Apple cuts iPhone 5 display orders

January 15, 2013 by  
Filed under News, Smartphones

According to Japanese news service Nikkei (via Reuters), Apple has ordered its iPhone 5 display manufacturers to cut production by more than half.

Apple had ordered about 65 million iPhone 5 display units from Japan Display, Sharp Corp., and LG Display. But these manufacturers have now been requested to cut production for the quarter, with Sharp Corp. to reduce output by 40 per cent, while Japan Display will cut production by as much as 80 per cent.

The most likely reason Apple would order such a thing would be because the company is not expecting to sell as many iPhone 5 units, suggesting that the latest iOS 6 device is failing to meet internal sales expectations. Have the newest range of Android and Windows Phone smartphones starting to eat into Apple’s dominating share of the pie? It would appear to be so. Hence, it is not surprising that the company is considering selling an inferior, cheaper version of the iPhone.

BlackBerry 10 browser faster than iOS and WP8

January 14, 2013 by  
Filed under News

RIM is riding  a lot on BlackBerry 10 to bring the company back to its prime, and with the recent leaks and videos, it appears that BlackBerry 10 is genuinely looking to deliver strong competition to the iPhones and Androids of the world.

One aspect where BlackBerry 10 needs to deliver, and has always been somewhat lagging behind, is performance in Internet applications. To gauge how far it has come with the new version, The Gadget Masters recently performed a web browser speed comparison between a Dev Alpha B smartphone running BB10, an iPhone 5 running iOS 6, and HTC Windows Phone 8X running Windows Phone 8. The raw test results where quite surprising.

Despite only being a developer kit, BlackBerry 10 out-performed both iOS 6 and Windows Phone 8, rendering pages much, much faster although it wasn’t able to finish loading quite as quickly. Still, this is something that could be ironed out in the final version, and with this kind of performance, it looks like Apple and Microsoft has quite a lot to catch up to.

Oddly, an Android smartphone was not used for comparison, so that still remains out of the equation.

Reddit co-founder Aaron Swartz commits suicide

January 13, 2013 by  
Filed under News


Aaron Swartz, 26, committed suicide by hanging himself in his Brooklyn apartment. Swartz is considered to be one of the co-founders of Reddit, and also co-authored the RSS 1.0 specification. Swartz is described by his family as “creative and brilliant” with a “capacity for selfless, boundless love”.

Unfortunately, his death is shrouded in bitter controversy. Allegations are laid against the US government of harassing and pressurizing Swartz after he  allegedly mass downloaded over 4 million academic documents from JSTOR and distributed them over Bittorrent.

His family states, “Aaron’s death is not simply a personal tragedy. It is the product of a criminal justice system rife with intimidation and prosecutorial overreach. Decisions made by officials in the Massachusetts U.S. Attorney’s office and at MIT contributed to his death. The US Attorney’s office pursued an exceptionally harsh array of charges, carrying potentially over 30 years in prison, to punish an alleged crime that had no victims. Meanwhile, unlike JSTOR, MIT refused to stand up for Aaron and its own community’s most cherished principles.”

Aaron Swartz is survived by his parents and two younger brothers.

Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Keyboard Review

January 11, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

There are gaming peripheral makers, and then there is Mad Catz. Always pushing boundaries of innovation, Mad Catz has been inventing and re-inventing gaming hardware as we know it. If you have been following its Cyborg range of products, you also know that they are rather unconventional.

The Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E 7 (henceforth, just Strike 7, please), is another such product, combining the company’s many innovations with an intelligent keyboard design that smartly incorporates an LCD screen, all the while maintaining Mad Catz’s trademark W.H.A.C.K. It’s also completely modular.

Design

The best way to describe the Strike 7 is to say that it would fit right into a sci-fi movie without anyone doubting its implausibility. The most immediately noticeable thing about the Strike 7 is the screen. Cyborg has named it V.E.N.O.M (because it can), which acts as a control module to many of the keyboard’s functions.

