UMPCPortal http://www.umpcportal.com Windows 8 Tablets and Ultra Mobile PCs Mon, 25 Aug 2014 17:16:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 Chromebooks took a hike. Find them at Chromebookworld http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/chromebooks-took-a-hike-find-them-at-chromebookworld/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/chromebooks-took-a-hike-find-them-at-chromebookworld/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:42:09 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39760 Chromebookworld logoAfter increasing my coverage on the interesting Chromebook sector recently I didn’t feel happy with it in the UMPCPortal timeline. You’ll now find my Chromebook coverage at Chromebookworld.com.

In many cases Chromebooks are highly portable and often use similar platforms to the ultra-mobile PCs we track here but they aren’t quite the same as the all-flexible PC/Windows architecture. Chromebooks and ChromeOS have, however, been an interesting topic in 2014 could become an important option for consumers and vertical markets over the next 2 years. Simplicity, efficiency and value are good and high levels of intrinsic security are increasingly important considerations. The rate of improvement continues to impress as native code support feeds-in and we look forward to the promised ports of selected Android applications. Touchscreens are available in some cases and full HD screens are appearing too. There are even 3G/4G options around.

While ultra-mobile PC coverage continues here I’ll be increasing my coverage of Chromebooks over there. I’ve ordered the Lenovo N20p Chromebook touch/flex Chromebook and I’m heading to IFA and IDF in the next weeks too so there will be lots to talk about.

Join me at ChromebookWorld for a complete database of the latest Chromebooks and specifications, interesting reports and occasional reviews. You can also join-in on Facebook and Twitter.

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Microsoft’s 8 Reasons to choose Windows Laptops instead of Chromebooks http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/microsofts-8-reasons-to-choose-windows-laptops-instead-of-chromebooks/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/microsofts-8-reasons-to-choose-windows-laptops-instead-of-chromebooks/#comments Thu, 21 Aug 2014 10:10:03 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39733 Microsoft and Google are now head to head in the $250 laptop market and it’s going to be one big fight. Chromebooks and the Google ecosystem vs low-cost Windows laptops and the Microsoft ecosystem.  I have my opinion on which option is better (tip: there’s no best laptop, just a best laptop for you) and many of you have solid opinions too but what do Microsoft say? On their Windows 8 Chromebook comparison page Microsoft have listed 10 points that should be considered before choosing between the two.

Interestingly, and so, so obviously, Microsoft have omitted the discussion on security.

cbvswin

What they do mention is: Applications, desktop, printers, DRM content, peripherals, document locations.

You’ll notice that there are only 6 points there. That’s because Microsoft want to tell you that there are three types of applications to consider. Office (and other Windows programs,) Skype (and other Windows programs) and  PC games (which are Windows programs.)  Two more bullet points cover Web and Web apps for which the Chromebook is also given credit.

My personal list of Chromebook issues is similar:

Skype, Local storage, Printing, Microsoft Office, Offline applications, USB device support, Playing a CD or DVD/Video format support, Network attached storage access, Music player synchronization, DRM content. [More detail here.]

The elephant in Microsoft’s room is the important area of security. I’m very impressed with the security features available on Windows 8 but it’s not easy to make sure you have these features in your laptop or even to configure them when you have them. Chromebooks have the huge advantage that they don’t assume that the user is going to proactively act to improve security. “We update transparently and try to provide safe defaults without asking users to make security decisions” [src.]  Cheap Windows 8 tablets do a good job if you use a Microsoft account (disk encryption, login tracking, secure boot, sandboxed apps in RT mode) but more needs to be done for the laptops which don’t have some of these features. Windows desktop remains a huge risk area too.

One other point I would argue, and Microsoft should bring this forward, is the fun aspect of using a touchscreen Windows device in RT mode. Chromebooks are as boring as Windows 7 laptops were and that’s not going to attract consumers in the sub $300 bracket. Devices like the Lenovo N20p might change that but only if Chrome OS evolves to offer better touch features and a richer choice of entertainment.

