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Mar 31, 2014

MSI B85I and B85M Gaming, Mini-ITX/Micro-ATX Military Class 4 Motherboards

Micro-Star International's Gaming line of hardware has just welcomed a new pair of motherboards, one of which isn't exactly as large as one would expect, but should enable some decent PC specs regardless.

Even now, gaming hardware and computers come in large, solid, sophisticated packages, but there has been a steady rise in the number of small products as well. Most notably, mini PCs have begun to provide specs on par with those of the high-end desktops of half a decade ago. And since DirectX 11 support is pretty much always included in the spec sheet, that basically means that it's possible to play even the latest game on a mini personal computer now. It all boils down to the power supply unit, the cooling, how big the case is (on the inside, since video cards can be pretty big) and, lastly, how good the motherboard happens to be. Micro-Star International has just released a pair of the better new models, which can power a good LAN party system.

The B85I micro-ATX is one. Such motherboards don't really stand out anymore, with their two memory slots, one/two PCI Express x16 slots and standard I/O support and storage interfaces. There is a mini-ITX B85 motherboard as well though, also bearing the Gaming logo. MSI's new creations have Military Class 4 components though: Hi-C CAPs, Solid CAPs, Dark CAPs, SFC and Dark Chokes. They allow the platforms to stay stable even at high load, and to survive for a long time. EMI protection and ESD protection is present as well. Another asset is the USB Audio Power technology, which prevents sound quality from suffering (on external DACs and such) when the other USB ports are populated as well (with chargers, flash drives, peripherals, etc.).

The USB Audio Power design powers each port individually, instead of splitting energy between all of them, hence the clearer sound and less noise. A third asset is the onboard software: OC Genie 4 (for overclocking of the CPU, memory and video), Click BIOS 4 and the Command Center (combines monitoring, tuning and hardware control in a single interface). Finally, the MSI B85 microATX and Mini-ITX Gaming motherboards both benefit from Killer LAN, special networking tech that prioritizes games over torrent programs and everything else web-connected when you're playing something online. Especially when said title comes with in-game chat of some sort (for MMOs or co-op play).

MSI B85I Gaming
Image credits to MSI

ASUS ROG G56JR with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760M Sells for €999 / $1,373

The Republic of Gamers line of notebook has a new member addition. ASUS quietly introduced the ASUS G56JR, an elegant new laptop with a more classic look than what we're used to seeing with this line.

The notebook boasts a 15.6-inch screen and comes with a brushed metal surface, but compared to other ROG models looks like it’s targeted at the average consumer. However, the red trim around the notebook’s edges and the red ASUS logo plus the blacklit keyboard help maintain the overall ROG feel. In the specifications department, we have a decent configuration, although ASUS doesn't go as far as it did with the brand new ASUS G750. The idea is that the laptop has been designed in such a way as to attract a larger number of customers, gamers or not. ASUS still offers the option of choosing the specific configuration, so users can go for either an Intel Core i5-4200H or the more powerful i7-4700HQ processors under the hood. In both cases, the lappy can be fitted with up to 16GB of RAM. Unlike the G750, the G56JR will not come with the latest NVIDIA GPU, but will take advantage of the previous generation, in the form of GeForce GTX 760M. Like those familiar with the ROG line-up might know, ASUS offers a wide range of storage solutions, starting from the traditional hard drives of 500, 750GB or 1TB 5400 RPM (or 500, 700 GB 7200 RPM) and as far as hybrid model with 750GB and 5400 RPM with 8GB cache.

As previously mentioned, the G56JR has a 15.6-inch HD display and users can add even an optical DVD, Blu-ray combo drive. Furthermore, ASUS has added four USB 3.0 ports, VGA, HDMI video outputs, audio jacks for headphones and microphone, memory card 3-in-1 (SD/MS/MS Pro/MMC), Gigabit Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, HD webcam and sound system SonicMaster with Digital Amplifier Bang & Olufsen ICEpower. The G56JR is currently available for purchase in select markets across Europe (including Poland, France, Spain) and Singapore, South Africa. The laptop sells in Europe for €999 / $1,373 a pop. In other news, we should probably remind you that the ASUS ROG GT70JZ line-up is available for pre-orders. For those craving to have a notebook bundled with the latest NVIDIA GPU, these laptops come equipped with either the high-end GTX 880M with 4GB of video memory or the GTX 870M / 860M. Pricing for the base model with the 860M graphics card starts at $1,399 / €1,007.

ASUS quietly introduces ROG G56JR
Image credits to ASUS

Mar 27, 2014

HTC One M8 with 2.5GHz CPU (Asian Version) Tops Benchmark Scores

Only two days have passed since Taiwanese mobile phone maker HTC Corporation took the wraps off of its latest flagship Android-based device, the HTC One M8, and people have already found out that it can perform much better than other high-end devices.

According to a recent article on ePrice, the Asian version of HTC One M8, which was unveiled with a 2.5GHz processor inside, is capable of delivering higher benchmark scores than Samsung Galaxy S5 and Sony Xperia Z2. The LG G Pro 2 was also compared to the new device. The phone comes with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 MSM8974-AC CPU, which is faster than the 2.3GHz MSM8974-AB processor inside the US version of the handset, thus offering better performance capabilities, it seems. Screenshots that emerged at ePrice show the phone’s performance in benchmarking tests such as AnTuTu, Quadrant, Vellamo, Basemark, and 3D Mark, and unveil that it is indeed capable of leaving its rivals behind. Based on these results, the HTC One M8 can be considered the most powerful Android-based smartphone to date. However, it appears that only people in Asia will actually enjoy such performance levels when purchasing it.

