. Floating point performance drops by 26% in the private version of Geekbench, taking a significant hit that would no doubt affect its placement in the leaderboards and reviews of flagship Android smartphones.

Overall, the performance of the Huawei P20 Pro is 6.5% slower in single threaded testing and 16.7% slower in multi-threaded testing when the artificial score inflation in place within the Huawei customized OS is removed. Despite claims to the contrary, and that somehow an AI system is being used to recognize specific user scenarios and improve performance, this is another data point to prove that Huawei was hoping to pull one over on the media and consumers with invalid performance comparisons.

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Some have asked me why this issue matters; if the hardware is clearly capable of performance like this, why should Huawei and HiSilicon not be able to present it that way? The higher performance results that 3DMark, GFXBench, and now Geekbench show are not indicative of the performance consumers get with their devices on real applications. The entire goal of benchmarks and reviews is to try to convey the experience a buyer would get for a smartphone, or anything else for that matter.

If Huawei wanted one of its devices to offer this level of performance in games and other applications, it could do so, but at the expense of other traits. Skin temperature, battery life, and device lifespan could all be impacted – something that would definitely affect the reviews and reception of a smartphone. Hence, the practice of cheating in an attempt to have the best of both.

The sad part about all of this is that Huawei’s flagship smartphones have been exceptional in nearly every way. Design, screen quality, camera integration, features; the Mate and P-series devices have been excellent representations of what an Android device can be. Unfortunately, for enthusiasts that follow the market, this situation will follow the company and cloud some of those positives.

Today’s data shows that the story of Huawei and benchmarks goes beyond just 3DMark and GFXBench. We will be watching this closely to see how Huawei responds and if any kinds of updates to existing hardware are distributed. And, as the release of Kirin 980 devices nears, you can be sure that testing and evaluation of these will get a more scrutinizing eye than ever.

Huawei Announces Kirin 980: Is the World's First 7nm SoC Passing Snapdragon?

Subject: Processors, Mobile | September 2, 2018 - 11:45 AM |
Tagged: SoC, octa-core, mobile, Mali-G76, Kirin, Huawei, HiSilicon, gpu, cpu, Cortex-A76, arm, 8-core

Huawei has introduced their subsidiary HiSilicon’s newest mobile processor in the Kirin 980, which, along with Huawei's claim of the world's first commercial 7nm SoC, is the first SoC to use Arm Cortex A76 CPU cores and Arm’s Mali G76 GPU.

KIRIN_980.PNG

Image credit: The Verge

Huawei is aiming squarely at Qualcomm with this announcement, claiming better performance than a Snapdragon 845 during the presentation. One of its primary differences to the current Snapdragon is the composition of the Kirin 980’s eight CPU cores, notable as the usual 'big.LITTLE' Arm CPU core configuration for an octa-core design gives way to a revised organization with three groups, as illustrated by AnandTech here:

K980.png

Image credit: AnandTech

Of the four Cortex A76 cores just two are clocked up to maximize performance with certain applications such as gaming (and, likely, benchmarks) at 2.60 GHz, and the other two are used more generally as more efficient performance cores at 1.92 GHz. The remaining four A55 cores operate at 1.80 GHz, and are used for lower-performance tasks. A full breakdown of the CPU core configuration as well as slides from the event are available at AnandTech.

Huawei claims that the improved CPU in the Kirin 980 results in "75 percent more powerful and 58 percent more efficient compared to their previous generation" (the Kirin 970). This claim translates into what Huawei claims to be 37% better performance and 32% greater efficiency than Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 845.

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Image credit: AnandTech

The GPU also gets a much-needed lift this year from Arm's latest GPU, the Mali-G76, which features "new, wider execution engines with double the number of lanes" and "provides dramatic uplifts in both performance and efficiency for complex graphics and Machine Learning (ML) workloads", according to Arm.

mali_g76.jpg

Image credit: AnandTech

Real-world testing with shipping handsets is needed to verify Huawei's performance claims, of course. In fact, the results shown by Huawei at the presentation carry a this disclaimer, sourced from today’s press release:

"The specifications of Kirin 980 does not represent the specifications of the phone using this chip. All data and benchmark results are based on internal testing. Results may vary in different environments."

The upcoming Mate 20 from Huawei will be powered by this new Kirin 980 - and could very well provide results consistent with the full potential of the new chip - and that is set for an official launch on October 16.

The full press release is available after the break.

Source: AnandTech