Fortnite Sarah Connor and Terminator skins arrive: Watch the trailer now

Just hours after a leak that revealed the new skins, Epic Games has officially launched its new Terminator T-800 and Sarah Conner offerings. The new skins were introduced alongside a new launch trailer showing Agent Jonesy and how he brought the two characters to the battle royale island, where they’ll now operate as bounty hunters.

Fortnite players have been expecting a Terminator skin in the game for a while now, one that joins the recently added Predator skin and some previous other bounty hunters. Players were also surprised by the addition of Sarah Connor skin, which appears to be loosely styled after the Sarah Connor we saw in Terminator: Dark Fate.

The skins match the leak we saw earlier today, meaning you probably already know what to expect. The Terminator skin includes its own built-in emote, and players have the option of buying the related Techno-Grip Axe and HK Sky Net Uplink Back Bling.

The Sarah Connor skin, meanwhile, has two variants and can be acquired with the related Combat Knife and T-800 Endoskeleton Arm Back Bling. Don’t forget to watch the very brief trailer that arrived with the skin — it shows Agent Jonesy saving the Terminator just as he was about to disappear into the molten liquid, his hand outstretched in a thumbs-up.

The trailer doesn’t add anything new to the season’s storyline — with the exception of another bounty hunter, of course — but it seems we’re getting closer to whatever Epic has cooked up for its first big finale of the year.

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Razer Debuts Naga X Gaming Mouse for MMO Gamers

Razer is expanding its family of gaming mice with the launch of the new Razer Naga X, which is now the lightest mouse in the Naga lineup. The lightweight design and robust customizations on the Naga X make it ideally suited for MMO gamers, the company said, and if you’re already gaming on Razer’s ecosystem of laptops, the Chroma RGB lighting on the Naga X would be a nice addition to your existing setup.

The Naga X comes with 16 buttons in a lightweight 85-gram design. Like the original Naga, it looks like gamers won’t be able to adjust the weight on this model, but an array of programmable buttons on the side of the Naga X makes it easy to map to essential game keys. Razer’s HyperShift allows you to double the number of inputs with a secondary button profile when the HyperShift button is held down. Gamers can use Razer’s Synapse 3 to map the Naga X’s buttons. There’s also onboard memory, so you can save all your presets to the mouse.

In total, you’re getting nine action buttons, along with three different assignable buttons on the side.

“Each button can be assigned to basic functions like casting spells to advanced functions, such as macros combining multiple command keys all at once,” the company said, noting that the Naga X was “made to raid.”

Up top, you’re getting the traditional left and right mouse buttons, an autorun scroller, two zoom controllers to zoom in and out, and a button to increase the DPI to adjust the sensitivity of the Naga X. The buttons make use of Razer’s second-generation optical mouse switch design for better tactile feedback. The infrared light is rated with a fast 0.2ms response time. The Naga X also uses Razer’s 5G advanced optical sensor for 99.4% accurate tracking, the company said.

Other features of the Naga X include PTFE feet for the smoothest glide across any surface, along with a braided Speedflex cable that’s designed for minimal drag when you’re playing fast, action-packed titles.

The Naga X comes in an ergonomic design for gamers with medium to large hands, Razer claims, and the overall package is made for those who prefer palm or claw grip styles. If you’re unsure of your hand size, Razer has a convenient guide that shows you how to measure your hand to find the perfect mouse for your needs depending on the types of games you typically play.

Razer’s Naga X is shipping now, and right-handed MMO gamers can pick one up from the company’s online store for $79 — this mouse won’t be a good fit for left-handed users.


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How a designer used AI and Photoshop to bring ancient Roman emperors back to life

Machine learning is a fantastic tool for renovating old photos and videos. So much so that it can even bring ancient statues to life, transforming the chipped stone busts of long-dead Roman emperors into photorealistic faces you could imagine walking past on the street.

The portraits are the creation of designer Daniel Voshart, who describes the series as a quarantine project that got a bit out of hand. Primarily a VR specialist in the film industry, Voshart’s work projects got put on hold because of COVID-19, and so he started exploring a hobby of his: colorizing old statues. Looking for suitable material to transform, he began working his way through Roman emperors. He finished his initial depictions of the first 54 emperors in July, but this week, he released updated portraits and new posters for sale.

