sábado, 28 de setembro de 2013

Microsoft Surface Pro 2: Haswell CPU, still $899

The first generation of Surface tablets didn't sell nearly as well as Microsoft expected, so now Microsoft is trying to save its tablet platform with a new line of Surface tablets. The new Surface Pro 2 tablet brings an Intel Haswell Core i5 CPU, better battery life, and various changes to the innovative keyboard covers. Here's hoping that these changes are enough to bring Microsoft into relevance in the tablet market.

The chassis of the Surface Pro 2 is almost identical to its predecessor, except for the built-in kickstand now supporting the tablet at two different angles, and an upgrade from a full-sized USB 2.0 port to USB 3.0. The kickstand's two angles make it much more convenient to use, and is an appreciable improvement.

Under the hood, the only improvement the Surface 2 Pro brings is a Haswell-based Intel Core-i5 CPU, which means a lot of processing power for a tablet. Haswell's power efficient architecture means the tablet can last much longer on a single charge. The Surface Pro 2 also keeps the Pro Pen digitizer used in its previous model.

The Surface Pro 2 will run on Windows 8.1, so unlike the Surface 2, which runs on Windows 8.1 RT, it can run any legacy Windows application and isn't limited to the somewhat empty Windows Store. 

Last but not least, the new Surface tablets bring exciting new changes to their keyboard covers. There's the updated Touch Cover 2, which is now even thinner than last year's model, and has more accurate capacitive keys and has even backlit keys. There's also the Type Cover 2 (this one has physical keys), also lighter than its predecessor and also backlit. Finally, Microsoft is adding the Power Cover, which is like the Type Cover 2, but adds a secondary battery at the expense of extra thickness, giving the Surface tablets extra battery life.

The new Surface tablets are expected to be available during October. If you want a portable yet powerful and productive tablet, and you don't need to use any legacy Windows programs, the Surface 2 could suit you very well. It'll sell for $449 for the 32 GB version (although there'll be only about 16 GB of user-available storage) or $549 for 64 GB, without the keyboard included. If, however, you have (many) extra bucks to spend, and are willing to sacrifice thinness for more powerful internals and access to any legacy Windows app, go with the Surface Pro, which sells for $899 for 64 GB of storage and goes all the way to $1,799 for 512 GB storage, keyboard covers not included. In any case, the keyboard covers work for both tablets, and the Touch Cover 2 sells for $120, the Type Cover 2, for $130, and the Power Cover still has no pricing and will only be available next year. 

Microsoft Surface 2: Tegra 4 and 1080p display

The first-generation Surface RT didn't have nearly as many sales as Microsoft expected, and the Windows-on-ARM platform, Windows RT, was abandoned by pretty much every OEM that had invested on it. Now Microsoft is trying to save its tablet platform with a new line of Surface tablets. The Surface RT successor, the Surface 2, adds a high resolution display and a powerful SoC in a thinner, slightly lighter chassis. Here's hoping that these changes are enough to bring Microsoft into relevance in the tablet market.

The new Surface 2 is appreciably thinner than its predecessor. At 8.9mm, it's just as thin as the Google Nexus 10. The back casing is reminiscent of the original Surface RT, as it is still made of durable "VaporMg" magnesium, this time, however, the metal back has a much lighter gray color, as opposed to the Surface RT's dark gray. The back camera has gone from 1.2MP on the original Surface RT to 5MP on the new model, with 1080p video capability. The built-in kickstand makes an appearance again, but this time it can support the tablet at two different angles, making it way more convenient to use. The ports on the tablet include a full-sized USB 3.0 port, a microSD card slot, and on the bottom, magnetic pins for the keyboard covers. The front is pretty much identical to the original Surface RT. The 10.6" ClearType 1080p display is surrounded by large enough, though not too large bezels, and above the display is the 3.5 MP rear camera which also features 1080p video recording. Below the display is the usual capacitive Windows button. 

The Surface 2's display, like the Surface RT's, is pretty large for a tablet. At 10.6 inches, it's slightly larger than the usual Android tablet. For that reason, it's pretty hefty, weighing 675g, even more than the iPad 4. The display features ClearType technology, also used in last-year's Surface tablets, and that means that the display's various layers are laminated into a single layer, reducing glare. This should be very appreciable, especially when trying to use the tablet outdoors. The 1080p resolution isn't the highest resolution on a tablet, since the latest iPads and Android tablets have considerably higher resolutions, and the larger-than-usual display results in an ok pixel density of 208 ppi. It may not be the highest pixel density on a tablet, but it's still very crisp. 