As you might have noticed I’m increasing my coverage of Chromebooks as simple, portable, secure PCs. I predict they will sell well as they improve over the next few years, they will drive a significant improvement in security across low-cost PC products, they will drive down prices of small Windows PCs and you’ll see some movement of Chromebooks into the ultra-mobile space very soon. I look forward to the first sub-1KG product.

We’re tracking the lighter Chromebooks in our database.

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Acer Aspire ES1 Windows laptop will compete against cheap Chromebooks http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/acer-aspire-es1-windows-laptop-will-compete-against-cheap-chromebooks/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/acer-aspire-es1-windows-laptop-will-compete-against-cheap-chromebooks/#comments Wed, 20 Aug 2014 11:00:00 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39726 I briefly mentioned the Acer Aspire ES1 in an article about the Acer Chromebook 13 last week but I think it’s worth taking a closer look at it now because this could be the next $199 Windows laptop. Given the specifications it also hints at a widening of the free Windows OS offer from Microsoft.

912BVq-hgnL._SL1500_

The Acer Aspire ES1 is a basic Windows 8.1 laptop that will be offered with 11.6, 13.3, 15.6 and 17.3-inch. All of them will run on Baytrail-M CPUs but the smallest of them combines that with 32GB of SSD and is launching for 219 Euros (184 Euros before taxes) in Europe. You can assume it will be available for close to that in US dollars too which means it’s the cheapest Windows 8 laptop running a current processing platform. There are some netbook-era sub $200 laptops around but they’re all 10-inch which is outside the range that consumers, and reviewers, are comfortable with.

You can be sure that the Acer Aspire ES1-111, the Celeron (actually Intel Atom architecture but no-one wants to let that slip in their marketing) with 2GB RAM and the 32GB storage will compete against the Acer Chromebook CB3 (same CPU, same manufacturer,) the ASUS C200 (that I recently reviewed) and the Acer Chromebook C720 which uses a more powerful Haswell-architecture CPU. Retailers in Europe are saying that it will be available in early October.

Acer Aspire ES1-111

Can Windows laptops compete against Chromebooks, at the same price?

Back in 2007 we saw a similar fight as netbook manufacturers looked at ways to completely remove the cost of a Windows license. Linux-based netbooks arrived and shortly after disappeared as the Windows license cost was reduced to insignificance. ChromeOS isn’t your basic Linux distro, I agree, but don’t talk about the advantages of Chromebooks (services, simplicity, security, long battery life) without considering Windows 8. It too has sandboxed applications that auto-update (in the Modern UI environment) secure boot, on-disk encryption, supports low-cost memory and storage configurations and is extremely good at driving down power consumption.  It can also host a USB printer, run Skype and do a lot of other things that you don’t get in Chromebooks. The Aspire ES1 even has an Ethernet port which helps a lot if you’re into cloud-based activities and it comes with a year of Office 360 and storage thrown in. (I’m testing that on a Toshiba Encore 2 WT8 right now.)

For more on the latest Windows 8.1 security features take a look at my Windows 8.1 tablet security report.

How do you make a $200 Windows laptop?

The Acer ES1 is running Windows with Bing, which is interesting as it has an 11.6-inch screen and therefore doesn’t get a free Windows license – which would leave no reason to run Windows with Bing. Simply put it looks like Microsoft are removing or reducing the licence cost across a wider range of for factors and screen sizes now. The cost of designing and building an 11.6-inch Windows laptop is now the same as a Chromebook.

What about 13.3, 15.6 and 17-inch laptops?

MobileGeeks found evidence of an HP Stream a few days ago. It to, according to the report, will run Windows with Bing and have 32GB SSD storage. It has a 15.6-inch screen and Mobilegeeks say it will launch at $199.  If it’s true it will be a groundbreaker. Also in the low-cost price bracket is the HP 15-h015ng with the AMD E1-6010 which also runs Windows with Bing and has a 15.6-inch screen (and could be a version of the HP Stream.) The Lenovo B50, ASUS F200MA, HP 250 G3, Acer Aspire E3-111 and others all in the same boat.

