Always Free To Place a Hit On Someone
That's the idea envisioned by Australian researchers, who have developed a way to harness the energy from typing to power electronics.Using piezoelectrics, which converts pressure into an electric current, and a thin film technology found in microchips, researchers at RMIT University in Melbourne believe laptops could become self-powered.Further research will be required before it’s practical for low-cost laptop integration, but Dr Mandu Bhaskaran, co-author of the research, believes the development is a step in the right direction.“With the drive for alternative energy solutions, we need to find more efficient ways to power microchips,” said Bhaskaran.If successful, the technology could be transferred to other devices, and be integrated into running shoes to charge mobiles or as a power source for pacemakers.Just when we’ve grown used to Intel being the dominant force in the processor world, AMD has finally begun to mount its Fusion defence. Its Brazos chips have already staged a land-grab in the netbook and ultraportable sector, and now its new addition to the family, codenamed Llano, is making a play for the laptop market.AMD certainly has its work cut out, and especially as Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors are already on sale, and pretty formidable performers to boot. If Sandy Bridge has one weakness, however, it’s graphics performance, and it’s this that AMD hopes to exploit.
Just like Brazos, the Llano Accelerated Processing Unit (APU), combines a CPU, GPU and Northbridge into a single package. The first models to launch will be quad-core variants, with dual-core following soon afterwards. Llano marks AMD’s first foray into 32nm processors, and the quad-core Llanos pack in 1.45 billion transistors – almost twice as many as Sandy Bridge.There is one basic similarity between the two competing designs. Intel’s Turbo Boost 2.0 technology can dynamically overclock the individual processor cores as and when required, and AMD has unveiled its own version imaginatively called Turbo Core. Individual CPU cores can be turned on and off as required, as can the integrated GPU, in order to reduce heat and power consumption.But if that sounds familiar, Llano’s integrated GPU shakes things up. DirectX 11 compatibility comes as standard, and it squeezes up to 400 GPU cores into the top-end APUs. It’s also capable of working in CrossFireX mode with a second, discrete AMD graphics processor, and where previous CrossfireX implementations required two largely identical GPUs to function, the asynchronous CrossFireX in Llano marks a crucial evolution. Unlike Nvidia’s Optimus – where you can have one of either integrated or discrete graphics working at any one time – both AMD GPUs can share the load to boost performance.
We caught our first glimpse of Llano in one of AMD’s unbranded 14in test laptops. With one of the higher-end AMD A8-3500M APUs, 4GB of DDR3 memory and an extra discrete Radeon HD 6600M graphics chip, it’s the kind of specification which we’d expect to cost around £600 to £700 when finished retail samples arrive.Desktop performance gets Llano off to a bad start. Considering AMD is positioning its A8 APU as a price competitor to Core i5 and i7, we were unimpressed to find it lagging behind even the entry-level Core i3 processors, with a score of just 0.48 in our benchmarks (click the graph below for an in-depth look at PC Pro's Real World Benchmark suite). As expected, though, the A8-3500M’s integrated Radeon HD 6620G leaves Intel’s HD Graphics 3000 for dust. The latter barely managed a playable framerate in our Low quality Crysis test, and upping the resolution and detail levels sent that plummeting further. By contrast, the Llano’s GPU relished the challenge, easily passing the Low test and stepping up admirably to Medium with a playable 28fps.
We then enabled CrossFireX mode and brought in the discrete Radeon HD 6630M to join the fun. There are clearly early driver issues – we noted flicker and graphical distortion in the Low quality test – but the two chips together proved 40% faster than the discrete chip alone in our High quality test. That’s a significant boost from the Llano’s feisty GPU. The final, and crucial, element to the success of Llano will be battery life. The 58wh, 5200mAh battery in our test notebook lasted for 6hrs 37mins of light use. While it’s difficult to directly compare that without seeing retail samples and pricing, it’s still a fine result for a laptop with such graphical power.In a word, yes. It can’t match Intel’s CPUs for raw performance, but you could argue that Llano is the better balanced platform, with a proper blend of all-round performance and stamina that may prove attractive to the mainstream. After all, the first time most people encounter performance problems on their notebooks is when they try to fire up a game, not when they try to load Microsoft Word. Ultimately, though, its success or failure lies in the hands of manufacturers: if they can deliver the goods at a competitive price, you may be seeing a lot more of Llano.
The rush to replace Windows XP PCs has handed the European, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) PC market its first growth quarter in two years.Shipments in EMEA increased by 0.3% over the same period last year, according to the latest figures from Gartner, even though the global market remains in decline.The big winners were the traditional corporate PC suppliers. HP saw its year-on-year shipments jump by 15.3% in the first quarter, Dell was up 11%, and Lenovo was up by a staggering 35.6%. The more consumer-focused Acer saw its shipments slide by 2.7%, and is now in danger of ceding third place in the EMEA PC market back to Dell."The end of support for Windows XP has boosted commercial desktop sales, driven in part by delayed government buying in major Western European countries," said Isabelle Durand, principal analyst at Gartner."The professional PC market looks stronger overall, as business and governments adjust to a more favourable economic environment. We also expect to see the impact of XP migration to continue throughout 2014." Although Gartner didn't break down the figures by device type, it claims that traditional laptop sales are continuing to decline, but it does expect hybrid devices to grow significantly in 2014.Asus, which currently leads the hybrids market according to Gartner, saw its PC shipments just by almost 20% year-on-year, suggesting that the Taiwanese manufacturer is well placed to reap the benefits of a shift towards dual-purpose devices.