Voshart told The Verge that he’d originally made 300 posters in his first batch, hoping they’d sell in a year. Instead, they were gone in three weeks, and his work has spread far and wide since. “I knew Roman history was popular and there was a built-in audience,” says Voshart. “But it was still a bit of a surprise to see it get picked up in the way that it did.”

To create his portraits, Voshart uses a combination of different software and sources. The main tool is an online program named ArtBreeder, which uses a machine learning method known as a generative adversarial network (or GAN) to manipulate portraits and landscapes. If you browse the ArtBreeder site, you can see a range of faces in different styles, each of which can be adjusted using sliders like a video game character creation screen.

Voshart fed ArtBreeder images of emperors he collected from statues, coins, and paintings, and then tweaked the portraits manually based on historical descriptions, feeding them back to the GAN. “I would do work in Photoshop, load it into ArtBreeder, tweak it, bring it back into Photoshop, then rework it,” he says. “That resulted in the best photorealistic quality, and avoided falling down the path into the uncanny valley.”

Voshart says his aim wasn’t to simply copy the statues in flesh but to create portraits that looked convincing in their own right, each of which takes a day to design. “What I’m doing is an artistic interpretation of an artistic interpretation,” he says.

To help, he says he sometimes fed high-res images of celebrities into the GAN to heighten the realism. There’s a touch of Daniel Craig in his Augustus, for example, while to create the portrait of Maximinus Thrax he fed in images of the wrestler André the Giant. The reason for this, Voshart explains, is that Thrax is thought to have had a pituitary gland disorder in his youth, giving him a lantern jaw and mountainous frame. André the Giant (real name André René Roussimoff) was diagnosed with the same disorder, so Voshart wanted to borrow the wrestler’s features to thicken Thrax’s jaw and brow. The process, as he describes it, is almost alchemical, relying on a careful mix of inputs to create the finished product.

A print, now available to buy, of all of Voshart’s photorealistic Roman emperors.
Image by Daniel Voshart

Perhaps surprisingly, though, Voshart says he wasn’t really that interested in Roman history prior to starting this project. Digging into the lives of the emperors in order to create his portraits has changed his mind, however. He’d previously dismissed the idea of visiting Rome because he thought it was a “tourist trap,” but now says “there are specific museums I want to hit up.”

What’s more, his work is already enticing academics, who have praised the portraits for giving the emperors new depth and realism. Voshart says he chats with a group of history professors and PhDs who’ve given him guidance on certain figures. Selecting skin tone is one area where there’s lots of dispute, he says, particularly with emperors like Septimius Severus, who’s thought to have had Phoenician or perhaps Berber ancestors.

Voshart notes that, in the case of Severus, he’s the only Roman emperor for whom we have a surviving contemporary painting, the Severan Tondo, which he says influenced the darker skin tones he used in his depiction. “The painting is like, I mean it depends on who you ask, but I see a dark skinned North African person,” says Voshart. “I’m very much introducing my own sort of biases of faces I’ve known or have met. But that’s what I read into it.”

As a sort of thank you to his advisers, Voshart has even used a picture of one USC assistant professor who looks quite a bit like the emperor Numerian to create the ancient ruler’s portrait. And who knows, perhaps this rendition of Numerian will be one that survives down the years. It’ll be yet another artistic depiction for future historians to argue about.

You can read more about Voshart’s work here, as well as order prints of the emperors.

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SolarWinds hack may be much worse than originally feared

The Russia-linked SolarWinds hack which targeted US government agencies and private corporations may be even worse than officials first realized, with some 250 federal agencies and business now believed affected, the New York Times reported.

Microsoft has said the hackers compromised SolarWinds’ Orion monitoring and management software, allowing them to “impersonate any of the organization’s existing users and accounts, including highly privileged accounts.” The Times reports that Russia exploited layers of the supply chain to access the agencies’ systems.

The Times reports that early warning sensors that Cyber Command and the NSA placed inside foreign networks to detect potential attacks appear to have failed in this instance. In addition, it seems likely that the US government’s attention on protecting the November elections from foreign hackers may have taken resources and focus away from the software supply chain, according to the Times. And conducting the attack from within the US apparently allowed the hackers to evade detection by the Department of Homeland Security.