Under the hood is the powerful NVIDIA Tegra 4 processor. That means the Surface 2 is powered by four Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 1.7GHz and a beastly 72-core GeForce GPU. The powerful SoC is fitted with 2 GB of RAM. Though the SoC is very powerful, Microsoft still claims up to 10 hours of video playback for the Surface 2.

The ARM-based SoC means the Surface 2 runs on the Windows 8.1 RT operating system, which unfortunately didn't see much success last year. Windows 8.1 RT is essentially just like Windows 8.1, except it can only run apps from the Windows Store, and cannot run legacy Windows Apps. Unfortunately, the Windows Store has still not matured very well, and is missing some essential apps, like Instagram, which might make the operating system a deal-breaker for people who want to do more than web browsing and working with Office 2013. 

Last but not least, the new Surface tablets bring exciting new changes to their keyboard covers. There's the updated Touch Cover 2, which is now even thinner than last year's model, and has more accurate capacitive keys and has even backlit keys. There's also the Type Cover 2 (this one has physical keys), also lighter than its predecessor and also backlit. Finally, Microsoft is adding the Power Cover, which is like the Type Cover 2, but adds a secondary battery at the expense of extra thickness, giving the Surface tablets extra battery life.

The new Surface tablets are expected to be available during October. If you want a portable yet powerful and productive tablet, and you don't need to use any legacy Windows programs, the Surface 2 could suit you very well. It'll sell for $449 for the 32 GB version (although there'll be only about 16 GB of user-available storage) or $549 for 64 GB, without the keyboard included. If, however, you have (many) extra bucks to spend, and are willing to sacrifice thinness for more powerful internals and access to any legacy Windows app, go with the Surface Pro, which sells for $899 for 64 GB of storage and goes all the way to $1,799 for 512 GB storage, keyboard covers not included. In any case, the keyboard covers work for both tablets, and the Touch Cover 2 sells for $120, the Type Cover 2, for $130, and the Power Cover still has no pricing and will only be available next year. 

iPhone 5s Benchmarks Leak on GFXBench

With all the attention the iPhone 5s is getting, it was about time benchmarks of the device were leaked, and the source of the leak is no other than popular graphics benchmark GFXBench. Unfortunately, though, the device information the benchmark results gives us isn't plentiful. 

The device info on GFXBench's website only confirms the resolution (1136 x 640) and the presence of iOS 7, which were both more than known. The GPU name is only shown as "Apple A7 GPU", so there's not much that we can extract from that. However, deductions based on the little info Apple did provide us about the GPU indicate the A7's GPU could be a PowerVR 6 "Rogue" series GPU. 

On the T-Rex HD Offscreen test, the iPhone 5s gets a very good score, surpassing the iPhone 5 with more than 3x the performance (Apple claimed the iPhone 5s was just twice as fast as the iPhone 5 in graphics), and when compared to the Android crowd the iPhone 5s also does really well in this test, slightly surpassing the Nvidia Shield and only kept from the top spot by the Samsung Galaxy S4 with the Snapdragon 800 (GT-I9506). Onscreen T-Rex HD tests show, roughly, a 2.5x increase in performance compared to the iPhone 5, and is above every other Android device except for the Nvidia Shield. 

Moving on to the Egypt HD tests, the Offscreen test gets the iPhone 5s just shy of a 2x increase over the iPhone 5, but it has a lower score than many Adreno 330 and some Tegra 4 devices and actually has a very similar score to the iPad 4. The Onscreen test shows a bit more than a 25% increase over the iPhone 5 and is in line with many Adreno 320 devices which have a slightly higher 720p resolution and is significantly behind the Adreno 330-sporting Galaxy S4 and the Nvidia Shield.

Fill rate, which has always been plentiful in Apple's GPUs, sees an unprecedented score in mobile, outperforming every other mobile device by a huge margin. Although, at the iPhone 5s' low resolution, the gains in fill rate won't be a factor in real-world gaming performance.  Although I'm sure that the impressive fill rate of the Apple A7 will be of benefit to a very high resolution device, like the upcoming iPad 5. 