The 2.3GHz version of the mobile phone will still have a lot to offer to its customers, that’s for sure, even if it is a bit behind the Asian model in terms of performance, as similar test results have unveiled not long ago. Apparently, while the 2.5GHz model managed to top 35,000 points in AnTuTu, the 2.3GHz variant of the device did not go beyond the 30,000 mark. All in all, it is clear that HTC managed to bring to the market a great, powerful Android smartphone, one that will certainly prove a worthy rival to other flagship smartphones out there, especially since it has already been put up for sale in some markets. For those out of the loop, we should note that HTC One M8 was launched with a 5-inch full HD touchscreen display, the aforementioned quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor inside, and 2GB of RAM.

Moreover, it features 32GB of internal memory, a microSD memory card slot for expansion purposes, dual-cameras on the back, and a 5-megapixel camera on the front, for making video calls and shooting great selfies. The smartphone runs under the Android 4.4.2 KitKat operating system but features HTC’s own user interface loaded on top of it, none other than Sense 6.0, with exclusive features such as BlinkFeed, HTC Zoe, and others.

HTC One M8 tops benchmark tests
Images credits to ePrice

Axiomtek Designs Overpowered Half-Size Single-Board Computer

Single-board computers used to be small, meek, unassuming things barely ever used for anything more than point-of-sale cash-in boxes and the like, but companies have been releasing stronger and stronger ones over the years, like Axiomtek has just done.

The new product to leave the company's labs, called SHB230, is a half-size single-board computer with an LGA 1150 socket, meaning it supports 4th Generation Intel Core i7/i5/i3 and Celeron processors. It also has a pair of DDR3-1333/1600 memory slots, SO-DIMM slots to be exact, for up to 16 GB RAM. A pair of SATA-600 slots are present too, along with a CFast socket, four USB 2.0, two USB 3.0 and two RS-232/422/485 ports. There's support for RAID 0/1, and Axiomtek also tossed in a PCI Express x16 (routed to the back plane) and four PCI Express x1 slots (or one PCI Express x4). Medical equipment, DVRs, process control, the network security market, and the field of industrial automation have been pegged as the intended market for the SHB230.

Intel Active Management Technology 9.0 (AMT 9.0) is included (for remote control management) and so are DVI-I and LVDS interfaces. Sales will start in May this year (2014), for a price that has yet to be disclosed.

Axiomtek SHB230
Image credits to Axiomtek

Mar 26, 2014

NVIDIA Jetson TK1 Developer Kit, a $192 / €192 Mobile Supercomputer

For a mobile processor, the Tegra K1 is pretty overpowered, and because NVIDIA itself is well aware of that, it decided to use it for a new type of supercomputer: the embedded supercomputer.

Granted, that's not the way NVIDIA phrased it, since it described the new product, called NVIDIA Jetson TK1, as a developer kit. Still, the Santa Clara, California-based company did mention that, among other things, the Jetson TK1 should be used in the "rugged and industrial embedded market." The actual list of potential applications is quite long in fact, including human-computer interface and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), computational photography, robotics, and augmented reality. Ultimately, NVIDIA was thinking of robots that would navigate through any place, or about machinery that would help medics perform ultrasound scans or enable drones/cars to detect and avoid pedestrians. Support for CUDA 6 technology is included in the module, which brings to the table such things as accelerated libraries for sparse matrix, FFTs, linear algebra, video processing, and so on.

So what is the Jetson TK1 exactly? A small “supercomputing module” featuring an NVIDIA Kepler 192-core GPU with a performance of 326 Gigaflops. That's three times the performance of any other embedded platform, and considering that the Jetson TK1 Developer Kit includes a full C/C++ toolkit based on NVIDIA CUDA, it should be straightforward enough to create software for it. As a parallel computing platform, it's more pervasive than, say, FPGA, custom ASIC and DSP processors. As for the hardware specs, here they are: the 192-core Kepler GPU is backed by 2 GB of memory. There's an I/O controller as well, which boasts connectors for Gigabit Ethernet, mini PCI Express, an S card slot, USB 3.0 and HDMI 1.4. OpenGL 4.4 is supported, as is the VisionWorks toolkit.

So, all in all, it might be a bit much to call this thing a supercomputer, but as a “mobile” product, it definitely has a high performance, and will let portable industrial systems and advanced robotic applications flourish further. The price of the NVIDIA Jetson TK1 Development Kit is of $192 / €192, but only pre-orders can be placed for now. You can do it straight from NVIDIA, or from Microcenter and Newegg, plus some of NVIDIA's confirmed partners like Avionic Design, SECO, Zotac (all three in Europe), or Ryoyo Electro Corporation (Japan). "Tegra K1 can change what's possible in the rugged and industrial embedded market. We expect to be able to offer solutions in the sub-10 watt space that previously consumed 100 watts or more," said Simon Collins, product manager at GE Intelligent Platforms.

Image credits to NVIDIA

Mar 25, 2014

ZTE Nubia X6 Goes Official with 6.44-Inch Screen, Snapdragon 801 CPU

Today, Chinese mobile phone maker ZTE made official a new high-end smartphone in its Nubia lineup, in the form of ZTE Nubia X6.

The handset has been rumored quite a few times before and is now fully unveiled, set to arrive on shelves in China in the not too distant future. ZTE launched the phone during a press event in Beijing, but it did not announce specific info on when the phone might become available for purchase in other markets around the world as well. Although ZTE is expected to focus mainly on the Chinese market with the release of this device, there is a chance that it would be launched in other countries as well, so as to grab some more market share. In China, the smartphone will be released in three different flavors, with 32GB, 64GB and 128GB of internal memory, priced at 2999 Yuan ($484/€350), 3499 Yuan ($564/€408), and 3999 Yuan ($645/€467), respectively. ZTE announced the new mobile phone with a 6.44-inch LCD touchscreen display on the front, capable of delivering a 1080p resolution and a 344ppi-pixel density, and with a slim, 7.9mm body.

