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Nov 1, 2011

The New Gmail Is Here, with a New Look, Streamlined Conversations, Better Search

Google is ready to unveil the redesigned Gmail. It's been working on it for months and the brand new design is finally ready to roll out. The changes go beyond skin deep, there's a revamped search box, a new conversation view and other improvements.

Google unveiled a preview of what the new Gmail could look like last summer, in order to get real-world feedback on some of the changes. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that if you were using the preview theme you'll get the new look before everyone else.

In fact, the notification about the new design will start popping up over the next few days.

The design is completely changed, of course, that's the first thing you'll notice, but it's in tune with the rest of Google, there shouldn't be anything too surprising here.

Streamlined conversation view
The more important changes are the functionality ones, for example, the new streamlined conversations. You'll now see a profile picture next to each email, so you'll know who it's from.

"Conversation view has been completely redesigned to help you read through your email threads. You’ll now see profiles pictures for your contacts, so it’s easier to keep track of who said what. We also stripped out as much as possible so you can focus on communicating with your friends and colleagues," Google explained.

Comfortable, Cozy and Compact display density options
You also get a few more customization options in the new Gmail, you can pick how compact or how spaced out the various elements will be, the same as with Google Docs.

HD themes
To supplement the new look, Gmail is also introducing several new themes that go with the new design and also come with better quality graphics. The older themes have been updated as well, so Gmail should look great on a high resolution display no matter what theme you use.

Better search
Google is also introducing an improved search. As soon as you click inside the search box, a number of filters and options will be available, reducing the number of steps needed to narrow down a search.

Smarter navigation and auto-resize
The new Gmail enables users to extend either their chat box or their labels section, depending on their needs. The layout also rearranges itself to whatever browser window size or display resolution you're using.

Unannounced Nokia Windows Phone at the Design Museum

Last week, Nokia unveiled to the world their first smartphones powered by Microsoft's Windows Phone operating system, namely the Nokia Lumia 800 and the Lumia 710, but it seems that these are not the only Mango handsets that the company has been already working on. 

At the Design Museum in Shad, Thames, in the UK, the vendor put on display another Windows Phone device, one that was not seen before.

No specific details on what this device is all about have emerged until now, but some suggest that it could be one of the upcoming Windows Phone handsets that Nokia has in store for us.

“Nokia Products that changed the world' is an exhibition currently on at the Design Museum in Shad, Thames. Let us know what our favourite Nokia is in the Time Machine and be in with a chance to win prizes,” Nokia notes on its Facebook page, where the photo to the left can be seen.

Some suggest that this device would be the same Nokia 900 smartphone that was rumored only days before Nokia went official with its first two Windows Phones last week, and which was said to be on its way to the market as the Nokia Ace.

However, the specifications list of the rumored Nokia 900 were strikingly resembling those of Nokia Lumia 800, and chances are that the rumor was actually about one and the same smartphone.

As for the handset that can be seen in the photo that Nokia put on its Facebook page, it does not seem to closely resemble the already made official handsets, nor the rumored Nokia 900, at least not when the outer design is involved.

Undoubtedly, Nokia will bring to the market some great new Windows Phones in the not-too-distant future, since the company already announced that it aims at launching many more new handsets powered by Microsoft's mobile OS, and chances are that slim, highly appealing phones as the one in the photo above will also be there.

Intel Sandy Bridge-E Launch Date and Time Revealed – Report

We have heard the November 14 launch date for Intel's Sandy Bridge-E processors mentioned in a couple of previous reports, but now a website has managed to find out not just the date, but also the time the NDA for these processors will be lifted.

In a report written by none other than Charlie Demerjian, SemiAccurate has revealed that the NDA for Intel's first LGA 2011 processors will be lifted on November 14 at 12:01am PST (Pacific Standard Time).

Although the accuracy of this source can be contested, this is not the first time we hear about the November 14 release date, since a series of previous reports have also suggested the same date for the launch of Sandy Bridge-E.

The initial release will include just the Core i7-3960X and 3930K processors as the third member of the family, the quad-core Core i7-3820 will apparently make its entrance into the market in February of 2012.

SemiAccurate doesn't reveal why Intel reached this decision, but just yesterday a report came out to suggest the same thing, while also claiming that availability of Sandy Bridge-E parts will be scarce with just “tens of thousands” of CPUs being shipped by Intel.

The reason for this decision is that current consumer Sandy Bridge-E CPUs use the C2 stepping, which is going to be replaced quite soon by a new C3 revision of the CPUs.

At this moment, we don't know what improvements will Intel introduce in the new C3 SKUs, but it seems like the chip maker is also working on the D stepping, that is said to resolve all the issues present in the first commercial iteration of the processors.

A release date for the D version of Sandy Bridge-E isn't available, but there aren't expected to arrive until much later next year.

