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Lumia 950, UWP and Continuum. Mind-blowing potential.

Ultramobile computing fans, we have an ARM-based ‘phone’ product here that we need to watch very carefully. The Lumia 950 and 950 XL are likely to be the first Continuum-showcase Windows 10 phones. If you don’t know what Continuum is yet, see this post. The Lumia 950 will connect to a screen via USB-C, while charging, and allow you to run those Universal Apps as large screen optimized experiences. This is what the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) is all about and if developers see the potential here then the apps could really start to flow. Here are my thoughts.

Lumia 950 XL

You’re looking at a phone with hidden talent. To distill my explanation into a picture, look at this…

In the image above, leaked on a German podcast yesterday, you can see a phone connected to a breakout box. It’s a USB-C cable and is said to be the Lumix 950 XL. That could be a generic USB-C / HDMI docking cube but assume there’s power-injection going over that USB-C cable and assume that there’s a USB port on the little dock too. Plug in a keyboard and mouse and off you go! I’m now imagining a barebones laptop (with battery, screen, keyboard in clamshell design with a single USB-C port) that you plug the Lumia 950 into.

With 75 million Windows 10 PCs out there it makes sense to be accelerating Windows 10 software development plans but when you imagine the potential market here which spans tablets and PCs up to a possible 11.6-inches in size it’s a mindbogglingly interesting developer opportunity. Microsoft’s target of 1 billion Windows 10 devices across phone, PC, Xbox and other categories looks achievable and cross-segment devices like this make it all the more interesting.

ARM inside

This truly post-PC product is running a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon CPU inside and has the potential to step all over 2-in-1, 8-inch tablet and netbook territory. Intel  don’t have a phone-integrated platform (X3 / SoFIA) at this level of processing power, USB 3.1 or HDMI capability. The Atom X5 and X7 platforms could do it, but not in a 6-inch chassis due to the lack of integrated modem. While this ARM-architecture processor might not have the pure power we expect from our working laptops recent history has shown that people are happy to use one-app-per-activity. The convenience, cross-platform and synchronization advantage could be irresistible.

continuum 6

Continuum allows apps to have a screen-responsive design.

Not just Lumia.

This is a Lumia product but it won’t be the only Windows 10 phablet around for long if developers start to get active. Microsoft will have some big names already working with Continuum to create cross-platform applications but if we start to see independent efforts to use UWP, Universal Apps,  porting tools and Continuum to create screen-aware apps then it’s game-on! Expect new hardware to flow. What’s next? Google apps for Windows 10 would be the ultimate signal of success!

Expensive shopping cart.

You’ve got an old laptop you want to upgrade? What if the Lumia 950 came with the desktop dock and a bare-bones adapter for €1000. That’s a high-end smartphone and a low-end laptop in one. The value proposition is quite interesting which leads me to believe that the Lumia 950 won’t be a ‘value’ product on its own. €600 would not surprise me.

It’s up to developers.

Developers be excited. This hardware is not what you should focus on but behind it there’s a game-changing ecosystem. The way this dovetails into the business PC scenario is also something to think about. Follow Moores Law, think about what Intel MUST launch at IFA. Think about the competition, price reductions and the developing markets that could include huge numbers of low-cost Windows 10 phones. Write that Universal Windows Platform, Continuum-enabled Cricket app ASAP!

These are my thoughts and yes, my mind truly is blown by the potential here. It’s post-PC, chasm-crossing, game-changing and working up a storm in my head but there’s every opportunity that I’m working in a teacup and that we’re looking at is just another PureView smartphone. That would be a shame because there’s an explosive amount of potential in the new UWP world and I want to see it in action as soon as possible.

You can get more details on the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950 XL at Liliputing. The product is unofficial for now but that could change soon. I’m not expecting anything at IFA because this product launch could be big enough for a standalone event and there are rumors that it will occur in October.

Medion Akoya S2218 at Aldi – First reviews, customer feedback. (Updating)

[Europe-focus] If you’re looking closely at the super-cheap Medion S2218 that’s being offered in Aldi in the UK / Ireland today (next week in many mainland EU countries) you’ll want to just check through this – an updating post including reviews and feedback that you need to read before buying.

Medion Akoya S2218 (MD99595)

Medion Akoya S2218 (MD99595)

The first feedback, a video review, comes from Germany. Computerbild.de rated the Medion S2218 3.01 (Grade C in school-speak – acceptable.)

  • 7 hours battery.
  • Good contrast, not great color accuracy.
  • No upgrade possibility.
  • No word on keyboard.
  • Confirmed fanless.

