Intel Ivy Bridge Motherboard Roundup

Ivy Bridge

Welcome to the 22nm era as Intel swings in the “Tock” phase of their yearly CPU upgrades. Today marks the introduction of the long awaited Ivy Bridge platform which is basically running the Sandy Bridge architecture on a 22nm process.

While basic operations on Ivy Bridge remain similar to Sandy Bridge, let’s look at some of the features that differentiate the new processors from last year’s models. Well, first thing’s first, the 22nm process, shrunken down from Sandy Bridge’s 32nm, provides a cooler processor that requires lesser power.

We see this factor shine during the overclocking process as our Sandy Bridge i7-2600K processor would run stable at an overclock of 4.7GHz @ 1.45v, whereas on some of the motherboards tested, the i7-3770K ran perfectly fine on as low as 1.3v with a 4.7GHz overclock.

Next up is the much touted Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics processor which promises performance increase from the HD 3000 by up to 50% in some cases. Of course, HD 4000 also brings DX11 support which helps with faster QuickSync performance in addition.

Lastly there are some core level changes that improve upon the Sandy Bridge architecture by allowing (overclocked) memory speeds of up to 2800MHz.

Intel Z77

The Ivy Bridge processors are launched in conjunction with Intel’s new Z77 chipset; also an improvement over last year’s Z68 chipset. I have discussed about the Z77 chipset in our review of the MSI Z77A-GD55 motherboard. However, let’s have a quick look at some of the new features.

Not only can you overclock the CPU and memory, but the GPU as well. 2x SATA 3 ports are supported natively, as is Intel’s Smart Response Technology; certain motherboards have mSATA slots for micro-SSD expansion. Up to 4xUSB 3.0 ports are supports in addition to 10xUSB 2.0 ports. Lastly we have native PCIe 3.0 slots, ranging from 2 to 3 depending on the motherboard manufacturer.

So without further ado, let’s look at the contestants in today’s Ivy Bridge motherboard roundup.

HP introduces the Z1 Workstation in the Middle East

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Desktop PC, Enterprise, Features, News


With much fan fare and a host of partners, HP introduced their Z1 workstation in the Middle East. The 27″ All-in-one Z1 is a pretty impressive machine with it’s modular structure allowing you to upgrade components with ease- something that is not necessarily common amongst all-in-one designs. Although with the impressive base configuration of the Z1, you probably won’t be looking into changing much under the hood. At the event was Yn Bergeron from HP who introduced us to the Z1.

[youtube video=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxRkQaqZklw&w=600]

Press Release

HP today unveiled the world’s first all-in-one workstation with a 68.6 cm (27”) diagonal display.

Designed like no other, the display of the new HP Z1 Workstation snaps open so users can easily swap out parts and make upgrades without any tools required.
The HP Z1 combines a sleek industrial design with accelerated performance featuring Intel Xeon processors, NVIDIA Quadro graphics, support for more than 1 billion colors and HP’s world-class reliability.

Built for computer-aided design, digital media, entertainment, architects, education and independent professionals, the HP Z1 provides blazingly fast rendering and performance. It offers a full range of workstation-class graphics cards and processors, and is thoroughly tested and certified to work with today’s leading industry applications.

Whether it’s an engineer creating 3-D components, an architect designing buildings, a videographer editing event footage or photographer finishing photo shots, the HP Z1 gives creative professionals the power they need to bring ideas to life faster.

“The revolutionary HP Z1 creates a new category of workstations elevating the standard for design, performance, upgradability and serviceability,” said Kobi Elbaz, director, Client Solutions, HP Personal Systems Group EMEA. “With its game-changing design and an experience that optimizes visual and computing performance, the HP Z1 will help attract new customers and expand our market leadership.”

Workstation performance without compromise

Workstation performance. Features professional NVIDIA Quadro graphics, ECC memory, quad-core Intel Xeon processors independent software vendor solutions and whisper-quiet acoustics.

Tool-less chassis. Users can easily add a hard drive, upgrade memory or access the graphics card by snapping open the chassis to swap out parts.

Workstation-class storage. Users can choose from a variety of storage types, including 7.2K and 10K SATA, SSD, optional RAID configurations, removable drives (AMO), a multiformat media card reader and optical drives including a slot-load Blu-ray Writer.

Professional display. The 68.6 cm (27”) white LED display supports more than 1 billion colors(3) and features a wide, 178-degree viewing angle and an in-plane switching (IPS) panel.