The new Nubia Z6 is powered by a 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 MSM8974AB processor, while being paired with 3GB of RAM, a recent article on GizChina reads. Moreover, the handset was announced with a 13-megapixel camera on the back, with an f/2.0 aperture and Optical Image Stabilization, capable of delivering great imaging capabilities. There is also a 13-megapixel camera on the front of the device, with f/2.2 aperture, which should provide users with the possibility to make high-definition video calls while on the go. Not to mention that it will allow them to snap high-quality selfies at ease. The specifications list of the new device also includes dual-SIM capabilities, along with 4G LTE and 3G connectivity capabilities, dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and built-in GPS receiver.

The mobile phone will arrive in China with support for various networks in the country, including TD-LTE, FDD-LTE, EVDO, CDMA, GSM, WCDMA and TD-SDCMA. Apparently, ZTE plans on selling it unlocked, which means that users will be able to connect it to the wireless network of their choosing. Moreover, the smartphone was unveiled with noise-canceling microphones, as well as with a huge 4250mAh battery packed inside. Although ZTE Nubia X6 does not sport a microSD memory card slot, the Chinese phone maker did pack it with USB On-The-Go capabilities, so that users could easily mount flash drives.

ZTE Nubia X6
Image credits to weibo via gizchina

BlackBerry to Launch 1080p Smartphones, BlackBerry 10.3 Code Unveils

Canadian mobile phone maker BlackBerry might be preparing the launch of smartphones that would pack 1080p touchscreen displays, the latest news on the matter suggests.

Earlier this week, a BlackBerry 10.3 build leaked online for the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, unveiling some of the new features and capabilities that the platform would pack inside when made available for download. Some of those who took their time to have a closer look at the code discovered that there is support for 1080p screen resolution included, which suggests that a handset featuring such a display might arrive on the market sooner rather than later. As PhoneArena notes, the company has been previously rumored to plan the release of high-resolution smartphones, such as the BlackBerry Windermere and Ontario. The former will supposedly arrive on the market with a QWERTY keyboard that will accompany a 1440 x 1440-pixel screen, while the latter should hit shelves with a 1080 x 1920-pixel screen.

This would be the very first BlackBerry device to arrive on the market with a full HD touchscreen display, despite the fact that rival platforms can already be found loaded on devices with such capabilities. However, with no official confirmation on the device available as of now, it remains to be seen when exactly BlackBerry decides to make it official, so stay tuned for more on the matter.

BlackBerry 10.3 hints at 1080p screen rosolution
Image credits to BlackBerry

NVIDIA Intros Pascal GPU, 3D Stacked Memory Chips, and NVLINK Technology

Even though NVIDIA hasn't even launched the real Maxwell GPU yet (that will only happen in late 2014, and the GTX 750 / 750 Ti don't count), the company has already introduced the Pascal GPU, scheduled for 2016.

Well, technically the company hasn't actually released the chip. More like it revealed its presence in the roadmap. The real highlight of the ongoing GTC, taking place in between March 24-27, 2014, in San Jose, California, was the NVLINK technology. What NVLINK does is unify the GPU and CPU cache in a system, allowing the two distinct processing units to divide tasks between each other much faster than right now. As allowed by the PCI Express 3.0 interface, this means that performance for the card, over PCI Express, can rise by 5 to 12 times. In turn, this enables supercomputing performance increases by a factor of 5 to 100. This is a huge leap in performance, on both counts. The Pascal GPU, which will succeed Maxwell, will supposedly have a bandwidth of thousands of bits on a single chip as well, compared to the 512 maximum of right now.

That raised another issue: how will you get enough memory to use that interface, and how will all the chips fit and communicate quickly, without having to wait in line as it were? The answer was 3D packaging for the VRAM chips. So you get a memory interface of thousands of bits, and dozens of chips stacked on top of one another, with holes in them through which silicon interconnects pass. The Pascal sounds like the superman of GPU technology, and it may very well be. In fact, NVIDIA spoke at length about the use of the chip module (which is as big as two credit cards) and how it does best in “machine learning.” Which is to say, computers, or supercomputers, that can learn from past experiences how to recognize things when asked. So far they've been limited to recognizing that human faces and cats show up most often on the Internet.

Of course, that conclusion was drawn after doing the equivalent of watching YouTube for 2 days, so it's not all that reliable, but still. The Pascal is smaller than a PCI Express slot, so with some hardware platform customization it could be installed in an HPC (high-performance computing) installation in high density. And with NVLINK working both CPU-to-GPU and GPU-to-GPU, performance will scale quite well there. Click for larger images.

NVIDIA Pascal GPU saves Moore's Law
Image credits to NVIDIA

ASUS B85-Pro Gamer ROG Motherboard Has Elaborate Heatsink and 8-Phase VRM

The Republic of Gamers brand is one that ASUS only slaps on top of its absolute best consumer hardware, so it stands to reason that the B85-Pro Gamer has a lot of things to offer despite the choice of chipset.

Which is to say, the motherboard boasts the B85 chipset instead of the Z87 commonly found on high-end / gaming platforms. ASUS does have Z87-based motherboards, like the Z87-A. The ATX B85-Pro Gamer actually resembles it quite a bit, or at least its PCB does. For one, it has an 8-phase VRM (voltage regulation module), which controls the power that makes it to the LGA 1150 CPU socket. A single PCI Express 3.0 x16 slot is available, but there is a PCI Express 2.0 x16 slot as well, even if it does work in physical x4 mode (it is wired to the B85 PCH). On that note, a pair of PCI Express 2.0 x1 slots are found on the motherboard as well, along with three legacy PCI slots. On the matter of virtual memory, ASUS installed four DDR3 DIMM slots on the B85-Pro Gamer motherboard.

So there should, in theory, be room for 32 GB or even 64 GB of DDR3 RAM, assuming you can find modules with high enough individual memory capacity. And since fourth-generation Haswell central processing units (CPUs), like previous-generation Ivy Bridge and Sandy Bridge, have integrated graphics, ASUS included DVI, D-Sub and HDMI outputs on the I/O rear panel. Moving on, the newcomer has a pair of SATA 3.0 Gbps ports (SATA II) for hard disk drives (HDDs), solid-state drives (SSDs) and hybrid drives (HHDs or SSHDs), plus four SATA 6.0 Gbps connectors (SATA III). Obviously, you'll want to populate the latter type first, and only use the SATA II ports if you already have four storage devices in the PC for some reason.