 

Based on tweets seen from the UK some stores only had one S2218 in stock and  customers weren’t happy.

Kev Wright of TechtalkUKbought one in Aldi this morning and he reported 5 being in stock.

Larger Aldi stores have more in stock but with nearly 700 stores in the UK and Ireland you can get an idea of how many will be sold today. Across Europe next week the total sales numbers will probably be between 5000 and 10000 units. (2400 stores in Germany, 180 in Switzerland, 430 in Austria, 80 in Slovenia for example) and it could spread across the whole of the Aldi network. That’s over 10000 stores!

Updating…

New Archos Flip. Strangely Yoga-like with Atom X5 for €249

At first this might look a little strange. The Archos Flip is launching at IFA next week. Take a look…

archos flip 11

The Archos Flip looks like the Lenovo Yoga 2 11

 

Yes it’s looking like the Lenovo Yoga 2 11, but only in casing. The Archos Flip has a few interesting specifications that are definitely not in the Yoga 2.

Archos Flip specifications

  • Screen: 11.6 inch,  1366 x 768, multi-touch.
  • CPU: Intel Cherry Trail Z8300 (Atom X5) 1.44 Ghz – 1.84 Ghz
  • Storage: 32 GB (that will be eMMC)
  • RAM: 2GB
  • Operating system: Windows 10
  • GPS included. Accelerometer.
  • Connectivity:  USB 3.0. Headset jack, HDMI (could be micro) WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Webcam: 2 MP. Built-in mic.
  • Battery: 8000 mAH (30 Wh)
  • Dimensions: 296.3 X 201.8 X 20.1  (Yoga 2 11: 298 mm x 206.5 mm x 17.2 mm)
  • Weight: Not given
  • Availability: November.

Let’s be positive about the Archos Flip

Intel’s Atom X5 Z8300, the tablet platform, has a base frequency of 1.44 Ghz, is a full 64-bit build and comes with a greatly improved GPU over the Baytrail generation. Windows Store games should be as smooth as butter and you’ll even get something out of Minecraft and WoW if you so wish (and have a big enough SD card to store them on!) There’s a GPS which is rare but useful for Cortana, tracking and Windows Maps turn-by-turn instructions. It’s a nice design and at €249 could make a great Christmas present. The 30 Wh battery should offer around 8 hours of video by my estimates. 5-6 hours of WiFi working. The weight hasn’t been given but given the slightly smaller dimensions and battery, smaller mainboard, lack of rotating hard drive and higher integration over the original Yoga 2 with Baytrail-M I’m guessing they’ve shaved 150-200 grams from the 1.4 KG of the Yoga 2. The Archos Flip should be a sub 1.3 KG ( 2.86pounds) convertible making it eligible for an entry in our database. USB 3.0 rounds off the good points.

Let’s be negative about the Archos Flip

1366 x 768 is a specification that sticks out like a sore thumb. If Medion, a Lenovo company, can push out a Full HD screen on a laptop for around 200 Euro then Archos can do it on this. However, that might be something they’ve got waiting in the wings for 2016. Let’s hope a 4GB option is coming too because 2 GB is rather limiting for productivity. It should run Windows 10 smoothly though and fits with the pricing. 32 GB of storage is going to be challenging. We’re happy it’s a micro-SD slot where you can insert a card and leave it in for permanent storage. Finally, November availability.

It truly looks like Archos have collaborated with Lenovo on this product which is really strange considering that Medion, a Lenovo company, offers products to the same market segment in terms of price and geography. This is not a Yoga 2 re-run as you can see by the dimensions, ports and

It wouldn’t have been surprised if the ‘Flip’ (not the first)  had been a Medion product (Lenovo own this European brand) but Archos is a big surprise. Maybe there’s a business announcement at IFA too.We’ll find out next week at IFA 2015.

Big question mark? Keyboard.

Source: Press release in French (PDF.) Via NotebookItalia.

 

Microsoft signs deals to take advantage of fitness wearables
Wearable fitness devices are all the rage these days, and Microsoft has been making deals to ensure its place in the market. Mark Kaelin explains.
The best ultramobile computing project so far: 1 year on a train.

After having problems with an apartment rental Media Studies student Leonie Müller, 23, decided it was a good idea to pack everything into storage, buy an unlimited train ticket and spend the next year working on trains. Three months into the project she’s become the focus of attention when it comes to digital nomads. Naturally we’re not interested in how she sleeps, washes her hair or makes her own food, we’re more interested in what tech she’s using and how she’s using it, right? What ultramobile tech do you use when you’re living on a train?

