HP Unveils The World’s Thinnest Laptop

Laptop manufacturers including Apple, Lenovo and HP have become obsessed about creating the thinnest possible form factor. While these design decisions can help forge a beautiful finish, it’s not always a practical idea. For example, laptops prioritizing thin construction over cooling hardware have the potential to run extremely hot especially if the end-user attempts demanding tasks. Saying that, whenever a company creates an innovate project, it’s always worth giving them recognition. Today, HP unveiled the world’s slimmest laptop which features an ultra thin 10.4mm frame. This is astounding and I’m absolutely in awe of the HP Spectre’s aesthetic. It evokes a premium feel and it’s one of the best laptop designs I’ve seen for some time.

Kevin Frost, vice president and general manager, consumer personal systems, HP Inc described the new laptop and said:

“The HP Spectre is the thinnest notebook in the world, and unlike the majority of other super thin PCs on the market, this laptop doesn’t compromise power or features,” 

“A beautiful Full HD edge-to-edge display, Intel Core i processors coupled with Bang & Olufsen sound and a sexy and thin design, HP amazing engineers set a new standard with the all new Spectre.”

Here we can see a brief overview of the device’s key features:

  • A carbon fiber bottom creates a thin profile that is both durable and lightweight, keeping the total weight of the notebook at just 2.45 pounds
  • CNC machined aluminum chassis as thin as an AAA-battery at just 10.4 mm.
  • High gloss copper accents reflect a hand-polished, jewelry-like finish and an innovative hidden piston hinge creates the illusion of a hinge-less design to offer an unmatched premium look-and-feel.
  • An innovative hybrid battery split into two thinner pieces delivers the same wattage as a single battery for up to 9 and half hours of battery life while enabling the world’s thinnest laptop
  • Full HD IPS edge-to-edge display featuring Corning Gorilla delivers a superb viewing experience for editing photos, perfecting a presentation, or watching a movie.
  • 6th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors and a lightning fast PCIe SSD with storage up to 512 GB with up to 8 GB of memory for maximum performance. Integration of Intel hyperbaric cooling system keeps the machine running cool even with powerful processors in a small package.
  • Stereo speakers by Bang & Olufsen with HP Audio Boost technology, a combination of hardware and software to give customers the depth they want.
  • Three full function USB Type-C connectors, including two of which support Thunderbolt, to provide a fast, versatile I/O connection.

In terms of pricing, the 13.3″ diagonal HP Spectre is planned to be available on HP.com and BBY.com on April 25 for pre-order with a starting price at $1,169.99 and is planned to be available in Best Buy stores on May 22 with a starting price at $1,249.99.

DisplayPort 1.4 Standard to Support 8k Displays and USB Type-C

It has been a long time since DisplayPort 1.4 was announced to be able to support 8k displays, now it is set to become a reality, with big changes to the video standard coming up its new standard. The standout feature being the ability to connect almost any device, from a smartphone to a laptop up to an 8k capable display via a USB Type-C port, announced by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) on Tuesday.

While USB Type-C may still seem in its infancy, the standard is quickly gaining popularity and can be found on existing Nexus smartphones and MacBooks already. DisplayPort 1.4’s compatibility with USB Type-C will allow it to be easily adapted into a wider range of devices than previous versions of DisplayPort, which have often suffered from poor levels adoption outside of those after super-high-resolution monitors. DisplayPort isn’t the only video standard targeting USB Type-C compatibility either, with SuperMHL currently under development, which, unfortunately, would require new ports on computers and monitors to be adopted.

It seems farfetched that 4k and above video signal could be sent over the bandwidth available to USB, however, VESA has reportedly found a way to solve the issue of 8k video transfer. DisplayPort 1.4 contains a Display Stream Compression (DSC) technology which is designed to compress video transmission into smaller packets, which will make it possible for 8k video to be transferred in real-time via USB Type-C. As a bonus, VESA reports that the quality of the video is unaffected by the compression.