Other features include a premium Intel I217V GbE controller (Gigabit Ethernet), SupremeFX audio (with a 115 dBA SNR CODEC), electrolytic capacitors, a 300Ω headphones amp (made by Texas Instruments) and ground-layer isolation. Finally, ASUS included high-grade black solid-state capacitors and DRAM over-current protection, plus ESD dampening circuits along the rear panel ports, as dictated by the “Gamer's Guardian” technology. UEFI BIOS is just the well-mixed and easily anticipated icing on the cake. Sadly, the price of the ASUS B85-Pro Gamer is not known, despite that the product page is already up and running. Image gallery below, click for larger images.

ASUS B85-Pro Gamer
Images credots to ASUS

Mar 24, 2014

Leaked Screenshots Detail Upcoming BlackBerry OS 10.3 Features

Earlier today, we learned that a new OS flavor has leaked online for the BlackBerry Z10 smartphone, in the form of BlackBerry OS 10.3, and we can now have a look at some of the enhancements that it will offer, courtesy of a host of leaked screenshots with the software.

As mentioned before, the upcoming operating system should bring along an updated user interface for the platform, with black and red accents dominating it, and the leaked screenshots, available courtesy of zonablackberry.com.ve, confirm that. Moreover, they also show that the shadow border of icons on the homescreen has been removed, transforming the overall looks of the platform into a flatter, minimalistic style, as GSMArena notes. At the same time, the leaked images will provide users with a closer look at other changes set to make an appearance in the upcoming OS version, such as a modified keyboard, an updated play button in the music player, and new features in the camera application.

At the same time, said screenshots offer a glimpse at the Personal Assistant that BlackBerry 10.3 has been rumored to come to devices with. The one thing that hasn’t been unveiled as of now is when exactly the new platform release will become available for download. However, BlackBerry might offer such info in the not too distant future, so stay tuned to learn more on the matter. Screenshot images below, click to view larger images.

Leaked BlackBerry OS 10.3 screenshots
Images credits to zonablackberry.com.ve via GSMArena

Nokia X Now Receiving Software Update Version 11.1.1

Nokia X, the very first smartphone in Nokia’s lineup to run under Google’s Android operating system, has already started to receive a new firmware upgrade, it seems.

According to a recent post on Nokia’s support portal, the new software release is available for download over-the-air for the Nokia X devices out there and will land on them as version 11.1.1. Moreover, the company has unveiled that the update is designed to bring along a small set of improvements when compared to what the previously available 10.0.3 software flavor had to offer. Thus, following the update, users will see that they have the option to change the colors for third-party applications and that the overall performance capabilities of their smartphones have been improved as well. As mentioned above, the update will arrive on handsets OTA (over-the-air), which means that users won’t need to connect the device to a computer in order to grab it. “You can simply download and install the update using your phone. Updates are free of charge, but to download the update, you need an internet connection. It is best to use a Wi-Fi connection to avoid mobile data transmission costs,” Nokia explains.

Moreover, the company explains that the installation of this update should not affect the personal files that users have on their devices. Nokia X owners will receive a notification as soon as the new firmware release is available for their devices. When that happens, they should simply hit the download button top grab the update and then they should follow the on-screen prompts to install it. In the event that the new software iteration does not appear on its own, users can also manually check on its availability through going to Settings > About Phone > System updates and hitting the Check now button. The installation process should take around 15 to 30 minutes to complete. Before proceeding, however, users should check that the battery inside their devices has been charged at least at 50 percent, to ensure that it has enough juice to get through the entire process.

Although the update should leave all user files unaltered, it would also be a great idea to back up all data, so as to make sure that no important info is lost in the event that anything goes wrong during installation. For additional info on what software updates for the Nokia X are all about, simply head over to this page on Nokia’s website.

Nokia X
Image credits to Nokia

Mar 20, 2014

Karbonn Plans a Snapdragon-Based Octa-Core Smartphone for May Release

Indian mobile phone maker Karbonn has officially confirmed plans to bring to the market a new octa-core smartphone sometime in May, after making official two such devices only yesterday.

However, while the newly announced Titanium Octane and Octane Plus are powered by MediaTek CPUs, the upcoming handset will feature a Qualcomm Snapdragon processor inside. According to a recent article on BGR India, the company also said that the smartphone would pack a Snapdragon 615 chipset inside, and that it would also feature a 5-inch screen capable of delivering a full HD resolution. Running under the Android 4.4.2 KitKat, the handset will also feature Karbonn’s new user interface on top. Additionally, Karbonn said that it will release the device at a higher price point compared to the newly unveiled phones, at around Rs. 20,000 ($326 / €237).

Karbonn also confirmed that it was indeed working on the launch of a dual-boot Android-Windows Phone handset, while unveiling that it would not be a cheap device when it lands on shelves in the next several months. The company has partnered with Microsoft for the release of Windows Phone devices only recently and should unveil such a smartphone soon, with a price tag of around Rs. 10,000 ($163 / €119), it seems. More on the matter will be announced soon, so stay tuned.

Karbonn plans octa-core Snapdragon smartphone
Image credits to Karbonn

Leaked 5-Inch Screen for QWERTY BlackBerry Phone Emerges

Canadian mobile phone maker BlackBerry might be on a descendent curve right now, but the company is still planning the launch of new devices, and info on one of them has allegedly emerged online in the form of leaked photos with the handset’s screen.

The smartphone in question is reportedly featuring the codename of Windermere and has already leaked online before as a 5-inch smartphone that would also arrive on the market with a QWERTY keyboard on the front. BlackBerry has already released devices with both touchscreens and physical keyboard, and it does not come as a surprise that it plans a new one, though the screen size is rather unusual, that’s for sure. In fact, the newly leaked images show that the 5-inch screen of the upcoming mobile phone will sport a 1:1 ratio, similar to those featured by BlackBerry Q10 and Q5.