As you look at low-cost laptop offerings over the next months expect to see a number of Windows options in the $200-$250 range. I’ll be at IFA next week and I expect to find out more there so stay with me for updates.

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Lenovo N20p is 2-in-1, touch-capable and a step towards an exciting consumer Chromebook http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/lenovo-n20p-is-2-in-1-touch-capable-and-a-step-towards-an-exciting-consumer-chromebook/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/lenovo-n20p-is-2-in-1-touch-capable-and-a-step-towards-an-exciting-consumer-chromebook/#comments Mon, 18 Aug 2014 11:32:26 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39709 Rounding-off a series of Chromebook updates here on UMPCPortal are my thoughts on the Lenovo N20p Chromebook which is built around a design I tested recently in the Lenovo Flex 10. In my opinion it adds a lot of value to a laptop and is actually more suited to a laptops design than a ‘yoga’ style tablet-capable design. Like the Flex 10 the N20P has a 270-degree fold-back ‘stand mode’ touchscreen and comes with a basic set of specifications. Atom CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16 GB of eMMC storage.

Lenovo N20p Chromebook (6)

Unlike the Flex 10 this Chromebook doesn’t have a touch-friendly user interface option and that, for the time being, could be seen as a big disadvantage. In practice though there are a lot of things you can do with a touchscreen in stand mode and web-browsing is an important one. When I did the in-depth Lenovo Flex 10 testing I found the unit to be more practical as a partner PC than a 7-inch or even 10-inch tablet without a stand. Magazine-style reader apps (I use Feedly) are great with coffee as is a Facebook or Tweetdeck ‘easel.’ Video applications work well too because this seat-back friendly mode brings the screen closer to the eye and, at full fold-back, has great stability. If you want to lift the screen to eye-height you’re also able to fold the screen to 180-degrees and prop up the unit to balance on the keyboard edge. Flex is good and worth paying a little extra for.

At current prices the Lenovo N20p is going to set you back about $60-$80 more than the cheaper Chromebook options which is a significant 25%-33% more than the cheaper ASUS and Acer options and, presumably because of the design, it’s a little heavier than, say, the ASUS C200. There’s a 34.8Wh battery inside which is OK, but not the biggest either.

Lenovo N20p Chromebook (2)Lenovo N20p Chromebook (4)

Screen resolution is a basic 1366×768 and there’s no mention of wide-viewing angles in the Lenovo marketing materials. A USB 2.0. USB 3.0, SD card, headset and full-size HDMI port are on-board and there’s AC-capable WiFi.

Although there isn’t a perfect match between a 2-in-1 design and ChromeOS now the Lenovo N20p offers the consumer something that’s been missing from Chromebooks up until now – fun. As ChromeOS develops with new features and improved touch capability the N20p could evolve into an attractive secondary PC for home and holiday use. If the AccuType full-size keyboard is good, this might make a good conference or hotel PC. In the Education market students are going to be far more excited about this Chromebook design.

If you’ve got the Lenovo N20p or are thinking of buying it (available at Amazon for $310 in the USA) let us know your thoughts.

To assist you in choosing a Chromebook we’re adding selected (lightweight, portable) models to our database here. The N20p will be added shortly.

You can find out more about the N20p at Lenovo’s US website.

