Computers

Microsoft to unveil Lumia 950, 950XL and Surface Pro 4

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This year’s arrival of Windows 10 brings with it a great promise, a universal operating system that will run across all devices in the Windows ecosystem, plus every other device that Microsoft builds.

Theoretically one operating system means a seamless computing experience across devices, and one shared app store.

When the rollout is complete, Windows 10 will run on Windows-powered smartphones, tablets, and computers, as well as the X-Box One gaming console and Microsoft’s upcoming augmented reality headset HoloLens.

Last August’s release of Windows 10 already brought the new OS to tablet, notebook, and desktop computers. On October 6th, in New York, Microsoft is set to unveil the first smartphones to run Windows 10, and later this November Windows 10 will come to the X-Box One. 

GadgetMatch will be in New York to bring you live updates from “Windows 10 Devices” event. Here’s what to expect:

Microsoft Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL

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Leaked Lumia 950 product photo (@evleaks)

It’s been a while since Microsoft announced a flagship smartphone. In fact, the last Lumia flagship, the Lumia 930, was released in early 2014 prior to Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia’s smartphone business. The long wait can be attributed to the impending arrival of Windows 10 (on smartphones it will be referred to as Windows 10 Mobile).

Like most other top smartphone manufacturers this year, Microsoft’s upcoming flagship is reportedly coming in two sizes…a 5.2-inch standard model, the Lumia 950, and a 5.7-inch phablet variant the Lumia 950XL.

The phones will come with top of the line specs including Quad HD screens, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, 20 megapixel cameras with Zeiss lenses, USB Type-C connectors, and Qi wireless charging.

The Lumia 950 will be powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808 processor, while the 950XL the more powerful Snapdragon 810, and 3000mAh and 3300mAh batteries respectively.

Both phones will run Windows 10, and as promised, transform into PCs once connected to an external monitor and bluetooth keyboard. Expect them to also support Hello, a Windows 10 feature that allows users to log-onto their devices using facial recognition.

The larger Lumia 950 XL is also expected to support the Surface Pen stylus allowing it to go head-to-head with Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5 phablet.

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Microsoft Surface Pro 3 (Microsoft File Photo)

Surface Pro 4

It’s been a big year for convertible tablet/notebook devices. Just a month back Apple announced its  12-inch iPad Pro that comes with an optional keyboard dock and stylus (the Apple Pencil), Google is also set to release a similar device called the Pixel C. But the mother of this form factor is Microsoft’s Surface Pro – now going on its 4th update.

There are fewer leaks pertaining to the 12-inch Surface Pro 4, but the new hybrid device is expected to have a better display, possibly 4K or 5K, and an improved Surface Pen. There are also rumors suggesting that Microsoft is also planning a larger 14-inch variant.

The Surface Pro 4 will run Windows 10 and will probably run on Intel’s Core M Broadwell processors (unlike last year’s Core i5 and i7 variants) with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of storage.

Microsoft Band 2

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Microsoft Band (Microsoft File Photo)

In case you didn’t know, Microsoft also makes a wearable fitness tracker.

While it’s first attempt wasn’t hugely successful, expect its second try to be better. The Microsoft Band 2 will have a curved display that wraps around your wrist, and will be redesigned to fit more comfortably.

The Band 2 should also run on a variant of Windows 10, and will most likely be also compatible with Android and iOS smartphones.

Computers

ASUS Vivo AiO (V272) review: All-in-one goodness?

A complete desktop PC that simply works

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As a person who builds his own desktop computers and thrives on portable laptops for his on-the-go lifestyle, I admit there are times I just want a PC that can do it all — minus all the hassle of plugging accessories in and finding wall sockets for charging.

That’s exactly what an all-in-one computer aims to do, and the ASUS Vivo AiO is the latest example.

Much like the Zen AiO Pro I reviewed last year, this model only needs a single power cable to get things running. Everything else is already built in or simply wireless. Now, that’s convenience!

Here’s what it can do

Make no mistake about it: This AiO PC is quite big. With a 27-inch LCD on its adjustable base, it takes some effort to take this 8.5kg computer out of its box and setting it on a table. From there, however, the rest of the setup becomes pleasantly easy.

All you have to do is plug in the power cable, insert the wireless keyboard and mouse’s dongle into an open USB port, and you’re all set! Powering the unit on happens by pressing a somewhat hidden button at the back of the display.

You’ll then be greeted by a 1920 x 1080-pixel resolution, which isn’t that dense for a 27-inch panel, but it does allow the system to run more smoothly since fewer pixels have to be pushed at a given time. ASUS claims it has a 100 percent sRGB color gamut, which is great for editing photos and videos more accurately.

Some variants of the Vivo AiO come with a touchscreen. This is kinda unusual to have on a desktop computer, but if it’s already there, then why not, right? Still, I would stick to using the keyboard and mouse, and leave the touch gestures to your laptop or smartphone.

I’m saying this because the bundled wireless mouse and keyboard are actually quite good. While not mechanical or gaming-optimized in any sense, they’re ergonomic and work well on all sorts of surfaces with no noticeable input lag.

Despite having everything in one solid piece, there are enough ports to go around.

Underneath the display, you get a single USB port, which I found to be a perfect spot to plug in the keyboard-mouse receiver, as well as a 3.5mm audio port for your headphones or external speakers.

