Category: Products

Lenovo goes tablet crazy

Screen Shot 2015-03-02 at 11.38.21Announcements from the Mobile World Congress (MWC) are as thick as blankets of snow this week, and Lenovo has joined in the chase for more business by announcing a range of three tablets.

Lenovo, according to market watchers, has been doing comparatively well in the tablet market.

Today it announced the A Series Android tablets, the Tab 2 A7 and A10-70 and a Windows tablet too.

The A10-70 has a 10.1-inch FHD screen, and Dolby Atmos. The machine runs Android 4.4, uses a MediaTek quad core processor, weighs 500 grams and is 8.9 millimetres thick. It will cost £180 and ships in April.
The Tab 2 A8 weighs in at 360 grams and comes with a dual SIM card slot, and costs £130 for the wi-fi model. It will ship in June.

The Windows Ideated MIIX 300, uses Windows 8.1, has an Intel Atom chip inside, and a media card reader. It will ship in July and will cost around £150.

 

Intel’s Knight’s Hill cut down to 10nm

intel_log_reversedIntel is telling the world+dog that it talks to that its third-generation Xeon Phi, codenamed Knight’s Hill, will use 10nm technology and its second iteration of Omni-Path fabric. TechEye and ChannelEye are not in Intel’s good books again, so we have to sneak under the radar.

Intel is not talking to us any more. Sniff.

Knight’s Hill is a long way from being in the shops. We still have to see the 14nm Knight’s Landing which is not going to be in the shops until summer of 2015. This could mean that Knights Hill is likely for 2017.

Knight’s Landing will use the same Silvermont architecture that powers Intel’s Bay Trail but it will  support four threads per CPU — currently Silvermont doesn’t use hyper-threading marchitecture at all.

The reason we are interested in Knight’s Hill is that information on it is about as rare as a 1970s TV star who has not been investigated by operation YewTree, and we wonder why Intel is talking about it at all.

Perhaps it might because Intel is attempting to reassure customers that there’s a roadmap stretching out beyond the Knight’s Landing product and the 14nm node.

Intel’s Omni-Path scaling architecture debuts next year. Omni-Path is Intel’s next-generation networking interconnect that handles up to 100Gbps of bandwidth and uses silicon photonics technology for signalling. The new standard offers up to 48 ports per switch compared to 36 ports on other top-end standards, and is designed to lower the cost of huge build-outs by reducing the total number of switches. The long  term goal is to reduce latency and allow for effective scaling as the industry pushes forwards towards exascale. Bring back Pat Gelsinger!

Future versions of the core will likely expand both the onboard memory pool (16GB is expected for Knight’s Landing; Knight’s Hill could pack 32GB or more), add additional bandwidth, and likely increase the interconnect performance between the CPU and the associated MIC.

According to Extreme Tech  Intel might push its AVX standard up as high as 1024-bit registers, if the HPC crowd wants it. Adding wider registers is a simple way to boost performance The current AVX specification allows for extensions of up to 1024 bits in length, however, so Intel could do this. [Does anybody apart from Extreme Tech believe this Intel crap any more? Ed.]

 

Decade old laser tech dusted off

laser1In a bid to save cash on expensive fibre optic lines, 10-year-old laser networking technology is being re-introduced.

The technology that uses parallel radio and laser links to move data through the air at high speeds, in wireless hops of up to 10 kilometres at a time. It is being trailed by three of the largest US Internet carriers and is being rolled out by one telecommunications provider in Mexico, and another in Nigeria.

AOptix, the company behind the technology, claims the system is cheaper and more practical alternative to laying new fibre optic cables because it does not require trenches to install fibre in urban areas.

However, it does face significant bureaucratic and physical challenges and because of its bandwidth is being seen as particularly attractive to wireless carriers.

According to MIT Review, the technology takes the form of a box with an infrared laser and a directional millimetre wave radio beside it. The two technologies form a wireless link with an identical box up to 10 kilometers away. A series of such connections can be daisy-chained together to make a link of any length.

It fixes the two problems associated with laser and radio. Laser beams are blocked by fog, while millimetre wave radio signals are absorbed by rain. Routing data over both simultaneously provides redundancy that allows an AOptix link to guarantee a rate of two gigabits per second with only five minutes or less downtime in a year, whatever the weather.

While fibre connection might be 10 or more times faster than that, due to the limitations of the radio frequency link. However, AOptix says the convenience of its technology makes up for that, and it could be increased to four gigabits or more in the future.

The radio and laser equipment inside an AOptix device move automatically to compensate for the swaying of a cell tower caused by wind.

Microsoft software is unsafe again

Stained Glass - picture Mike MageeExpect a slew of critical updates to Microsoft Windows and other Microsoft software this week.

