Computex 2012 has arrived, and we're here in Taiwan to bring you the news at it happens. Joins us this week as we spend some quality time with the latest gear that PC manufacturers have to offer, and dive headlong into a world of thinner, lighter laptops and tablets.
Jun 23, 2012
Digging through our cameras for more footage from Computex 2012, we found this gem: a video demonstration of Freescale's 12-axis Xtrinsic sensor platform. This little green circuit board is absolutely covered with sensors, such that it can track a tremendous array of data in real time. In all, it's got a gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, altimeter, inclinometer, thermometer, and an ambient light sensor too. The real draw here, though, is the way the hardware and software tie all the positional and directional results together — sensor fusion — for Windows 8 devices. As you can see in the video below, when you move the board around, the Freescale chips generate a 3D object that does the same.Read Article >
In other words, with a platform like this, a Windows 8 tablet computer can have a holistic understanding of the forces applied to its frame. Freescale isn't the only company building sensor platforms, of course, and Windows 8 is supposed to unify sensors like this as a general rule, but Freescale also claims its solution will offload work from a device's primary processor to even out the load. According to the company, this particular board is just a reference platform for now.
Jun 13, 2012
"Think about the mountain," says AMD's John Taylor. He's talking about ultrabooks. "As you get up to $799, $899, $999, you've got 50 SKUs sitting up here, at this place. They're going to fall off." He shapes his fingers into a pyramid, so I can visualize the metaphor.Read Article >
The fact that Intel has over 110 design wins for its proprietary laptop platform doesn't seem to phase AMD's director of product marketing very much. In his estimation, Intel's ultrabook initiative isn't just driving quality, it's forcing a homogenization of the laptop market that might leave their manufacturers out in the cold. "There's not room on the shelf to differentiate 50 Intel ultrabooks, particularly if they're called Intel ultrabooks," he says, and I start to wonder if he might have a point.
Jun 10, 2012
Wireless SD card manufacturer Eye-Fi has more competition inbound: not only will it have to deal with Toshiba's FlashAir and the SD Card Association's new iSDIO standard, but memory vendor PQI had a tiny Wi-Fi SD card of its own at Computex 2012. Like the FlashAir, PQI's new Air Card creates a dedicated 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi hotspot when you plug it into your camera and press the power button, which you can connect to your tablet, phone or PC, after which point the photos and videos automatically appear in a corresponding app or web interface. Unlike the FlashAir, though, PQI's solution has a microSD slot, so you can swap in and out just about as much storage as you want.Read Article >
We had a really tough time getting the cards wirelessly paired in the hostile electromagnetic environment of the show, but it seems to work once you do: we were able to view photos and playback video on a connected iPad, and even keep on shooting new pictures while browsing the contents from the tablet. The card turns on Wi-Fi automatically whenever you plug it into a camera, and it will definitely drain your battery quicker (a PQI rep told us that it could cut life by half) but you can manually turn the wireless functions off if needed. The company hopes to go into production next month, but doesn't have a firm release date or price point for us yet. Here's hoping it's easier to pair in a real-world environment.
In December, we told you how a technology called Senseye could let you control your phone just by looking at the screen. The applications for good eye-tracking technology are far-reaching: you can imagine how it might assist chefs, doctors, and other professionals who need their hands free or who suffer a physical disability. That's not the Senseye we spotted at Computex 2012, but we ran across a very similar idea at the show from a company called Utechzone, and I'm proud to say, I used the software to become the deadliest slicer of virtual fruit I could possibly be.Read Article >
As you can see in the video above, it's a fairly chunky system right now, and one that's been around since 2010: just a really pricy infrared camera with built-in IR LEDs and some custom calibration software that you use before each and every session to make sure it can follow your pupils around. It really can bring a new dimension to games like Fruit Ninja, though, and I'm being completely serious about that: since a bomb explodes the instant you look at it, you have to use your peripheral vision to keep them out of your sight, and it's also simply much faster to look at a piece of fruit to slice it, rather than having to look and then swipe to get the job done.
