Welcome Surface Book

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Microsoft held a hardware event today. I completely forgot about it and it looks like it was a doozy.

Wearable HoloLens

If I had to choose between Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, put me in the Augmented Reality camp. Using technology to enhance our day to day lives is much more appealing to me which is why HoloLens is intriguing than the Oculus Rift to me.

Microsoft demonstrated wearable hologram technology with their “Project XRAY” game which was unlike interactions using the Wii Remote. It looks interesting but certainly not interesting enough to plop down $3000 for a HoloLens Development Kit.

The kit will be available in Q1 2016.

Lumia 950 and 950 XL

Oh look! More Windows Phones. The highlight feature for these phones is the ability to dock the phone to a Microsoft Display Dock and use it like a lightweight PC with familiar Windows 10 interface.

It’s the Microsoft take on the Motrolla Atrix 4G. Who knows? Maybe Microsoft will be the ones that will make this idea stick.

Surface Pro 4

I was tempted by the Surface Pro 3 and it continues with the Surface Pro 4. It’s an evolutionary release but that’s fine by me. Further refinements are a good thing. I just hope all the little refinements add up to a clear step forward in all areas and not the mixed bag that was the Surface Pro 3.

It starts at $1179 but that’s for the low-end Core M model but the one I would get costs $1679. 16GB of RAM is costly.

Surface Book

The 13″ Retina MacBook Pro has new rival. The Surface Book is aimed squarely at Apple’s MacBook and it looks like it can take it to task. Microsoft is claiming their new machine doubles the performance of the 13″ rMBP but that’s not that difficult when you consider the fact that Surface Book has a dedicated GPU and the Intel’s Skylake processor. The Surface Book’s ability to detach the screen and use it like a tablet and the ability to use a pen is an attractive feature though.

As for build quality, I hope that it’s rock solid and precise considering the asking price starts at $1949.

With all that ind mind, I still have a few questions:

  • Where’s does the dedicated GPU reside? I’m assuming it’s with the keyboard half.
  • How much battery life is in tablet/clipboard mode?
  • How’s the performance of the device in tablet/clipboard mode?

I look forward to AnandTech’s in-depth review on this.

Rosy Improvements

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Apple A9

Intel’s battle against physics may not be going according to plan with setbacks and less than spectacular performance increases but that doesn’t mean CPU performance increases in other areas have stagnated. The newly released Apple A9 SoC looks like another one of those jumps in performance that we’ve come to expect from the tech giant.

The CPU and GPU improvements are impressive but were known. The significant jump storage though? That was a pleasant surprise. The inclusion of NVMe over the industry standard eMMC gave the iPhone 6S nearly double the storage performance over last year’s iPhone 6.

Well done, Apple. Well done.

PS4 System Software 3.0

Speaking of incremental updates, PlayStation 4 System Software 3.0 arrives tomorrow and if you’re a fan of socializing and streaming, it seems to be a wonderful update. I’m hoping for some hidden surprises because only the PNG screenshot feature is appetizing to me. If I stream, I’ll likely switch to YouTube but that’s an “if”. Everything else seems like extra fluff and I’m not seeing the immediate appeal.

 

 

Sony’s TGS 2015 Press Conference

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Tokyo Game Show 2015 is just a few days away and I guess Sony wanted a bit of limelight for themselves so they held a press conference.

Here are some of notable highlights that I ran into on NeoGAF’s front page this morning:

Okay. Let’s take a step back and digest all of this. There are quite a number of remasters and returning franchises. I’m not offended by it but I know there are those who are not keen on the idea of seeing old games come back with new coats of paint. A Yakuza 1 remake is a little out of left field but remastering Gravity Daze for PlayStation 4 makes sense if they’re going to make a sequel to it a PlayStation 4 title.