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HP Chromebook 11 G3 to evolve from ARM to X86 http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/hp-chromebook-11-g3-to-evolve-from-arm-to-x86/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/hp-chromebook-11-g3-to-evolve-from-arm-to-x86/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:46:10 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39696 It looks like the Intel Atom/Celeron CPU has really found a niche in the latest Chromebooks. Here’s another Chromebook using the platform and in this case it’s replacing an ARM-architecture SoC that was in the previous version. The HP Chromebook 11 G3.

hp-chromebook-11-g3

A PDF file (now removed) was spotted by Google Plus user Alvin Chin and the details showed that although the HP Chromebook 11 will stay much the same as in the G2 version it will get the Intel N2820 as seen in the ASUS C200, Acer CB3 / Chromebook 11 and Lenovo N20p making it a ‘lose’ for Samsung and ARM who originally had the Exynos 5250 inside.

As with the Acer CB3 vs the ASUS C200 it’s largely a price war between the three although detailed reviews are highlighting small but important variations so check reviews before you buy.

To assist you in Chromebook purchases we’re currently updating our database to include all the current models and will link into reviews as we find them.

Via Liliputing

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Acer’s Chromebook 11 gets some hands-on http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/acers-chromebook-11-gets-some-hands-on/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/acers-chromebook-11-gets-some-hands-on/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 12:10:31 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39691 I wrote yesterday about the ARM-powered Acer Chromebook 13. Today I want to talk about the 11.6-inch version of this. The Acer Chromebook 11, or CB3-111, runs on the same Atom/Celeron N2830 as the ASUS C200 but it’s cheaper. 219 Euros for the CB3-111 vs 249 Euro for the ASUS C200. Pricing in the USA is likely to have the same differential.

CB3-111

Once again – 219 Euros. That’s just about the cheapest laptop you can buy with a current processing platform. OK, the Acer ES1-111 is available for the same price and it’s got more storage, Windows 8 and a Gigabit LAN port but it’s close.

In terms of comparison with the ASUS C200, a Chromebook that I really like, there aren’t many differences in the specifications. AC wiFi is there along with USB3.0, HDMI, 16GB of storage and the 1366×768 screen resolution but this one is non-glossy. The only significantly different specification is that battery which is 36Wh – about 75% of the capacity of the 48Wh battery on the ASUS C200. Battery life is likely to be 3/4 of the figures we’ve seen there. Weight is 1.25KG.

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There’s the potential for a few surprises here. Upgradable RAM and SSD is something we’ll be looking out for but the screen brightness, WiFi performance and keyboard will have to be good just to keep up with the ASUS C200.

In Munich today, NewGadgets got some hands-on with the Acer Chromebook 11 / CB3-111 and if you look closely at the information stand you’ll see a 4GB option listed along with ‘up to’ 32GB of storage. That matches the offering from ASUS with the C200.

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Acer Switch, with an 11-inch screen. This rumour makes sense. http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/acer-switch-with-an-11-inch-screen-this-rumour-makes-sense/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/acer-switch-with-an-11-inch-screen-this-rumour-makes-sense/#comments Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:26:12 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39676 I’m not one to pass on rumours but I have always believed, since I tested the Switch 10, that an 11.6-inch version would be even better. An article at TabTec takes some previously unseen model numbers and predicts that an 11.6-inch Acer Switch, the SW5-111 and SW5-171, will arrive at IFA.

Acer Aspire Switch 10  _6_ (1)

There’s literally no more information other than the new model numbers that were found on an Acer website but if you follow Acer’s model numbers it would make sense that an SW5-111 would be an 11.6-inch with Atom/Celeron and that the 171 would be running a Core CPU (I’d guess at a Haswell Y-series.) They would be a natural replacement for the Acer Aspire P3 range which runs on 2nd-generation Core.

If an 11.6-inch Acer Switch 11 to be launched there would need to be some improvements over the Switch 10 to make it interesting. A Full-HD screen, larger battery (or additional battery in keyboard) would be the first on the list. A good price would be expected too.

I’m at IFA (from 3rd Sept) so will be able to being you some more information then, unless Acer launches the Switch 11 beforehand.

