Welcome Surface Book

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

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.

 

 

Apple’s Fall 2015 Announcements

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.

Metal Gear Skylake

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I just watched the Super Mario Maker Overview trailer and was reminded that the game debuts on September 11. I had no idea. I thought this was an October title. With Super Mario Maker and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’s release dates sneaking up on me, I decided to take an inventory of my upcoming 2015 games and what’s coming out and when.

  • Sept. 1 – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (PS4)
  • Sept. 11 – Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
  • Oct. 27 – Halo 5: Guardians (X1)
  • Nov. 6 – Call of Duty: Black Ops III (PS4) *
  • Nov. 17 – Star Wars: Battlefront (PS4) *

* – Digital

So there isn’t as much as I thought. It’s the holiday so there’s plenty of shoot bang titles to stave off the cold. Call of Duty: Black Ops III is a giant question mark for me though. It didn’t have the best showings at the tradeshows. The upcoming beta this week will ultimately decide the game’s fate methinks. Then again, my brother and I enjoy our co-op shooter campaigns which BLOPS3 has.

We’ll see.

The Skylake Is Falling?

So Skylake is here. It’s been a couple of weeks since the reviews for Intel’s latest “tock” release were posted online. The results are a little weird. On one hand, instruction per clock performance improved ever so slightly over the previous generation for general computing but seemingly took a hit in gaming scenarios.

The switch to DDR4 won’t move the needle for performance over DDR3 right now but it will lower power consumption. I thought there’s a premium over DDR3 modules but a quick glance at NewEgg.ca sees both DDR3 and DDR4 16GB kits priced at $150 each.

By far the most attractive prospect of upgrading to Skylake platform is the accompanying Z170 chipset. With the new 26 lane Flex-IO hub, motherboard manufacturers can provide more USB 3.0, SATA or PCI-e ports than ever. More ports are welcomed. Faster ports are also welcomed and some Z170 motherboards will feature USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports that will offer up to 10 Gbps transfer rates.

With all the goodies in hand so far, there’s actually more to come. Intel’s first Skylake CPUs only come in two flavors: the i7-6700K and i5-6600K. The motherboard situation isn’t great either with only Z170 chipsets based ones on the market. I’m not big on CPU overclocking these days so the K-series CPUs and Z-series motherboards a bit overkill. Not to mention that the ITX options are scant. In the end, I’d wait for the rest of Skylake to launch because while promising this all seems very premature on Intel’s part.

 

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