Microsoft said earlier this week it had discovered its systems were infiltrated “beyond just the presence of malicious SolarWinds code.” The hackers were able to “view source code in a number of source code repositories,” but the hacked account granting the access didn’t have permission to modify any code or systems. However, in a small bit of good news, Microsoft said it found “no evidence of access to production services or customer data,” and “no indications that our systems were used to attack others.”

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia), ranking member on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Times the hack looked “much, much worse” than he first feared. “The size of it keeps expanding,” he said. “It’s clear the United States government missed it.”

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With the Galaxy S21, Samsung has finally figured out the iPhone’s secret: Value

Apple isn’t exactly known for its low prices. The iPhone X was the first handset to cost more than a thousand bucks, the wheels for the Mac Pro cost $699, and just last month it launched a $549 pair of AirPods. Heck, it sells a charger that isn’t even very good for $129.

But when it comes to its phones, Apple consistently gets it right. It’s true that the most expensive iPhone 12 tops out at $1,399, but for the most part, the iPhone 12 is very attainable, even with 5G and OLED displays across the board. When compared to the top flagship phones of 2020, in fact, the iPhone 12 slides in well under the average premium Android handset.

iphone note 20 bronze blue Michael Simon/IDG

At $829, the iPhone 12 isn’t cheap, but compared to a $1,300 phone like the Galaxy Note 20 it seems like a bargain.

But with the launch of the Galaxy S21 this week, it seems as though Samsung has finally caught on. After years of piling on features and specs in an effort to distance its flagship handsets from the iPhone, Samsung has fully embraced Apple’s strategy with the iPhone, not just cutting the price to match the iPhone 12’s price tag but also distilling the S21 down to its most essential parts in a sort of reboot of the lower end of the line.

Lowering the price and the parts

Last year’s “cheap” Galaxy S20 started at $1,000 and brought a bevy of ultra-high-end features you couldn’t get in the iPhone 11: 12GB of LPDDR5 RAM, 120Hz Quad HD+ screen, triple cameras, microSD storage, etc.

It’s not so much that the Galaxy S21 isn’t a high-end Android phone, but like the iPhone 12, it makes certain spec-sheet compromises that add value without degrading the experience. There’s a reason why Apple doesn’t list specs for RAM, battery capacity, or clock speed in the iPhone spec sheet—they’re unnecessary. Apple doesn’t need to wow its users with specs. Rather, it strives to deliver the best possible iPhone experience with the bare-minimum parts.

galaxy s21 colors Samsung

The S21’s back is made of plastic rather than glass this year.

And the S21 does something similar. Take a look at the specs compared to its predecessor, the S20:

Galaxy S21

Display: 6.2-inch Flat FHD+ Infinity-O Display (2400×1080), 421ppi, 120Hz
Processor: Snapdragon 888
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,000mAh

Galaxy S20

Display: 6.2-inch Edge Quad HD+ Infinity-O Display (3200×1440), 563 ppi, 120Hz
Processor: Snapdragon 865
Storage: 128GB
Battery: 4,000mAh

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Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 870 is a faster 865, but without WiFi 6E

Roughly a month after launching the Snapdragon 888 for next-gen smartphones, Qualcomm decided to go back to its earlier Snapdragon 865 to tweak it once again, resulting in the upgraded Snapdragon 870. The only gotcha? A lack of Wi-Fi 6E.

In a nutshell, the new Snapdragon 870 is a faster version of the original Snapdragon 865. Qualcomm corralled a number of its partners to endorse the new 870 chip, including OnePlus. Devices based on the Snapdragon 870 will be released this quarter, Qualcomm said.

Tweaks to existing Snapdragon processors aren’t unusual; after all, last July’s Snapdragon 865 Plus was the first time Qualcomm tweaked the Snapdragon 865. The 865 Plus dialed up the Kryo CPU’s clock speed, as well as the speed of the Adreno 650 GPU. By contrast, the 870 simply nudges to the Kryo CPU clock speed, from 3.1GHz to the new 3.2GHz clock speed. And that’s all, according to Qualcomm.

Well, sort of. According to product documentation that Qualcomm provided, the Snapdragon 870 is identical to the Snapdragon 865 Plus—line by line. This means that the 870 includes the Snapdragon X55 5G modem that the Snapdragon 865 Plus did. (Qualcomm refers to the entire package of the CPU and modem as the “Snapdragon X55 Plus 5G Platform.”)