Interestingly, all of the Triangle Throughput tests get much lower scores than on the iPhone 5, iPad 4 and most PowerVR SGX MP-based Apple devices. If I had to guess, this is due to an architectural difference between that generation of PowerVR GPUs and Rogue. Basically, each module (read: core) of a PowerVR SGX MP GPU is an exact copy of each other, which means that each added module contained their own geometry hardware, so that the MP3 and MP4 (tri-core and quad-core) versions in the iPhone 5 and iPad 3/4 ended up with a lot of geometry compute, hence the insane Triangle Throughput scores these devices achieve. Rogue works differently. Each GPU module adds just shading hardware, so geometry hardware remains constant no matter how many modules you add. While this means Rogue devices will earn less impressive Triangle Throughput scores, it ensures that there'll be no unnecessary amounts of geometry hardware (let's face it, the iPhone 5 and iPad 4 had much more geometry compute than what would ever be necessary for a mobile device). Nevertheless, the iPhone 5s appears to pack enough geometry compute to be competitive with other GPUs. 

Apple appears to have outfitted a very powerful GPU for the iPhone 5s. While this smartphone doesn't take the top spot in most tests, I suppose this will be the job for the upcoming iPad 5. 

sábado, 21 de setembro de 2013

PlayStation 4 vs Xbox One: Which Is Better?

It's been eight years since a new generation of game consoles arose, and now we see the two companies that dominated the console industry during the last 8 years at it again. Sony's next-gen PlayStation 4 and Microsoft's Xbox One are both excellent consoles, each with their advantages and disadvantages. Despite the fact that the Xbox One initially received very negative reactions due to certain policies, among other things, many of these are no longer concerns since Microsoft addressed the issues. 


The Xbox One's is a big departure from its predecessor. While the Xbox 360 had a more curved structure, the One's much more...rectangular. In my opinion, the One looks very futuristic. Its all black design is very stylish, and the white Xbox logo contrasts nicely with the black body. The One doesn't appear to have any buttons on the front, and since the front now apparently only houses the slot for the Blu-ray/DVD player, it gives the console a very, very clean look. The included Kinect 2.0 sensor follows the same design language: and all-black design with a white Xbox logo on the right side. So does the controller, whose paintjob is also back, and the Xbox button, also white. The physical dimensions and ergonomics of the controller are very reminiscent of the Xbox 360's controller. The button setup is also the same. Basically, a beautiful, uniform, clean and futuristic design.

While the Xbox One's design is an overhaul from its predecessors, Sony has somewhat kept the design language of the PS4 similar to its PS3 parent. I've even heard people joking that the PS4 looks like two PS3s (Slim version) sticked together. The PS4 maintains the stylish jet black paintjob that dates back to the PS2. The console follows a very rectangular look, but has a recess across the console's length (vertically) on the middle, making it somewhat reminiscent of a double-tower building. Another thinner line running across the console horizontally emanates a blueish light on one of the sides when the console is on. Very stylish!

The DualShock 4 controller is ergonomically similar to its predecessors, and also presents a black design and the very same button configuration. The big changes here are a touchpad located at the top center of the controller and a six-axis gyro-sensor built into the console. I believe the touchpad won't be very useful, and it looks like it's a bit awkward to reach while holding the controller, but the gyro sensor could prove to be a very welcome addition.


Since 2005 graphics processors have made astounding progress (Moore's Law, anyone?), so the Xbox One obviously gets an equally large leap from its predecessor. Microsoft, as well as Sony, have decided not to use extremely powerful CPUs in their consoles' SoCs. The Xbox One is powered by eight AMD Jaguar x86-64 cores @ 1.6GHz. If you follow AMD's APU roadmap, you should be asking yourself "Wait, Jaguar?", and that is because Jaguar is an APU aimed at being ultra-mobile and power efficient, the kind that ends up in tablets. So it suffices to say it doesn't offer a lot of performance, so why use it in a gaming console? Well, virtually no games require a lot of CPU performance, and the smaller cores also help drive the product's price down. But the CPU isn't that weak anyways. Think of it like this: its performance should be similar to an octa-core Cortex-A15. But still, it could limit developers' abilities to produce more complex AI.

The GPU, unlike the CPU, is very powerful. It's a derivative from AMD's GCN architecture, and it features 768 unified shader cores, 48 Texture Mapping Units and 16 Render Output Units at a clock speed that originally was 800 MHz, but Microsoft has changed it to 853 MHz. At this clock rate, the GPU should give 1.31 TFLOPS of compute power. For comparison, this GPU should yield performance similar to a desktop GeForce GTX 650 Ti or a notebook GTX 765M. 

