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Feb 6, 2012

New Charms Bar in Windows 8 Consumer Preview




Windows 8 Consumer Preview is expected to become available for the general public in the next few weeks, with a great deal of interface changes packed inside. 

Among them, we can count the lack of a Start button, although it has been present in all flavors of Windows ever since Windows 95 was launched. 

But this is only one of the major changes that the touch-enhanced flavor of Windows will arrive on devices with. 

When compared to the Windows 8 Developer Preview, which has been around since September, the upcoming Consumer Preview will also change the Charms bar that can be seen on the right side of the screen. 

The black Charms bar is no longer there, and has been replaced with a transparent one, in which only the icons are visible. 

Screenshots of a Windows 8 Build 8220 have emerged over the weekend, bringing proof of these modifications. 

These changes will appear on both touch and non-touch devices running under Windows 8, replacing the bar that has been available for all of them for the past few months. 

The Metro Start screen might have suffered some changes as well, and one of the said leaked screenshots, available courtesy of Chinese website PCBeta, appears to confirm that. 

The selecting language settings will have a different UI in Windows 8 Consumer Preview. Internet Explorer 10 will be included into the mix as well, with features such as the option to enable automatic updates. 

When released to the public, the beta flavor of Windows 8 will offer us a taste of the upcoming Windows Store, as well as hints at other changes that the final release of the platform will include. 

Following the release of Consumer Preview of Windows 8, Microsoft might launch the RC version of the platform sometime in summer, while making the gold flavor available in fall.








Windows 8 Beta Loses the Start Button




Microsoft is making further changes to the user interface of its upcoming Windows 8 operating system, the latest of which is to remove the Windows Start button from the task bar. 

The Start button has been present in all the flavors of the Windows operating system for the past 15 years. It was introduced in Windows 95 and has remained there to this day.

Those who gave the Windows 8 Developer preview a try have noticed that the Start button was present in the taskbar and that it brought the Metro Menu up when pressed (see the first image on the left). 

The Beta flavor of the platform, set to arrive on the market as Windows 8 Consumer Preview, will change that by removing the Start button from the taskbar. 

Leaked screenshots that made it online this weekend on Chinese website PC beta appear to prove that. 

Apparently, Microsoft decided to replace the Start button orb with a hot corner, a recent article on The Verge suggests. 

There will be a thumbnail-like user interface offering users the possibility to access the Windows desktop and Start Screen in Windows 8

The interface will be activated when hovering over the lower-left corner of the screen in Windows 8. A thumbnail preview of what you can access from there will emerge. 

The element should be there in touch mode as well, activated with a swipe, most probably. When in desktop mode, it will show a thumbnail preview of the Metro Menu. 

The Superbar, which was introduced in Windows 7, will remain unchanged. The same as before, it will allow for the pinning of applications and shortcuts to webpages in Internet Explorer. 

Windows 8 Consumer Preview – set to arrive later this month - is only one milestone in the development of Windows 8. The platform is expected to be released to manufacturing sometime in summer, and might arrive on shelves in fall. It will be the first flavor of Windows to sport touch enhancements.



Have a Look at Samsung’s Super Bowl Commercial




Samsung has been pushing its mobile phones hard to the US market lately, especially with video ads that bite at Apple. A new such commercial is now available for your viewing pleasure. 

This is none other than Samsung’s 90-second Super Bowl XLVI spot, which was aired on Sunday, and which stars the company’s large Galaxy Note smartphone

The same as in the other latest video ads for the US, the South Korean mobile phone maker is suggesting that users should no longer wait in line to purchase what they consider a worthy smartphone, since “the next big thing is already here.”

Clearly, Samsung is mocking those who stand in line whenever Apple launches a new iDevice. Galaxy Note can free people, Samsung suggests, and the ad turns into something else, as soon as they realize this as well.

MSI Z77A-GD55 Motherboard for Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs Pictured




After we presented you the production version of the Z77A-GD65 motherboard at the end of last week, it’s now time to take a look at its smaller sibling, the Z77A-GD55, which was just pictured by a Chinese Website.

The motherboard is compatible with all Intel processors using the LGA 1155 socket, including the chip maker’s upcoming Ivy Bridge processors, and comes basically as a stripped down version of the GD65.

What this means is that it loses the redundant BIOS support of its older brother, as well as its consolidated voltage measurements points.

