July 18th, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
There’s no real world usage for this kind of hack, but it’s pretty neat to see nonetheless.
It bears repeating that the neat part about being an Android user is all the tinkering you can do with your phone or tablet.
In this case, XDA Developer forum member ycavan managed to get Windows 7 running on an Asus ZenFone 2. There’s even a video showing how it works, though note that there’s no audio.
Unlike a majority of other Android phones, the Asus ZenFone 2 utilizes an Intel-based Atom processor. ycavan cited the reason for the hack was because he was curious about “running Windows at near native speeds.” It’s definitely not perfect—there is no Direct 3D support, for instance—but it works, even if the ZenFone 2’s 5.5-inch display seems a bit small for a full desktop operating system.
Why this matters: It’s always interesting to see what the enthusiast community can do with Android. I don’t personally think there’s any particular need to have Windows 7 running on such a small screen, but I don’t deny that it’s fun to do.
July 14th, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
Looks like Moore’s Law has some life in it yet, though creating a 7nm chip required exotic techniques and materials.
How far can we push Moore’s Law? It’s starting to become a concerning question as processors push into almost infinitesimally small process nodes.
Intel’s 14-nanometer Broadwell chips suffered from lengthy delays, stuttering Intel’s vaunted tick-tock manufacturing schedule. TSMC, the company that manufactures graphics processors for AMD and Nvidia, has been stuck at the 28nm node for yearsnow. Intel plans to push into 10nm in 2017, but IBM’s looking beyond that, and just revealed the world’s first working 7nm processor—but it took some pretty exotic manufacturing to get there.
Creating a working 7nm chip required moving past pure silicon, IBM revealed. IBM—working with GlobalFoundries, Samsung, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, and others—carved the transistor channels out of silicon-germanium (SiGe) alloy in order to improve electron mobility at such a small scale. Intel has also said 10nm will be the last gasp for pure silicon chips.
IBM and co. had to turn to cutting-edge lithography techniques to etch features onto the chip. The companies utilized extreme ultraviolet lithography, which Intel has also been investing heavily in for years now. The details behind EUV get complicated, but essentially, it’s a beam of light with a far narrower wavelength (read: width) than current lithography tools. The benefits of moving to a smaller feature-etching tool when working on a chip with 7nm components is obvious.
The consortium also managed to stack the chip incredibly tightly, with a 30nm transistor pitch, which helped it achieve a nearly 50-percent surface area reduction over today’s top-end chips.
The 7nm SiGe chips are nowhere near production-ready, but when they’re cleared for commercial use around 2017, IBM says they’ll result in “at least a 50 percent power/performance improvement for next generation… systems” on account of all those process improvements. Ars Technica has a wonderfully detailed write-up on the manufacturing process for IBM’s 7nm chips.
But that’s not even the most impressive number. IBM says that when the industry embraces 7nm manufacturing techniques, processors will be able to be stuffed with an incredible 20 billion transistors. By comparison, Intel’s new Broadwell-U processors pack “only” 1.9 billion transistors.
June 30th, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
Intel’s new low-end NUC PC kits are now available for pre-order, bringing the cost of a mini bare-bones PC down to just $129.
NUC (short for Next Unit of Computing) is Intel’s brand of small, build-your-own PC kits, which have been around for about two years now. The kits include a motherboard, processor, power supply, and all kinds of input/output ports; users supply their own storage, RAM, operating system, monitor and input devices.
While the original NUC kits cost more than $300, the latest models are much cheaper thanks to Intel’s Braswell processors. Not to be confused with the Broadwell chips found in most Ultrabook laptops, Braswell is more akin to what you’d find in a tablet or netbook, though as Ars Technica notes, it runs at a higher TDP to allow for sustained higher speeds—perfect for a desktop PC that’s not drawing battery power.
The new NUCs beg for home theater use, with support for 4K video streaming and TOSLINK optical audio output. Other specs include VGA and HDMI outputs, an SDXC card slot, four USB 3.0 ports (including a charging port that works when the PC’s power is off), an ethernet port, a headphone jack, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. These aren’t fanless designs, though they should run quieter than a typical desktop.