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At Computex, Qualcomm demoed Windows RT on a dual-core Snapdragon S4 reference tablet, but there was also more powerful silicon to be found: the company's quad-core Snapdragon S4 APQ8064 and MPQ8064 were to be found playing games and slinging TV frames as well. As a result, we've got video demonstrations of both Qualcomm's Smart TV reference platform and the upcoming game Reign of Amira running on Android 4.0.
There are plenty of PC hardware components on display here at Computex Taipei, but Noctua is demonstrating a fan with integrated active noise-cancellation, a curio too novel to pass up. The technology was developed by Rotosub, and consists of a microphone, a metal band around a PC fan's frame, and a signal processor. The microphone captures the sound being emitted by the fan, feeds that data to the signal processor, which analyzes the noise and toggles magnets built into the tips of the fan's blades.Read Article >
The idea is deceptively simple: active noise-cancellation involves pairing a sound wave with one of identical amplitude, but inverted phase — the noise and anti-noise effectively cancel each other out. As the magnets in the Noctua prototype react to the band around the fan's frame, the blades vibrate imperceptibly (at about 0.1mm), generating sufficient anti-noise to counteract much of the noise the fan is making.
Squirreled away in a corner of Asus' booth at Computex Taipei was the company's first Thunderbolt-equipped display. Details are limited: the 27-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution monitor was mounted to a wall so we couldn't really take a look at the ports for ourselves, but we were told that it also packs DisplayPort, HDMI and DVI inputs, and will be headed to the US at an unspecified time, for an unspecified price. That isn't very much to go on, but if you're looking to hop onto the Thunderbolt-bandwagon and can't quite afford to drop $1,000 into Apple's coffers, this may be one to watch.Read Article >
Here's something a bit more concrete for all of the PadFone fans out there: Asus also showed off a 24-inch monitor that doubles as station display for the category-defying mobile phone. The 1920 x 1200 display makes a decent host for Android Ice Cream Sandwich, though using a mouse and keyboard to get around isn't quite as intuitive as tapping on a touchscreen. That said, the display looked fairly attractive, offering relatively wide viewing angles. Also of note was the matte display: we could see Android in its full glory despite the bright glaring lights in the Asus booth, which was promising. The monitor offers four USB 3.0 ports, HDMI, VGA, and DVI ports, and (once again )there's no word on price, but we were told that it would be making it's way to the US eventually.
Jun 7, 2012
Texas Instruments has a Windows RT prototype, too: just like rival Qualcomm, the chipmaker is showing off a dual-core reference tablet behind closed doors at its Computex 2012 booth. Unlike Qualcomm, unfortunately, the demo was completely hands-off, and we weren't allowed to take any video. That's probably for the best, though: OMAP product manager Bill Crean was kind enough to give us a quick demo, but it was immediately clear from glitches here and there that there's a lot of optimization yet to be done, and there were a number of features he didn't feel comfortable showing at all given the state of the current build.Read Article >
Still, Crean told us that Texas Instruments is not only ready for Windows RT, but that the company should have devices ready for the operating system on day one. Both Toshiba's prototype Windows RT laptop and transforming tablet will become real products, he assured us, and both are powered by Texas Instruments silicon. "We expect that they'll be ready at launch," he said.
Jun 7, 2012Read Article >
Computex might not be a trade show quite on par with January's gargantuan CES, but for the Taiwanese companies exhibiting their latest wares, it's arguably the most important week on the calendar. Asus didn't disappoint this year, bringing out a wide range of innovative new designs, highlighted by the eyebrow-raising Taichi, a dual-screened Windows 8 laptop that can also serve as a tablet. In the words of the always entertaining Jonney Shih, "the ultimate transformation is no transformation" at all. You'll find more such gems of wisdom from the Asus Chairman below, along with the first sightings of the company's Transformer AiO and Tablet 600.
