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Apr 16, 2013

Android’s Daily Activations Surpass the 1.5-Million Mark

Google’s Android operating system is gaining more steam on the market, currently sitting nicely on top of 1.5 million daily activations, Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt confirmed today at Dive Into Mobile.

The number shows an increase in activations when compared to the 1.4 million that were announced last month, as Engadget notes. Last fall, Google confirmed that it was activating 1.3 million devices per day.  Furthermore, Eric Schmidt confirmed that Google is on track to top the 1 billion activated devices milestone this year, after CEO Larry Page said last month that the company was targeting only 750 million.

Apparently, Google too is seeing the low end of the market as the growth area for Android, the same as Nokia seeks opportunity in this segment with its Asha handsets and with the cheap Lumia 520 smartphone.

Android activations top 1.5 million a day
Image credits to Google

Samsung Galaxy Ace 3 Specs and Benchmarks Result Emerges

South Korean mobile phone maker Samsung has been recently rumored to plan the release of a new device in its popular Galaxy Ace lineup, the third such handset in the series, and some more details on the matter are now available.

The handset has just made an appearance on GLBenchmark’s website, which confirms that it should pack a 1GHz dual-core processor inside, along with a VideoCore IV GPU, the same as inside Galaxy S2 Plus, SamMobile notes. The listing on the benchmark website also shows that the device sports model number GT-S7272, and that it will hit shelves with Google’s Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean operating system on it, as thedroidguy reports. Furthermore, the mobile phone is said to pack a 4-inch touchscreen display that can deliver a 480 x 800 pixel (WVGA) resolution, and to sport the Samsung Nature UX loaded on top of Android. The specs list of the smartphone is also said to include a 5-megapixel photo snapper, with support for 720p video recording, as well as a microSD memory card slot, to enable users to add some more storage space to it, should they need it. Galaxy Ace 3 will include NFC capabilities as well, and might even arrive on shelves in a dual-SIM flavor, although nothing has been specifically confirmed on the matter for the time being.

The same as other devices in Samsung’s Galaxy Ace series, the smartphone will be a mid-range device, though it will still be able to deliver a great experience to those who choose to purchase it. Previously, the phone was rumored to arrive on shelves with a price tag of around €300 in Europe, though an official confirmation on this has yet to emerge. By the looks of it, however, it might not be too long before Samsung formally introduces the new Galaxy Ace 3, so stay tuned to learn additional details on the matter.

Galaxy Ace 3 spotted in benchmark
Image credits to GLBenchmark via thedroidguy

Gigabyte Might Beat ASUS as Number 1 Motherboard Maker

Like everywhere else, there is a lot of competition on the motherboard industry, as companies race against the others in their quest to secure contracts and enchant customers.

ASUS has led in terms of shipments for quite some time, but Gigabyte is a close second. A very close second if recent reports are to be believed. During the first quarter, Gigabyte shipped 4.9 million motherboards, just a little behind ASUS' 5 million. Thus, by the end of the year (2013), ASUS may very well be relegated to second place.

Since the two accounted for 47% of the total motherboard market in 2012 (40 million), the change in ranking won't really affect consumers much, although the reputation of being “the best” could color opinions here and there. That said, ASRock will probably keep the third spot, unless MSI somehow supplants it (in 2012, they shipped 7 and 6 million, respectively).

Gigabyte motherboard
Image credits to Gigabyte

The Return of the Start Button: Microsoft Switches to Plan B for Windows 8

Back in October, Microsoft rolled out the first Windows version so far without the traditional Start button, a change that brought an avalanche of criticism and, more importantly, a massive hit in the overall sales of the company.