The company last week warned that much of its software needed patches to be safe and sound.  Many will need you to restart your machine or machines.

At the same time Microsoft will release an upgrade to its Malicious Software removal tool, its update services and the download centre.

Affected software includes Windows Server 2003, Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, Windows 8 and 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2, Windows RT and Windows RT 8.1, Windows Technical Preview and Windows Server Technical Preview.

Microsoft doesn’t support Windows XP anymore so you are on your own unless like the NHS or people that use point of sale (POS) embedded software you have additional security built in. You can find the whole sorry tale at the Microsoft site, here.

Microsoft pushes Office for iPad

ipad3In either a sign of desperation or a sign of largesse, Microsoft said today it will let people using the Apple Pad make and edit documents for free instead of paying through the nose.

Microsoft wants its software to be pervasive across every gadget and gizmo as the world has opened up to applications that don’t need an expensive PC or a pricey Windows operating system to work.

Microsoft already started to offer Office for the iPad and is understood to have attracted some 10s of millions to the proposition.

And in a further move it wants Apple users on its side, it said it will release Powerpoint, Excel and Word apps not only for the iPhone but for the Android operating system later this year too.

Apps for mobile devices cost only pounds rather than hundreds of pounds but it’s not entirely clear what CEO Satya Nadella’s motives are in spreading the Word around.

Intel impedes Windows 10

Intel-logoA report said that sales of notebooks using Microsoft Windows 10 are likely to be hit because Intel will be tardy releasing an appropriate chip.

Digitimes Research said that the Intel Skylake microprocessor is supposed to be ready at the beginning of the third quarter in 2015 but will probably not hit the streets until the end of next year or even 2016.

The news will plunge Microsoft into the depths of despondency.  It is already taking a hit because uptake of the notoriously shabby Windows 8.x isn’t going to plan.

Windows 10 is supposed to be the summum bonum – that is to say it will work properly because there won’t be a Windows 9.

Digitimes Research estimates that Intel’s delays won’t make the acceptance of Windows 10 any easier and it appears the alliance between Microsoft and Intel is crumbling.

Intel could not be contacted for comment at press time.

The report is here.

Notebooks to become cheap as chips

notebooksThere is a long held adage about buying notebooks and that is don’t buy them in the fourth calendar quarter.

Intel always release new chips  in the New Year and it’s always wise to wait for that to happen rather than get all excited before Yule.  But just because chip prices will come down in early 2015, don’t rush to buy a new notebook because there is, of course, trouble on the Windows 8.1 scene.

Personally, I need a new notebook and would have bought one by now but for the fact that it’s very hard to buy one with the reasonable operating system Windows 7 any more.  This is because Microsoft, as usual, is behaving like a headless chicken.

Microsoft has a sound track record of getting operating systems and operating environments wrong every other time it releases one.  Just as Vista was a dog, so Windows 7 was pretty good and therefore Windows 8.1 was certain to be a dog.

It has decided not to bother with Windows 9 and its next operating system will be called Windows 10 – a bit of a cause for concern because Windows 9, compared to Windows 8, was probably going to be pretty good but now it’s calling Windows 9, Windows 10, that is a bit of a worry.

There’s other good news on the scene if you’re up for a new notebook, because Taiwanese based market research company Digitimes Research reckons that first tier vendors’ 8GB tablets are going to drop to $99 or less. It claims major Chinese vendor  Lenovo is starting this particular price war.

Google wants us to lick its lollipop

lollipopGoogle has released a major update of Android, dubbed “Lollipop”.

According to Google, this is its thirteenth and most ambitious release of Android.

It has over 5,000 new application program interfaces (APIs) and to work on all devices.

Lollipop, it says, has a consistent design across different devices.  It also has features that lets you filter notifications so that if you’re doing something and you don’t want to be disturbed, you’ll see only the people you decide to let through.

It also includes a new battery saver feature which it claims will extend the life of a gadget by up to 90 minutes.  Android 5.0 Lollipop  also now includes multiple user accounts, guest user mode, and PIN passwords.

PC Partner partner gets into 3D printing

manli-simplyprint-3d-printer-2PC Partner partner Manli has launched two 3D printers which look the spit of something already on the market.

According to Fudzilla the move mimics one carried out by Inno3D. Both outfits are PC Partner brands and the printers are practically twins.

The Manli SimplyPrint 3D is a rebadged Inno3D Printer M1, while the Manli MXPrint 3D is the Inno3D Printer D1.

The specs are the same. All of them have a build volume of 140mm (L) x 140mm(W) x 150mm (H), layer resolution of 0.13-0.30mm, 0.4mm nozzle and all use standard 1.75mm filament. The MXPrint 3D features an open design with a metal frame, while the SimplyPrint 3D is enclosed in a plastic shroud.