Despite these changes, the rest of the features list remains pretty much unchanged, the MSI motherboard featuring the same three PCI Express x16 slots, four PCIe x1 slots, as well as six SATA ports, two of these supporting SATA 6Gbps transfer speeds.

This motherboard is compatible with 2-way Nvidia SLI and AMD CrossFireX configurations by using the first two slots, but these will drop in x8 mode when both are populated, according to TechPowerUp.

Moving to the back of the motherboard, we see that the Z77A-GD55 comes fitted with both a Clear CMOS button and an HDMI port.

In addition, users also get two USB 3.0 ports (driven by the Intel Z77 chipset) and 7.1-channel audio with optical and digital S/PDIF out, while two additional USB 3.0 ports are available through an on-board header angled at 90 degrees. 

Four other USB 2.0 ports, VGA and DVI outputs and an Ethernet jack round up the connectivity list, while the now standard Power and Reset on-board buttons were also added to the Z77A-GD55.

No information regarding pricing or availability was made public by MSI, but more details should be unveiled as we get nearer to the launch of Intel’s Ivy Bridge processors.



Olympus OM-D Retro ILC Camera Pictured in Full




Olympus’ retro-looking OM-D interchangeable lens camera has been pictured on our website quite a few times until now, but recently a new image of the camera showing all its details has been posted online by Amazon.

The picture was uploaded on the retailer’s Japanese website, where it was spotted by 43rumors right before being removed.

As you can see from the image right above this post, Olympus’ camera resembles the OM-4T quite a great deal and can even be fitted with an external battery grip. 

Apart from the optional E-M5 grip, the OM-D also packs a 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor and a built-in 1.44m dot electronic viewfinder (EVF).

A water sealed magnesium body and a brand new auto-focus (AF) system will round up the specs list, together with a 3-inch 610k dot OLED screen that 43 Rumors suggests can be tilted, so you can have a better look at the images you want to capture. 

The Olympus OM-D should be launched in the coming days and is said to retail for $1,300, or about 989 EUR.



BlackBerry 7 Smartphones Receive Certifications from US and Canadian Governments




Research In Motion has just announced that all its smartphones running BlackBerry 7.0 and BlackBerry 7.1 operating systems have been awarded FIPS 140-2 certification by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC). 

Some of the smartphones that have been certified by both U.S. and Canadian governments include: BlackBerry Bold 9900, 9930 and 9790, BlackBerry Torch 9810, 9850 and 9860, and BlackBerry Curve 9350, 9360, 9370 and 9380.

Aside from FIPS 140-2, RIM’s BlackBerry 7 operating system was also awarded Common Criteria EAL4+ certification.

It is also worth mentioning that the BlackBerry PlayBook recieved its FIPS 140-2 certifications from both governments back in July. According to RIM, with this achievement, customers can be sure its latest BlackBerry smartphones and tablet provide maximum security.


Nvidia Kepler GPU Specs, Pricing and Release Dates Revealed – Report




The specifications of Nvidia’s upcoming next-generation GPUs, code named Kepler, were allegedly revealed by a recent report to hit the Web, together with their prices and approximate release dates.

This info came into the possession of the Lenzfire Website from unnamed sources, and describes in great detail the GK100-series graphics cores that Nvidia prepares to launch in the next two quarters of this year.

According to this report, the first GPU to arrive will be the GK110, which will be utilized by both the GeForce GTX 680 and GTX 570.

Despite being manufactured using TSMC’s 28nm process, the GK110 will be a particularly large chip, since it will measure no less than 550mm², 30mm² more than the current GF110 GPU, fabricated utilizing the foundry’s 40nm process technology.

As far as performance is concerned, the high-end GeForce GTX 680 is said to be up to 45% faster than AMD Radeon HD 7970, while costing $100 more ($649 for the GTX 580 vs. $549 for the HD 7970).

The slightly slower GTX 570 based on the same GK110 core is also said to be faster than AMD’s Radeon HD 7970, by approximately 20%.

Both of these parts will be released by Nvidia in April. Later during that month, the Santa Clara-based chip maker will launch the GTX 660 graphics card, which according to Lenzfire, delivers about the same performance as the current GTX 580, but at a $319 price point (243 EUR).

The two other graphics cards that Nvidia plans to release in the second quarter of this year are the Kepler-based GTX 650 and the GTX 640, while in Q3 of 2012 the chips maker will fill most of the gaps remaining in its 600-series lineup with the GTX 660 Ti and GTX 6540 Ti.