Microsoft did a rather unusual thing with the Xbox One's memory subsystem. Instead of simply throwing the fastest bus type/width (256-bit GDDR5 in this case), and frequency available for its time, Microsoft opted for a rather weak 256-bit wide DDR3 @ 2133 MHz memory controller. This results in 68.2 GB/s peak memory bandwidth, and that is really not much for today's standards. But, like I said, Microsoft did something unusual. They included a 32 MB large eSRAM memory into the SoC. In a properly optimized game, the eSRAM would unload tasks from the main memory controller, thus extending the effective memory bandwidth an extra (theoretical) 102 GB/s. So, despite having a much weaker memory subsystem than the PS4, the Xbox One will still offer similar memory bandwidth.

Sony also has a very similar approach for its internals. The SoC that powers the PS4 is also based on eight AMD x86-64 Jaguar CPU cores clocked at 1.6 GHz. Sony also uses an AMD GCN-derived GPU to drive its graphics. While architecturally, the PS4's GPU is identical to the Xbox One's, the spec sheet clearly reveals that Sony's GPU solution packs more power, and that is because the PS4's GPU packs 1152 shader cores, 72 Texture Mapping Units and 32 Render Output Units. At its max 800 MHz clock rate, this GPU has 1.84 TFLOPS of peak compute power, and that is significantly more than the Xbox One's 1.31 TFLOPS. Also, the PS4 has a much more developer-friendly approach to delivering its peak memory bandwidth capability. Sony simply opted for a powerful 256-bit wide GDDR5 @ 5.5 GHz solution, resulting in 176 GB/s peak memory bandwidth. Basically, Sony's GPU architecture choice is exactly the same as the Xbox One's, but simply has more execution resources at its disposal, and the PS4's memory subsystem doesn't require code optimizations to be fully utilized, which isn't quite the case with the Xbox One.

While the PS4 has significantly more GPU compute power than the Xbox One, the fact that both consoles use SoCs that are architectually almost identical means it is very easy for developers to port games from one platform to the other. Also, the fact that both consoles moved to an x86 CPU architecture means there's no chance of backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 and PS3 games, but it also means that porting a game to PCs won't be hard at all.

Software Features

This generation of game consoles isn't investing as much in hardware (there are many high-end PC GPUs that are much more powerful than the PS4's and the Xbox One's GPUs), but is emphasizing software a lot. Specifically, Microsoft and Sony tried hard to make their new consoles not only for video-games, but also for entertainment in general. The Xbox One, for instance, uses something Microsoft calls HDMI Pass-thru, which basically means you can connect your cable or satellite box to your Xbox One and watch TV on it. Microsoft made the Xbox One a sort of Dual OS machine. It contains the OS in which the games are run, and along with it a custom Windows OS, both running simultaneously. While the two OSes running simultaneously means there may be less CPU/Memory resources for games, it opens many doors for entertainment in these systems. For instance, the Xbox One allows you to video chat on Skype while you play a game. In this case, the screen will be split between the two applications (Much like in Windows 8), so that the bigger part of the screen is occupied by the game and a small portion of screen estate beside it will display the Skype app.

The Kinect 2.0 sensor is also a nifty addition that comes included with the console. It's now considerably more precise than the 1st-gen Kinect, and Microsoft claims it's now able to detect even the slightest wrist movements. 

Sony is also trying to move the capabilities of the PS4 beyond just gaming. For instance, there's a Share button located on the PS4's controller which allows you to seamlessly record a video of some of your gameplay and then upload it to any social network, all this without interrupting your game. 


We can observe a clear path that each of the consoles are taking. The Xbox One is more focused in delivering much more than just gaming. It's trying to be your video game console, and well as your TV receiver and your social networking machine, and Microsoft's choice for a lighter GPU and memory subsystem reflect that. Sony, while making some effort to deliver entertainment beyond just gaming, is still investing a lot on its gaming capabilities, with their choice for a more powerful GPU and memory bandwidth. So ultimately, the choice of which console is better will depend on what you want from the console. If you want an entertainment center, and think that a console should do more than just running games, go with the Xbox One, but if you'll use your console mainly for just gaming, the PS4 appears to be the better option. There's the difference in pricing, too. While the Xbox One, which will be available in November 22, will sell for $499 (Kinect 2.0 included), the PS4 will be available as of November 15, for a more affordable $399. 