At the back is a decent selection of ports, from USB 3.1 to HDMI and Ethernet. The only head-scratching omission is USB-C, which is becoming increasingly common on smartphones and thin notebooks. Even ASUS’ own phones and laptops are committed to the port, so it’s strange to see it missing here.

Design-wise, my main complaint is the location of the webcam. It’s situated on the bottom bezel, allowing it to look up your nose during video calls. ASUS brags about the display’s 81 percent screen-to-body ratio, but I would’ve been fine with some bezel up top to house the front camera instead.

Even though you can tilt the unit by a few degrees to find your sweet spot, you sadly can’t adjust the height to remedy the poorly placed webcam.

What exactly can it run?

One look at the specifications sheet, and you can tell what this machine is meant for.

My review unit is equipped with an Intel Core i7-8550U, 8GB of memory, and an NVIDIA GeForce MX150 graphics chip. This setup means the Vivo AiO can handle light workloads such as Microsoft Office, Chrome, and Photoshop with ease, but anything visually heavy will make it struggle a bit.

Like most AiO computers, upgrading components is a pain, so you’ll have to settle for whatever configuration you pay for from the start, so choose wisely.

During my time with this unit, I didn’t experience any lag while browsing websites, writing articles, and editing photos — all at the same time. That’s largely thanks to the quad-core Core i7 processor with Hyper-threading, giving you eight logical cores in total.

It’s only when I fired up a couple of graphically demanding games when the system couldn’t keep up.

For kicks, I played some Final Fantasy XV on this thing. As expected, I was forced to endure the lowest graphics settings on 1080p. However, to my surprise, the game managed to run at a consistent 30 frames per second, which made it totally playable. Any title less power-hungry than Final Fantasy XV such as Fortnite or PUBG — will definitely run more smoothly.

Video editing on Premiere Pro is enjoyable on the large monitor and its powerful stereo speakers, but don’t expect rendering to be seamless. Still, I highly recommend getting a configuration with both an SSD and HDD to speed up the processing and provide you with enough storage, respectively. My setup has a standard 128GB M.2 SSD and 1TB HDD.

All in with the all-in-one?

In a nutshell, this is pretty much the Windows equivalent of an iMac. And like an Apple product, the Vivo AiO simply works. There’s no cumbersome setup process or annoying cables and dongles to deal with; plug it in and you’re set.

Who is this for other than iMac users wanting to jump ship? I’d say Windows users who want more screen real estate than what a laptop offers, yet need to save as much desk space as possible. An AiO like this is by far easier to transfer from one point to another compared to a traditional desktop PC with its separate monitor and multitude of cables.

Of course, this costs more than a custom-built PC spec-for-spec. You may buy a Vivo AiO with a starting price of US$ 1,000, but you could assemble a more powerful rig for less.

It ultimately comes down to convenience versus power. Which one will it be for you this time? Take a long look at your work space and decide from there.

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Computers

AMD unveils powerful 32-core Threadripper 2

More cores for more powerful performance

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AMD announced the arrival of its new CPU at Computex 2018, and it promises to bring more power to modern computers out there. We’re talking about Threadripper 2, a more powerful update than its predecessor — bringing with it 32 CPU cores. That’s more than enough for multitasking, photo and video editing, and gaming, too!

Threadripper 2 features the latest 12mm Zen+ architecture from AMD, the same architecture found in the latest Ryzen CPUs. Desktops running Threadripper 2 are expected to consume less power when running a ton of applications all at once. The Zen+ architecture also allows for better security and compatibility with the latest hardware available.

AMD says that Threadripper 2 will work on motherboards with an X399 architecture with its 250W power requirement, much more than its predecessor at 180W. However, older X399 motherboards might not be able to meet the power requirement for the new CPU, especially if you plan to maximize the CPU through overclocking. AMD’s partners are expected to launch newer X399 motherboards to accommodate the greater demands of the Threadripper 2.

AMD says that the new Threadripper 2 will clock in at 3.0GHz, less than the 3.4GHz the original Threadripper had. These are still subject to changes as more tests and benchmarks will be done before its official launch. At this speed, however, AMD caters to users who want to maximize the CPU for heavy workloads.

Threadripper 2 will be available in both a 24-core CPU and its flagship 32-core CPU for heavier workloads. Although AMD has not yet announced prices for the new CPU, the company expects its launch to be in the third quarter of 2018.

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Computers

Intel reveals Core i7-8086K Limited Edition for its anniversary

And you can win one for yourself!

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When you celebrate your anniversary, you gotta go all out. If you’re a major brand, you need to release something that loyal fans want — even better if it’s given away for free!

That’s exactly what Intel is doing. Today at Computex 2018, the chipset maker unveiled its limited edition Core i7-8086K processor for desktop computers. Sure, it may not be a higher-end Core i9 model, but this one is fast, fast, fast.

On top of its base frequency of 4GHz, it can be boosted up to 5GHz. And since it’s a desktop chipset, it owns six cores with hyper-threading, providing you with 12 logical cores on the system.

This announcement comes at a perfect time: 40 years after the original Intel 8086 chip was released. It was the first processor with the x86 architecture, which is still being used today. This is also Intel 50th year in existence.

Because this is a “K” model, you can overclock it for even crazier clock speeds. Expect PC enthusiasts to try this as soon as the product goes on sale on June 8.

Pricing hasn’t been announced yet, but there’s better news: Intel will be giving away 8,086 units of its limited edition processor! This is a real promotion, and you can join the sweepstakes right here.

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