Over the years, DisplayPort, despite its low consumer popularity, has continued to adapt to new connector standards such as Thunderbolt, despite having its own connector. Current DisplayPort 1.3 technology can support 2 4k monitors simultaneously, which makes 1.4’s ability to support 8k a major step up. It is unclear when devices supporting this new standard will reach the market, with existing 4k monitors still prohibitively expensive for many and the majority unlikely to replace expensive devices and graphics cards in a hurry, while 8k displays are worth over $100,000. This new standard should definitely put DisplayPort ahead of the technology curve, though, so that when 8k makes it big, the standards to support it are there.

SanDisk Unveils 128GB USB Type-C Stick

SanDisk, sensing the growing popularity of USB Type-C, has released its first range of dedicated thumb drives featuring the new reversible connector standard, boasting USB 3.1 transfer rates and up to 128GB of storage.

The SanDisk Ultra USB Type-C, available in 128GB, 64GB, 32GB, and 16GB models, has sequential read speeds of 150MB/s (except for the 16GB version, which reads at up to 130MB/s), beating the speeds of its previous USB Type-C drive, the Dual USB Drive Type C, which could only manage read speeds of 60MB/s. The drives are also backwards compatible with USB 3.0 and 2.0 Type-C ports. The devices also support the SanDisk Memory Zone app to manage and backup data across different devices.

“The super-thin SanDisk Ultra USB Type-C flash drive is designed specifically for next-generation devices with the new USB Type-C port. The reversible connector has a uniform design, so that it’s always right-side up, making it easy and fast to plug in,” the SanDisk website reads.

The SanDisk Ultra USB Type-C is available now in the US – priced at $12.99 for the 16GB model, $17.99 for the 32GB, $27.99 for the 64GB, and $49.99 for the 128GB on Amazon – with the flash drive set to hit Europe and other territories any day now. Each model comes with a 5-year limited warranty.

Apple to Replace Faulty USB Type-C Cables

USB type-C seems great in theory, being more easily usable and set to be as universal as micro USB in future. Unfortunately, once again, problems have been found with the cables, this time, ones sold by Apple who has announced a replacement program for cables distributed between April and June 8th, 2015. This includes both the cables that shipped with the 12-inch Retina Macbook and those sold separately in Apple Stores.

According to Apple, the affected cables “may fail due to a design issue.” The result of this design issue is that “your MacBook may not charge or only charge intermittently when it’s connected to a power adapter with an affected cable.” Due to the limited set of cables that are to be replaced, it would seem that Apple has been selling revised cables for months, which makes you wonder why it took them so long to replace the faulty ones. Those customers who provided Apple with their address during either product registration or via the Apple online store are expected to be receiving replacement cables by the end of the month, with a replacement process set up for others affected. Users can visit the Genius Bar at an Apple Store, an authorized Apple service provider or contact Apple customer support, in all cases providing their MacBook’s serial number to prove eligibility for the program. For those who already purchased a replacement cable themselves, a refund may be available through Apple support. You can check whether your cable is one of those affected by the design issue using the image below.

This new design of USB cable is really running into a lot of teething trouble, as it seems like many manufacturers have failed to get them right first time, now including the mighty Apple, typically known for the reliability of their products. Maybe one day picking up a charging cable for your new phone or another device won’t seem like such a gamble, until then, many devices are still using the venerable micro USB.

GIGABYTE Launches Two AMD Socket AM3+ Motherboards With A Twist

It came as quite a surprise when GIGABYTE first mentioned their new AMD socket AM3+ based motherboards about a month ago and quite a few people were shocked by this news. But there can be a lot of benefits in these two new AM3+ based GIGABYTE motherboards, benefits that some people might not have considered.

The most likely scenario for these new motherboards is probably one where the old motherboard has died or generally just starts to bug around. It is time for a replacement despite that the user might originally have intended to wait for one of the new CPU architectures such as Intel’s upcoming Extreme series or AMD’s own Zen-based series. You could buy an up to six years old motherboard and gain nothing, or you could get one of GIGABYTE’s new ones and get a lot of benefits from modern technology and advancements that have been made since the AM3+ socket was introduced in 2009.

