Welcome to 2017? This mini PC by GraalPhone reminds us of 2006!
The idea of a multi-mode mobile PC is far from new but GraalPhone is taking a shot at building something that’s not only multi-mode but also multi-OS system. It’s something we would have been very excited about 10 years ago but given the number of failures in this multimode mobile PC market over the last 10 years it’s hard to get excited now. Having said that, we must now consider the smartphone-as-a-core option.
This ‘4 in 1’ design uses the smartphone as the core processing unit and the docking unit takes the form of a mini PC with keyboard and folding screen that allows mini laptop and tablet modes. Obviously the docking design could take multiple forms. The GraalPhone UMPC is at the concept stage and we suspect they’re at CES (thanks Brad) to find partners and funding. Anything and everything could change and even if GraalPhone are successful in finding a partner it’s going to take a year to get this to market.
Windows 10 with a Snapdragon 835 would be the obvious choice for this product. Continuum was created for these cross-over designs but as we know, Windows 10 isn’t exactly the consumers or the manufacturers first-choice in the mobile market. An Android / Chrome OS fusion could be interesting but GraalPhone are talking about a Windows / Android combination. That could be a recipe for failure if previous attempts are anything to go by.
With smartphone performance as it is, way ahead of entry-level Windows tablets and PCs, the only way forward is to consider the smartphone as the core processing and communications unit. Google and Android / Chrome OS have the best positioning for this although if Microsoft could get more traction in the Store, Windows 10 is designed from the ground-up for this. The question is, when companies can sell us a smartphone, tablet and laptop separately why would they combine it into one? It only means disruptive profit loss. Maybe there’s a chance here for a new startup.
The design reminds me of something we saw 8 years ago in a design study found on the OQO forums. The OQO itself wasn’t much different in outward-looking design. Looking back over ten years ago we also find the HDPC aka ‘the ugly sofa.’
I’m just about to start reviewing the Ainol Mini PC, an Atom-based PC with an interesting feature. It has a battery included in the unit and because it supports Miracast it can run completely without wires.
The Ainol Mini PC has triggered a few switches in my head as a solution for portable, secure computing or as an HTPC or presentation device. It’s silent, it’s compact and it can even charge a smartphone.. The embedded 13 Wh battery makes all the difference here and at $97 it’s looking like a bargain.
Fresh from the ASUS press conference at CES 2015 is this hands-on video of the Transformer Book T90 Chi. This is the Atom-based (Z3775) 8.9-inch tablet and dock that weighs just 850 grams together and starts at $299.
it looks like a tidy combination and the pen (no stowage) is going to make this a really interesting all-round UMPC. We expect the pen to be an additional cost but even if this comes in at $350 it’s not a bad deal. A 64GB SSD might cost you another $50 so budget $400 if you want the full specs. Soeakign of which we’ve found out a few more. Here’s a full specification set.
New ground is being broken in the Windows laptop world today as HP announces the HP Stream 11 and HP Stream 13 low-cost Windows 8 laptops. Built around the Baytrail-M platforms we see an many recent Chromebooks (and possibly using exactly the same motherboard) these Windows laptops will go head-to-head with Chromebooks such as the ASUS C300. In order to sweeten the deal, which to many is already going to look attractive to many mainstream users, HP have announced that the Stream 13 comes with free 3G data. 200MB from T-Mobile won’t cover everyone’s needs but we’re sure that top-up packages will be available. The price: $249 with a 7hr 45 min battery life.
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?
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.
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.
I started testing the Intel NUC with Bay Trail-M yesterday and in the post you’ll see some performance figures for Android 4.4. Today I’m looking at Windows 8.1 (Pro) which was a simple, if lengthy, install process. Windows installed correctly from a DVD but a lot of time was taken installing all the (64-bit) drivers. Today I’ve had a chance to go through my usual suite of tests and you see the results below along with some comparison figures.
It’s important to note that I’ve gone for a fast SSD drive in the system. The MyDigitalSSD BP4 I have is a 240GB version but you can pick up the BP4 in a 64GB version for around $60 and it’s something I would recommend because this dual-core Atom CPU isn’t hugely powerful. We’re talking about the CPU and GPU power of an 8-inch Windows tablet here so in order to use this as a desktop PC you really can’t cut corners on storage speed. Oh, and why wouldn’t you just use an 8-inch tablet with a free copy of Microsoft Office? It’s a good question but a SATA disk interface and USB3.0 are just two arguments against that but given that a Windows 8 license is around $100 on top of the, approximately $240 you’ve already spent on the NUC, RAM and disk, if you’re also in the market for a student solution with MS Office you can afford to look at a 64GB Lenovo Thinkpad 8.