AMD's Unreleased FX-8100 CPU Makes Appearance in HP Pavilion PCs

AMD introduced its first desktop processors based on the Bulldozer architecture on October 12, but by the end of this year the chip maker is expected to release a few other chips based on this architecture, including the FX-8100 which was just spotted in HP's Pavillion systems.

The new AMD processor is expected to be released later this quarter according to CPU World, and it include four Bulldozer modules for a total of eight computing cores.

These are coupled with a massive 8MB of L2 cache as well a with 8MB of Level 3 cache memory, while its base clock speed is set at 2.8GHz.

Like the rest of AMD's FX-Series processors, the FX-8100 also includes support for the Turbo Core technology that can automatically increase the the CPU frequency to 3.1GHz when all cores are in use or to 3.7GHz when four or fewer cores are loaded.

Support for the SSE4, AES-NI and AVX instruction sets is also featured, but the chip comes with a lower TDP that the rest of its eight-core Bulldozer siblings since it fits inside a 95W TDP.

On the HP Pavilion HPE h8z order page, the AMD FX-8100 is $80 (58 EUR) cheaper than the 8150 and the processor is also available in the Pavillion h8m desktop PC.

Outside of AMD's processor, the h8z also includes 8GB of RAM, a 1.5TB hard drive, a Blue-ray optical drive and Window 7 Home Premium, all for $849 (614.5 EUR).

The Pavilion HPE h8m with the same FX-8100 processor is $120 (87 EUR) less expensive than the h8z since it features just 6GB of system memory, a 1TB hard drive, and a SuperMulti DVD burner.

The initial AMD FX-Series processor lineup included the quad-core FX-4100, the six-core FX-6100 as well as the eight-core FX-8120 and FX-8150, but four additional chips are supposed to make their entrance by the end of this year.

Foxconn's Quantum Force X79 Motherboard Gets Pictured

With Intel's launch of the Sandy Bridge-E processors approaching, motherboard manufacturers are starting to showcase their upcoming LGA 2011 creations based on the Intel X79 chipset, the latest of which being Foxconn which has just presented the Quantum Force X79.

The Quantum line was created by the Taiwanese company to target the gaming/overclocker market, the same space that Asus and Gigabyte go for with their Republic of Gamers(ROG) and G1.Killer products.

Just like most other LGA 2011 motherboard that we have come to see until know, the Quantum Force X79 is equipped with four DIMM slots situated right above and bellow the CPU socket, and these are powered by a 2-phase VRM.

An additional 14-phase VRM is used by Foxconn to power the LGA 2011 socket.

In addition to the four DIMM sockets, Foxconn's creation also includes four PCI Express x16 slots, three of these being connected to the Sandy Bridge-E CPU, while the fourth is linked to the X79 PCH.

According to VR-Zone, the two red slots are PCI-Express 3.0 x16 capable, while the bottom one has only eight PCIe lanes routed to its, but the board is still compatible with 3-way SLI and CrossFireX setups.

The rest of the expansion features include eight internal SATA ports, four SATA 6Gbps and four SATA 3Gbps, while the rear panel houses two additional 3Gbps port driven by a JMicron-made controller.

These are accompanied by a pair of USB 3.0 ports, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a Clear CMOS switch and 8+2 channel HD audio with optical and coaxial SPDIF outputs.

Two additional USB 3.0 ports are available through an on-boar header and the Quantum Force X79 also includes a series of overclocking-oriented features such as a triple-BIOS (each one gets its own socketed EEPROM chip), on-board OC tuning switches, on-board Power and Reset buttons and a BIOS POST display.

No information regarding pricing of availability was provided by Foxconn, but more details about the Quantum Force X79 should become available in the coming weeks.

Dell Starts Selling the XPS 14z Ultra-Thin Notebook

Just as it has promised a little less than a week ago, Dell has now started selling the XPS 14z ultra-thin notebook in the US with prices starting at $999 US, right now the laptop being available in three configurations.

Dell's XPS 14z is a new bread of laptops that were specially designed to feature a thin and light chassis as well as strong performance and is the company's second device to be introduced in this series after the XPS 15z.

Much like its predecessors, the XPS 14z was also built to feature an LG Shuriken display that comes with a extremely thin bezel in order to fit a 14-inch LCD panel in the same space as that required by a regular 13.3-inch display.

Is this that enabled Dell to make the XPS 14z so compact, but the company hasn't stopped here and also designed the aluminum chassis to measure no more than than 0.9 inches (about 22.8mm) in thickness.

Despite the thin and light look adopted by the XPS 14z, on the inside users have the option of choosing between some pretty high-end hardware, such as Intel's Core i5-2430M or Core i7-2640M processors.

These can be seconded by as much as 8GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GT 520M 1GB graphics card with support for the Optimus technology and a slot-loading DVD burner.