The two new motherboards are the GA-990FX-Gaming and GA-970-Gaming that both got the GIGABYTE G1 Gaming treatment. They come with an M.2 connectors that can transfer with up to 10Gb/s on the 970-based board and 20Gb/s on the 990FX-based.

Both can utilize NVMe and SATA drives, but you naturally you won’t reap the full benefits of an NVMe drive with 10Gb/s speeds. It would still be great and the board is able to use these modern drives with the result being a much faster systems and one that takes less CPU usage than an equivalent SATA version.

GIGABYTE also added USB 3.1 and USB Type-C connectors to these motherboards, allowing you to use the newest peripherals too. This again allows you to move forward with all other aspects of your system while you wait for one of the new hot platforms to be released.

The bigger of the two boards comes with three PCI-Express x16 slots and the smaller only has two, but both support dual-graphics solutions and you can add up to 32GB DDR3 memory to both. Another nice touch on the PCI-Express slots is the use of the exclusive ultra durable metal shielding that will give the slots more durability.

Being boards in the G1 Gaming series, these boards also come with great network and audio solutions. The Audio is taken care of by an 115dBB SNR HD Audio system with built-in rear audio amplifier and high-quality audio capacitors as well as the Audio Noise Guard with Ambient LED Trace Path Lighting to prevent interference. The network connection is provided by a KillerNIC E2200 network controller.

GIGABYTE didn’t reveal any pricing or availability, but considering that they are launched now they should be available soon and the pricing should be close to the predecessors.

OnePlus Blames Cable Fiasco on ‘Cheaply Made’ 3rd Party Chargers

The OnePlus 2 handset has struggled to live up to its predecessor and isn’t the “flagship killer” everyone hoped for. Despite this, it’s still a very good smartphone for the money providing you can acquire an invite. On the other hand, the company recently encountered a large number of complaints as the bundled USB Type-C cable had the potential to damage other devices by drawing too much power. Thankfully, OnePlus addressed this in a blog post and made some interesting claims:

*Name-brand products like chargers, cables, power banks and USB hubs that are made by reputable companies are usually pretty trustworthy and safe to use. But there are a lot of products on the market that are cheaply made and more likely to potentially harm your devices. It’s a good rule of thumb to choose products from the brands you trust and research their products to ensure compatibility before you purchase them.

“The issue is that the cable and adapter are designed for a maximum of 2 amps of power, but the resistor will allow fast-charging devices to try to draw more power than a power source may allow. This could result in damage to the power source (third-party charger, USB port, etc.) if the device and power source do not have an internal mechanism to self-regulate the amount of power flowing to or from them. Typically, if a charger has a CE, UL or CCC logo on it, it has been certified and is safe to use.”

“There are a lot of products on the market that are cheaply made and more likely to potentially harm your devices. It’s a good rule of thumb to choose products from the brands you trust and research their products to ensure compatibility before you purchase them.”

It appears they are portioning the blame on their supplier and feel the cables were not up to par. Additionally, the bundled cables didn’t even confirm to the official USB Type-C standard. If you purchased an official cable directly from OnePlus, you can apply for a refund here until December the 31st. Sadly, this doesn’t apply to any third-party retailers but ones with a good customer service record should refund you in a timely manner.

OnePlus to Refund Faulty USB Type-C Cables

OnePlus, after admitting there is a flaw in their USB Type-C cables, has begun to offer refunds for these cables – or some of them at least. If your cable came packaged with a OnePlus 2, you’ll just have to be careful what you use the cable for.

The issue with OnePlus’ Type-C cables was brought to light by Google Engineer Benson Leung, who tested the cable. He discovered that the cable did not conform to the USB Type-C 1.1 specification, as it was able to draw too much power. The consequence of this being that “[the cable] may cause damage to whatever cable, hub, PC, or charger you plug into this,” he reported. OnePlus went on to explain the problem, the cable uses the wrong resistor, using only a 10kΩ component, rather than the specification standard 56kΩ resistor.