Buying a tablet isn’t as much fun as building your own NUC though and I suspect that most NUCs won’t end up running Windows. XBMCbuntu or some other free Linux distribution is more likely, especially when you consider the built-in IR receiver. Advertising displays, education, POS and automotive industries (and hobbyist) are also likely to be interested. Having said that, I’m enjoying this Windows 8.1 solution so far. The SATA SSD is making it feel much faster in operation than a Windows 8 tablet and it’s quieter than any laptop once the unit is mounted behind a monitor. The Gigabit Ethernet port is helping to boost internet speeds too.
System information and device manager information.
In terms of raw power I am a little disappointed. I should know better but the promise of a 2.4Ghz dual-core CPU had me thinking in terms of Ultrabooks and not tablets. It’s good, but don’t get over excited about anything like PC gaming or video editing. On that topic, note that there is no Intel Quick-Sync hardware video encoding so rendering videos could take a long time unless, you have a very very recent (we haven’t seen any in circulation yet) version with the N2830 processor inside. That version does support Intel Quick Sync and should improve basic video encoding performance by about 10X.
As mentioned, general performance is OK. It reminds me of the performance I got from the Acer V5 laptop with A6-1450 CPU after I had done an SSD upgrade. That platform, however, has better GPU performance. The PCMark7 score was good at 2732 points which safely beats al the Bay Trail-T tablets and even the Lenovo 11S with an Ivy Bridge Y-Series Core i3 CPU. Ultrabooks with recent CPUs and SSDs are getting around 5000 points in this test though and that’s the sort of performance you should be looking for if you’re doing serious multitasking and are looking for a ‘barrier-free’ office PC platform.
For a raw CPU test we ran Cinebench 11.5 64-bit and saw a rather poor score of 0.83 which is the slowest CPU we’ve tested this year. The Z3740-based Windows tablets are showing 50% better CPU performance. Clearly the SSD is helping to prop-up the PCMark7 scores so if it’s CPU performance you need (excel calculations, software development environments for example) then step away. A 2012/2013 Acer W510 running Clovertrail returned 0.53 points in our review so at least it’s a step up from that.
In addition to Cinebench we ran Passmark.
Intel NUC (N2820) Passmark CPU: 970
Floating Point Math:723
Extended Instructions (SSE): 2.49
GPU performance is comparable to the Bay Trail-T tablets we’ve seen. The Cinebench OpenGL test returned 6.0 FPS. We also ran the cross-platform 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme and saw results slightly above that which we see on the Intel Windows 8.1 Bay Trail-T tablets. The Ice Storm result on Windows 8.1 was also 13% better than the result on the NUC when we tested it with Android 4.4 although that OS build is still an early one and might need some optimizations. Again, this isn’t a gaming platform but Windows 8 ‘modern’ games did play smoothly. Pinball FX was smooth and responsive on a Full HD screen. F18 Carrier Landing was the same; Drift Mania Street Outlaws too.
Update: Under ‘Performance’ power profile and with the latest BIOS installed we saw a score of 8604 under Windows 8.1
Browsing speeds are good on the NUC. The SSD and Gigabit Ethernet are helping but tests like Peacekeeper and Sunspider show some lead over Baytrail-T devices. A Sunspider score of 495 beats all the Baytrail-T tablets we’ve tested and a Peacekeeper score of 1374 is good too. It doesn’t come close to the value you get out of an Acer C720 Chromebook though – and that’s cheaper!
Finally we come to video performance. In a Handbrake encoding test both with and without Intel Media SDK options turned on we saw under 9 FPS in our test which is truly bad. The Bay Trail-T tablets are scoring over 100 on this test and current Ultrabooks score over 300 fps. As for decoding, we played a 50 FPS Full HD H.264 video (30Mbps) through Windows Media Player and saw no problems but a CPU utilization of over 70%. Under Windows 8 Video app, however, the utilization was down to under 20%. Clearly there’s some hardware acceleration going on under Windows 8 modern that doesn’t happen when using Windows Media Player on the Desktop. Playing a 3Mbps H.264 video from a network drive through the Windows 8 Video app resulted in about 6% CPU utilization.