However, the Snapdragon 865 Plus used the FastConnect 6900, the name of the Snapdragon’s Wi-Fi/Bluetooth model. The 870 uses the FastConnect 6800. The difference, as noted above, is the lack of Wi-Fi 6E—which lassos the 6GHz frequency band the U.S. government freed up last year and creates a third frequency band for high-speed communication, alongside 2.4GHz and 5GHz.

Last year, Qualcomm announced a series of mesh-networking chipsets that use Wi-Fi 6E, specifically as a “clean” backhaul between the routers, unsullied by other devices trying to access the 6GHz band. While it’s possible Qualcomm eliminated Wi-Fi 6E from the Snapdragon 870 specifically to avoid overcrowding its mesh networking backhaul, we really don’t know; we reached out to Qualcomm and didn’t hear back by press time. 

The Snapdragon 870 was endorsed by a number of Qualcomm customers: Motorola, OnePlus, Oppo, iQOO, and Xiaomi. While none of the vendors announced specific phones based on the new Snapdragon 870, it’s a pretty safe bet that some are in the works.

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MediaTek’s powerful Dimensity 1200 smartphone CPU will challenge Qualcomm

On Tuesday night, MediaTek launched the Dimensity 1100 and 1200, a pair of smartphone chipsets that aim to challenge the best that Qualcomm’s Snapdragon smartphone chipsets have to offer.

MediaTek released just two performance benchmarks to support its claims. But the specs of both the Dimensity 1100 and 1200 CPUs match up well against the Snapdragon 888, Qualcomm’s recent smartphone launch, with even higher clock speeds. There’s a good chance that you’ll have either one or the other in your next phone.

While Qualcomm tends to dominate the market for smartphone chipsets that cover premium phones, MediaTek is actually the largest smartphone chipset vendor in the world, with 31 percent market share, according to CounterPoint Research. MediaTek passed Qualcomm during the third quarter of 2020, thanks especially to the rise of midrange phones and MediaTek’s success in India and parts of Asia. MediaTek’s presence was helped by aggressive pricing moves to help the lower the cost of 5G phones, as well as support by phone makers like Xiaomi.

Those phone makers are apparently lining up yet again for the Dimensity 1200 and 1100, as MediaTek recorded support by Xiaomi, Vivo, Oppo, and realme. The world’s cheapest 5G device, the realme V3, is already powered by MediaTek, Counterpoint noted.

“We’re going to continue to see 5G coming into all price points and we’re going to continue to work hard to make 5G available for everybody,” Finbarr Moynihan, general manager of corporate sales for MediaTek, said during a briefing with reporters. The new chipsets integrate the company’s existing M75 sub-6GHz 5G modem, he said, with support for FDD and TDD technologies and 5G “Elevator Mode” for smooth handoffs as the phone moves inside a building.

The Dimensity 1200’s CPU emphasizes speed

MediaTek’s Dimensity 1200 chipset mirrors Qualcomm’s Snapdragon designs: one “ultra” core for ultimate performance, plus three “super cores” for the bulk of the workload and four “efficiency” cores for low-power tasks. The 1100 foregoes the additional ultra core, balancing the four “super cores” with an additional four efficiency cores. Both the 1200 and 1100 chips are fabricated on a 6nm process.

mediatek 1200 and 1100 overview 1 MediaTek

The Dimensity 1200 and 1100 are designed in a familiar “big-little” way.

What’s interesting, though, is the Dimensity 1200 runs at higher clock speeds. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 uses a 2.84GHz X1 core as its ultra or “prime” core, followed by three 2.4GHz Cortex-A78 prime cores and four 1.8GHz A55 efficiency cores. The MediaTek Dimensity 1200 uses a 3GHz Cortex-A78 as the ultra core, three 2.6GHz Cortex-A78 super cores, and four 2GHz A55 chips as its efficiency cores. Both Dimensity chipsets have a nine-core Arm Mali-G77 GPU, MediaTek added.