Apple isn't in the top five EMEA PC makers, but holds third place in the US. It saw its year-on-year shipments decline by 3.8% in the US, making it one of only two of America's top five to record a decline in sales, the other being Toshiba (down 7%).
Overall growth in the US market was 2.1% - higher than it was in EMEA - and Gartner predicts more business could be coming the way of the PC makers. "The US PC market has been highly saturated with devices: 99% of households own at least one or more desktops or laptops, and more than half of them own both," said Mikako Kitagawa, principal analyst at Gartner. "While tablet penetration is expected to reach 50% in 2014, some consumer spending could return to PCs."While Asus has created countless Windows and Android devices, the Transformer Book Trio TX201LA is the first to unite the two platforms. See also the 11 best tablets of 2014Part-tablet, part-laptop, this 11.6in device teams an Atom-powered Android tablet with the body of a Haswell-equipped laptop, and allows you to switch between the Microsoft and Google operating systems at the press of a button.It's impossible to clock the Asus' unusual talents at a glance. It would be easy to mistake it for just another Windows hybrid. It must be said, however, that the Trio TX201LA feels nicely put together: brushed metal curls around the lid and base, interrupted only by the pin-prick speaker grilles, the lens for the 5-megapixel rear camera, and the power and volume buttons on the lid.
Asus Transformer Book Trio TX201LA It works well as a convertible. The tablet feels stout and rigid, and there's barely any trace of give in the keyboard dock. Slot the tablet home and it wobbles a couple of millimetres back and forth, but two latches hold it securely in place. The weight is spread evenly, too, so it's possible to tilt the display all the way back without it toppling backwards. It's fantastically well built.The downside is that the whole package weighs a hefty 1.7kg. The tablet makes up 710g of this, and the keyboard dock adds 990g to the figure – almost as much as many 11.6in Ultrabooks weigh on their own. It isn't a particularly slender pairing, either – together, the tablet and keyboard measure 23mm thick.There's good reason for the Asus' portly dimensions: the Trio TX201LA doubles up on more than only operating systems. Unlike the forthcoming Asus Book Transformer Duet TD300, which ingeniously powers both Android and Windows with the same Intel Core processor, the Trio TX201LA squeezes all the Windows hardware into the keyboard base – CPU, RAM, hard disk, wireless chipset and so forth – and has a different set of components in the tablet section, running Android on a discrete Intel Atom CPU.
Asus Transformer Book Trio TX201LA The two parts are entirely independent. There's a power button on the tablet for the Android hardware, and a separate button for the Windows system in the base. Indeed, if you want to walk off with the Android tablet portion and leave the Windows keyboard base attached to an external monitor, you can.This two-headed approach has its benefits. For one, switching between Windows 8 and Android 4.2 is impressively slick. With the Trio docked and powered up, a dab of a key on the top right of the keyboard swaps between the two almost instantaneously. If either half is powered down, then a dialog box pops up asking if you'd like to power up the other system.Inevitably, this arrangement imposes some limitations. First, it's only possible to swap between Windows and Android with the tablet docked into the keyboard base; disconnect it and you're left with only the Android tablet.
The Chromebook 2 will be available in two models, with an 11.6in or 13.3in display. Both ape a design feature seen on Samsung's Galaxy devices, with leather-like casing.The laptops will arrive next month and are more expensive than other Chromebooks currently on the market, although UK prices and availability weren't immediately available.The 13.3in model is the more expensive at $399.99 (£240). It runs on Samsung's 2.1GHz Exynos 5 Octa chip - so far reserved for mobile devices - and boasts an improved screen resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. The 16GB of storage is expandable via a microSD slot, and it features 4GB of RAM.Samsung claims up to 8.5 hours of battery life. Ports include a USB 3 slot, USB 2 slot and an HDMI connector, and there's support for Bluetooth 4. The device weighs just less than 1.5kg and will be available in white and black.
The cheaper, $319.99 (£191) 11.6in model drops down to a 1,366 x 768 screen, a slower 1.9GHz Exynos 5 chip and up to eight hours of battery life. Otherwise the hardware specs look the same, though it's a little lighter at a shade more than 1kg and will only be available in grey.Samsung's also pre-installing premium apps on the two devices. It may seem an odd move given Google intended Chrome OS as a lightweight operating system, but it follows Samsung using a skinned version of Android on its smartphones, complete with its own pre-installed apps.The Chromebook 2 includes a paid-for version of AirDroid, a file management app that lets users transfer media between their Android phone and PC, or track and wipe a lost phone.There's also collaboration tool Wunderlist Pro and educational tool LittleBridge. Samsung will throw in free subscriptions for a year; after that, users will have to pay for continued use.The ThinkPad Yoga 11e Chromebook is targeted at schools and will arrive in the US this spring, while the ThinkPad 11e Chromebook is a more standard format.