According to N4BB, said photos appear to show that the handset’s screen is almost a final revision, which might suggest that BlackBerry could make the smartphone official sooner rather than later. No official confirmation on the smartphone has been provided as of now, and there’s no telling what other hardware specs it will feature when launched. Have a look at the images that leaked over at techguyzz to make a better idea of what the phone’s screen might be all about. Images gallery below, click to view original image.

5-Inch Screen for QWERTY BlackBerry Phone
Images credits to techguyzz

Mar 19, 2014

Xiaomi Redmi Note Goes Official, Now on Pre-Order in China

Today, Chinese mobile phone maker Xiaomi officially introduced the Redmi Note smartphone, which is yet another mid-range device from the company, but which packs some highly appealing capabilities inside.

The handset was been teased a few times before, but it was not fully unveiled until today, when it also went up for pre-order in China. Users in the country interested in grabbing the device can head over to Qzone for that. However, they will have to wait for March 26 to arrive in order to be able to actually purchase the phone. Just as previously teased, the smartphone was made official with a 5.5-inch touchscreen display capable of delivering a 1280 x 720-pixel resolution, which also packs OGS technology, and which can deliver a 178-degree-wide viewing angle. Xiaomi unveiled the smartphone with an octa-core processor inside, a MediaTek MT6592 CPU paired with Mali 450 graphics, and also announced that there would be two versions of the phone released to the market, clocked in at 1.4 GHz and 1.7 GHz, respectively.

On the back, the new device sports a 13-megapixel camera with 28 mm lens with f/2.2 aperture and LED flash, capable of recording videos in full HD resolution. Moreover, it comes with a 5 MP camera on the front, so as to offer great video calling capabilities while on the go. Xiaomi’s new handset arrives on the market with dual-SIM capabilities, offering support for both TD-SCDMA and GSM networks, it seems. Moreover, Xiaomi is planning the release of a WCDMA version of the device, and should bring it to shelves in other countries out there as well. Redmi Note was also unveiled with 1 GB / 2 GB RAM of RAM inside, as well as with 8 GB of internal memory, and with a microSD memory card for expansion purposes, as fonearena notes.

At the same time, it sports all of the usual connectivity capabilities, such as WiFi 802.11 b/g/n and Bluetooth 4.0, along with a built-in GPS receiver, and is powered by a 3200 mAh battery, which should be able to offer up to two days of usage times. Xiaomi Redmi Note will arrive in China with a price tag of 799 Yuan ($129 / €93) attached to it for the 1.4 GHz version, while being priced at 999 Yuan ($161 / €116) if bought with the 1.7 GHz processor inside. Both versions of the smartphone are running under the MIUI v5 software, which is based on Google’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system. They will be released in a variety of color options, the company has announced.

Xiaomi Redmi Note
Images credits to Xiaomi via fonearena

AMD Carrizo APU Leaked, Has DDR4, but Is Crippled in PCI Express Support

AMD's Kaveri accelerated processing unit, sold under the A-Series brand, was released back in January, and will be succeeded in 2015 by Carrizo, whose preliminary specs have just been uncovered.

Bright Side of News, BSN for short, somehow uncovered some of the information regarding the next-generation APU. As you may know, the Kaveri is powered by the Steamroller architecture, or at least the central processing unit cores are. The GPU part, 8 SP modules based on Graphics Core Next, take up more of the die than the four CPU cores themselves, but we digress. For the first time, AMD will implement a full Fusion Control Hub in the APU, on on-die southbridge so to speak. The FCH will only have two SATA 6.0 Gbps ports though, four USB 3.0 ports and four USB 2.0 connectors. It sounds like a shame at first glance, since the southbridge (or what used to be called that) would normally be able to handle much more than this.

But then you reach the part where it says that the FCH will only be active on mobile variants of the processors. That's right, Advanced Micro Devices is preparing Carrizo chips for tablets and (maybe) mobile phones. This must be why power efficiency will be a key concern. The onboard FCH will actually deactivate when you install the Carrizo APU inside an FM2+ socket. The motherboard's own Fusion Controller Hub will enter the fray then, providing many more storage and connectivity interfaces than the on-die one. Another important asset of Carrizo is the support for not just DDR3 RAM, but also DDR4 memory. We don't have any clock speed info, but even the assurance that DDR4 will be available is better than nothing, since it would have been truly unfortunate if Intel was the only one with that interface.

No mention of a GDDR5 controller suggests that dual-DDR4 channel memory might be what AMD has planned for backing up the on-board GPU (51.2 GB/s bandwidth, vs. 38.4 GB/s for DDR3-2400). Other features include support for AVX2 instructions (full 256-bit registers, probably), and a random number generator. Finally, and this could be a problem, 16 PCI Express lanes are available, down from 24, which implies that no more than a single PCI Express x8 slot will be possible to implement, or two in x4 electrical mode. It kind of kills the prospects of multi-GPU configurations, but is sufficient for any add-in card, and AMD might be trying to nudge people towards Dual Graphics anyway (where the APU GPU joins forces with the add-in card). It might damage marketability if AMD doesn't advertise the features right though.

AMD Carrizo APU detailed
Image credits to AMD

Oppo Find 7, The Baby Beastie

Oppo has just announced the upcoming availability of two new smartphones that will certainly appeal to any Android enthusiast, the Find 7 and Find 7a. Both devices will be launched in China soon, but there’s a chance they will go on sale globally at some point. Here is hoping that will happen sooner rather than later.