The key difference is what Qualcomm calls its X1 core, which the company has said offers 20 percent more performance than the Cortex-A78. Is the Dimensity as powerful as the Snapdragon 888? On paper, it’s hard to tell: The 1200’s increase in clock speed offers just a 6-percent improvement over the Snapdragon 888. MediaTek also characterized the chip as capable of displaying a “smooth 90 frames per second” in the mobile version of Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds.

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Google buys Neverware to turn old PCs into Chromebooks

Google has quietly acquired Neverware, a developer that can take an old Mac or PC and essentially retrofit it into a Chromebook via its CloudReady technology. The technology will be folded into the ChromeOS team, Neverware said.

Neverware quietly announced the acquisition in a blog post on Monday night and said that more details would be revealed over the coming months. A corresponding FAQ didn’t indicate any major changes would be coming to the CloudReady technology, though the two companies will begin to more closely sync their development cycle: “As CloudReady becomes an official Chrome OS offering, you can expect the release mechanics to fall in line with official Chrome OS releases,” the company said.

“Over the long term CloudReady will become an official Chrome OS offering, and existing customers will be upgraded seamlessly as that happens,” Neverware said. News of the Google acquisition of Neverware was previously published by 9to5Google

Adding Neverware is a powerful addition for Google’s ChromeOS team, which had previously invested in the technology. Neverware offers three editions of CloudReady, including a free Home edition that Neverware said won’t go away. (The Home edition doesn’t come with paid support, while the other editions do.)

Eventually, it appears that Google’s ChromeOS won’t just ship with certified Chromebooks, but could be made freely available for users to retrofit older PCs. Traditionally, that role has been played by one of the various flavors of Linux, whose relatively light hardware requirements can accommodate outdated hardware. Of course, installing and running Linux can be daunting with those who are unfamiliar to it. ChromeOS, via CloudReady, appears poised to step in and take over as the lightweight yet consumer-friendly OS for older PCs.

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‘Call of Duty: Warzone’ is about to get a big esports push

The folks pulling the strings of the Call of Duty League have a singular goal in mind: grow. The CDL is expanding its Path to Pro system, boosting the production value on pre-recorded videos, and dabbling with new titles from the Call of Duty universe. Last year, Activision launched a championship series for Call of Duty Mobile, though the finals were canceled as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down operations across the globe. 

Meanwhile, unofficial tournaments for Warzone, Call of Duty’s battle royale installment, were gaining popularity, and Activision eventually joined the fun with Warzone Weekend, a showcase for pros in between official CDL matches. Warzone Weekend kicked off in May and ran throughout the 2020 CDL season.

That was just the beginning for Warzone esports, according to Activision’s Head of Leagues Johanna Faries.

Call of Duty Warzone


“We’ve taken a lot of the time in the off-season to think about, what does the next-level proposition for Warzone look like for CDL and the broader Call of Duty esports community?” Faries said. “In the next few months, I think we will have exciting things to share around what that means for us and what fans can look forward to, not just in 2021, but beyond. We’re really, really happy to think that CDL is stretching entrepreneurially into the Warzone conversation in ways that I think will be quite exciting.”

The CDL is preparing for its second season, following a debut marked by a global pandemic and myriad technical issues as the league quickly transitioned to an all-virtual format. Throughout 2020, pro games were marred by server issues, dropped players and rushed substitutions, even stretching into the Championship weekend

Take the London Home Series finals between the Dallas Empire and Paris Legion in July as an example: Teams were able to test and veto certain servers beforehand, but the only available sources were in California, Texas or Illinois. The teams ended up playing on Texas servers, lending a clear potential advantage to the Dallas team in terms of latency. Dallas Empire won that series, but even team star James “Clayster” Eubanks called it “so unfair.”

Faries didn’t get into details about server locations or speeds, but she said the league is working closely with teams to build a more robust ecosystem for the 2021 season. It all officially begins on February 11th, but first there’s the Kickoff Classic on January 23rd and 24th, featuring six fan-voted, preseason matches among top teams.

“There’s been a considerable increase in server support,” Faries said. “And again, I think a good work-plan flow, if you will, on everybody knowing where the servers are, what the contingency plans look like should something happen midstream. All signs point to being very ready for that.”