It hosts a number of…apps, each presenting tools to further fine tune the keyboard, or to add to a gaming experience. There are 12 apps, and they are as follows:

  • - Program launcher (which can hold 12 shortcuts to any Windows applications)
  • - Media controls
  • - Volume controls
  • - Keyboard color and brightness controls
  • - Clock (can switch between digital and analog)
  • - Timer
  • - Stopwatch
  • - Windows Key Lock control
  • - Control Module settings
  • - Macros (holds 12 macros)
  • - Journal (you can add notes about your game), and
  • - Teamspeak controls

I would have liked had Mad Catz kept the platform for V.E.N.O.M. open for developers to create apps for it, but unfortunately that’s not the case. That said, the present apps should satisfy any gamers needs to have quick access to their regular programs and functions.

I would think that the screen would look like a gimmick for anyone who has not tried it, but that’s far from the case. After a few days of getting used to, I noticed that I was using the screen more and more, and not out of novelty but out of habit. The program launcher, media and volume controls, are a boon to have on quick access, and I also guilty admit to using the Journal feature to keep notes about my game and what I should be doing next. Of course, most of these functions can be replicated using any other keyboard’s macro keys, but having a visual feedback to them is a much better experience.

Another USP of the Strike 7 is its modular state; the whacky design has a purpose, after all. You can have it in a traditional form, with the wrist rest, numpad and the screen attached where it should be for a proper full-fledged keyboard. Or you can disrupt things, removing the numpad, the wrist pieces, the additional function strip, and the screen to form another, completely separate gadget. Or you can simply remove all the fancy bits to have an entirely barebones keyboard. If you choose to keep the wrist, you get an additional scroll wheel and an action button for even more controls. It is also height adjustable.

The Strike 7 will be, and function, just like how you want it to, bringing another level of customization to a gaming keyboard. Cyborg also throws in three sets of WASD keys – standard, contoured, or rubber-edged, to easily identify the keys during heated sessions (or simply, if and when, the marking rubs off from overuse).

For its price, one would expect the Strike 7 to be a mechanical keyboard but Mad Catz has sought to stray away from that. Instead, it claims the membrane keys are “specially engineered” to mimic “the tactile feel generated by the mechanical keys” but “without the resultant excessive noise” that they generate. While that’s true, it doesn’t quite match the satisfying crunch of a mechanical keyboard, and the key’s durability will always be inferior to a mechanical one. Regardless, typing on the Strike 7 is nice and comfortable, and is satisfyingly noisy.

My only complaint with is that the space surrounding the arrow keys, which is usually left clear, is taken up by even more macro keys, making it hard to identify them without looking down despite the slight depression of the macro keys. I also hate the small Left Shift key…just…hate it.

Software

You have the task of customizing 24 macro keys, and the bundled software offers a clean and intuitive UI to go about business.

You can assign a keystroke, or a combination of them, to each of the 24 macro keys at your disposal. The options are tripled between the three modes – that’s 72 different key combinations – providing you more options that you can possibly need. You cannot, however, assign any of the macro keys to launch an application, which, I guess, is limited to the program launcher app.

You can have any number of profiles as well, however I wish there was an easier way to switch between them (using the screen perhaps?) instead of having to manually do it via the software.

If you are like me, lazy, and don’t feel like customizing the keyboard for each game, you can simply download ‘profile packs’ offered by Mad Catz from the official website. The FPS, Action, MMO, RPG or Strategy profile packs covers a whole number of games, but of course it cannot be relied upon to support each and every game.

Coming to the program launcher configuration, the Strike 7 software makes it easy to find an application by auto-detecting many of them. If your desired application is not on the list, then you can simply browse for the .exe file and added it in the launcher. I wish we could add more than 12 applications though, because having shortcuts is never, ever enough. But that’s just me.