Leonie and her Surface Pro 3

Leonie and her Surface Pro 3 (Source)

As a German resident I’ve got plenty of experience of working on German trains. The highlight has to be my Nachtzug experience but in general I’m confined to a seat-back table or a lap.  Occasional days in a train are fun but how do you do it every day for a year? A Surface Pro is at the center of it all.

I use the Surface Pro 3 too and despite the large surface area it requires for standing it’s a powerful, lightweight PC packed into a well-built chassis. It’s got excellent WiFi reception capabilities too which is rather critical when you’re relying on free hotspots, in-train WiFi.

The German ‘DB100’ ticket costs over 4000 Euro for the year and includes trains that have WiFi…but it doesn’t include WiFi. A days pass costs €4.95 and if you’re traveling through hills or under tunnels you won’t get much reception. To cut the cost Leonie took a T-Mobile phone contract which allows her to add a months in-train WiFi for the same €4.95. I assume she’s using the same data tariff for the hotspot on her smartphone. My tip would be to get a separate 4G hotspot though because you can put it in the luggage rack or outside a window (not on a train, obviously) and often get better reception. 4G is a must when you’re traveling through Germany too as many of the ‘blackspots’ were filled with 4G-only coverage. Leonie explains in a blog post that it’s not always easy with the on-board WiFi though. “Obviously ‘flowing WiFi’ is pretty cool… the ICE (train) is a 300 km/h cross-country transport and it’s not possible to get total coverage. I try and view the WiFi as an extra and I’m happy when it works.” Clearly offline working is important! Station stops become synchronization stops.

But what about the noise? Leonie invested in a pair of noise cancelling headphones for the noisy times.

Leonie is documenting the year-long project on her blog Wherever You Go, There You Are! and is using it as a part of the of her studies for her Bachelors degree. Look forward to reading more in 2016! In the meantime, if you’ve got ultramobile computing tips for Leonie, drop them below.

Related: Choosing a travel PC. My tips and choices, which incidentally don’t include a Surface Pro 3. Read the article to find out why.

I’ll be traveling to Berlin next week for IFA so I’ll give you a rundown on the kit in an article soon. Hint: The Surface Pro 3 is at the center of my tech kit too.

[German translation by Chippy.]

Medion AKOYA S2218: Windows 10, 11.6-inch 1.2KG and Full HD at Aldi this week for peanuts.

If you liked the idea of the ASUS X205TA, the compact fanless 11.6-inch low-cost laptop launched last year you might also be interested in the £149 Medion Akoya S2218 (MD 99599) laptop that’s at Aldi on Thursday in the UK. It will be available in mainland Europe one week later and I expect there’ll be queues at opening.

Medion Akoya S2218 (MD99595)

Medion Akoya S2218 (MD99595)

11.6-inches is the smallest screen-size that can offer a full typing experience in a laptop format and it’s been a popular one for low-cost laptops in the last 12 months. The HP Stream 11, ASUS X205TA and Acer ES1-111M were all good offerings but had one small issue – screen resolution. While a 1366 x 768 screen might be OK for basic browsing, email or blogging it’s not the best for a sharp media playback experience and that’s where the Medion Akoya S2218 laptop might hit the mark.

Like the ASUS X205TA this laptop uses Intel’s low-cost tablet platform – Baytrail-T, not the latest Cherry Trail platform – to drive the PC. The quad-core CPU and integrated GPU can drive high bitrate 2K videos without any issue at all and should be very efficient at doing it too. Retailer Aldi is claiming 7-9 hours (depending on which of their many country-specific websites you read) battery life on video playback although there’s no detail on the battery capacity yet. Update: I got a tip that it might be 38 Wh which would be good.

Medion Akoya S2218 (2)Medion Akoya S2218 (3)

The design looks simple but attractive and you’ll get full-size USB 2.0 (x2) and HDMI ports. Unfortunately the SD card slot is micro-sized which makes it awkward for photographers looking for a cheap laptop with a good screen for quick photo-previewing.

  • Intel Atom™ Z3735F processor
  • 1920 x 1080 IPS screen.
  • 32 GB flash memory
  • 2 GB RAM memory
  • Weight 1.2 KG  – 1.3 KG (different figures seen at different Aldi websites.)
  • Integrated webcam and mic. (Wait for tests to see if this gives a good Skype experience.)
  • Fanless (assumed)

Implied in the specifications above is the Gen 7 Intel GPU (enough for some Windows Store gaming but not for ‘classic’ PC gaming. Minecraft, at a pinch.) and the Quick Sync video decoder and encoder. WiFi-N is supported (not the latest AC standard) along with Bluetooth 4.0. Miracast should be supported.