Fast forward five months and Windows 8 remains a very controversial operating system whose market share barely reaches 3 percent. While many have already got used to the Start Screen, others can’t live without a Start button and called for Microsoft to bring back this feature in Windows. It appears that the Redmond-based tech giant actually listens to feedback sent by users and is now working on a new option that would basically mark the return of the Start button in the Windows world. ZDNet’s Mary Jo Foley revealed that Microsoft could use Windows 8.1 to reintroduce the button in our lives, even though several executives have said it loud and clear that we should all get used to the Start Screen. And bringing back the Start button pretty much makes sense. Here’s what some of our readers told us about the lack of such a feature in the new operating system:

“I have been a loyal Microsoft user for more than 20 years and I have had almost every new version of Windows and Office so far. In other words, I have been a Microsoft lover during all these years. Steve Ballmer and his team has changed this during the last couple of years: I have become a Microsoft hater.”  “Will be returning my new laptop with Win 8. One reason is no start button / menu on the desktop nor can one put icons / shortcuts on desktop from the new start screen.” “I've been using computers since Radio Shack came out with the first home computer. This is the first time I've had to search the internet to find out how to shut down my computer. Windows 8 is the worst operating system I have ever used!”

“Windows 8 takes the ‘friendly’ out of user-friendly. This is the final straw. I'm switching to Linux!”  Unsurprisingly, many people are blaming Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for this dramatic change in Windows 8, especially after Steven Sinofsky, the man in charge with the Windows division until late 2012, decided to leave Microsoft. Here are a few comments published by our users and criticizing Steve Ballmer’s way of doing business:

“Well, I think the problem is, Ballmerized Microsoft became much too despotic, autocrat and dictating. They certainly could have given an option to get to the desktop screen without going through the start screen, also, tablets and laptops and desktops are not equally favorable for the touch screen.” “Steve Ballmer is to Microsoft, what Tony BLAIR was to ‘Socialism’. In case you don't know what I mean, he deserted his party's natural supporters, so, they then deserted ‘New Labour’. This is exactly what Microsoft's supporters will do for Microsoft, they will walk away from it.” “Sold my MS stock years ago because of Steve Ballmer's management. Might re-buy MS Stock once he is gone. The removal of the Start button is just an item in a long list of how to mess up Microsoft. Windows 8 is horrible. As is the entire experience.”

As for Windows 8.1, nobody knows for sure if it’ll have the potential to reignite the falling PC market or not. The good thing is that the leaked builds revealed that Microsoft would try to fix many of the controversial features available in Windows 8, including the Start Screen and the lack of a Start button. Windows 8.1 is expected to hit the market sometime this year, with the BUILD developer conference in June likely to witness the public debut of the preview version. Expect the stable release in August or September.

Windows 7 was the last Windows OS to feature a Start button.

Intel Designs Special Haswell CPUs with Larger Graphics Cores

Normally, Intel CPUs only have L1, L2 and L3 cache memories, but Intel is preparing a range of Hawell chips that will have a fourth set.

They will be called Haswell GT3 and will have fourth-level eDRAM caches meant to bolster the ability of the integrated graphics chips. The chips will actually have larger graphics cores with 40 execution units instead of just 20. There will be an MCM (multi-chip module) of two dies, one being the "Haswell" processor complex (with cores, uncore), and the other one the large GT3 integrated graphics core.

There will be an extra stop on the ring-bus too, the eDRAM PHY, which will connect to an external eDRAM silicon (the small chip on the MCM). No clue yet whether the Haswell GT3 will actually rival NVIDIA and AMD graphics. Probably not, though we suppose there might be some low-end integrated GPUs in AMD APUs that they will be on par with. via VR-Zone.

Intel Haswel GT3
Image credits to VR-Zone

Jolla to Announce Its First Smartphone in Early May, Customers Get to Choose Design

It looks like Jolla is finally ready to unleash its first smartphone on the market. Antti Saarnio, Jolla Chairman, has just confirmed his company will make the official announcement in early May.