segunda-feira, 16 de setembro de 2013

Possible Google Nexus 5 Benchmarks Leak

As the original LG Nexus 4 is growing long in the tooth, a refresh to the Google smartphone is imminent, and GFXBench's database seems to have just confirmed the existence of the Nexus 5 smartphone. The upcoming smartphone has already had a couple of minor leaks: one is about an FCC document referring to an LG smartphone that could be the Nexus 5. The other leak was pretty intentional; the smartphone appeared during a Google promo video introducing Android 4.4 KitKat. Here's what the GFXBench leak reveals:

The device, as expected, is named Google Nexus 5. I find it very strange that the Android version is apparently named Key Lime Pie, even though Google announced officially that the next Android version was to be named KitKat. Also, the SDK version is number 18, but I'd expect it to be 19, since the version 18 refers to Android 4.3. These are reasons to take this leak with a large grain of salt. 

The device runs on a strange screen resolution of 1800 x 1080, which could either indicate Google is going for an unusual aspect ratio, or the different resolution is due to the presence of a navigation bar, which has been present in all Nexus smartphones instead of physical buttons. 

The device runs on a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC, which features an Adreno 330 GPU  and four Krait 400 cores @ up to 2.3GHz. 

The leak consists of only two benchmarks results. One of them is the rather old GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt HD Offscreen test, which, as the Adreno 330 implies, yields some very impressive results, although it's not exactly ahead of other Snapdragon 800-bearing devices, but rather on par with them. The other result, the T-Rex HD Offscreen test, also shows some impressive scores, again, on par with most Snapdragon 800-based devices, but slightly behind the Snapdragon 800 Galaxy S4 variant (GT-i9506) and the Nvidia Shield.

While the benchmark results aren't outstanding for a Snapdragon 800 device (this means they are outstanding compared to the rest), it does add to the slowly turning rumor mill about an upcoming LG Nexus 5 smartphone. Like I said though, the Key Lime Pie nomenclature and the odd SDK version number, as well as the strange display resolution doesn't help me gain confidence on this leak, but a 1080p, Snapdragon 800 5-inch Nexus smartphone is almost predictable, so the leak could be legitimate. 

domingo, 15 de setembro de 2013

Apple iPhone 5s Review

Apple announced the anticipated successor to the iPhone 5, the iPhone 5s, along with the budget oriented iPhone 5c during its September 10 event. As the "5s" designation indicates, Apple's new iPhone brings incremental improvements to its predecessor.

The iPhone 5s has an almost identical design to the iPhone 5, except for its color options. The 5s is available in white, gray and gold colored aluminium. Like the iPhone 5, the 5s is 7.6mm thick and weighs 112g. The rest is pretty much identical to the iPhone 5.

Apple has added two very interesting features to the iPhone 5s: a dual-LED flash, where each LED has a different color temperature, and software-based measurements tell with what intensity should each of the LEDs light up in order to create a natural-looking lighting. Also, while the rear camera is still 8 MP, in an age where 13 MP cameras are a must for a flagship, and there are even 41 MP bearing smartphones. Apple is compensating for the unchanged image resolution by increasing pixel size, making the optical sensor 15% larger. HTC used the very same strategy with the HTC One. Other details about the camera include an unsurprising 1080p video capture capability and one cool new feature: An option for 120fps 720p video recording, which then gets played back at 30fps to create a nice Slow Motion effect.

The other cool new feature of the iPhone 5s is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Basically, the iconic Home button has been overhauled, and now consists of a sapphire crystal layer on the top, beneath which is a fingerprint scanner, so that you no longer need to protect your iPhone with a password or PIN; just put your thumb over the Home button and, given that you've registered your own fingerprints on the phone, voila, your iPhone unlocks. That is what I consider to be the most innovative feature of the iPhone 5s. 

Changes aside, the iPhone 5s still has the same Gorilla Glass-coated 4-inch 1136 x 640 (326ppi) IPS display from the iPhone 5, which, by today's standards, is far too small for a flagship smartphone. 