Storage is provided by 7200RPM hard drives with up to 750GB of storage space, or SSD with a maximum capacity of 256GB, while the 8-cell battery can provide up to six hours and 49 minutes of runtime.

While all these specs look more then good enough and most certainly make the XPS 14z one of the most impressive 14-inch notebooks out there, the biggest disappointment is the screen that has a resolution of just 1366x768 pixels.

Dell is expected to start selling the XPS 14z in Europe on November 15 and this will carry a starting price of 899 Euros, including VAT.

HP TouchPad Available for $150 (€109) at Best Buy with Every Notebook Purchase

Despite the less than warm reception from the public, there are still quite a lot of buyers interested in getting their hands on an HP TouchPad so the company has now joined forces with Best Buy to offer a new promotion to its clients.

Under the terms of this new promotion, users who purchase a HP or Compaq laptop, desktop or all-in-one computer from the US-based retailer can now opt to buy an HP TouchPad tablet for an additional $149 (€109).

This is a particularly sweet deal considering the initial MSRP of the TouchPad was set at an impressive $599.99 (€437).

For those of you that need a refresher, HP's tablet is equipped with a 9.7-inch XGA display, packs 32GB of storage, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity and is powered by a 1.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon processor.

All this hardware runs on the webOS operating system.

ECS Outs Intel H61 Motherboard with SATA 6Gbps and USB 3.0 Support

Lately, more and more hardware manufacturers have started to launch USB 3.0 and SATA 6Gbps compliant LGA 1155 motherboards based on the H61 chipset and the latest to do so is ECS, which has just introduced the H61H2-A2 Black Series board.

Since the H61 platform controller hub (PCH) doesn't come with support for USB 3.0 or SATA 6Gbps, the motherboard relies on third party controllers to deliver this functionality to its customers.

In the case of the H61H2-A2 Black Series, the two SATA 6Gbps ports present on the board are powered by an ASMedia ASM1061 chipset.

These are seconded by four SATA 3Gbps connectors driven by the Intel H61 PCH, which is also used for controlling the two PCI Express x1 as well as the two 32-bit PCI clots installed in ECS' latest creation.

In addition, the H61H2-A2 Black Series motherboard also features a full length PCI Express x16 slot for adding a discrete graphics card to the system.

A pair of DDR3 memory slots are also present and ECS states these can support up to 16GB of system memory when paired together with high-capacity 8GB DIMMs.

Moving to the board's I/O panel, we get all the basic ports and connectors that one would expect t osee in this type of motherboard, including DVI and VGA video outputs, four USB 2.0 and two USB 3.0 ports, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a pair of PS/2 ports and 5.1-channel audio thanks to the Realtek ALC662 HD audio codec.

An HDMI output is also provided, so users interested in building an HTPC system can go for the H61H2-A2 Black Series without any worries.

The H61 chipset is destined to be used in budget Sandy Bridge systems and should be a great choice for users who buy cheaper Pentium CPUs.

No information regarding pricing was provided by ECS, but the H61H2-A2 Black Series is expected to hit the streets in the coming weeks.

Sapphire Intros HD 6970 Graphics Card with Dual-BIOS and Dual-Fan Cooling

Sapphire has just updated its graphics card lineup to include a new model based on the Radeon HD 6970 design that comes with a custom designed cooler and PCB in order to deliver improved performance and overclocking headroom.

The new cooling assembly was developed in-house by Sapphire and sports two 90mm fans, which the maker states can move the same amount of air at 10% lower rotation speeds than conventional fans.

This helps Sapphire decrease the noise produced by the card while operating, and also enabled its creation to keep the Radeon HD 6970 running at temperatures 25% cooler than the standard model, even under load conditions.

In addition to the improved cooling system, the graphics card comes fitted with a Dual BIOS feature enabling users to choose between two performance settings, one running the card at stock and the other overclocked.

In the 'boost' setting the core voltage of the GPU is raised to 1.2V, the fan speed is set to a high performance profile and the Powertune adjustment for overclocking is raised by 50%.

This increases the maximum frequency limits available in AMD Overdrive or in Sapphire's own TriXX overclocking tool to a ceiling of 1500MHz for the GPU and 2000MHz for the 2GB of GDDR5 memory.

As far as video outputs are concerned, Sapphire's creation is equipped with two DVI, one HDMI and two mini DisplayPort connectors, and can support a VGA monitor with the dongle supplied. AMD Eyefinity is also supported.

Sadly, Sapphire hasn't provided us with any details regarding the availability or the price of this graphics card.

AMD's Radeon HD 6970 is based on the company's Cayman XT core and packs 1536 stream processors, 96 texture units, 32 ROP units and a 256-bit memory bus that is usually connected to 2GB of video buffer.

16,000 x 16,000 Resolutions Now Supported by AMD

We already spoke about the AMD Catalyst Display Driver 11.10, (we caught it even before the change log showed up), but there is one thing that should be mentioned in particular. 