Inno3D is pricing the printers at €1,150 in Europe and Manli’s printers should cost about the same. Manli is PC Partner’s brand for Asia, so its products are usually not available in western markets.

Still it is an odd step sideways for Manli which is better known as an Nvidia partner and maker of motherboards and cards.

Microsoft may dump Surface tabs

Microsoft Surface ProA report suggested that Microsoft may decide to give up the ghost on its Surface Pro 3 tablet.

According to Digitimes, sales for the product have been weak and Microsoft is disappointed with its performance.  That’s according to unnamed sources from the supply chain.

Microsoft has also failed to set up an adequate distribution chain and at the same time high prices for the products have put many people off.

Digitimes estimates that Microsoft has lost around $1.7 billion on the first two generations of its tablet.

Microsoft has another problem too. Competitors have introduced smartphones with large screens and that has affected peoples’ buying choices.

Microsoft hasn’t had much luck with hardware, with one notable exception.

That’s the Microsoft mouse.

Philips shows off 3D printed luminaries

lightsonDutch firm Royal Philips has shown off what it says are the world’s first 3D printed “smart” luminaries.

The luminaries are part of its “Hue” range, and Philips said that a finger swipe on smartphone or tablet allows you to create any number of personal light effects from a palette of 16 million hues, shades of white and programmable scenes.

Philips lets you create table and pendant luminaries to order at www.meethue.com while you can also order them from London store Selfridges.

Philips also showed off a bright white LED bulb which you can control from your tablet or smartphone. The Hue “lux” retrofits into existing A19 luminaries.

ConvoLightBecause your gizmo controls them you can turn your lights on and off from anywhere in the world you can get connected.  Applications include linking the app to alert you to stormy weather, link to stock tickers, link to sportsfeed, or to your Facebook page.

Philips also showed off Convo Lights, which can notify deaf people when there are other audible signals they might miss.

Google to gobble up smartphone market

smartphones-genericWant an Android smartphone for around 100 bucks?  Go to India, because that’s where the action is.

Market analysts at IDC said Google has introduced what it describes as the “first wave” of Android One devices in India in collaboration with local gizmo makers Spice, Karbonn and Micromax.

Google – now it’s a hardware company – has produced a reference design that makes it nice and easy to create devices using Mediatek MT6582 system on a chip (SoC) devices.

And Google isn’t letting it end there because it’s already teamed up major mobile firms Airtel and Reliance and pulled in Amazon too to give added value to the reference designs.

According to IDC, it won’t end there, because after capturing the Indian smartphone market it will also launch similar products in Indonesia and then Brazil.

IDC thinks Google is set to sell heaps of phones and “redefine”  cheap smartphones with “good enough” specs.

OK – Samsung and Apple can battle it out at the high end and while there are plenty of Indian folk who can afford to lash out on these, there are an awful lot more folks who, quite simply, can’t.

Google hasn’t got a presence in the Chinese market, said IDC, but can make gazillions out of other major markets.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2015 comes to pass

microsoft-in-chinaSoftware supremo Microsoft said it has made available a product which it claims will help small to medium sized businesses (SMBs)  grow their revenues.

Microsoft Dynamics NAV is business management software and is now optimised for mobile and for cloud, the company claimed.

Features include tablet and touch features that let SMBs access data from any place or  on devices that include apps from Apple, Google and Microsoft app stores.

There’s a simplified way of designing invoices that syncs with Microsoft Word. Microsoft says that allows people to create their own customised invoice templates.

It also has new capabilities for electronic payments and account reconciliation.

Kaveri makes this Acer Aspire E5 sing

Acer E5-551_1AMD has been making a big noise about its Kaveri chip range of Mobile APUs and we got a look at what it could do to Acer E5-551 15.6 laptop.

AMD A-Series APU family, codenamed Kaveri, is starting to pop up in systems from Acer, Asus, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Samsung, and Toshiba. According to AMD, the new mobile APUs mark the debut of Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) features and Graphics Core Next (GCN) Architecture for mobile. Acer’s Aspire E5 is first to arrive in the UK and will be sold through Debenhams so this makes it interesting from a user or a channel perspective.

The AMD A8 Kaveri chip is now powering the new Acer E5-551 laptop is designed for multi-tasking from gaming and light photo-editing to running multiples instances of software and streaming music. The E5-551 features a DVD reader and writer for long plane flights where you need a better movie. It is also well placed for the school market as it can practically anything a school kid could throw at it.

The machine is priced for about £409 which makes it a good budget model for smaller companies who are providing portables for those who have to do work, rather than just look at tablets. Normally there is not much between computers in this range. Most have WXGA screens based on TN technology and conventional hard drives and plastic bodies.