Jun 6, 2012
One of the biggest selling points for the Apple TV is Airplay technology which easily lets owners broadcast content from their iOS devices (and soon from their Macs, as well). A similar feature will soon be coming to Google TV, thanks to set-top box maker Honeywld. The company is showing off a new Google TV box at Computex that will allow Android tablets and phones to push video to the set-top box, providing a simple way for users to get content onto their TVs. Users will need to install a special app, which is currently under development, and the box will also be able to synchronise other content including photos (it wouldn't surprise us to see some music support included as well).Read Article >
The box will be based on Android 4.0 with a Marvell dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor; other specs include 4GB of flash memory, 1GB of RAM, and ports for microSD, ethernet, and HDMI video. Honeywld is hoping to start shipping the boxes around Taiwan in July, and estimates pricing to land between $95 and $120 (US). There's no word on when it might make its way stateside, but it wouldn't surprise us to see more manufacturers start to build this technology into Google TV products. We'll be going to check this new implementation out for ourselves at Computex tomorrow.
Jun 6, 2012
Welcome to Computex 2012, the coming-out party for Intel's Ivy Bridge CPU refresh and Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. The two halves of an irresistible hardware-software combination that has dominated the PC world for so long that it has its own nickname — Wintel — came together in Taipei this week to once again reaffirm their supremacy. And AMD just stood on the sidelines, watching and scratching its head.Read Article >
Think about all the marquee devices launched by the likes of Acer and Asus at this show — were any of them AMD-based? The day-zero media blitz from the local Taiwanese vendors and their international competitors was almost exclusively Intel-powered, and where it wasn't, it was because ARM-based processors were starting to encroach upon traditional x86 markets. AMD was a total absentee.
He wouldn't tell us when, where, or who would be building them, but Qualcomm SVP Rob Chandhok told us that laptops aren't just a potential application for the company's Snapdragon S4 chips. At Computex Taipei, he admitted that Snapdragon-powered Windows RT notebooks are actually in production at this very moment. After seeing what the Tegra-toting Asus Tablet 600 can do, it would certainly make a lot of sense, and don't forget that Toshiba has a prototype Windows RT laptop with a Texas Instruments OMAP chip. The era of the smartbook may finally be upon us. As far as Qualcomm's other Windows RT plans are concerned, take a peek at the slide above: starting this month, the company plans to commercialize its quad-core Snapdragon S4 APQ8064.Read Article >
Speaking of Snapdragon chips and Microsoft software, Chandhok also dodged a question on Windows Phone 8 in a rather interesting way. When asked whether the existence of Snapdragon S4 in next-gen Windows Phone devices meant that the mobile operating system would now support dual-core, he said "you don't have to use both cores," and added, smiling, "there is no single-core S4."
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Intel's new all-in-one PC concept features inductive charging for your keyboard, but the company isn't stopping there — it envisages a future where ultrabooks will top up your phone. Demonstrated with an Acer Aspire laptop, the wireless charger is slimline enough not to add too much bulk to the ultrabook's form, and it can charge a compatible phone when in close proximity. You'll know that it's working when you hear a satisfying ping, and a notification also pops up on the notebook's screen. The idea is that you won't have to carry around your phone charger so often, though we wonder if it might make a power source for your laptop a little more of a necessity.
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The NEC LaVie Z isn't the lightest laptop ever made, but it's hard to believe that when you pick it up: the 2.2-pound notebook has a lithium-magnesium alloy frame that you'd swear was filled with air rather than the latest Intel Ivy Bridge silicon. We got our hands on the ultrabook at an Intel showcase at Computex Taipei this week, and we weren't just impressed by the lack of weight. The LaVie Z is also so thin that it can just barely house its full-size HDMI and USB ports, handsome, nicely rigid, and looks like it might come with a decent (and decently high-res) 1600 x 900 resolution screen. Things aren't completely rosy, though: the prototype we tried had an exceptionally shallow keyboard and a rather unresponsive touchpad. NEC announced today that it will be configurable with either a 1.7GHz Core i5-3317U or a 1.9GHz Core i7-3517U processor. It's just a shame we may never see it again outside its native Japan, when it ships this summer for an unspecified amount of yen.