The third quarter of this year will also reportedly mark the introduction of the dual-GPU GTX 690, which is said to carry a whopping $999 (761 EUR) price tag. So far, the info provided by Lenzfire wasn’t confirmed by Nvidia, so take it with the usual grain of salt.




AMD May Partner with ARM After All, Eventually




AMD has said in the past, several times, that it is fully committed to x86, but this no longer seems to mean that a partnership with ARM is totally impossible. 

Advanced Micro Devices has always been a rival to Intel on the market for central processing units based on the x86 architecture. 

However, the ARM architecture has been advancing and gaining popularity rapidly, enough so that AMD may be reconsidering previous commitments. 

Granted, “reconsidering” may be laying it a bit thick, since starting to make ARM chips doesn't mean AMD will be any less active in its x86 research and development. 

Still, where there used to be certainty that AMD would not start to use the ARM architecture, there is now ambiguity. 

AMD's new Chief Technology Officer Mark Papermaster was asked to answer whether there would ever be an alliance with ARM Holdings, or at least the possibility. 

The response was a deliberately vague “The answer is not no,” according to Wired

Given the recent revelations, the ones during AMD's Financial Analyst Day, it is fairly easy to understand why the Sunnyvale, California-based company is keeping that option open. 

Though a deal with a major supplier of consumer electronics may already be in place, the company has basically stated that its high-end CPU line will be taking a break next year

There is also the matter of Windows 8 supporting the ARM architecture, something that Intel itself will need to keep a careful watch over. 

All in all, compared to Intel's attempts at infiltrating the phone and tablet sector, ARM has arguably performed better in extending from the mobile market into the PC segment. Thus, a pact between ARM and AMD is not outside the realm of probability. 

On a related note, since it will take a while for anything more to become clear on this matter, readers may want to divert their attention to AMD's accelerated APU and laptop plans.


Amazon Makes the Nikon V1 and J1 Cameras up to $150 (114€) Cheaper




Four months after the Nikon V1 and J1 interchangeable lens cameras reached retail, Amazon started offering an important number of discounts on the kit versions of these mirrorless snappers, which enable users to buy them for up to $150 (114 EUR) less than before.

A full list of the Nikon 1-Series kits that the US-based retailer sells is available here. Prices start at $599.00 (456 EUR) for the Nikon J1 with the 10-30mm VR lens, and go all the way up to $999.00 (761 EUR) for the V1 bundled with the same 10-30mm lens, but also with the 30-110mm VR Nikkor zoom. 

Introduced in September last year, the Nikon V1 and the J1 share nearly identical specs, with the former camera coming as the more feature-rich model of the two, thanks to a few minor tweaks.

Both, however, include a 10.1 megapixel CMOS sensor, dual-core EXPEED processing engine, a 1200fps slow motion capture mode, 10fps burst shooting, 3-inch LCDs for reviewing the pictures taken and support for Full HD video capture.

Users have the option to choose between 1080/30p or 1080/60i, with the movie files recorded being capped at 29 minutes.

Compared to its smaller brother, the J1 also adds a built-in flash, auto-noise reduction on movie clips and a 73-point auto-focus system, all fitted inside a magnesium alloy chassis.

The 10.1MP image sensor installed in both of these cameras packs the newly introduced CX form factor (13.2mmx8.8mm) with a crop factor of 2.7x.

This is significantly smaller than the sensors used by Nikon's competitors, most of them going for Micro Four Thirds or APS-C, while ISO speed is limited at 3200. 

In related news, Nikon UK has also started a cash back program for 1-Sereis cameras, which can save potential buyers £50 (about $79 US).


Nokia Lumia Tablet Concept Runs Windows 8




Nokia is the most important Microsoft partner when it comes to Windows Phone. In fact, it is so important that it previously hinted that it might extend the partnership to cover tablet PCs as well.

No official info on a possible near device has emerged for the time being, but that does not prevent enthusiasts from imagining what a Nokia tablet PC might look like. 

One of the latest such concepts puts Windows 8 on a Nokia Lumia tablet PC, one that comes from artist Tristan under the name of “Coffee Tab” (via MyNokiaBlog).

In Tristan’s imagination, the upcoming Nokia tablet PC would resemble a lot the currently available Nokia Lumia smartphones that are powered by Windows Phone 7.5 Mango. 