 Acer E5-551_9The Spec

Processor: AMD Quad-Core A8-7100

Mainboard: AMD A76M

Memory: 8192 MB, DDR3L, 1600 MHz, dual-channel, 2 memory banks, both filled

Graphics adapter :AMD Radeon R6 (Kaveri), Core: 533 MHz, DDR3L, shared memory, bus: 64 Bit

Display: 15.6 inch 16:9, 1366×768 pixel, AU Optronics AUO47EC, TN LED

Connections2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: 1 combo audio in/out, 3.5 mm jack, Card Reader: SD/SDHC/SDXC,

Networking: Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros Communications AR9565 Wireless Network Adapter (b g n ), 4.0 Bluetooth

Optical drive: Matshita DVD-RAM UJ8E2Q

Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8.1 64 Bit

Weight: 2.5 kg

Battery: 56 Wh Lithium-Ion

 Acer E5-551_10Design

The Aspire A5 design is, bluntly, a bit of a snooze and not its strongest feature. Certainly, it is thinner than many laptops in this range but it is not that thin. It is lighter and easy to carry than others we have had. Certainly in comparison to the bricks that are available in this price range it is certainly not bad. Besides, for £409 design is something that happens to other people’s computer.

The plastic case also seems to pick up every type of grease that a hand can generate and make the machine slimy.

 The chip

The important part of this computer is an AMD Quad-Core A8-7100 which is a quad core with eight GPU cores to carry out the AMD Radeon R7 series graphics. The idea of the Heterogeneous System Architecture (HSA) is that it allows the CPU and GPU to work together by quickly dividing and directing the right tasks toward the appropriate cores to improve performance and efficiency. The chip managed to make running software a breeze and it even passed our Firefox running trillions of opens tabs trick without any problems.

 The Graphics

The graphics on the Kaveri platform is far better than Intel’s equivalent HD graphics cores integrated into the Haswell chips. This makes Kaveri armed laptop owners able to play reasonably demanding games and videos. Playing Civ 5 was not only possible it was a quality game on Acer E5-551, something that I have only seen on our other home laptop, which has a dedicated card, when there was nothing else running. HD films came out very well, limited only by the screen which for a budget machine was still not too bad.

Connectivity

The machine has an HDMI socket, Ethernet connection, two USB 2.0 sockets, a USB 3.0 connection and a VGA out.  Not bad not great.

Communication

The Atheros AR9565 Wi-Fi module supports the IEEE 901.11 b, g and n standards,  Bluetooth, version 4.0. The signal connections were fairly standard and nothing to right home about

Battery

The 56 Wh Lithium-Ion managed 4.5 half hours before needing a recharge, which was not too bad given the thrashing we were giving it.  Again, this is due to the lower power draw of the AMD A8 chip.

Noise and heat

There was no noise coming from the machine at all. This was unheard of in any laptop in this price range, particularly one with an ordinary hard drive. One could almost believe it is fanless. The heat levels were also not to bad.  The laptop did get warm, but not hot and was comfortable to put on your lap.

Keyboard

The flat, roughened keys were not bad and were capable of fast touch typing.

Touchpad

The ClickPad which is a large, single-surface which you press when you want to ‘click’ was reasonable in comparison to the alternatives we have used.  Generally, if you are not going to have a touch screen on a laptop you are always going to be better with a mouse. When such use was impossible though once you got used to it was fine. Most of the touchpad surface can be pressed, which is interpreted as a left click except for in the lower right of the Clickpad.

 Hard-drive

The hard drive is 1TB which is more than enough for any portable music or movie collection.  It is not an SSD but we never heard it in operation.

Summery

The Acer E5-551 would be a normal budget laptop where it not for the Kaveri chip making it into something special. It enabled speed, enhanced graphics, extended battery life, and quiet operation something which we have not seen from Intel equivalents in the market.  It is still a budget machine, limited by the lack of a quality screen, but for that price it it is jolly useful.

The Eyes have it

four-stars

 

 

 

Good value for money.

 

Personal storage devices rose in Europe

seagate-hddMarket analysis firm IDC said that 6.3 million personal and entry level storage devices shipped in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) during the second quarter of this year.

The market includes storage hardware products made for end users, small offices and small businesses.

Companies selling these products include Toshiba, Western Digital, Seagate, Buffalo, D-Link, Netgear and Lenovo/EMC.

The market for sales in western Europe grew 3.5 percent in the quarter compared to the same quarter last year.  Western Europe also represented the largest market for units shipped, amounting to 4.7 million units.  Those revenues largely came for personal level storage.

The central eastern Europe and Middle East and Africa (CEMA) showed a drop of 13 percent year on year.  The drop was because of sanctions against Russia and the Ukrainian crisis, as well as less bandwidth capabilities and the fact not many people work remotely in the region.

The Middle East and Africa showed a drop of 17 percent year on year, caused by political turmoil and civil unrest.