According to MyNokiaBlog, Jolla will kick off pre-orders for its first smartphone in mid-May and they will also act as funding for the phone’s manufacture. More importantly, customers who pre-order the smartphone will get to choose what it will look like. It appears that there will be several pricing options that customers will be able to choose from, but more details will be available close to launch.

There’s more to it, as Jolla has also confirmed all pre-ordered smartphones will come with “something unique … special … which will not be available otherwise.” For more details on Jolla’s upcoming smartphone, head over to the original article (translated).

We are Jolla. We are Unlike. Join us at jolla.com.
Opening music composed by Petri Matara (Volume productions Helsinki Oy).
Video credits to JollaOfficial

Dell Latitude 3330 School Laptop

With ultrabooks basically commandeering the high-price laptop market, “normal” laptops have dropped in price to the point where they ship for the same as what netbooks used to, at one time.

Dell's Latitude 3330 is a perfect example of that: a laptop with a price of $419 / 319 Euro. Measuring 13.3 inches in diagonal, it has many hardware customization options, VGA, HDMI, USB3.0 and optional USB docking, and an HD 720 webcam, plus WiDi support. It is meant for use in schools, by teachers and educators that want to teach the alphabet and whatever comes after.

Since it is sleek and light, but not fragile, it should easily fit in existing IT infrastructure, and be used for presentations and the like. Microsoft Windows 8, Windows 7, and Linux Ubuntu are the available operating systems.

Dell Latitude 3330 School Laptop
Image credits to Dell

Sapphire HD 7790 2 GB OC (Single Fan) Graphics Card

Sapphire may already have a pair of Radeon HD 7790 graphics cards out, but that didn't stop it from launching another one.

Called Sapphire HD 7790 2 GB OC, it uses 2 GB of GDDR5 VRAM memory. The OC stands for “overclocked” of course, and we don't just mean the GPU. While other video cards only push the graphics processing unit farther and leave the memory alone, this is not the case for the Sapphire HD 7790 2 GB OC. 

The GPU works fast sure enough (1050 MHz versus 1000 MHz) and the VRAM operates at 1600 MHz (6.4 GHz effective) versus 1500 MHz (6 GHz effective). The product page of the Sapphire adapter has all the information, though a price was not forthcoming. Probably in the realm of $160 / 160 Euro.

Sapphire HD 7790 2 GB OC
Images credits to Sapphire

Intel Broadwell CPU Details Start to Emerge, Will Follow Haswell

If people don't generally know much about Intel's Broadwell central processing units, it is understandable, even though information about them has actually begun to surface.

The reason for most people not knowing of them is simple: they aren't out yet, and won't be for some time, as they will follow Haswell, which are also not out yet. It is actually strange that any details are known at all, but VR-Zone has managed to poke a leak in Intel's protected info bubble, so here we are. The Broadwell processors will be released in the second quarter of 2014, by which point motherboards with support for them will have already been manufactured. Said platforms will rely on the 9-Series Based Z97 and H97 chipsets. It is actually the chipsets that VR-Zone found data on, not the actual CPUs. The Z97 will power high-end mainboards for enthusiast PCs, while H97 will be the tamer option, for the mainstream. Both will have the latest SATA Express support though, which means maximum data transfer speeds of 10-16 GB/s.  That's quite a bit beyond the 6 Gbps achieved by SATA III today (SATA 6 Gbps).

Fortunately, even if it takes new chipsets or BIOSes to work at full tilt, Broadwell chips will stay compatible with LGA 1150 sockets. There will just be some added benefits, like support for Intel device protection with boot guard (defends against malware). Improved Intel Smart response and Rapid start technologies will be included also (with Dynamic Cache sharing). As for the CPUs themselves, they will, naturally, improve the performance of the integrated graphics processor (iGP, as it cannot really be called a GPU). There will even be onboard memory, of all things. Now, since Intel is leaving the mainboard industry, its OEMs will only have each other to contend with. The contest between Gigabyte and ASUS will be the fiercest.

Intel logo
Image credits to Intel

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