High-fidelity audio. Front-facing dual-cone speakers and SRS Premium Sound offer high-fidelity audio.

HD Webcam. Have face-to-face meetings and see every detail right down to the twinkle of an eye. Also captures HD-quality video.

HP Remote Graphics Software. Users can work remotely while still accessing the high-performance 2-D, 3-D, video and media-rich applications they count on.

HP Performance Advisor. Reduces the time spent troubleshooting by providing a consolidated report of the workstation’s hardware and software configuration that can be used to tune the workstation for specifically professional application workloads with just one click.

Pricing and availability
The new HP Z1 Workstation is expected to be available worldwide in April. Pricing starts at USD 2249.

Samsung teaser announcement – and sheep

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Smartphones

Earlier today Samsung ran a countdown on www.tgeltaayehxnx.com, counting down to ‘the next galaxy’. The site now has an official video (but is mostly unreachable due to the ridiculous amount of web traffic) that teases more information to come at Samsung’s ‘Unpacked 2012′ event in London on May 3rd.

While there’s no indication of what they’re going to announce, the rumormill is already abuzz that the new phone will be the Samsung Galaxy S III, but take that with a pinch of salt. The video makes a cheeky jab at customers who ‘follow the trend’, just like boring sheep.

The video boasts that technology should be ‘a natural part of life’, and zips through galaxies for a super-efficient brand plug.

Check out the video below and see what turns up on May 3rd!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8NnVU8R6mAU&w=550]

Etisalat gives six months free BlackBerry Service with purchase of new BlackBerry devices

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under News, Smartphones

Press Release:

Discover the world of BlackBerry services as Etisalat launches its new BlackBerry promotion today. Prepaid and postpaid customers who buy a new BlackBerry Bold 9900, Bold 9790 or Curve 9360 from Etisalat’s Business Centers and Outlets in the UAE, can benefit from one of the following exciting offers:

  1. 6 months FREE subscription on BlackBerry ‘Social’ or ‘Basic’ Packages
  2. 6 months reduced rental of AED 49 on BlackBerry Premium Package

During the promotion, customers enjoy huge savings for their BlackBerry experience. For instance, on purchase of any one of the three BlackBerry devices, customers can save AED 600 by getting six months of ‘Premium’ package subscription at AED 49, normally charged at AED 149 per month.

The promotion extends the reach of BlackBerry service to Etisalat’s customers who already enjoy Etisalat’s high speed mobile broadband on the nation-wide 3.75G network and international roaming partners in more than 190 countries.

Commenting on the new offer, Matthew Willsher, Chief Marketing Officer at Etisalat said, “We are delighted to launch two value-packed promotions on the latest BlackBerry devices that our customers can enjoy on Etisalat’s high-speed nationwide network.”

BlackBerry ‘Premium’ provides customers with 1GB of BlackBerry usage and 5MB of roaming usage per month. With Internet access speed of 14.4 Mbps, this package supports streaming web sites such as You Tube. The BlackBerry ‘Premium’ package also allows users to configure up to 10 email accounts.  Customers subscribed to the Blackberry Packages will enjoy accessing their Facebook, Twitter and other social networking apps, download apps, content, games from App World, chat with BBM and other Instant Messaging applications.

BlackBerry ‘Basic’ provides customers with 200MB of BlackBerry usage with access to a single email account and Internet speed of up to 7.2 Mbps.

BlackBerry ‘Social’ offers local access to social and instant messaging application such as FaceBook®, Twitter®, MySpace®, BlackBerry® Messenger™, Windows Live Messenger®, Yahoo Messenger® and ICQ® within the UAE.

For more information on the promotion, devices and packages, customers can visit www.etisalat.ae/blackberry or call 80077666.

Win a BlackBerry Bold 9900 Smartphone

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Competitions

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is the thinnest BlackBerry smartphone yet at only 10.5mm, and the first to offer the perfect union of a high performance keyboard and touch display integrated within the iconic BlackBerry Bold design. The new BlackBerry Bold 9900 is also the first BlackBerry smartphone to include built-in support for NFC, a new technology that is enabling many new and exciting capabilities, including the ability to make mobile payments, pair with NFC-enabled accessories or read SmartPoster tags with a simple tap of the smartphone.