Thankfully, the cable is perfectly safe to use with the OnePlus 2, which comes with a USB Type-C cable in the box. This is due to the OnePlus 2 not being a fast charge supported device, which are unaffected by the issue. “if you’re charging or transferring data to or from the OnePlus 2” OnePlus report, “you should have no problems using the cable that shipped with your OnePlus 2 or the cables or adapters you bought separately on OnePlus.net.” This is the reason that no refund or replacement is given for the bundled cables, as the are considered fit-for-purpose, which is for the OnePlus 2 device.

For those of you who have purchased a faulty cable, you can apply for a refund here until December the 31st. And OnePlus provide assurance that their engineers are working on a version of the cable that will use the 56kΩ resistor. And if you got the cable with your OnePlus 2 and are unwilling to shell out for a new one, Leung has some advice: “If you want to keep the cable, mark it with a tag so you don’t forget it’s special.”

Google Engineer Goes to War Against Bad USB Type-C Cables

The new USB Type-C standard has been adopted by many laptop and smartphone manufacturers this year for its superior power and data transfer capacities – with the added bonus that, unlike previous USB cables, there is no top or bottom – including Google’s Pixel laptops and tablets. However, it seems that many cheaper USB Type-C cables do not meet the official 1.1 specifications, and one man in particular is as mad as Hell and is not going to take this any more.

Benson Leung, a Google engineer who works on the company’s Pixel range of computers, has been testing USB Type-C cables found on Amazon, and he’s been left disappointed by their performance. Faults such as poor wiring or not being 3A compatible means that many of the cables on sale are not worthy of certification, and Leung has been leaving product reviews that make this abundantly clear to prospective customers.

Leung left the following two-star review of the TechMatte USB-C to MicroUSB adapter:

“I’m a Software Engineer on the Chrome OS team at Google on the Chromebook Pixel and Pixel C teams.

I bought these two USB-C to Micro USB adapters from TechMatte and found they do not work properly with the Chromebook Pixel.

Upon closer inspection by our engineering team here, we have determined that this adapter is not correctly following the USB Type C specification.

The specification can be found here :
http://www.usb.org/developers/docs/usb_31_102015.zip

Specifically, these adapters do not charge the Chromebook Pixel 2015 because the adapters leave the C-C lines floating, where the specification requires a Rp pullup to Vbus to identify the cable as a legacy adapter or cable.

Please see the document named “USB Type-C Specification Release 1.1.pdf”
section 4.5.3.2.4 for a description of why the Rp pullup is necessary.

Please also see Section 4.11 and the following note :
1. For Rp when implemented in the USB Type-C plug on a USB Type-C to USB 3.1 Standard-A Cable
Assembly, a USB Type-C to USB 2.0 Standard-A Cable Assembly, a USB Type-C to USB 2.0 Micro-B
Receptacle Adapter Assembly or a USB Type-C captive cable connected to a USB host, a value of 56 k’
± 5% shall be used, in order to provide tolerance to IR drop on V BUS and GND in the cable assembly.

In other words, since you are creating a USB Type-C plug to a USB 2.0 Micro-B receptacle assembly, you must use a resistor of value 56k’ as a pullup to Vbus. This cable does not do this.

Please let me know if there is any more information I can provide about why these adapters are problematic.”

Leung’s full Amazon review history can be found here, and it’s certainly worth referring to if you’re in the market for a new USB Type-C cable, especially as the engineer does give five-star reviews to the products that deserve it.

Image courtesy of Stuff.tv.

Lexar Also Introduces Fastest XQD 2.0 Card and New Flash Drives

Lexar has even more in store for us today than the previously mentioned SDXC and CFast 2.0 cards, they also released the world’s fastest XQD 2.0 card, the Lexar Professional 2933x and also the 1400x XQD 2.0 card. New and faster cards also require a faster card reader and Lexar released the Professional Workflow XR2 XQD 2.0 USB 3.0 reader at the same time.