Conclusion

The Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E 7 is something I wouldn’t mind saving up for. It’s harsh on the wallet with over $299, but its level of features and customization is unparalleled. It could have easily been a whole bunch of gimmicks but Mad Catz has threaded carefully here, and has smartly and intelligently incorporated features that gamers could use, and not just be a bullet-point behind the box that amounts to nothing. The S.T.R.I.K.E 7 is stunning and nothing you have seen before, and it must be experienced to know what it could offer you.

Note: The review originally stated that the keyboard had no USB jacks, but in fact it has 2 highspeed ports behind the LCD screen. I apologize for the error; I would argue that it skipped my inspection because it’s sort-of hidden behind the screen, but that’s no excuse.

Is Microsoft’s IllumiRoom the future of gaming?

January 10, 2013 by  
Filed under News

At Samsung’s keynote at CES today, Microsoft unveiled IllumiRoom, a futuristic projection-based technology for video games.

IllumiRoom acts an extension to the TV, and uses Kinect to map the play area and project images relating to the media playing from an Xbox. Microsoft explains that IllumiRoom “augments the area surrounding a television screen with projected visualizations to enhance the traditional living room entertainment experience,” and can bring about a change of “appearance of the room, induce apparent motion, extend the field of view, and enable entirely new game experiences.”

The projection uses Kinect’s mapping technology, which captures the geometry of a room and adapts projected visuals “in real-time without any need to custom pre-process the graphics”.

To better understand the concept, Microsoft showed off a short footage of the different applications of the technology, noting that the footage was “captured live and is not the result of any special effects added in post production.”

IllumiRoom is only a proof-of-concept yet, and whether it will be incorporated into the next Xbox or the next version of Kinect is unclear. Microsoft promises to share more details at the ACM SIGCHI Conference in April.

Razer brings PC gaming tablets on the cutting-Edge

January 9, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Previously only a prototype known as Project Fiona, Razer today at CES unveiled the final name and specifications of its power-packed tablet.

It’s called Razer Edge and the company claims it’s the “most powerful tablet in the world”. It’s not an exaggeration, either. Razer Edge will come in two varieties: Edge and Edge Pro. The Edge will come with Intel Core i5 processor, NVIDIA GT640 LE graphics card, 4GB of RAM, and a 64GB SSD, while the Edge Pro will use an Intel Core i7, NVIDIA Gt640 LE, 8GB of RAM, and either 128GB or 256GB SSD.

The Windows 8 tablet is powerful enough to play all of the current titles at 30fps, Razer claims, revealing benchmarks on several games, such as Dishonored which runs at 59fps and DiRT Showdown at 41fps.

The tablet is 0.8-inches thick and weighs only 2 pounds, which is slightly more compact that the iPad and Microsoft Surface. However, the best re-design that has come from the prototype is that the tablet no longer has permanent side-mounted controllers, instead it has been re-purposed  to be an to optional gamepad case with rumble feedback. Razer has also produced a keyboard dock for MMO players, and a docking station so players can prop it up, and play games using USB controllers. The tablet also has HDMI output to screen on an HDTV.

Razer Edge is expected to roll out sometime in Q1 on this year. The starting price is at $999.

Valve and Xi3 Announce ‘Steam Box’

January 8, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Valve and computer-manufacturer Xi3 today announced a partnership to build the oft-rumored ‘Steam Box‘.

At CES today, Xi3 said that it has received “an investment from Valve Corportation” to design and develop a “new computer game system”, and is on showcase at both Xi3 and Valve booths at the electronics show. The computer is optimized for game play on high-definition displays, and is specifically designed to support both Steam and Big Picture mode.

“Today marks the beginning of a new era for Xi3,” said Jason A. Sullivan, founder, president and CEO of Xi3, in a press release. “This new development stage product will allow users to take full-advantage of their large high-definition TV displays for an amazing computer game experience.

“As a result, this new system could provide access to thousands of gaming titles through an integrated system that exceeds the capabilities of leading game consoles, but can fit in the palm of your hand.”