We have already reported on top-tier Oppo Find 7, so now let’s take a look at what its “less featured” twin brother has to offer. Before getting your hopes too high, unless you are living in China, you won’t be able to get any of the two smartphones announced by Oppo. According to the Chinese company, the Find 7a will be launched in China on March 20 and will be available for purchase for only 3,000 yuan outright, which is about $485 or €345. The Oppo Find 7 will be released in China as well, but there’s no word on the exact date. However, we do know that it will cost only 3,000 yuan ($565 / €405). Anyway, unlike the Oppo Find 7, the Find 7a model will “only” pack a 5.5-inch capacitive touchscreen display with full HD (1080p) resolution with 403 ppi (pixel density) and Corning Gorilla Glass coating.

There are major differences between the two smartphones when it comes to hardware, but both devices can be easily tagged as high-end handsets. While the Oppo Find 7 is equipped with a 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor, the Find 7a rocks a 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm MSM8974AB Snapdragon 800 CPU, an Adreno 330 graphics processing unit and only 2GB of RAM (Find 7 packs 3GB RAM). Another major difference between the two smartphones is the storage they pack. Unlike Find 7 that comes with 32GB of internal memory, Oppo Find 7 offers only 16GB storage. However, the smartphone provides users with the option to further expand storage via microSD card (up to 64GB). On the back, Oppo Find 7a boasts an impressive 13-megapixel rear-facing camera that features Sony IMX214 sensor with dedicated ISP, dual-mode LED and f/2.0 aperture.

The smartphone is powered by a removable 2800 mAh battery with Rapid Charge technology and will ship with Oppo’s proprietary Color 1.2.0 OS, which is based on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean operating system. It also packs all the connectivity options you might think of, including FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE support (for the Chinese market), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and GPS with A-GPS.

Oppo Find 7a
Image credits to Oppo

Mar 18, 2014

Oppo N1 Mini Coming in May/June with 5-Inch Display, Octa-Core CPU

Oppo fans will be pleased to know that their favorite company will embrace the current trend and will launch a “mini” version of one of its most popular smartphones, the N1.

According to Hardwarezone, the Chinese company plans to release a variation of the popular N1, which will be called Oppo N1 Mini. The smartphone has yet to be unveiled officially, but word is that Oppo will launch the device on the market sometime in May or June. Unlike the original Oppo N1, which boasts a huge 5.9-inch capacitive touchscreen display that supports full HD (1080p) resolution, the mini version will “only” pack a 5-inch display. No word on resolution yet, but we suspect it will only offer HD (720p) support.

On the inside, the Oppo N1 mini won’t be less impressive than the original model, which rocks a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 clocked at 1.7GHz, as rumors claim it will be powered by a MediaTek octa-core chipset. Design-wise, both Oppo N1 models will look similar, so don’t expect any changes in aspect. It is also worth mentioning that Oppo N1 Mini will be available in LTE and non-LTE variants, depending on the market. Stay tuned for more updates on the matter.

Oppo N1
Image credits to Oppo

Gigabyte Launches P34G Gaming Laptop with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 860M

Today Gigabyte launched a new gaming laptop, called the P34G that comes bundling a sleek and elegant look. The company says the device could prove to be the right solution for business users who like to kick-back and relax by playing the most advanced in the industry today.

The new P34G is kept alive by virtue of a powerful and efficient 4th-gen Intel Core i7 quad-core processor and bundles NVIDIA’s next-gen GPU, in the form of the GeForce GTX 860M GGR5 4GB discrete graphics (based on the Maxwell/Kepler architecture). The flagship laptop bundles Super-Cool technology which packs dual heat pipes plus two dedicated fans for CPU & GPU, a system which is said to be able to maintain an optimal overall temperature even while playing the most straining games. Furthermore, the Gigabyte Fan Tweak has 3 different fan speed choices that allow users to opt for the right mode, depending on the tasks they are engaged with. There’s a bunch of other dedicated software, including LAN Optimizer (gets rid of network latency) or LockWin Key (locks the Windows Key)

The P34G v2 is equipped with one mSATA SSD up to 256GB and one 1TB HHD. In the display department, we have a 14-inch AHVA display (1080p) with 72% NTSC wide color gamut. Another drawing point is that the laptop is really slim and lightweight being only 20.9 mm / 0.8 inches and 1.67 kg / 3.68 lbs heavy, which makes it comparable to an Ultrabook. So far, there’s no information regarding pricing or availability.

Gigabyte launches new gaming laptop
Image credits to Gigabyte

Zotac Outs Fastest GeForce GTX 750 Ti Graphics Card, Called Thunderbolt

The GeForce GTX 750 Ti graphics card is one of the only two video boards powered by NVIDIA's Maxwell graphics processing unit architecture, and also the best, which means that it's the one most prone towards factory overclocking, something that Zotac has just proved.

The company has formally released the GeForce GTX 750 Ti Thunderbolt, which features a base GPU clock frequency of 1229 MHz, and a GPU Boost maximum setting of 1320 MHz. For the sake of comparison, the normal, reference card from NVIDIA works at 1020 MHz and 1085 MHz, respectively. Obviously, the company went to great lengths to push the board as high as it could go while still making do with air cooling. Speaking of which, the cooler is a large thing, with a thick aluminum fin stack and a shroud made of the same material. The fans are two in number, with a diameter of 90 mm and boasting hybrid impellers (two sets of blades, for better airflow and volume). Between the heat conductivity of the metal and the high air moving power of the fans, the heat is kept at bay quite well.

Of course, the cooler makes contact with the memory chips as well, otherwise their own overclocking would have caused an overwhelming amount of heat. To elaborate, while NVIDIA's reference card has the 2 GB of GDDR5 working at 5400 MHz, this one, Zotac GeForce GTX 750 Ti Thunderbolt, functions at 6 GHz. To sum up, the Zotac GeForce GTX 750 Ti Thunderbolt is the fastest GTX 750 Ti card made so far, and probably won't get a true rival any time soon. The name is still a bit odd though, not just because the coloring of the board does not evoke the phenomenon in the slightest, but also because “Thunderbolt” is the name of a particularly speedy storage/video interface, an interface which the card lacks.