Expect 20-24 GB of free storage although Aldi are guaranteed to have pre-installed a bunch of software on the S2218. Thankfully you’ll be able to use Windows 10 ‘reset’ to clear out all that crap. Note: Some Aldi country websites are saying that the S2218 comes pre-installed with Windows 8. The UK site indicates a Windows 10 build.

The speakers are ‘high-definition audio with 2 speakers Dolby Advanced Audio certified’ (I don’t know that means) and there’s a 3-year warranty which is worth highlighting.

The price in the UK is just £149 (inc. taxes) which is about 15% less than the €239 that it’s being offered for in, for example, Germany next week. (£149 post tax is about €208 or $190 pre-tax-converted at current rates. Sales taxes average around 20% in Europe.)

There’s no micro-USB charging (important for people on the road) but it’s possible that the S2218 supports Modern Standby. Given that the Z3735F platform doesn’t support SATA or socketed RAM there’s little chance of any upgrading or hacking.

The Medion Akoya S2218 will make a great social-TV laptop for the sofa, an excellent holiday laptop and could even serve as a kids homework PC although please note that there’s no free Office 365 license included. If Windows 10 Universal Apps take-off it could even become more useful over time.

Via Winfuture.de  Aldi UK info.

Interesting fact: The first Medion Akoya netbook  launched 7 years ago for €399. I’ve still got it and it’s still working!

BBC Micro:bit available for roadtest. Take your ideas to Element 14.

The BBC micro:bit is the matchbook-sized computing device that’s going to be given free to every 11-12 year old in the UK. Trying to get hold of one outside that channel is going to be difficult but Element14, the company overseeing manufacturing, are putting 5 of them up for grabs. All you have to do is make a project proposal and you could get one.

BBC MicroBit

BBC MicroBit

This Contest requires participants to submit an application indicating their previous experience with this type of equipment/component, information on what they would do to test the equipment/component, and the applicant’s desire to post a thorough review of their experience with images, photos, or other supplemental materials.

While the micro:bit isn’t a PC as such (it has an ARM-arch processor, can’t drive an LCD display and only uses micro-SD for storage, for example) but it’s an interesting mobile computing building-block for education. Programming the micro:bit will be done through a web-based IDE.

The Micro:Bit will eventually be for sale but not before a non-profit is formed and the process of open-sourcing the design is complete and that could take a while, especially as 1 million eligible kids are just about to start the school year in the UK.

If you think you’ve got a cool idea and fancy blogging the project,  apply before Sept 11th at Element14. More about the BBC micro:bit here.

Lenovo Yoga 900 Skylake convertible appears. IFA launch possible.

A full week before we expect Intel’s Skylake 6th-generation processors to officially launch there’s a signal that Lenovo will be launching a new Yoga 900 with Skylake architecture inside. Unlike the Yoga 3 Pro from 2014 it will have a full-fat Ultrabook-style processor. Core i5 and i7 should offer significant performance improvements over the previous generation Yoga 3 Pro.

lenovolaunch

The processor details have been removed from the retailers site now but had previously shown 2 models of the Lenovo Yoga 900 with Core i5-6200U and Core i7-6500U Skylake processors. There aren’t any images but the weight and battery capacity are slightly bigger than the Yoga 3 Pro. It’s thicker but loses 4-6 mm around the frame. Expect a fan inside with these 15 W TDP CPUs.

  • Ports: USB-C, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, SD card and HDMI ports
  • Screen: QHD 3200 x 1800 IPS
  • Weight: 1.29 KG

Prices shown today are €1699.90 for a Core i7 and €1499.90 for a Core i5 both with 8 GB RAM and 512 GB SSD. Presumably a 4GB / 128 GB Core i5 model would knock a few hundred Euros from those prices. A sub-€1000 Core i3 model could go up against the Dell XPS 13 with touchscreen (which is also rumored to get a Skylake update.)

If the specifications are correct it looks like the Yoga series will get a serious performance boost. The HD 620 graphics and new CPU architecture, additional security features, image processor and DDR 4 memory support could add up to a much better premium 2-in-1 experience than the Yoga 3 Pro.

