What can you pack into an Ultrabook-sized laptop that weighs 1.1 KG? PC gaming? Yes.
I’ve just been testing the Lenovo Ideapad 710S Plus and not only is it a great Ultrabook (without a touchscreen) but there’s an NVIDIA GeForce 940MX that will double the graphics power over a standard Ultrabook. I managed to play Rise of the Tomb Raider, a recent and heavyweight game at low settings with an acceptable 30 FPS. Battery life? Well over 5 hrs.
It feels I’ve waited years for a consumer-grade docking solution that includes a graphics card. The Acer Graphics Dock a, theoretically, universal Thunderbolt USB-C graphics dock (Nvidia GeForce, details below) brings it all together and while 300 Euro sounds expensive, it’s a good start for a consumer-grade docking station and shows the way for the future of dockable ultramobile PCs. Acer Graphics Dock hands-on at the end of this article.
Update 15 March: I quoted a GTX 940M in the video. That information is incorrect as there is no GTX 940M. We’re currently trying to confirm leaked information that shows a GTX 960M inside. That makes more sense and could take it from ‘low settings’ to ‘medium settings’ PC gaming.
Update: Confirmed by Acer: It’s a GTX 960M inside.
When I was reviewing the last generation Intel Atom-based low-cost laptops and tablets there was one question that I got more than anything. “Can it run Minecraft?” The same question now applies to the Surface 3.
Can the Surface 3 run Minecraft?
The answer, on devices like the HP Stream 11, Acer E11 and ASUS X205 wasn’t very positive. At low settings you could get 30 FPS but there was a lot of stuttering. The Atom X7 processor, as found on the Microsoft Surface 3 not only has improved Turbo Boost clockrates but also has an improved GPU. In 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited tests I’m seeing a 50% improvement (based on other people’s benchmarks) over the 2014 generation mid-range processors and have already indicated that this might be enough to take it into Minecraft territory and that’s been confirmed by Sean Ong in a YouTube video that he’s posted. You’ll also see some Steam and Steam In-Home network streaming action in the video. (Update: I just found out that Steam In-Home Streaming supports Quick Sync which is part of the Atom X7 platform.)
The Surface 3 is never going to be the ultimate gaming machine but with this video I can see potential for some low-end desktop gaming and of course, great support for all the Windows Store games and that’s really going to help convince the target audience.
Our Dell Venue 8 Pro has already been unboxed and reviewed but today we’ve got more detail for you. This 15 minutes video deep-dive into this ultra-mobile PC includes browsing performance, split keyboard usage, YouTube playback, Store app install, Desktop usage, Microsoft Word demo, Bluetooth Keyboard Demo and Steam Gaming Demo with Civ V. We’ve got another video on the Miracast / WiDi feature coming up too so stay tuned!
7 teams are competing in the Ultimate Coder Challenge where showcase applications are being built for a Lenovo Yoga 13 to demonstrate the Intel Perceptual Computing hardware.
I’m involved with the judging of the Ultimate Coder event and every week you’ll find an update from me as I analyze the teams progress. This is week 4 and this week there are some great videos, interesting artwork, honesty and a ton of coding to enjoy. Some, however, are still to incorporate any use of gesture control in their apps. Do they have time?
As part of our continuing co-op with Intel to highlight interesting and useful Ultrabook software resources I’ve got a demo of a touch-enabled game from Appup running on the Lenovo Thinkpad Yoga Ultrabook Convertible for you, gamers and developers alike.
Congratulations to Firaxis Games who are about to release a touch-enabled version of Civ V. I got a few fingers on at IDF2012 and put together a video demo for you.
This Ivy-Bridge optimised version will be available to everyone as an update in Steam in Q4 and it works well. Firaxis have worked around the issue of hover/tooltips b implementing scrolling using a two-finger gesture. It’s not natural at first but to be able to get the tooltips easily is welcome.
Ultrabooks might not be able to play the latest blockbuster titles at max settings like a full blown liquid-cooled gaming desktop, but there’s still a heck of a lot of great titles that they can play. I’ve been using the Asus UX31E (Core i5 Sandy Bridge with Integrated HD3000 graphics) to happily play Minecraft, Tribes Ascend, Half-Life 2, Day of Defeat Source, Bit Trip Runner, League of Legends, Team Fortress 2, and plenty more. Having my Ultrabook running at peak performance means I get a competitive advantage and the most enjoyment thanks to my games running smoothly and responsively. This guide will tune up your Ultrabook to run at maximum performance and will benefit your graphical applications even if you aren’t a gamer!
If you’ve got an Ultrabook, it likely has either integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics or discrete Nvidia GeForce graphics. Recently we gave you 6 excellent game suggestions for your Ultrabook. Now we’ve got a suggestion to make sure your Ultrabook is running those games as well as possible. One of the best ways to keep the graphical capabilities of your Ultrabook performing at maximum capacity is to ensure that you’re using the latest driver for your graphics card. Intel and Nvidia regularly update their GPU drivers to address bugs and other problems. Sometimes there are game-specific fixes, and other times there are general performance-enhancing changes. In this article I’ll show you how to quickly and easily update your Ultrabook’s GPU drivers in order to maintain maximum graphics performance. Note that this guide will also apply to Intel HD4000 graphics when Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks are released later this year.
Genuine Ultrabooks use integrated graphics which, while not as powerful as a ‘discrete’ GPU, allow the systems to be slim and power efficient. Even though the graphical capabilities of current Ultrabooks won’t satisfy those looking to play the latest blockbuster titles at full settings, there are still plenty of excellent games that will run perfectly on an Ultrabook. I’ve got six great games to share with you that will run great on your Ultrabook and offer hours of entertainment (all together hardly more expensive than a single blockbuster title!) For reference, the current generation of Ultrabooks use Intel’s HD 3000 integrated graphics. The next generation (using Ivy Bridge), which we’ll see launch this year, uses HD 4000 graphics which should offer a significant increase in graphical horsepower. For now, my recommendations and performance-evaluations are based on an Ultrabook using the current-gen HD3000 ‘GPU’ and Core i5 processor. Also note that your experience may vary depending upon the processor that your Ultrabook is equipped with (Core i3, i5, or i7), amount of RAM, whether or not you have up-to-date drivers, and your power settings (check back with us at UltrabookNews for a guide to optimizing your Ultrabook’s power configuration).
In the Intel Ultrabook press event this morning at CES we heard how user interface changes will be coming to Ultrabooks. Windows 8, touch and gestures were mentioned and we managed to capture a demo of a gesture based game on video. This is not something you’ll see on all Ultrabooks and this really is just a demonstrator but it’s interesting to think about how gestures could be applied to the standard Windows user interface.