Lenovo hasn't been a player in the Windows tablet game for a while (unless you count the convertible X220), but it seemingly couldn't resist joining in with the never-ending deluge of tablets at Computex Taipei. Intel is showing off the company's prototype tablet, which doesn't have a name yet beyond the ThinkPad branding. It's 9.7mm thin, has a 10.1-inch 1366 x 768 screen, and feels pretty light.Read Article >
Unfortunately we weren't allowed to actually touch the screen once we picked the ThinkPad up, so can't quite comment on the performance — however, the Intel representative demonstrating it for us didn't appear to run into any issues, with the Clover Trail processor seeming to keep up well enough. There's not a lot more to say about the new ThinkPad slate at this point, but for now you can add Lenovo to the ever-growing list of Windows 8 tablet OEMs.
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It's taken a while for Thunderbolt to gain wider adoption, but Intel is using Computex as an opportunity to highlight the connectivity standard. Two of the more notable products at its booth are the $399.99 Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock that was announced yesterday, along with a new Thunderbolt-enabled Drobo storage device. Unfortunately we're not yet able to do real-world performance tests on these devices, but the Belkin dock's solid construction at least gave us some idea of what you'll get for your not insignificant amount of cash. Meanwhile, Drobo claims that the move to Thunderbolt should boost the storage service's transfer speeds by up to 20 times. No word yet on when it'll be released, or indeed how much it'll cost.
Android's had a quiet showing here at Computex Taipei, but Acer just snuck out a new product that could well represent a breakthrough for the platform at large. The Iconia Tab A110 is at the company's booth without much fanfare, and on the face of it isn't particularly interesting — a 7-inch tablet with Android 4.0 that's powered by an Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. However, we spoke to an Acer representative who said that the A110 would be positioned as the company's main low-end device when it's released in the third quarter of the year, and that it will cost less than $200. If true, the aggressive pricing means it could well be the first beneficiary of Nvidia's $199 Kai program, though the representative wasn't able to comment on this.Read Article >
We've heard a lot of rumors about inexpensive Tegra 3 tablets since first laying eyes on Asus's Eee pad MeMO ME370T at CES, not least the one about a Google Nexus device in the same price and specification range as this new Acer slate. After using the A110 for a while, we'd say that you'd certainly get value for your money — its Ice Cream Sandwich skin is almost free of customization besides the green shortcuts dot next to the on-screen buttons, and it performed pretty well in a Quadrant benchmark with a score just short of the Asus Transformer Prime. It's a little thick at 11.4mm, and the screen's viewing angles aren't so impressive, but next to a Kindle Fire at the same price point we know which one we'd choose.
We just met with Nvidia here at Computex Taipei to take a more in-depth look at the Asus Tablet 600, the first Windows RT device to be announced. While no other OEMs have announced RT machines so far, Nvidia says its Tegra 3 system-on-chip will be powering each one at launch, and the company expects Microsoft's ARM-powered OS to be made available at the same time as Windows 8.Read Article >
Nvidia wanted to emphasize the early state of the Tablet 600, but it looked about ready for primetime to us — it's an attractive device either by itself or when paired with the keyboard dock. Its plastic build doesn't feel quite as premium as something like the Transformer Prime or the company's Zenbooks, but it seems well-constructed nonetheless.
Jun 6, 2012Read Article >
The Broadcom VP also drew attention to more 802.11ac-capable products coming from Asus, including a P8Z7-V series motherboard, and the RT-AC66U wireless router we heard about on Monday. Before leaving the stage, Hurlston mentioned that we’ll be seeing smartphones, tablets, and even cameras with the new networking standard in 2013.
We've seen Intel's vision for Windows 8 already, but don't count out AMD. The company is showing off a Windows 8 tablet from Compal here at Computex Taipei, and it's in the hot form factor of the moment — the detachable keyboard dock. We spent some time with the 11.6-inch device, and while it's not the most attractive or thinnest (at "under 20mm") Windows 8 machine we've seen this week we didn't have any complaints about the unspecified AMD chip's performance. AMD also says that the tablet will have upgraded performance and thermal capability when in docked mode.Read Article >
Update: We've now learned that the Compal prototype is running a 17W AMD Trinity BGA APU.