The BlackBerry Bold 9900 is powered by the new BlackBerry 7 operating system, which introduces a next generation BlackBerry browser with a significantly faster, more fluid web browsing experience that is among the best in the industry. Combining the dramatically improved performance of the advanced WebKit browser engine together with powerful hardware enhancements, the BlackBerry Bold 9900 smartphone delivers browsing results that are up to 40% faster than BlackBerry 6 based smartphones and up to 100% faster than BlackBerry 5 based smartphones. Additional enhancements to the browser include optimized zooming and panning for smoother web navigation and optimized HTML5 performance for incredible gaming and video experiences.

iOS App of the Week – Draw Something

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under App of the Week

We’ve all been doodling some time or another in our lives. Whether it’s during a boring classroom or university lecture we’re not interested in our some of those office meetings where you’re wondering why you’re there in the first place. So why not use these skills of ours to see who’s better?

Thankfully we have an app just for that, called Draw Something.  Think of it like Pictionary, but slightly streamlined, in that there’s also an element of hangman in there. You really ought to try it out for yourself to see why it’s one of the top apps around the world.

So go ahead and try out Draw Something and see what the big deal’s all about.

Skype comes to Windows Phone

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Microsoft, News

Skype is now officially available for the Windows Phone platform, replacing the beta app that was launched at the end of February.

The Skype for Windows app works over Wi-fi and 3G, and allows users to search for contacts and call landlines. A downside however is that the app doesn’t run in the background, so you are only able to make and receive calls only if you’re in the Skype app. Microsoft is looking to integrate Skype more thoroughly when Windows 8 hits the mobile sphere, but chances are that it will again bundle as a standalone app rather than being a seamless integration with the OS.

Skype is already available for Android, iOS, and Blackberry platforms, so it’s a no-brainer that they would choose to finally push a stable version to the Windows Phone market.

HTC One X Review

April 23, 2012 by  
Filed under Articles, Reviews, Smartphones, Spotlight

Intro and Packaging

Let me tell you straight away that the HTC One X is the best Android Smartphone currently in the market. If that is what you wanted to know and want to buy an Android phone today or this week, then go right ahead and come back assured that you have purchased the best Android device there currently is. For the rest of you that are still in two minds and are not sure if they prefer Android over iPhone or BlackBerry, or even those that aren’t looking into purchasing an Android device right now, let’s go ahead and see what the HTC One X offers over other Smartphones and where it falls short.

I didn’t receive the retail version but more of a white vanilla box so I can’t really comment on how well the product is packaged or do an unboxing video. With my review sample of the One X came with a charger and a USB cable and that was it. From what I know the retail version includes a pair of earphones however, they are not the Beats by Dre kind that were bundled with the HTC sensation XE. Instead, you’ll find the usual set of buds that sound average at best. At least they have a flat cable which makes them look a bit cooler.

Build quality & design

If I was to use one word to define the One X’s build quality, it would be solid. The Polycarbonite body of the HTC One X shows no flex and is available in black as well as white. I received the black version which I think looks nicer than the white but that is not to say that the white one doesn’t look good. Measuring 69.9mm x 134.36mm and just 8.9mm thin, the One X feels rather large in your hands but impressively slim.

You have the usual assortment of buttons and connectors such as the power button and 3.5mm jack on top, volume keys on the right and a USB connector on the left. The volume keys are a bit too easy to press and considering the large form factor of the phone, your thumb keeps sliding up and down accidentally changing volume levels. A camera is present on the front as well as the back which protrudes from the chassis making it a bit thicker in that area.

The front of the unit is largely covered with Gorilla Glass making it tough and hopefully one that will survive a fall or two- although I didn’t test that out. Below the screen you have three touch backlit buttons that sadly lack any feedback when touched. I’m not sure why HTC chose to build actual buttons as Google’s reference design brings these buttons within the UI.

Like the iPhone, the HTC One X has a micro-sim tray that pops out and HTC includes a pin in the packaging for that purpose. Also like the iPhone, HTC decided against a user-replaceable battery which means that you get a better constructed device with no wiggly parts but at the expense of not being able to swap out batteries. For most people this won’t really matter- there is a very small percentage of people that carry additional batteries with them.

Specs and Comparison

The HTC One X is based on the quad-core NVIDIA Tegra SoC with 1GB of RAM and 32GB of storage memory. Even compared to the latest smartphones, the HTC One X ends up being the one with the best specs and fast speeds. The following table compares the HTC One X to some of the other phones we have test of late.