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Toshiba Encore 2 WT8. This $192 Tablet PC arrives for review tomorrow. http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/toshiba-encore-2-wt8-this-192-tablet-pc-arrives-for-review-tomorrow/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/toshiba-encore-2-wt8-this-192-tablet-pc-arrives-for-review-tomorrow/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:37:47 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39667 Looking for a sub $200 Tablet PC option? The Toshiba WT8 is $193 at Amazon.com today but the newer, lighter Toshiba Encore 2 WT8 is $192. This Windows with Bing PC arrives for testing tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it. What features have been stripped out of this Bing version of Windows? Is the new platform better? Is there significantly more available storage space or is this 1GB RAM limit going to negate any of the potential improvements? With the original Windows 8.1 8-inch tablets also at the $200-$220 mark, why bother with the Encore 2?

Toshiba Encore 2 8 _3_

Two important things to note about Windows with Bing are that 1) You don’t get an Office Home and Student license and 2) There’s only single language support. The latter may not affect many people (except myself – someone that relies on this for purchasing tablets in Germany and switching them to the English language) and the former is offset by a one Year Office 365 Personal license. You get Ooutlook included in that and you also get, in theory,  1TB of free online storage for the year. There may be other changes too.

There’s a 5.0MP auto-focus rear camera which could be useful if it’s as good as the one on the original WT8, microSD support up to 128GB and stereo speakers. As with the WT8 there’s no HDMI so you’ll need Miracast or DLNA support to stream movies to a bigger screen.

 

Toshiba Encore 2 8

If the Toshiba Encore 2 wants to be a competitor in the western market for tablet PCs it needs to beat the class-leading Dell Venue 8 Pro in features or undercut it by a big margin. This launch price isn’t enough to convince me but if the device checks out in my review for Notebookcheck and the price drops to $175 or less then it could be worth a closer look.

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Chromebooks: Sales set to triple. Acer Chromebook 13 is on ARM. Watch out for Android Apps. http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/chromebooks-sales-set-to-triple-acer-chromebook-13-is-on-arm-watch-out-for-art/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/chromebooks-sales-set-to-triple-acer-chromebook-13-is-on-arm-watch-out-for-art/#comments Wed, 13 Aug 2014 11:55:00 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39659 chromebook 13Since the day I started Carrypad (the former name of this site) there’s been a continuous battle between ARM and X86 processing architectures.  Remember the Nokia 770 tablet? How about the Raon Digital Vega? [1] Today that fight is mainly in the Android tablet space but it’s becoming increasingly rowdy in the Chromebook space too. I was very impressed with the ASUS C200 Chromebook recently (on Intel) and there’s a 13.3-inch version of that, the ASUS C300, which will go right up against something using ARM architecture that is launching from Acer soon. The Acer Chromebook 13 running the Nvidia Tegra K1 platform and will offer similar performance, similar weight, similar price and similar battery life. Where’s the differentiator?

The new Tegra-based Acer Chromebook 13 will come with a 1366×768 screen, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage. So far that matches the ASUS C300. In terms of weight, 3.3 pounds matches the 3.1 pounds of the ASUS. AC WiFi can be found on both along with a full-size HDMI port, 48Wh battery, webcam and two USB ports. They’re both USB3.0 on the Acer but I doubt many will care much about that.

The ASUS C300 has been on the market for a few weeks now and the price has dropped down to $229 which is very attractive when you compare it to the more expensive Acer Chromebook 13 at $279. That launch price is sure to come down so I’ll ignore that as I continue my comparison.

Acer Chromebook 13 (5)

The Acer Chromebook 13 has the longest-lasting battery life of all Chromebooks – up to 13 hours!

Is the battery life the differentiator? I can show you 13-hours on the ASUS C200 but possibly not on the ASUS C300 so it’s likely the Acer will win here but when you’re talking about all three Chromebooks lasting a full day on a charge does it make much difference?

Is it simply down to CPU brand? Is Tegra going to attract people? “192 Nvidia CUDA Cores” sounds good!