Speaking of sequels. Of course there was going to be new installments of Yakuza and Hot Shots Golf coming to the PlayStation 4 — they’re like Mario Kart and Zelda titles for PlayStation platforms at this point. Then there was King of Fighters XIV which was also a surprise announcement but for the wrong reasons (did you see how bad it looks?). I know Gravity Rush 2 was a fan favorite but I didn’t enjoy my time with Gravity Rush on the PlayStation Vita; I struggled with the controls. Hopefully the PlayStation 4 sequel will address my concerns.

Umbrella Corps was unexpected for a few reasons. It’s a Unity 5 game which is weird when you consider that Capcom have MT Framework. It will also be a competitive multiplayer game that will launch for the PlayStation 4 and PC for just $29.99. The last point stuck out to me because I can’t recall the last time Capcom released a full priced Resident Evil title. It seems they’re more than content with these smaller projects for their survival horror franchise.

Project Setsuna is the unnamed “old school” JRPG being developed by a smaller team within Square Enix. World of Final Fantasy is an upcoming title aimed at younger players with its emphasis on simpler mechanics. Both titles are similar in nature in my mind. I hope these more “experimental” titles pan out for Square Enix because I love the ideas behind them.

I liked Bloodborne — despite its outstanding frame pacing issues — so I will likely pick up The Old Hunters expansion when it hits $10 or so. You may call it me being cheap but it’s also a way for me to give myself some time to play other titles coming out that during that time.

A Very Solid Lineup

That’s a very solid line up coming from Japan and that’s just for Sony’s platform. I’m sure when Tokyo Game Show draws closer, I like to believe we’ll see even more from Japan’s various studios.

 

Apple’s Fall 2015 Announcements

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It’s Apple Fall 2015 media day. Here are some of my thoughts on the newest products. It was a solid lineup of new products that I doubt I’ll partake but it’s nice to see Apple march on.

iPad Pro

It’s a larger, faster and more productivity oriented tablet. You want a keyboard cover? It’s got one. You want a digital pen? Apple Pencil has you covered. It sounds a lot like a Microsoft Surface Pro 3. So why would one choose one over the other?

The Surface has a wider array of support thanks to its x86 Intel processors but the iPad Pro has the edge on portability with its thinner and lighter profile. Microsoft’s on-stage support of the iPad Pro is a nice gesture but the Surface Pro still has the edge for full Office suite support.

The starting price of $799 USD for the 32GB model was a legitimate surprise to me. This places it right there with the Microsoft Surface Pro 3’s cheapest model. I doubt anyone would actually live with the 32GB model if they’re trying to be productive but it’s nice to see a relatively affordable model.

Oh and they squeezed in the existence of the iPad Mini 4 as well.

Apple TV

The new Apple TV with its touch and voice enabled remote reminds me of Kinect and the Xbox One. As expected, it has robust Siri integration and all the small luxury touches that Apple is known for. It’s essentially all the niceties of iOS brought to the Apple TV which includes iOS apps such as games like Crossy Road to the big screen. But thanks to the more capable hardware, previously console and PC oriented titles like the new Guitar Hero and Disney Infinity 3.0 are making its way to the new Apple TV as well.

The ability to pair a game controller will also enable light but more sophisticated games akin to the console. Games like Transistor will be playable on the new Apple TV which makes it quite an attractive proposition for Indie games. Curiously, it only sports an A8 processor unlike the iPad Pro and iPhone 6S.

It’ll be available in late October for $149 USD for the 32GB and $199 USD for the 64GB.

iPhone 6S & 6S Plus

An improved 12MP camera with 4K capabilities, improved LTE Advanced support and the new A9 processor were to be expected but what’s the hook? Well apparently that’s 3D Touch.

3D Touch enables the pressure sensitivity that was found in the Force Touch trackpad on the iPhone 6S. Unfortunately for Apple, demonstrating 3D Touch is difficult. From the viewer’s perspective, 3D Touch (like Force Touch) is best experienced in person. 3D Touch demonstrations simply look like people are holding their finger on something for a brief period of time which is already something that multi-touch displays already do.

Other little Apple touches like using the Retina display as a giant flash for selfies and the “Live Photos” (aka animated GIFs) for their cameras.

It’s an S revision. Solid but not Earth shattering.

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