The specifications list of this device is in line with that belief, though it might not satisfy the cravings of the upcoming Windows 8 platform. 

The Nokia Lumia “Coffee Tab” sports a 1.4GHz application processor inside, complemented by 512 MB of RAM, the same as the aforementioned Windows Phone devices did. 

Moreover, the concept device packs a 9.7-inches AMOLED “ClearBlack” touchscreen display that can deliver a 1280 x 800-pixel resolution, and 16GB / 32GB / 64GB of internal storage. 

The specs list of this concept tablet PC also includes an 8-megapixel photo snapper on the back, with support for HD video recording, for sure, along with a 2MP camera on the front, which should provide video calling capabilities to its users. 

The device will also include WiFi and 3G connectivity capabilities. If such a Windows 8 tablet PC was to be produced, it would also pack inside all the hardware that Microsoft requires it to include.

In the images attached to this article, you will also see the Windows 8-powered Nokia Lumia “Coffee Tab” next to a set of Nokia Purity in-earphones. 

For the time being, Nokia has only Windows Phone devices available on shelves, and might not launch a tablet PC for a while. However, they did suggest that such a device was not out of the question, and we might see a tablet PC that resembles the “Coffee Tab” launched in the not too distant future. Keep an eye on this space for more on the matter.



LG P700 and LG P880 Android 4.0 Phones Leak Ahead of MWC 2012




LG has just lost third position as the most prolific handset maker, which is now owned by Apple. However, those who bet on LG’s total demise are most likely wrong, as the company prepares to announce several Ice Cream Sandwich devices at the Mobile World Congress 2012, which is set to kick off on February 27. 

Two unannounced LG Android-based devices have just leaked on the Internet courtesy to the folks over at Ubergizmo. LG-P700 and LG-PP880 are expected to be announced within the next few weeks, most likely one day before MWC 2012 kicks off.

Not much is known about these smartphones, but according to Ubergizmo both are running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. Of the two, the LG-P880 seems to be the high-end smartphone, while the P-700 will probably be a mid-range ICS-based smartphone.

According to the latest hearsay, the LG-P700 comes with a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard, as well as a capacitive touchscreen display that supports a 640 x 480 pixels resolution. The latter seems to be a rather unusual choice for an Android 4.0 smartphone.

Other than that, there are no additional details on LG-P700 specs sheet, but more information will probably emerge closer to the launch date.

The LG-P880 seems to be the recently leaked LG X3 smartphone, which means that the phone will be delivered with an Nvidia Tegra 3 quad-core processor inside. 

In addition, the device is said to sport a large 4.7-inch capacitive touchscreen display with 720p HD resolution, most likely based on LG’s NOVA display technology.

On the back, the LG-P880 boasts an enhanced 8-megapixel camera with LED flash, autofocus and video recording. There’s also 16GB of onboard memory, which might be expandable up to 32GB via microSD card slot, but this feature has yet to be confirmed.

Stay tuned for more updates on the matter, as LG will probably reveal more details on its roadmap closer to MWC 2012


First Nikon D3200 Details Emerge




The full-frame D800 may capture all the attention of Nikon fans these days, but this isn’t the only DSLR that the company works on releasing in the coming months, as the entry-level D3200 is also in the making.

Coming as the successor of the popular D3100, this new Nikon camera is said to be built around a 24.2MP sensor and will apparently feature a new series of in-camera functions for editing and retouching photos.

Furthermore, for getting the attention of its targeted audience, Nikon also plans to make it available in various colors including black, silver and red.

Sadly, this is all we know at this point in time, but more info should become available once we get nearer to April 2012, when Nikon Rumors says Nikon’s new entry-level D3200 DSLR will be released. 


Android 4.0.5 on SFR’s Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S Next Month




Next month should bring along a nice range of software updates for Android mobile phone users on the airwaves of SFR.

Among these updates, we can count the Android 4.0.5 Ice Cream Sandwich OS flavor aimed at the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus S smartphones. 

Both of these devices have been listed on the update table that the wireless carrier has recently unveiled, and both of them are said to be slated for an upgrade to Android 4.0.5 as soon as next month. 

The update will be delivered to users over the air, the same as the previous software for these devices has been released. 

For those out of the loop, we should note that the latest update for the Galaxy Nexus was Android 4.0.2, while the Nexus S received Android 4.0.3 about two months ago. 