In terms of performance, assuming the SSD speeds and WiFi performance are similar, there won’t be much difference in web browsing speeds but one area where the Acer might have an edge is graphics. Gaming options on Chromebooks are rare so is the GPU really that important? There are two things to consider here. The first is GPGPU acceleration which could push up some HTML5 performance; The other is Android applications.

Acer Chromebook 13 gallery.

At Google I/O in June, Google demonstrated Android apps running on a Chromebook. Later, Google revealed that is was “done on a Chromebook Pixel running a standard development channel image and all Android code was running under Native Client.”  The technicalities are still unknown but could it be that Google are building the libraries required to allow Android apps to run with mininal porting? Google admits that it’s a technical challenge but it’s clear that Google want to bring Android apps to Chromebooks. ““Our goal is to bring your favorite Android applications in a thoughtful manner to Chromebooks.”  The Acer Chromebook 13 might not beat the ASUS C300 in 2014 but it might be the one to buy in 2015 when you take the possibility of Skype and Minecraft into account. It could break Chromebooks out of the simplicity-focused education market and right into a mainstream one. [2] 

Android apps might be the reason that Gartner predicts that Chromebook sales are likely to triple by 2017. That brings the forecast total to 14.4 million units globally. If ART and the porting of applications happens in numbers we could see a platform that competes with low-cost Windows 8 laptops for mainstream customers and exceeds that forecast. Having looked at the ‘gaps’ in ChromeOS closely I think ART Android apps can make a difference. Even if Skype is the only application ported over in 2015 it will make a huge difference. Low cost Windows laptops will evolve too though so competition will remain strong.

My Acer C200 overview video:

 

[1]This is a unique combination because the Nokia 770 was on Intel ARM and the Raon Digital on AMD X86.

[2] Corrected with additional research. Google has not officially announced that ART will come to Chromebooks. The incorrect section originally read:

“The first is GPGPU acceleration which could push up some HTML5 performance; The other is ART. ART is the new Android runtime that you’ll find replacing Dalvic in the up-coming Android-L release. Google has said it will build ART into ChromeOS and that really could be a game-changer for the Chromebook. ART means that, for the first time, there will be native, non HTML5, local apps on the platform. It means games can be ported over from Android to Chromebooks. The Acer Chromebook 13 might not beat the ASUS C300 in 2014 but it might be the one to buy in 2015 when you take the possibility of Skype and Minecraft into account. It could break Chromebooks out of the simplicity-focused education market and right into a mainstream one.”

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MSI S100 is a 10-inch Windows tablet with keyboard, for 349 Euros! http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/msi-s100-is-a-10-inch-windows-tablet-with-keyboard-for-349-euros/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/msi-s100-is-a-10-inch-windows-tablet-with-keyboard-for-349-euros/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 13:08:07 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39651 MSI aren’t known for having big distribution channels in Europe or North America so the new MSI S100 10-inch Baytrail-T tablet may not reach your local store shelves but it will be interesting to watch the price on it. We’ve spotted it, pre-sale,  for 349 Euros ($384 pre-tax equiv.)  MSI have chosen a 1280×800 screen resolution and have issued a strange press release. This “WinOS” tablet has “soul-shaking 3D surround sound. “ A 2MP camera “provides incredibly [sic] image quality.”

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One retailer in Europe has the MSI S100-012NL up for pre-sale at 349 Euros which includes 64GB storage and the keyboard cover. Perhaps for that price we can excuse the poorly written PR?

MSI S100 10-inch Windows tablet specifications:

  • Windows 8.1
  • Intel Bay Trail-T Z3740D 1.33GHz
  • 2GB RAM
  • 64GB storage
  • Screen” 10.1″ IPS HD 1280×800
  • Camera: Front 2.0MP FF / Rear 2.0MP FF
  • Speaker: 1W speaker (We suspect that should be ‘speakers.’)
    WIFI 802.11b/g/n + BT 4.0
  • Micro SD, Micro USB 2.0
    USB 2.0
  • Headphone port [possibly not headset]
  • HDMI connector (Mini)
  • 27Wh battery
  • Size: 262.2 x 173.6 x 9.8 mm
  • Weight:595 grams (890 grams with keyboard cover.)