YouTube performance varied between browsers with Chrome struggling to offer a 1080p video without dropping frames at 100% CPU utilization. Both Modern and desktop versions of Internet Explorer were able to provide a smooth playback experience with under 20% CPU load. We continue to recommend Internet Explorer for YouTube playback on Windows 8.1 (the Modern app comes with extra security advantages too.)
A video playback test under XMBCbuntu is probably more relevant for many people thinking about the Intel NUC. We’ll be testing that out at a later stage.
We are using a MyDigitalSSD BP4 240Gb unit to test with. Here are the Crystal DiskMark results.
As you can see there’s not much to moan about. In a previous test with this SSD on an AMD A6-1450 system (here) we saw slightly lower scores. We don’t recommend using this NUC as a desktop with a spinning hard-disk as it will significantly slow down the perceived performance of the system.
Idle power used on this platform is so low that it’s not possible to measure it accurately using a consumer ‘Watt’ meter. In our tests it looked like the PSU was actually using 9W of power. We’ll set up a DC-only test at some point in the future in order to allow us to more accurately measure power usage.
Noise measurement has proved almost impossible here as the levels are so low. As ambient noise on the workbench is 44 dB it’s very difficult to tell if the NUC is on when mounted behind the screen but there is definitely fan noise detectable if you listen carefully in a silent room. We are running the latest BIOS with default cooling settings and understand from owner feedback that it might be possible to reduce the fan noise through settings available in the BIOS.
We haven’t performed tests on the WiFi module or done any audio tests.
In a follow-up article we’ll be looking at XBMCbuntu.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments section below.
We’re reluctant to call this NUC an all-round capable Windows desktop PC but there are definitely some interesting use cases here. It’s small and quiet and can support fast SSDs. It works well as a video playback unit (assuming Modern or IE is used as the playback environment) and keeps up well with multi-tab browsing usage. With the built-in WiFi unit it’s very portable and could make a useful camping, holiday home or hotel solution. For those thinking of Microsoft Office use cases we would suggest to take a look at the Lenovo Thinkpad 8 which comes with a 64GB SSD, USB3.0, HDMI and Office Home and Student for the same price as a NUC with Windows 8 and the Office license. For those looking for a browsing only solution, you can’t beat the Acer C720 at $220 with this unit.
Overall we think that the Celeron N2820 NUC may appeal to those who have specific Windows 8 use cases in mind (data collection, control, advertising, education, kiosk, IoT etc) or for those that have a spare SSD, memory and Windows license lying around. For those wanting a media-center solution, stay tuned. We’ll be looking at XBMCbuntu where we really think this NUC will shine.
In our last review we looked at an 8-inch tablet running on the Atom Z3740 costing under $300. In this review we have the Dell Venue 11 Pro 10.8 inch tablet running the current high-end Z3770 CPU and costing $499. The powered keyboard is an additional accessory at $159. The two units are extremely well built but are they worth it? We take a look in our detailed Dell Venue 11 Pro review.
With only 2/9 touch PCs updated here, 1 installing as I write, 1 downloading and 5 failures that need re-trying I suspect that there’s quite a bit of throttling and control going on by Microsoft today. I’m behind 1 IP address and after trying concurrent installs I’ve dropped back to a one-at-a-time method and it seems to be working now. I advise you do the same if you have multiple PCs
The Dell Venue 11 Pro, Lenovo Miix 2 10 and Acer W510 have updated successfully and all three are booting to Modern, as expected. Non-touch PCs will now boot to desktop.
I’m not a fan of integrating the mouse controls on the Modern UI but because they are hidden when using touch, it’s not an issue. The start-screen search box is a good idea. A Control Panel shortcut now appears in the Modern ‘Change PC Settings’ menu and you can pin Modern apps to the desktop taskbar – a first step in cross-environment integration but remember there’s no floating Windows Store apps in the desktop yet and no changes to the Start Menu. They are coming in a future update. Newly installed apps are easier to find in the Modern apps list now.
For those of us lucky enough to have Connected Standby-capable devices, you won’t see the Power icon on the Start screen.
Just in case you think it’s not worth updating because you’re on a tablet, think again. If you don’t update you’ll eventually lose the ability to update in the future. This update is obligatory.