The Professional 2933x XQD 2.0 is the fastest XQD card on the market today, designed for use with the latest generation of high-definition camcorders and high-resolution DSLRs and it delivers read transfer speeds up to 440MB/s. The 1400X isn’t quite as fast but still delivers an impressive read transfer speed up to 210MB/s. Both of these new cards support PCI Express Gen 2 and USB 3.0 interfaces.

The MSRP for the Lexar Professional 2933x XQD 2.0 card is £479.99 (128GB), £255.99 (64GB), £139.99 (32GB) while the Lexar Professional 1400x XQD 2.0 cards will set you back £149.99 (64GB) and £96.99 (32GB)

The Lexar Professional Workflow XR2 XQD 2.0 USB 3.0 reader is compatible with both the Professional Workflow HR2 and Workflow HR1 stations, making it plug and play for those who have one. It is still a plug and play experience for everyone else. If you shouldn’t have one of the awesome Workflow HR, then you’ll just connect it with a normal USB 3.0 cable. The Lexar Professional Workflow XR2 XQD 2.0 USB 3.0 reader has an MSRP of £35.99 and will be available in October.

Memory cards aren’t the solution in every scenario and sometimes the more traditional flash drive is the better usage choice. Lexar also released two new 2-in-1 models, the JumpDrive M20c and the Lexar JumpDrive M20i.

The JumpDrive M20c is designed for the next-generation USB Type-C enabled devices and also features a normal USB 3.0 connector with backwards compatibility. The JumpDrive M20i is basically the same, but it is designed for use with iOS devices and comes with a Lightning connector instead of the USB Type-C. These flash drives enable users to easily offload and move photos and videos between smartphones and tablets and onto their computers.

The Lexar JumpDrive M20c leverages USB 3.0 performance with up to 150MB/s read and 60MB/s write speeds while the JumpDrive M20i provides read speeds up to 95MB/s and write speeds up to 20MB/s.

Both flash drives come with a three-year limited warranty. The new JumpDrive M20c USB Type-C flash drives have MSRPs of £16.99 (16GB), £21.99 (32GB), and £33.99 (64GB) and the new JumpDrive M20i have MSRPs of £39.99 (16GB), £54.99 (32GB), and £77.99 (64GB). Both will be available in October

Intel Unveils Thunderbolt 3 on USB-C

Thunderbolt may soon go mainstream and ubiquitous. Intel has announced Thunderbolt 3 with a crucial new feature, USB Type-C connectors. Not only will Thunderbolt 3 use USB Type-C ports, it will also support the USB 3.1 protocol and provide up to 100W though the USB Power Delivery spec. Bandwidth has also doubled to 40Gbps and non-USB PD power delivery increased to 15W. Unfortunately, backwards compatibility with Thunderbolt 1 and 2 is not guan teed and requires an adapter.

Backed by Intel’s new controller, Alpine Ridge, Thunderbolt 3 utilizes either 4 PCIe 3 lanes to drive two ports or 2 PCIe 3 lanes to drive a single port. USB 3.1 support is baked into Alpine Ridge meaning all Thunderbolt 3 ports can connect to USB  devices as well. Up to 2 4K displays at 60Hz or a single 5K display,  again at 60Hz, can be driven with support for Display Port 1.2. 10Gb Ethernet can also run on Thunderbolt 3 as well.

Building in USB into Thunderbolt is for sure going to increase the chances of adoption. Instead of having to build separate USB and Thunderbolt ports, firms can just use Thunderbolt ports and support both protocols. Cost is reduced as well with only the controller to mainly worry about as normal Type-C cables will run Thunderbolt 3 just fine. It would not be surprising to see eventually see laptops with just 2 Thunderbolt 3 ports and maybe an extra Type-C port for larger models. The move to Type-C also means Thunderbolt can not move into smaller devices like phones and tablets. Thunderbolt may finally be the one port to rule them all, for those that pay for the controller of course.