The update for the Nexus S caused a series of issues and Google was forced to put an end to its delivery soon after starting the process. 

The upcoming software update should bring fixes for all the problems caused by the previous update, and should deliver some enhancements to Galaxy Nexus as well. After all, the device was said to have been hit by random reboot issues. 

Google has certainly packed the Android 4.0.5 update with a series of other enhancements as well, though it remains to be seen what they consist of. 

At SFR, these Nexus devices are only some of the smartphones that will taste updates in the near future. 

HTC Sensation is also expected to receive Ice Cream Sandwich soon, with the Sense 3.5 UI on top. Samsung Galaxy S II will also receive the update in March, it seems. 

SFR also preps Android 2.3.6 for Samsung Galaxy S, Samsung Galaxy Pro and Motorola DEFY+ in March, as well as Android 2.3.4 for LG Optimus Black as soon as this month. The exact release dates for all this firmware have yet to emerge, so stay tuned.



Nikon D800 Full-Frame DSLR: More Specs Revealed




With just a few more days until the Nikon D800 launch, a new series of specs for the camera have been recently uncovered and come to reveal the last few details about this full-frame digital SLR.

As most of you probably know by now, Nikon plans to launch two versions of this DSLR, the regular D800 and the D800E. The latter is said to come without an anti-aliasing filter in order to produce sharper images with more details and better resolution.

The downside of getting the D800E, however, is that even if the image quality can be better, under some circumstances this can lead to the appearance of a moire pattern.

No matter which one of the two versions one goes for, the camera comes with the same 36MP full-frame image sensor that is paired with an Expeed 3 image processor.

According to Nikon Rumors, this processor allows for 16-bit image processing and has an ISO range of 100 to 6,400, which can be expanded to 50 – 25,600.

Furthermore, the D800 will use the same 51-point AF system found in the D3s, but this time this will get a new face recognition mode.

The video recording capabilities of the camera were also enhanced to allow for shooting 1080p at 30fps while, for getting 60fps, users will have to drop down to a 720p resolution.

Other features that will make their way in the D800/D800E include a 100% coverage viewfinder, a 3.2-inch LCD display, dual memory card slots (most probably CompactFlash and SD), a new bracketing button, a built-in GPS and an USB 3.0 data transfer port.

The start-up and shutter delay of the D800 will be the same as that of the recently launched Nikon D4, while power is provided by the EN-EL15 battery pack, which is also used by Nikon for the current D7000.

The D800/D800E will be able to take up to 850 shots on a single battery charge, which is actually less than the 1000 shots that its successor, the D700, was rated at.

The Nikon D800 full-frame DSLR is expected to be officially announced in just a few days from now, on February 7 to be more precise.


Intel Berryville Atom CE Chips Exposed, ARM Beware




Intel has been lobbying for a strong position on the market of consumer electronics devices, especially portable ones, and the Atom Berryville chip line may be just the ticket it needs.

Intel may not have gotten to the point where it is ready to release the Berryville CPUs (central processing units), but information about them has surfaced regardless.

At least seven of them should become available within a few months. They will be called Atom CE and will feature two cores each, complete with Hyperthreading.

Add to that a graphics processor with a clock speed of 400 MHz and there is much evidence to suggest that Atom CE are based on the Cedar Trail series.

The 1.2 GHz CE5318 and the 1.8 GHz CE5338 processors are intended for Smart TVs and boast the H.264 hardware video encoder, Intel PQE and LVDS connectivity, albeit no HDMI.

A somewhat stranger chip is the CE5315, which works at 1.2 GHz but, though it features H.264, it lacks PQE support.

Another unit is the CE5348, a 1.8 GHz model with all the features mentioned above. The sibling that resembles it most is the CE5328, at 1.2 GHz.

There are two other processors in the collection: the CE5310/CE5320, at 1.2 GHz, and the 1.8 GHz CE5343. They both lack hardware video encoding even though HDMI is present.

For those not familiar with Intel PQE, the technology is a type of software/hardware video enhancer and has the full name of “Joint Color Correction and Enhancement IP”.

That said, the various processors support two SATA ports, three USB ports, two PCI Express lanes and the eMMC 4.4 NAND flash interface, all at a reduced cost.

Intel will have to use all its marketing acumen in the promotion of the Berryville CPUs, since it is gunning for ARM's territory and the 1.8 GHz models are scheduled to be launched last.


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