Under the hood, the iPhone 5s also packs some notable improvements over its predecessor. Battery capacity is slightly increased, but what takes the spotlight is the new Apple A7 chip. One rather remarkable accomplishment is that the A7 is the first smartphone processor based on the ARMv8 ISA. This means that the A7's CPU is a 64-bit CPU; a first in any mobile device. SoCs based on ARMv8 were only supposed to start appearing in the next year or two, but Apple has beaten everyone to it. A 64-bit CPU doesn't sound like it'll be very useful on a mobile device (Apple won't need to make an iPhone with more than 4 GB of RAM in years, probably), and the performance gains it brings are minimal for most smartphone usage scenarios, but it does pave the way for the future of iPhone. Other than the architecture, Apple didn't specify any details about the A7's CPU (what a surprise). They only said that it's performance is double than the iPhone 5's A6 processor. That should roughly put it on par with the Snapdragon 600, but significantly behind the Snapdragon 800 and the Exynos 5 Octa. On the GPU side, Apple went on to say that the GPU is also twice as powerful as the iPhone 5's and that it supports OpenGL ES 3.0. The support for OpenGL ES 3.0 can only mean that Apple is moving away from the PowerVR SGXMP architecture it's been using since 2011, and possibly adopting ImgTech's new PowerVR series, codenamed Rogue. 

Last but not least, the iPhone 5s will be shipping with the overhauled iOS 7 and is expected to become available this month with the usual 16, 32 and 64 GB storage options. 

sexta-feira, 6 de setembro de 2013

ASUS Transformer Book Trio Announced at IFA 2013

Back in Computex 2013, ASUS showed us a device concept it called the Transformer Book Trio, in other words, a three-in-one computer, and now ASUS showed off the device at IFA 2013 again. To put it simply, the Transformer Book Trio can act as a tablet, notebook or desktop PC.

The tablet, when separated from its keyboard dock (i.e. in tablet mode), runs Android OS on a dual-core Intel Atom SoC built into it. The keyboard dock contains a separate CPU, an Intel Core (Haswell) processor, allowing the device to run fully fledged Windows 8 when docked. In notebook mode, you can even switch between Android and Windows easily. You can also undock the tablet and hook the keyboard dock to an external monitor and use it effectively as a desktop PC. This is possible due to the fact that the keyboard has a built-in CPU of  its own.

The only other details ASUS gave us is that the 11.6" display of the tablet is of the IPS variety and has 1080p resolution, and availability and pricing are still unknown

quarta-feira, 4 de setembro de 2013

Microsoft Surface 2 Powered By Tegra 4 Benchmarks Leak

Another unannounced device has just popped up on GFXBench's online database, and this time it's Microsoft's Surface 2 tablet. 

Looks like Microsoft hasn't given up on Windows RT after all, but it doesn't seem like they're putting much effort into it either, as the leaked device has a screen resolution of 1360 x 768 in plain 2013. The device, named Microsoft Surface 2, boasts a very powerful Tegra 4 processor, at least. (Recap: The Tegra 4 consists of four Cortex-A15 cores clocked at up to 1.9GHz and a 72-core GeForce GPU)

There are only two results on the database. One is for the T-Rex HD Offscreen test, which gets a score of 10.6 fps. I certainly hope the performance is being affected by unfinished software, because this score is mediocre compared to other Tegra 4 devices. For comparison, the iPad 4 scores 19.1 fps on the same test, and it's 10 months old!
The other benchmark score is for the Onscreen T-Rex HD test, and that gets a score of 24.4 fps, which is considerably above the iPad 4's 12.7 fps score, but that's just because of the Surface 2's mediocre resolution. 

Take this all with a grain of salt, of course, but if this is really the Surface 2 I can almost guarantee it'll be another flop. 1360 x 768 resolution for a 10.6-inch display (the size of the last-gen Surface, and most probably the Surface 2 too) was acceptable for a high-end device in 2011, but not today. And unless these benchmark scores are justified by unfinished software, then the Surface 2 will be far behind in terms of performance, even compared to other devices powered by the very same SoC. 

Update: The Surface 2 has been officially announced, and the resolution of the device, unlike what the benchmark leak reports, is 1920 x 1080. Also, the Tegra 4 SoC is now officially confirmed, though clocked at a lower 1.7GHz.

ASUS MeMO Pad 10 and MeMO Pad 8 Officially Announced at IFA 2013

Before I begin this article, I should point out that the MeMO Pad 10 is not to be confused with the higher-end MeMO Pad 10 FHD.

ASUS announced today two budget-oriented tablets, the MeMO Pad 10 and MeMO Pad 8. These two tablets are almost identical except for their screen sizes (10" and 8"), battery capacities and cameras. Both have IPS displays of 1280 x 800 resolution, and for the 10-inch MeMO Pad this means a rather mediocre 149ppi, and for the 8-incher a less sore 216ppi. For the first time in an ASUS tablet, both of them have their displays surrounded by a white bezel.