Right now, Amazon has two models up for pre-order. The $129 NUC5CPYH has a dual-core Celeron N3050 processor and ships in two to four weeks, while the $172 NUC5PPYH has a quad-core Pentium N3700 processor and ships in a month or two. Either way, factor in at least a couple hundred bucks more for Windows, storage, and RAM.
Why this matters: The size of Intel’s NUCs have always looked like they’d fit in a living room, but hadn’t quite nailed the balance between power and price. These new models look more promising, especially with 4K video support, and tout the cheapest entry cost we’ve seen yet.
May 30th, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
Three years after swearing off Windows Phone, LG is back with a budget handset for Verizon Wireless.
The LG Lancet has a 4.5-inch display with 854-by-480 resolution, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 410 processor, 8 GB of storage (with MicroSD expansion), an 8-megapixel rear camera, a VGA front camera, and a 2,100 mAh battery.
Those specs put the Lancet squarely on the low end of the smartphone spectrum, but it has a price to match. Verizon is charging just $120 for the phone without a contract, or you can get it with a two-year commitment for $20.
For software, the Lancet runs Windows Phone 8.1, but LG is also borrowing some features from its Android phones. For instance, users can wake or lock the phone by double-tapping on the display, and can snap a selfie with a hand gesture. A Quick Memo application lets users take notes or capture the screen during phone calls.
The Lancet is available now through Verizon’s website. If you’re looking for a new high-end Windows Phone, it’s not going to happen until Windows 10 arrives this summer.
The story behind the story: LG was one of the first Windows Phone manufacturers in 2010, but a few years ago the company publicly declared that it would stop supporting Microsoft’s platform, citing a lack of meaningful market share. While Windows Phone is still far behind iOS and Android, Microsoft’s hardware reference design and support for on-screen buttons now makes it easier for phone makers to turn their existing Android handsets into Windows Phone variants. That seems to be the case here, as the Lancet is very similar to one of LG’s recent low-end Android phones, the Leon.
May 21st, 2015 | Edited by Zoran Stosic | hardware
Even in this modern computing era Windows is still dogged by driver problems—at least during the technical preview phase. Owners of the newly released Surface 3 may want to hold back on installing the Windows 10 technical preview for now, though it appears Intel has released beta Windows 10 drivers for the Surface 3’s Atom processor and chipset.
“Please do NOT try to install Windows 10 on the new Surface 3. There are no drivers for the Intel x5/x7 Atom processors,” Microsoft Community Moderator and Microsoft MVP Barb Bowman posted on the company’s support forum on May 11. “There are no drivers in the Preview Build because Intel has not yet provided drivers.”
That changed on May 14, when Bowman noted that there are beta drivers for the Surface 3 available via Windows Update.
The $500 Surface 3 uses a fresh, new 1.6GHz Intel Atom quad-core x7-Z8700. Intel does not yet have a release date for the final drivers, according to Bowman.
Since the Surface 3 (and its processor) is so new and Windows 10 is still under development, small hiccups like this are to be expected. Microsoft’s newest operating system is slated for release this summer so we can expect to see final drivers from Intel relatively soon.
Further reading: Windows 10: The 10 coolest features you should check out first
Microsoft’s latest tablet went on sale in early May after being announced in late March. The big appeal about the new non-pro Surface is that it is not loaded with ARM-processor compatible Windows RT. Instead, it’s a full Windows slate compatible with all legacy desktop apps, as well as modern UI apps.
The Surface 3 features a 10.8-inch 1080p display, your choice of either 64GB storage with 2GB RAM, or 128GB onboard storage with 4GB RAM. It also comes with one USB 3.0, mini Display port, microSD card reader, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth 4.0.
The impact on you at home: Windows 10 is an exciting update to Microsoft’s OS, especially if you’re running Windows 8 or 8.1. Unfortunately, Surface 3 owners chomping at the bit will have to wait a little bit longer—at least if you want to remain on the safe side.
Some users in the same forum thread where Bowman posted her warning say they are able to run Windows 10 using newly updated Windows 8.1 drivers recently posted on Microsoft’s site, albeit with degraded graphics performance that make the combination “not suitable for daily use quite yet.” Check out the forum for more information, but remember it’s still a risk to install Windows 10 on the Surface 3. Reckless souls can check out our primer on installing Windows 10 and how to create a dual-boot set-up with Windows 8.1.