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If you’re happy with 1280×800 resolution, which I suspect many people might not be, and want a super-cheap, lightweight 2-in-1 then take a closer look. We’re hoping the quality is better than that of MSI’s English proof-reading.

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Similar devices: Acer Switch 10, ASUS Transformer Book T100

Source: MSI. Via ZDnet. Pricing via Geizhals.

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Intel Core M will enable differentiation without compromise. http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/intel-core-m-will-enable-differentiation-without-compromise/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/intel-core-m-will-enable-differentiation-without-compromise/#comments Tue, 12 Aug 2014 12:11:09 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39640 Intel’s Core M reminds me of a moment in 2008 when I briefly tested a Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. It was one of the few UMPCs around that used a Core Solo processor instead of the very low-end pre-Atom CPUs and it was a breakthrough in handheld PC performance. Core M is going to allow manufacturers to make exactly the same sort of breakthrough from ‘just enough’ into mainstream performance on a handheld PC except this time it’s fanless. Core M is going to be the first CPU that allows manufacturers to make different types of tablet PC without the compromises of size, heat and noise that have been associated with previous high-power Windows tablets.

That much was clear from early information we got about the Core M / Broadwell Y processing platform at Computex. A 600 gram 10-inch tablet running ‘Core’ without fans is special but yesterday Intel gave us more details about how they’ve achieved performance, sizing and TDP improvements.

Core M 1

Before we sing the praises of fanless Windows tablets too loud let us consider the Surface Pro 3 vs the HP Pro X2 410. Both of these use Core i5 CPUs but the HP Pro X2 is fanless. It also gets hot and throttles the performance so much that you can easily get into situations where an Atom-based tablet might be better. The latest Core CPUs use thermal measurements to calculate short-term CPU overclocking but if the system gets too hot, you end up with an under-clocked system. It means that the Surface Pro 3, which has a quiet fan, is much, much more powerful than the HP Pro X2. Fanless systems can be a disadvantage.

We don’t quite know how much Core M devices will be affected by throttling yet. Larger devices with more airspace, and I expect to see some interesting 12-13-inch designs soon,  will have the advantage over thinner designs with less ‘thermal headroom’ but leading edge designs may be able to squeeze more out of the platform. This slide from Intel is really worth studying. In it you can see how device thickness impacts on the TDP limits. At the extremes, that’s with a 7mm thick 10-inch design, you’ve got just 3W of TDP to play with.  Ambient temperature becomes more critical too and I demonstrated that with the HP Pro X2 410 in my review at Notebookcheck.

Core M 4

What is certain though is that in terms of marketing, Core M-based fanless Windows tablets will offer some real differentiators. Light weight, thin designs, silent operation and, you can be sure, 1.6-2.4Ghz clock ranges will sound impressive. Underclocking to 600Mhz won’t be in the list of features though so we’ll have to look carefully at the first tests. I’ll certainly be looking out for this when I attend the Intel Developer Forum in September.

Core M tablets and 2-in-1s will be high-end devices. They need to be to cover the costs of this leading edge CPU on its new manufacturing process. Although Intel says that the “14 nm product yield is now in healthy range” and that considering the 14nm process produces more chips per wafer you can guarantee that Broadwell-Y will have lower yield than other SKUs. Each one will have to be carefully tested to see if it meets Intel’s standards.

Those high-end devices will offer some nice features though. Although there are Atom-based platforms that offer reasonable Gen-7 Intel graphics and Intel Quick Sync video hardware the CPU and video processing here is going to be in another league. It’s not desktop-gaming capable but it’s certainly going to enable fast ‘Pro-Am’ 1080p video editing and rendering. GPGPU acceleration for HTML5 is also likely to be in a different league meaning the ever-important Web applications will be faster.  Given that gaming capability is not a key feature the platform would match requirements for a high-end Chromebook quite nicely. There’s power here for some impressive X86 Android gaming experiences too and we shouldn’t forget that Core M won’t be just for Windows, at least when the pricing comes down.