That one thing isn't how the package incorporated the fixes of the Catalyst 11.10 V3 preview, nor is it the fact that the 11.9 CAP4 Catalyst Application Profiles should be installed alongside it. 

Not that these aren't highly relevant facts, of course, but there is little doubt that the maximum supported resolution of Radeon HD 6000 cards might floor some people in comparison. 

Though only six-display (5+1) Eyefinity setups will actually support it, it is worth mentioning that the maximum resolution is now 16,000 x 16,000 pixels. 

As a bonus, it is also possible to compensate for bezel thickness when the displays used are mismatched in that regard.

Download Nokia Suite 3.2.98 Beta

A new flavor of the popular Nokia Suite is now available for download for the owners of devices coming from the Finnish mobile phone maker. 

Released in beta only recently, the new Nokia Suite version 3.2.98 is meant to add a nice range of enhancements and fixes into the mix, so as to improve the experience users receive from it.

Moreover, the new release was meant to move the application further away from version 3.1, which was available under the Nokia Ovi brand.

Nokia changed the name of this application to Nokia Suite as soon as version 3.2 was released, and they are accelerating the release of beta flavors of the software, so as to make the final flavor available as soon as possible for all users.

The release notes for the new Nokia Suite 3.2.98 Beta include:

  • Several crash error corrections
  • Many other error corrections 
  • Localization error corrections
  • Improvements for phone software update wizard
  • Sync performance improvements (sync performance logging was disabled from Nokia Suite Beta builds)
  • Several graphics corrections
  • Maps error corrections
  • Several proxy related issues were corrected
  • Improvements in log gathering.

The new application release builds on the previously made available flavor, namely Nokia Suite 3.2.66, and packs the enhancements and features that were included with that release.

“Please update to Nokia Suite 3.2.98 by using Nokia Suite's own update mechanism (Tools > Software updates). You can also download it directly,” the development team explains.

Those who will tryout the new application flavor and give it a try are encouraged to provide feedback on the experience they receive from it, specifically in areas such as Maps downloading, Software updates, Backup & Restore, and using Nokia Suite behind proxy setup.

The new Nokia Suite 3.2.98 Beta is available for download, via link below.
Nokia Suite 3.2.98 Beta
Nokia Ovi Suite

iPhone 4S Battery Drain Reduced via Settings Tweak and Apple Considering to Kill the Mac Pro - Report

iPhone 4S Battery Drain Reduced via Settings Tweak

The battery drain issue plaguing iPhone 4S users may be related to a software bug that can be eliminated (temporarily) by tweaking some of the settings.

According to reports, the bug is tied to the time-zone functionality of the iOS. Switching it off reportedly improves battery life, but it is unclear whether or not this is the only issue that causes the battery train on Apple’s latest handset.

This is not the first time a major iOS update takes its toll on the battery life of iDevices. Both iOS 3 and iOS 4 have posed such troubles for many users.

Apple usually dispatches incremental updates to alleviate such problems. It has also been reported that the company’s engineers are working directly with affected customers to try and pinpoint the cause of the battery drain in order to implement a fix in the next software update.

Apple Considering to Kill the Mac Pro - Report

Apple is reportedly questioning whether or not to keep the Mac Pro line on board after learning that both consumer sales and enterprise adoption have dropped off considerably.

People familiar with the matter cited by AppleInsider say that the Mac Pro’s days are numbered. At least in its current form, according to the report, which resurrects an old rumor that Cupertino was developing a completely redesigned version of the powerful workstation.

That rumor, as avid readers will recall, said Apple was planning to introduce a Mac Pro model that would suit the server needs of the enterprise segment, and that it would be rack-mountable, designed to sit horizontally, as opposed to vertically.

Whether or not that model is still on the table, Apple is now said to consider skipping the latest Sandy Bridge CPUs for the Mac Pro line.

Thunderbolt connectivity may also be a factor in Apple’s decision to axe the only Mac that boasts internal PCI Express expansion slots.

With Apple deploying Thunderbolt across most of its notebook and desktop offerings, and since Thunderbolt provides the same signals as PCI Express slots over a high speed external interconnect, the Mac Pro becomes even less relevant.

The consensus is that Thunderbolt opens the door for external storage, external displays and other peripherals, as well as external housings that offer conventional PCI Express slots for expansion cards.

The move to phase out the Mac Pro can be regarded as very similar to Apple’s decision in 2010 to eliminate the Xserve.

The 1U rack-mountable line of server computers was abandoned because of the very same reason Apple is now considering killing the Mac Pro - reduced sales.

On a personal note, I sincerely doubt Apple will leave a gap where the current Mac Pro is. If anything, the company will either beef up the iMac considerably, or it will introduce that rumored redesign by the time Intel’s Ivy Bridge comes out.

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