HTC One X

Samsung Galaxy Nexus

HTC Sensation XE

Price (AED) 2399 1799 1999
OS Version Android 4.0+SenseUI 4 Android 4.0 Android 2.3+SenseUI 3
CPU/Chipset NVIDIA Tegra 3 TI OMAP 4460 Qualcomm Snapdragon
CPU Speed/Cores Quad Core 1.5Ghz Dual Core 1.2GHz Dual Core 1.5GHz
RAM 1GB 1GB 768MB
Storage 32GB 16GB 4GB
Display Super IPS LCD2 4.7″ Super AMOLED 4.65″ S-LCD 4.3″
Resolution 720×1280 720×1280 540×960 (256ppi)
Camera 8MP 5MP 8MP
Battery Li-Po 1800 mAh Li-Ion 1750 mAh Li-Ion 1730 mAh
Size 134.4 x 69.9 x 8.9 mm 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm 126.1 x 65.4 x 11.3 mm
Weight 130 g 135 g 151 g
Performance 2004 1879 3184

 

While the HTC One X has better specs than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, it managed to finish the SunSpider benchmark just a tad bit slower than the stock Android based Google Galaxy Nexus. What this suggests is that thought SenseUI makes the UI prettier, it is taking a toll on performance of the device.

Screen, UI and Apps

The screen on the HTC One X is massive in size- measuring 4.7 inches with an HD 720×1280 resolution on what HTC calls Super LCD+ screen. While the colors aren’t as vibrant as a Super AMOLED display, I actually liked the HTC One X’s display more as it feels more natural. The high resolution screen also translates into a crisp picture that is especially helpful when viewing web pages on the devices. One area where the screen does fall short is visibility under direct sunlight- you’ll really need to crank up the brightness to be able to read the display outdoors in the UAE sun.

As fast and high-end the HTC One X is, there are still times when the phone feels a bit sluggish and you can notice this lag quite easily. I don’t know what it is with Android but it has never been as butter smooth as iOS or even Windows Phone both of which sport hardware that is weaker in specs. The following video goes through the HTC One X and shows you the UI.

[youtube video=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebLJb-YY9tc&w=600]

The HTC One X continues to advance HTC’s SenseUI to 4.0 which I still feel is still the best custom skin on the Android platform. However, with the latest Ice Cream Sandwich OS Google made some great strides with the UI and put in a lot of effort into making the stock UI look pretty good and consistent. In fact, the stock UI has reached a level where I now think it’s better than most custom Android UIs.

Camera

If there is one outstanding feature that I would pick on the HTC One X, it would be the camera. Not only does it take pretty good pictures, it takes them fast too. Really fast. You can do burst shots by simply keeping the shutter button pressed which takes consecutive shots at full resolution or alternatively, snap a picture while take a video. The only thing missing is a hardware button for taking pictures. The following video shows the HTC One X camera in action.

[youtube video=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSJ_tWinVq4&w=600]

Coming to the specs, the HTC One X features an 8MP camera that also takes full 1080P videos. HTC uses a dedicated chip on the phone for the camera which is why it ends up being really fast. The lens is 28mm with F2.0 aperture allowing for some reasonably wide-angled shots. The following samples show pictures taken from the HTC One X using the burst mode.

Usability, Battery life and Conclusion

I used the HTC One X for about a week and the biggest complain that I have is that it randomly tends to get hot- not uncomfortably hot but warm enough to be noticed. The unit starts getting hot even during times when the display is switched off- as per this website HTC has said that there is nothing unusual about the One X getting warm and it is within safety limits as long as it’s under 55C. I find that a bit worrying.

Other than that, there really isn’t much not to like. The usual suspects like call quality, 3G signal etc. are pretty much like most modern smartphones- I did not notice anything out of the ordinary. Battery life is also decent on the HTC One X which is surprising as I didn’t think it would last a full day of moderate usage. But it does and I never really ran out of juice by mid day or evening so kudos to HTC as Android devices are generally not known for impressive battery life.

So would I recommend the HTC One X? There really is no one right answer, as is the case with almost any new Smartphone. If you are certain that you want an Android device and want it now then yes, the HTC One X is as good as it gets. If you are willing to wait for a month or so, then rumour mill is suggesting that the follow-up to Samsung’s Galaxy SII is around the corner and I don’t know what specs it would carry or how it would look but it is the follow up to the most successful Android phone ever.

If you’re more of a first time Smartphone buyer and looking at Android as well as iOS then I suggest playing with both. I personally prefer the iOS because it’s more snappy and smooth to operate and has all the apps I can use but the iPhone can be a bit limiting for a power user. Alternatively, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has fallen quite a bit on the price and offers a pretty amazing experience as well but you won’t get a quad core Tegra, the build quality or a camera that is as good as the HTC One.

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