Details pertaining to specifications of the computer is scarce, although Xi3 told Polygon that it will be modular. Users will be able to upgrade it’s CPU and RAM at least.

Codenamed ‘Piston’, the computer will offer 1TB of internal storage, and slew of I/O ports including one ethernet port, 1/8″ audio in/out, SPDIF optical audio, four USB 3 ports, four USB 2 ports (one dedicated to keyboard input), four eSATAp ports, two Mini Display ports and one DisplayPort/HDMI port.   Piston is based on Xi3′s “performance level” X7A offering (which cost $999), and like it, will be a mini-computer (almost the size of the Ouya game system).

Image credit: Polygon.

Steambox to Release This Year

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Valve engineer Ben Krasnow has apparently confirmed that the company’s PC-based gaming console called Steambox will release this year. German site Golem.de scooped up the important bits during a conference attended by Krasnow.

Krasnow confirmed that, as expected, the Steambox will be Linux-based. Valve CEO Gabe Newell previously said that despite being hosted on an open-source operating system, the console itself will be closed.

In addition, Krasnow also suggested “cool” new hardware that Valve may show or release this year.

“The Hardware Lab also has a few secret projects that will be published in 2013. We have a good group of electronic and mechanical engineers, and we look forward to “build some cool stuff.” Krasnov said (this is a rough German translation).

Valve had spoken against the “frustrating” lack of innovation in PC hardware, so it wouldn’t be too surprising if the company comes out with a completely new way to control or interact with games.

It is being said that the console will be announced during The Game Developers Conference, which will be held from March 25-29. It will easily be one of the most exciting announcements in GDC history, if true.

 

Thanks, Gamechup.

NVIDIA unveils ‘Project Shield’ Android Handheld

January 7, 2013 by  
Filed under News

At CES 2013, NVIDIA unveiled its first venture into the gaming handheld market with Project Shield, 5-inch “pure” Android gaming device that can not only play Android games but also stream any PC game to it.

Boasting a “console-grade” game controller and an impressive 5-10 hour battery life, Project Shield can push 720p graphics, as well as 4K video and games straight to an external display. Project Shield will sport NVIDIA’s new Tegra 4 mobile processor, which the company claims is six times faster than Tegra 3. The chip can fuel resolution of upto 2560×1600 and 1080p at 120Hz. It’s also the first Tegra to support 4G LTE and use ARM’s new Cortex A15 architecture.

The handheld will be customizable through its back panel, which will allow various skins to appiled. This is where the “Sheild” part of the name comes from. The back panel also carries an HDMI port, microSD slot, and a 3.5mm jack.

The most interesting part about the handheld is that it can stream any PC game via Wi-Fi, including Steam titles. This will only be possible if the user has an NVIDIA GeForce GPU in their PC. Users can also play their PC games on any TV through the HDMI port without actually being near to the PC, as long as a Wi-Fi connection exists. This is a great Wii U like solution for users who may want to play their games away from their PC, or do not want to build a separate PC to play it on their TV.

There is no word on pricing or availability, but NVIDIA has said that the device still needs a bit of polish before it’s ready for release.

Is this the Samsung Galaxy SIV?

January 6, 2013 by  
Filed under News

Technology website SAMmobile claims to have received an authentic image of Samsung’s upcoming flagship smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy SIV.

The image is a render, and not of an actual product. It appears to be have been clicked from a computer screen, probably taken from a presentation slide.

Based on the image, the Galaxy SIV sports a slender frame with more room for screen space. The home button is missing, and  interestingly, so is the  notification  LED as well, although it just might be hidden due to the flash as it does not have a very a obvious place on the surface.

The Galaxy SIV is rumored to pack an Exynos 5450 Quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM, a 4.99″ SuperAMOLED screen, 13 MP rear facing and 2MP front facing camera, and running on the newest Android 4.2.1 operating system.

Samsung hasn’t confirmed anything so far, but are expected to officially reveal it sometime in March.

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