ASUS MeMo Pad 8 (left); MeMO Pad 10 (right)

Both have glossy plastic backs. The 10-incher gets a rather mediocre rear camera capable of 2 MP shots and 720p video, while the 8-inch MeMO Pad gets a better 5 MP rear camera, also 720p-capable, and both tablets have a 1.2 MP front camera. The MeMO Pad 10 is very light for a 10-inch tablet, weighing 522g, but the MeMO Pad 8 is rather hefty for its size, at 350g. Both have stereo speakers enhanced by SonicMaster technology.

Under the hood, both tablets are powered by the same SoC. ASUS hasn't told us any details, except that its a quad-core 1.6GHz processor, and based on that data alone it's hard to speculate which exact SoC is it. At any rate, ASUS claims 9.5 hours of usage for the MeMO Pad 10 and 9 hours for the MeMO Pad 8. 

ASUS Transformer Pad (2013) Officially Announced at IFA 2013

The awaited successor to the Transformer Pad Infinity that ASUS announced back in Computex 2013 is finally unveiled. The new flagship 10-incher, named just "Transformer Pad", codename TF701T, is encased by a stylish signature aluminium design and weighs just 585g and is 8.9mm thick. Svelte as it is, it packs a lot of power with a 5 MP rear camera capable of 1080p HDR video, a 1.2 MP front camera, and a top-notch 10.1" IGZO LED-Backlit IPS panel with a crisp 2560 x 1600 resolution (299ppi). The device will be powered by a very powerful NVIDIA Tegra 4 SoC, which, if you don't remember, consists of four Cortex-A15 cores clocked at 1.9GHz plus a beefy 72-core GeForce GPU. Tegra 4 gives the device the privilege of 4K output through an HDMI connection.

As the Transformer branding implies, this tablet will have an optional keyboard dock that attaches to the tablet and turns it into a Android notebook of sorts. The dock itself is very similar to its previous-gen counterparts, but replaces the single USB 2.0 port for USB 3.0 and the SD card slot for SDXC. The dock also contains a secondary battery built in, juicing up the Transformer Pad's battery all the way to 17 hours of usage when docked, according to ASUS.

Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 (2014) Announced at IFA 2013

Along with the awaited Galaxy Note 3 phablet, Samsung also announced a new iteration of the Galaxy Note 10.1 tablet. Preferring to just call it the Note 10.1 2014 Edition (but we're in 2013...), the new 10-incher Galaxy Note will be available in black and white colors. The rear camera will be of 8MP resolution and is capable of recording 1080p video at 60 fps, and the 10.1" display will have a top-notch resolution of 2560 x 1600 (299ppi). The tablet will be available with 16, 32 or 64 GB of storage and 3 GB of RAM. Like the Note 3, the Note 10.1 2014 will make use of a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 SoC (four Krait 400 cores @ 2.3GHz and Adreno 330 GPU).

As the Note designation implies, the tablet will be coupled with an S Pen stylus, which can prove to be very useful if you want to use your tablet for content creation. 

The tablet is expected to be released sometime this year, and will come with Android 4.3 out of the box with TouchWiz customizations. 

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Announced at IFA 2013

Samsung has just unveiled the heavily rumored Galaxy Note 3 phablet. The device will be available in multiple colors, specifically, Black, White and Pink, and it'll pack a humongous 5.7" display of the AMOLED variety and with Full HD resolution. Under the hood, the device will pack a 3,200 mAh battery and 3 GB of RAM.

Samsung said that the Note 3 would be powered by a 2.3 GHz quad-core processor, but didn't specify the CPU architecture, but unless it's a Tegra 4i SoC (very unlikely) it has to be Qualcomm's powerful Snapdragon 800. For a recap, the Snapdragon 800 consists of four Krait 400 CPU cores clocked at 2.3GHz and the monstrous Adreno 330 GPU. Surprisingly, the Note 3 will also be capable of 4K video recording @ 30 fps. 

Like all Galaxy Notes before it, the Note 3 will come included with an S Pen stylus, allowing for precise pen input and enhancing the phablet's potential for productivity.

The Note 3 will be available globally as of September 25, and will ship with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean out of the box with the usual TouchWiz customizations.