Instead, the newcomer sticks to what works, a pair of DVI outputs, an HDMI connector and one DisplayPort. It's a real shame that the product isn't available outside of the Greater China Region. We're quite certain that there are plenty of Americans and Europeans that would jump at the chance to own the fastest Maxwell board on the market. Alas, they will have to be content with admiring the product from afar, or contact an acquaintance in China that can acquire one. The price is of 1,199 RMB ($194 / €140).

Zotac GeForce GTX 750 Ti Thunderbolt
Image credits to Hermitage Akihabara

Mar 17, 2014

Intel's 64-Bit Mobile Chips Will Have OS-(B)Locking Features

Bad news for Android users planning to purchase smartphones powered by Intel’s next-generation 64-bit Merrifield chipsets, as the company has confirmed that these SOCs will be OS-locked.

According to German site Golem.de, Intel’s Technical Account Manager Frank Kuypers said in an interview that his company’s upcoming Merrifield 64-bit mobile chipsets would be added a new feature called “hooks,” which is meant to block some of the features, more or less important, if it detects that a new OS has been installed on the device. Kuypers claims that Intel’s new chipsets will be able to detect if an Android user replaces the operating system on their smartphone with another version or with a completely different one, and then block some of the features that user should benefit from by default. For example, let’s say you own an Android smartphone powered by Intel’s new Merrifield mobile chipset and you want to install a CyanogenMod ROM that would presumably make your device faster and more reliable.

Well, you should know that “thanks” to the new “hooks” feature integrated in these mobile chipsets, you risk losing some of the most important capabilities of the phone, such as LTE/UMTS, as well as some – if not all – emails received. The reason is simple, as Kuypers says that Intel’s SoC will be capable of identifying the new software installed as “risk” and will block these features until you revert to the previous OS version recognized as “safe.” The new technology implemented within Intel’s hardware will be active beginning 2014, along with the “hooks” functionality that will be used to lock the processor for certain OSes or OS versions. It remains to be seen which OS versions and/or mobile platforms will be blacklisted by Intel.

I reckon this is an unexpected turn of events for Intel, which isn’t even among the popular mobile chipset producers on the market. Perhaps the company wants to sell even less mobile chipsets to Android handset makers, or else we can’t see a reason to lock down an Android OS, which is an open source platform in itself. Last but not least, it appears that Intel is still undecided whether to make the use of this “hooks” feature public. Purchasing an Android smartphone without knowing that you can update to a new version or install a customized ROM is unacceptable. According to the company, the “hooks” functionality is meant to improve the security on Android devices that are powered by Merrifield chipsets, but this should not affect users’ experience.

Intel Android smartphone
Image credits to Intel

Alleged LG G3 Benchmark Screenshot Confirms QHD (2560x1440) Display, Octa-Core CPU

The first details on LG’s upcoming flagship smartphone, the G3, leaked last week when the phone’s UAProf (User Agent Profile) confirmed that its display would support QHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) resolution.

The second leak came shortly afterwards in the form of the first screenshots taken from the alleged LG G3, which, once again, confirmed that the smartphone would indeed boast a stunning QHD display. The third leak regarding the LG G3 comes today via lgg3.com blog site and reveals slightly more details on the smartphone’s specs sheet. It appears that the Dutch site was able to take a screenshot from some benchmarking scores supposedly achieved by the upcoming LG G3. According to the benchmark shown in the screenshot, the LG-D850, which is also known as LG G3, will indeed sport a QHD display and will be powered by Android 4.4 KitKat operating system out of the box. However, given the fact that this is just a prototype, there’s a high chance that LG G3 will run the latest version of Android, namely KitKat 4.4.2.

Furthermore, the first info on the phone’s insides is unveiled in the screenshot as well. It looks like LG and MediaTek have partnered for the making of the G3, as the smartphone is confirmed to pack a MediaTek MT6595 chipset. This particular chipset accommodates two quad-core processors and a very powerful PowerVR Series6 graphics processing unit. MediaTek’s MT6595 chipset is equipped with one quad-core CPU clocked between 2.2 and 2.5GHz, as well as a 1.7GHz quad-core processor that should handle the less demanding operations. The screenshot claims that the minimum CPU frequency is 1.7GHz, while the maximum frequency is 2.2GHz, so there’s a high chance that the LG G3 will be powered by a 2.2GHz octa-core CPU.

Previous rumors claimed that the LG G3 might be packed with a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor inside, but in light of the recent leaks, these speculations should not be taken into consideration anymore until further proof. Other LG G3-related rumors that have yet to be confirmed claim that the smartphone’s QHD display will measure 5.5 inches, which probably puts the device in the phablet category. Last but not least, the flagship smartphone should pack at least a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, autofocus, full HD (1080p), as well as OIS (optical image stabilization). LG G3 is expected to be launched on the market sometime in May/June, but judging by the amount of leaks that pop up online, it might go on sale slightly earlier.

LG G3 benchmark scores (screenshot)
Image credits to lgg3.com

Mar 16, 2014

Xiaomi’s Tablet Said to Be Launching Later Today

As I told you before, Xiaomi has been expected to launch its first tablet product for months now. And since its tablet optimized MIUI interface is already a reality awaiting to be installed by Nexus 7 2013 users, it could only make sense, the slate per-se would see the light of day soon.

As Gizchina reports, the smartphone maker is gearing up to roll out the Xiaomi tablet in Beijing later today, alongside a 5.5-inch phablet called Xiaomi Hongmi. In anticipation of the launch, a couple of new pictures showcasing the slate have been leaked online. Granted, they aren’t particularly clear, but one can make an idea about what’s coming our way, soon. According to the latest information, the tablet will have a 9.7-inch screen with a pretty unimpressive resolution of 1280 x 720 pixel resolution and draw power from a quad-core Snapdragon 400 processor clocked at 1.6GHz combined with 1GB of RAM and 8GB of internal storage.