This leak points strongly towards an IFA launch on the 2nd of September. We don’t know the exact time of the Lenovo press event yet but the #lenovolaunch  and #lenovoifa are clearly the hashtags to follow! We’ll be at IFA so @umpcportal on Twitter and umpcportal on Facebook are also worth following.

Source: Fnac. Via Notebook Italia

ASUS T100HA pre-order from €299. 128 GB / 4GB model well-priced.

The ASUS T100HA has us quite excited. Not only is this 2-in-1 the latest in the successful ASUS T100 Transformer Book line but it’s coming with the new Intel Atom Cherry Trail X5-Z8500 CPU and a 4 GB RAM option. The T100HA also includes USB-C but we’ve yet to confirm that it supports anything other than USB 2.0 data. Delivery could be as early as 2 weeks in Europe.

ASUS T100HA 1

The entry-level version, T100HA-FU002T, is being offered for €299 in France (€239 pre-tax = $272) and that brings you 32 GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. The Atom X5 8500 goes up to 2.4 Ghz and will offer a 10-20% CPU boost and something around 50% GPU performance boost over earlier generation ASUS Transformer Books. There’s a 64 GB / 2GB version (T100HA FU006T) among the online retailers but the interesting option is at €399 where you’ll get the T100HA-FU030T with 128 GB of storage and that all-important 4 GB of RAM. It brings you a similar level of  performance and storage as the €699 Microsoft Surface 3.

Full specs, gallery and videos available in our database. More Atom Cherry Trail products listed here.

The Surface 3 comparison isn’t quite fair as there’s one big difference with the T100HA – it has a 1280 x 800 screen. Early specifications pin it at 350 nits and it’s an IPS panel but the resolution is nothing compared to the 1920 x 1280 of the Surface 3. The T100HA has a slightly lighter total weight of 1.0 KG  / 2.2 pounds but the tablet weight seems to be up slightly over previous generations – 580 grams.

T100ha pic

WiFi is a/g/n (no WiFi AC support.) Battery capacity is 30 Wh and battery life is claimed to be 14 hours. Be wary of that as it will be in a very lightweight video playback scenario. 6-8 hours of web-working would be my estimate.

As mentioned, a question remains about the USB-C port. Is it wired for USB 3.1 speeds or just USB 2.0 speeds? The Atom X5 platform supports USB 3 so let’s keep our fingers crossed. The charging ‘route’ is also an unknown. It could be via the USB-C port, or it could be / also be via the micro USB port. It sounds silly but these things sometimes happen in the name of saving a few dollars.

Delivery dates range around the 2-week mark. 15th September delivery.

Despite the low screen resolution the ASUS Transformer Book T100HA could make the perfect travel 2-in-1 PC and in the high-end version should have enough power for some quality desktop work.

There’s every chance that the ASUS T100HA will be at IFA in a few weeks. I’ll be there to check it out.

The Amazon France pricing can be found here.

Intel WiDi to get real-time encoding support.

Intel’s Wireless Display, a superset of the Miracast wireless display standard is going to get a boost with Skylake and an on-board real-time video encoder. It should improve latency and efficiency and Intel thinks it will be good enough to extend WiDi to wireless-screen gaming.

Quick Sync FF

WiDi V3.5 currently supports up to 2560 x 1600 resolutions at 30 fps which is good enough for HD film casting but the latency often prevents other scenarios from being usable.  With the improved Gen 9 GPU on Skylake there’s a new ‘fixed-function’ video encoder that will help reduce that latency issue. There’s also going to be less load on the CPU and GPU which can be used for gaming. Intel demonstrated the latest Skylake-based WiDi at IDF this week – using latency and processor-critical gaming as the demo.

We don’t know the technical details for the fixed-function encoder yet but one can assume that it’s an H.264-only encoding engine with a lot of the options stripped out to make it more efficient. WiDi will move to V6.0 for Windows 10 and you can expect 4K output support with that.

Intel WiDi software downloads. WiDi Pro V6.0 now available for 4th-gen (Ivy Bridge) and later Intel Core CPUs including Core M.

Actiontec ScreenBeam Mini2 Wireless Display Receiver(SBWD60A01) supports WiDi.

Durgaprasad Bilagi explains the feature in the video below but doesn’t give us any details about latency reduction which would be critical for gaming. Current WiDi implementations can get latency down to 50 ms and by cutting that in half it could be gaming-capable. If the FF mode reduces power usage that increases the power available gaming too.

Fixed-function encoding will be available in Skylake-architecture processors which include U-Series Core i3, i5 and i7 and we expect to also be available on the next generation Core M processor.

For more on Skylake features, see this article.

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