Nvidia's Rene Haas gave a speech on the growing trend toward more mobile computers at Computex today, but the message was Windows RT: specifically, how ARM processors like the company's Tegra 3 will change the way we think of our computers in terms of battery life, noise, and heat. "It's really the next step in the evolution of the PC towards a true mobility device," said Haas. "The most popular seat in the Starbucks will no longer be the one by the wall adapter — you can sit where you want."Read Article >
An accompanying slide showed that Nvidia's looking at over 10 hours of battery life for Windows RT devices based on its processor. "These PCs will last all day. It's a big change."
We're still waiting for the Zenbook Prime UX21A to see a full release, but Asus has already prepared another variant for show here at Computex Taipei — a Windows 8 model equipped with a touchscreen. The company told us it's being "considered for production" right now, so we're not sure if it'll ever find a place in Asus's extensive Windows 8 lineup, but we came away impressed from our brief session with the ultrabook.Read Article >
Touch response was excellent, and the hinge doesn't wobble under pressure from taps like the Samsung prototypes we saw yesterday. We're still yet to be fully convinced by the touchscreen clamshell form factor, whatever Intel might say, but there's no denying it feels a lot more natural on such a compact machine. Beyond the addition of touch it's the same Zenbook Prime UX21A, with an amazing 11.6-inch 1080p IPS display, Ivy Bridge processor, and thin aluminum construction. We've seen a lot of ultrabooks over the past few days, and this might well turn out to be the best... if it ever makes it to market, that is.
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Two months ago, we reviewed the Acer Aspire Timeline Ultra M3-581TG, a 0.78-inch thick laptop that (properly configured) could play Battlefield 3. If you went out and tried to buy one, though, you were probably out of luck, because Acer decided never to launch the laptop outside of its native Asia. Why? The company was waiting to introduce the Ultra M5. It's the spitting image of its 15.6-inch predecessor, to the point where you'd swear it sprung from the same mold, but this 15.6-inch laptop has far more solid construction.
Jun 5, 2012
While day one of Computex saw us buried under an avalanche of shapeshifting Windows 8 devices, day two was more grounded in the here and now. Intel was predictably keen to let us know that it sees the ultrabook as the future of traditional computing, showing off a huge number of models of which many are using its new third-generation Ivy Bridge processor design.Read Article >
If you're wondering what on earth could set these machines apart from one another, we don't blame you — more than a few ultrabooks until now have followed Apple's MacBook Air blueprints a little too closely. Today, however, we saw quite a few new machines with standout features, and we'd like to highlight a few here for you. It wasn't quite a comprehensive lineup, as some of the most unusual concepts (like the MSI Slider S20) didn't make it onto the stage at Intel's event, but it's as clear a look as we'll get at the company's vision for the ultrabook.
Jun 5, 2012
Yes, it's true: Dell's getting into the budget ultrabook and ultrabook-lookalike game today with the new Inspiron 14z and Inspiron 13z laptops. On the surface, they look much the same: Both have gotten a serious makeover since we originally praised their stylish budget designs, throwing out the XPS corners for a completely rounded, symmetrical frame. The Inspiron 13z is slightly slimmer and lighter at 3.81 pounds, with many flexible port covers for its several USB 3.0 sockets, HDMI 1.4a and Ethernet jacks, as well as a variety of colorful switchable lids. The Inspiron 14z has a little extra height and weight (4.12 pounds) to accomodate a DVD drive, optional Radeon HD 7570M graphics, and a 32GB mSATA drive for solid state caching, though you lose a pair of those USB 3.0 ports in the process.Read Article >
To save costs, both come standard with a last-generation 1.4GHz Core i3 ULV processor (you can upgrade to Ivy Bridge) and 6GB of RAM, as well as 500GB of magnetic storage, Skullcandy speakers, Waves MaxxAudio processing, and 1366 x 768 resolution screens. We spent a little bit of time with each of them at a Dell event, and we're hoping the machines we saw were prototype builds: with a good bit of flex in their fairly inexpensive frames, slightly squishy keyboards and extremely low quality LCD screens (not to mention the weight), they wouldn't be our first choice for back-to-school. The trackpads do have physical mouse buttons, though, which could definitely be a plus, and the shiny brushed metal touchpad itself felt fairly good.