Other highlights of the slate are promised to be an 8MP camera on the back and 1.5MP in front. On top of that, the Xiaomi slate should have 3G, voice calling capabilities and the usual connectivity radio feat. Keep an eye out later today for the new tablet.

Xiaomi has been said to be launching its tablet today
Image credits to GizChina

Xiaomi has been said to be launching its tablet today
Image credits to Tablet-News

iOS 8 Removes Game Center, Enhances Notification Center

The latest iOS 8 leak is out by means of a list containing some of the refinements and tweaks planned by Apple for the next major revision of its mobile operating system. Focus areas include Notification Center, inter-app communication, Voice Memos, Messages, Game Center, and CarPlay.

9to5mac boasts a list “provided by sources” of just “some” of the retouches Apple is “considering” for some of the apps and services in the upcoming iOS 8. Notification Center is one of the major elements Apple is looking into for some imminent changes. The sources said the translucent drop-down menu for managing alerts “may be simplified,” and that Apple is considering reducing some views from the panel to only include “Today” and “Notifications.” Apparently there’s a bit of uncertainty regarding the inclusion of these tweaks in the first builds of iOS 8. Apple is planning to implement an “XPC” service to enable apps to communicate better with one another and share data: “For example, a future photo editing application could have the ability to push the edited content for upload via the Instagram or Facebook apps.” The feature was initially planned for iOS 7, but somehow it never made it inside the OS. Apple could just as well delay it again, the sources said. The Voice Memos app will be enhanced so that its controls become more visible. The confusing interface will be tweaked so that people can understand better what buttons to tap to perform a certain action.

Game Center will be removed as an individual app, but not as a service. Gamers will sill be able to access the interface in games that are made for Game Center. CarPlay will be usable both with a Lightning cable and over WiFi when iOS 8 debuts. The leak also includes information about the general functionality of the operating system, and how Apple plans to enhance its performance and run faster than iOS 7. “In addition to the in-app tweaks, Apple has been working to speed up iOS 8 in comparison to iOS 7. Applications are said to launch more quickly, close more quickly, and overall system navigation is said to feel much smoother and more stable. Apple sped up animations and improved stability in the recent release of iOS 7.1, but the enhancements in iOS 8 are said to go a bit further.”

A lot of changes are expected to go down before Apple unveils iOS 8 at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference this summer. iOS 8 is also likely to drop support for some old-generation hardware, like the iPhone 4.

Notification Center in iOS 7
Image credits to TechCrunch

WhatsApp VOIP Feature Leaked, Shows Identical iOS 7 Design

WhatsApp is slated to become a phone-calling app thanks to the upcoming addition of a VOIP (Voice Over IP) feature that will enable customers to conduct phone calls over WiFi and 3G without being taxed by their operator (except for the data costs).

A couple of leaked screenshots from iPhoneItalia show that WhatsApp is getting a phone interface that looks strikingly similar to Apple’s own Phone app in iOS 7. In fact, in some areas the graphics are identical. For example, the rounded End-Call button is exactly the same in iOS 7.1. Acquired by Facebook for $19 billion (€13.66 billion), WhatsApp is slated to become a direct competitor of FaceTime Audio, Viber, and other VOIP clients currently used on iOS today. It wouldn’t be too surprising to hear that WhatsApp is moving into desktop territory soon.

Facebook stands to deal a heavy blow to phone operators worldwide as VOIP solutions can be used over WiFi, completely avoiding carrier fees. Even when used on cellular data VOIP apps rack up smaller bills than regular calling through the carrier’s network. The new update will also put more focus on photo messaging with the addition of  camera icon on the tool bar just above the keyboard.

WhatsApp screenshots
Image credits to iPhoneItalia

Mar 14, 2014

Dual-OS Machines Aren’t Dead, Ramos i10 Pro Leaks in More Pics Ahead of Official Launch

There has been a lot of fuss about dual-boot machine lately since word got out the ASUS Transformer Book Duet might be discontinued due to pressure coming from both Google and Microsoft. But, strangely enough, the two giants don’t seem to be singing the same tune to the Chinese manufacturer Ramos.

We’ll explain what’s bizarre. For some time now, we have been telling you ASUS is faced with pressure coming from Google and most recently Microsoft. Both want to halt the production of the 2-in-1 tablet/laptop hybrid capable of switching between Android and Windows 8. For one, Google is fearing the move will increase the adoption of Windows 8 machines in detriment to its own platform. But why would the two giants be OK with the Chinese manufacturer doing exactly the same? Granted, we don’t currently know whether Ramos will market the device in the US or any other markets external to China, but even so, it would be interesting to know why the Asian continent seems a good place for dual-OS to flourish. Anyway, regardless of the paradox, Ramos is actively gearing up to launch the dual-booting machine at an event scheduled for March 20 in Beijing, during the Jing Park Art Center conference.

And today, we get the opportunity a more extensive sneak peak of what’s headed for us in a few days (via 1Pad). The tablet has also been put on display in recent days at CeBIT 2014 in Germany. As you can see in the new photos, the Ramos i10 Pro is indeed a dual-booting device capable of switching between Windows 8 and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Also visible is the 5MP rear camera, dedicated Windows keys, dual-stereo speakers and an UltraStick card slot that allows users to insert a SIM card to bestow 3G connectivity. Also evident from the pics, is the fact the tablet will become available in multiple colors, not just the bland black we see with other models, including a vivid yellow. Putting looks aside and going for what’s really important, the i10 Pro obviously comes with a 10.1-inch display with a capable 1920 x 1200 pixel resolution (which is the same as the ASUS Transformer Book Duet was supposed to have) and draws power from an Intel Bay Trail Z3770D processor combined with 2GB of RAM and backed up by 32GB of internal storage.

We’re going to be providing you with more details, like pricing and availability dates in the news few days. In the meantime, check out the gallery bellow.

Ramos i10 Pro will launch soon
Images credits to 1pad.cn

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