A new ‘Disk Space’ menu item is a good start in providing users with 16, 32 and 64GB SSDs easier ways to control disk usage but there’s a lot more that could go in there. A shortcut to the ‘Disk Cleanup’ option for a start.
Here’s a video update from my home office this morning. Let us know what your experience was in the comments below and if you’ve had problems, let us know which device it was.
As we followed IDF yesterday we heard about a $99 tablet price target. We assumed it was for Android tablets but no, Intel are targeting their low-end Baytrail solution for Windows tablets at that price point. Intel are also increasing marketing and promising some new and improved features that could include Realsense 3D sensors for high-end Windows tablets.
Hermann Eul, corporate VP and GM of the Mobile and Communications Group at Intel explained in his keynote yesterday that by lining up low-cost SKUs (processor models) up with the removal of Windows licensing costs (announced at BUILD yesterday) they could enable Windows tablets “even down to $99 or $129. “As we speak we have more than 90 tablet designs coming to the market” spanning from below $100 to $500.
Full keynote video below.
The announcement was made during a segment in which Hermann highlighted the ‘4X’ campaign which aims to increase tablet sales to 40 million this year across the Android and Windows range.
Clearly Intel don’t expect the $100 segment to include too many $99 Windows tablets in 2014 but if the Windows Store takes-off as it may do after Universal Apps become possible, why not more? It’s likely to be down to differentiation. Low-performance ARM-based platforms will be cheaper so there’s an opportunity to drop $20-$50 for higher performance and perhaps the extra USB functionality.
We can’t read too much into the perceived split in the mainstream and premium segment but 50:50 seems about right. 20 million Windows tablet sales in total for 2014? Yes, we can see that happening as the products are already selling very well.
The low-cost products are likely to come from partners in China. Intel were happy to show who they’re working with as local country partners.
In the slide are listed: Livefan, Telcast, iWork, ramos, Aigo, Vido, onsa (sp?), Neso and two brands we can’t translate. In 2014 Intel are going to set a target of getting 20 ODM partners to produce 60 global designs via the Intel Turnkey Program which includes references designs, tailored software and other support packages.
Intel also announced they will provide marketing campaigns for this segment and will market to both consumers and IT decision makers. Intel will also help by using their existing distribution channels.
Realsense for Tablets?
Update: Video below
Finally, for the mainstream Windows tablet segment that closely matches the coverage we have here at UMPCPortal, we see that not only is Baytrail-T being updated for CR (cost reduced) versions now but there are also performance improvements coming later in the year too. An estimated 15% performance improvement along with ‘new experiences’ in the area of security and immersive gaming. We can’t help thinking that is related to Realsense when we look at the icon.
A depth-enabled camera features in the early part of the presentation. This feature would require Realsense on board so again, it looks like Realsense is coming to tablets this year. Watch the video below It’s amazing.
It looks like we’ll be busy here at UMPCPortal in 2014. We’ll continue to focus on the mainstream and high-end of the Tablet PC and mobile PC market and bring you more details about the technologies and capabilities as soon as we can.
It was a long opening keynote at BUILD today but totally worth watching all the way from start to finish. There were exciting announcements across-the-board and when I say across-the-board I mean announcements that affect cross-Windows compatibility. The unified Store took a huge step forward today. Windows 8.1 Update is detailed as is Windows Phone 8.1 which is coming in new devices from may and then rolling out after that to other devices. You’ll also hear the superb news that the Windows 8 license free will be dropped for all Windows Phones and PCs up to 9-inch screen. This will really help the Windows tablet market develop. Finally you’ll see the demo of a RT version of Office built for touch.
You can find more detail in our posts here but we do recommend you watch the video, if only to see Satya Nadella putting in a great performance as new CEO of Microsoft.
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Just live on YouTube is a 3.5 minute overview of the Windows 8.1 Update. The free update is coming to all Windows 8.1 users on April 8th and includes many changes for keyboard and mouse users, changes to taskbars and the ability to run the new Universal Apps in the desktop window. There’s a new Start menu too.
It’s going to be one crazy day for me on Wednesday. Two important events will take place that will give us a deeper understanding as to what’s going to happen with Windows tablets this year. Intels IDF event takes place in China and later in the day Microsoft kick-off their BUILD developer event. I’ll be covering them both.