In terms of battery life Intel have revealed a few features and optimisations that could help significantly in some scenarios. Video playback and typing, as I’m doing here, should get a significant battery-life boost from the optimised power control elements in the new platform.  TDP is said to down by up to ‘2x’ (meaning 3W TDP SKUs are probably in the pipeline) for the same performance level. That’s impressive. Due to die size reductions there’s more space for battery too although it’s likely that some of this space needs to be used for airflow improvements. Given the cost of batteries I wouldn’t expect any increases. On the contrary, you might see battery sizes reduce on the lower-end and thinner products.

 

Core M 5

Core M 2

You’ll find a detailed analysis at the new Broadwell architechture over at Anandtech so don’t forget to check that out too.

In summary the Core M range of SoCs, like other ‘Y-series’ or ‘SDP’ oriented designs will offer a lot to the designer and a lot to the marketing manager and we’ll have to be careful to analyse what this really translates to in terms of performance for power users. There may not be enough in Core M to run a complete daily desktop experience and for consumers, the prices could be high but thin and light fanless designs are critical and it looks like Intel have enabled a product range that can offer that. Given some good, showcase designs – and the ASUS Transformer Book Chi could be one of them – there could be enough here to elevate Intel-based tablets into a unique position and that’s exactly what Intel need. Core M is the differentiator-enabler.

Source: Intel. Press materials are here.

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ASUS C200 Chromebook is a silent, stylish all-dayer. (Video) http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/asus-c200-chromebook-is-a-silent-stylish-all-dayer/ http://www.umpcportal.com/2014/08/asus-c200-chromebook-is-a-silent-stylish-all-dayer/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 10:04:40 +0000 http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=39629 ASUS C200 Chromebook _24_

I’ve previously done work with ChromeOS and Chromebooks but this is the first time I’ve done a top-to-bottom, deep-dive analysis of a Chromebook. The two weeks of testing and analysis has just been published at Notebookcheck.net and the overview video is below.

The ASUS C200 is probably the most productive PC per $ that I’ve ever tested. It offers over 10 hours of battery life in some scenarios and along with that it’s got a good keyboard, it’s light (1.2KG) and it’s completely silent.  But it’s a Chromebook and it has its limitations. It’s also running on a low power Intel Baytrail-M platform so that has limits too.

Luckily the C200 is running a high-end Baytrail-M platform so performance isn’t a major issue for web browsing but when it gets to HTML5 applications there are some issues. Documents in Google Drive took a long time to load as did my large Google Play Music collection and even good old Tweetdeck.  These long loading times aren’t due to poor WiFi performance as the AC-capable module was strong throughout the test.

Good speakers mean you’ve got the potential for a good video experience and this 32GB model had enough space to load up a number of films. With 10 hours of offline video viewing available with one charge you’ll have no problem on a long-haul flight although it must be said that this non-IPS 1366×768 screen has limited viewing angles.

ASUS have done a good job with the C200. It’s not a direct competitor to the Acer C720 which  you would probably choose if you were more into web-based working. If you’re more into a casual web experience, the C200 is the Chromebook to buy.

It’s well-built and incredible value. $229 right now on Amazon. Looking forward to 2015 and a time when Android Runtime and local apps are starting to be ported over it could solve some of the issues  I listed in the full review. Here’s a summary of those Chromebook issues:

Chromebook issues: Skype, local storage, printing, Microsoft Office and other Windows (or OSX) productivity suites, offline applications, USB device support, network attached storage using SMB, NFS and DLNA,video format support, AC3 and DTS audio incompatibility, music player synchronization, Amazon Prime Video outside the USA.

Enjoy the video and the full review and if you have any questions, let me know.

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