Call of Duty Warzone

Despite the technical issues, the CDL’s first season performed well enough on YouTube, which has the exclusive rights to stream pro Call of Duty games. The CDL YouTube channel surpassed 1 million subscribers in the middle of 2020, amid a surge in the live-streaming market during global stay-at-home orders. In comparison, the official League of Legends esports channel has 3.4 million subscribers, while Counter-Strike has 1.4 million and Overwatch has just over 600,000, and these titles also enjoyed pandemic-related growth spurts.

With the CDL on YouTube, Activision is focused on enticing lapsed or casual Call of Duty fans to join the esports scene, watch games and interact with personalities. It’s not just about live viewership, but about building a feedback loop of constant engagement, as Activision’s head of esports partnerships Brandon Snow told Engadget in September.

Faries said it’s working.

“We’re seeing a lot of attention, a lot of interest from potential partners, investors, new fan bases all over the world in a very early stage of the CDL’s existence here,” she said. “And that all points to me that we are onto something, that we are continuing to challenge the conversation around what great esports leagues look like, not only from an engagement perspective, but from a business perspective.”

Call of Duty Warzone


The CDL’s 2021 season begins in just a few weeks, and Faries teased news about Warzone esports not long after that. 

“We also now have these expanded areas where we can engage our player base if they happen to be a CoD Mobile player or a Warzone fanatic,” she said. “These are places that fans can expect CDL to continue to be entrepreneurial. I’m very excited about that.”

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Intel debuts ‘Clover Falls’ companion chip for improved laptop AI

On Thursday, Intel debuted “Clover Falls,” an AI companion chip that the company will ship as a platform-level enhancement for commercial PCs, and presumably later for consumer PCs as well.

Intel described Clover Falls, aka the Intel Visual Sensing Controller, as a “secure companion chip that helps make PCs more smart and secure through the power of Intel artificial intelligence.” It will be mounted on the laptop’s motherboard, “bringing new low-power capabilities to the PC and helping it sense and adapt to its surroundings,” according to a blog post published by the company. 

So what exactly will Clover Falls do? As with many things relating to AI, it’s not exactly clear. One example that Intel gave claimed that the Clover Falls module could help the system automatically adjust display brightness after detecting user presence. It’s likely that Clover Falls will be a sort of AI co-processor, tasked with the kind of low-power, semi-passive monitoring that normally the CPU wakes up to do periodically. By offloading some of these functions to a dedicated chip, the main PC processor can remain in a deep sleep, preserving battery life. 

In an email, an Intel spokeswoman described Clover Falls as “a companion chip that works with any camera sensor,” she wrote. “We’ll have more specifics on this around CES.”

Although Intel didn’t specify which PCs or customers the new Clover Falls chip will be aimed at, the company’s announcement included a quote from Meghana Patwardhan, vice president of Dell Latitude and Mobility Products, implying at least the possibility of a partnership. “Working with Intel is so much more than buying a processor that will work with our product,” Patwardhan said. “The co-engineering effort involves Intel’s dedication to tackling unique product challenges together and taking the entirety of the system into consideration—all so we can deliver amazing new platform features to business users.”

Improving Intel’s Evo platform

The subtext here should be familiar for long-time enthusiasts: When Intel has faced strong, direct competition in its processor business, it has leaned more heavily on its holistic, “platform” approach to PCs. Though Intel apparently feels strongly that its 11th-gen Core chip, Tiger Lake, is the fastest laptop processor on the planet right now—and, based on our reviews, it mostly is—rival AMD is expected to launch its next-gen Ryzen 5000 Mobile processor at the CES show in January.

In the real world, Intel’s “platform” has meant technology improvements like Thunderbolt 3, which has effectively remained an Intel-only technology. Beginning with its 10th-gen Ice Lake cores, Intel has also been highlighting its AI capabilities, which are embodied within what Intel calls the Gaussian Neural Accelerator. It’s not clear how Clover Falls will cooperate with the integrated GNA core, or how tasks might be divided.

All of these technological improvements are wrapped up inside what Intel previously called Project Athena, and now calls “Evo”: a brand that consolidates all the co-engineering work Intel and its partners have put into making a “better” laptop. Nearly 40 Evo laptops have launched worldwide, among them the Acer Swift 5, Asus ZenBook Flip S, Dell XPS 13, HP Spectre x360, Lenovo Yoga 9i, and Samsung Galaxy Book Flex 5G, Intel said.

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