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Game

Microsoft helps game devs pull more performance from the Xbox Series S

Frustrated that games don’t run as well on the Xbox Series S as you’d expect given the 1440p-capable hardware? Microsoft might have a fix. The Verge has learned the company’s recently highlighted June Game Development Kit gives programmers more access to memory, freeing up “hundreds of additional megabytes” of RAM for their games. That can improve graphics performance in titles where limited memory is a problem, Microsoft said.

This move won’t put the entry-level console on par with the Xbox Series X, which uses the same CPU but packs a more powerful graphics processor. However, it might reduce bottlenecks that sometimes force developers to run games on Series S at lower resolutions and frame rates. While the Series X has 16GB of RAM (about 13.5GB of it usable), its lower-end counterpart has just 10GB — in practice, devs have just 8GB to themselves. Creators talking to Digital Foundry have complained about the limitations.

If this sounds like a familiar strategy, it should. Microsoft gave more power to Xbox One coders in 2014 when it let them disable Kinect features in games that didn’t need the motion controller. In both cases, Microsoft is tweaking available system resources in response to gripes.

It will take time for developers to optimize games, and there’s no guarantee this will affect many titles. Don’t expect patches that improve the graphics on all your favorite releases. Still, this is a welcome move that could make the Xbox Series S a more viable option if you’d rather not splurge on its pricier counterpart.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

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Computing

Microsoft Edge uses disk caching for increased performance

The Microsoft Edge browser is now even more optimized and has a bit higher performance on Windows. That’s thanks to changes in version 102 of the browser, which can now automatically compress disk caches.

Microsoft talked about this in a technical post, explaining that its overall goal is to “deliver the best performing browser possible on Windows and other platforms.” In what seems like a shot at Google Chrome, Microsoft also mentioned that they’re aware that when a web browser consumed too many resources, the system can be slowed down. That’s where disk caching comes into play.

For those unfamiliar, in relation to web browsers, the cache is where resources are stored so web pages can load faster. With disk caching in Edge, Microsoft believes that the larger the cache of the browser, the bigger the chance the browser will fetch it from the disk to load the web page quicker.

Typically the larger the cache gets, the more disk space will get consumed, which can be problematic on devices with smaller solid-state drives or hard drives. Regular browsers will then moderate the cache based on available space.

Microsoft Edge addresses this in new ways by tweaking disk caching to minimize disk usage by using compression technology. It believes the content in the cache is often highly compressible anyway, still resulting in requested resources being fetched from the disk. So in Edge 102, Microsoft Edge automatically compresses disk caches on devices that meet eligibility checks.

“This ensures compression of these caches largely improves performance and overall user experience,” explains Microsoft.

This is just one way that Microsoft Edge is being optimized for Windows. With the browser being integrated across many areas of the operating system, Microsoft is able to add features like efficiency mode, which extends battery life by reducing CPU usage on inactive tabs. Microsoft Edge also has a feature known as sleeping tabs, which can put inactive tabs to sleep to save resources.

Features like this could be just one reason that Microsoft Edge is becoming more popular. It recently surpassed Mozilla Firefox as the second most popular web browser. Google Chrome, though, is still at the top with a 69% share.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Dell XPS 15 vs. XPS 17: Performance, Display, and More

You’d be forgiven for mistaking the Dell XPS 17 for only a slightly bigger XPS 15. Both have large displays packed into the smallest chassis possible, and both boast some ambitious performance claims. However, there’s more going on between the two than meets the eye.

Just how big of a difference is there between the XPS 15 9520 and the XPS 17 9720? Here’s everything you need to know about these two great laptops, and which you should buy.

Specs

  Dell XPS 15 9520 Dell XPS 17 9720
Dimensions 13.56 inches x 9.06 inches x 0.73 inches 14.74 inches x 9.76 inches x 0.77 inches
Weight 4.22 pounds (non-touch)
4.62 pounds (touch)
4.87 pounds non-touch
5.34 pounds touch
Processor Intel Core i5-12500H
Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900HK
Intel Core i5-12500H
Intel Core i7-12700H
Intel Core i9-12900HK
Graphics Intel UHD graphics
Intel Iris Xe graphics
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti
Intel UHD graphics
Intel Iris Xe graphics
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050
Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060
RAM 8GB DDR5
16GB DDR5
32GB DDR5
64GB DDR5
8GB DDR5
16GB DDR5
32GB DDR5
64GB DDR5
Display 15.6-inch Full HD+ (1,920 x 1,200) IPS
15.6-inch 3.5K (3,456 x 2,160) OLED
15.6-inch UHD+ (3,840 x 2,400) IPS
17.0-inch Full HD+ IPS
17.0-inch UHD+ IPS
Storage 512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
512GB PCIe 4.0 SSD
1TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD
Touch Optional Optional
Ports 1 x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2
2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Full-size SD card reader
4 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Full-size SD card reader
Wireless Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2 Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
Webcam 720p with Windows 11 Hello infrared camera 720p with Windows 11 Hello infrared camera
Operating system Windows 11 Windows 11
Battery 86 watt-hours 97 watt-hours
Price $1,420+ $1,812+
Rating 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Design

Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

There aren’t any significant design features that distinguish the Dell XPS 17 from its smaller sibling. The XPS 15 was redesigned in 2020, and launched alongside the XPS 17, which was the first of its kind. Since then, the two laptops have received minor revisions, but the overall design has remained the same. The XPS 17 uses an identical keyboard and large touchpad, and it also borrows the same black carbon fiber and silver aluminum materials for the palm rests, lid, and chassis. The one significant difference is the availability of an alternative color scheme for the XPS 15, a Frost aluminum in the chassis and a white glass fiber palm rest.

The size, though, is where these two laptops depart. There are 1.4 inches of diagonal difference in screen size between the two, which makes the XPS 17 both the larger and heavier option.

The XPS 15 weighs 4.62 pounds, which is about three-quarters of a pound lighter than the XPS 17. You can feel the difference when lugging it around in your backpack or even resting it on your lap. That applies to the dimensions of these devices, as well. The XPS 15 is 5% thinner at 0.73 inches thick. The XPS 17’s overall footprint is also 17% larger.

If you opt for the non-touch models, both XPS laptops are lighter (starting at 4.22 or 4.87 pounds, respectively), though it’s the same percentage difference.

Ports

Dell XPS 15 9520 right view showing ports.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

There are two important differences between the XPS 15 and XPS 17. First, the XPS 15 offers just three USB-C ports, whereas the XPS 17 has four. More than that, all four of the XPS 17’s four USB-C ports also support Thunderbolt 4 as opposed to just two of the XPS 15’s.

Thunderbolt 4 means faster data transfer speeds, 4K display output at 60Hz, charging, and the ability to power external graphics cards. Both devices also include a headphone jack and a full-size SD card slot.

Display

Dell XPS 15 9520 front view showing display.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The display selection between the XPS 15 and XPS 17 is another point of differentiation. They both use a 16:10 aspect ratio and share two resolution options for IPS displays: Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) and UHD+ (3840 x 2400). The lower resolution is used in all the base models, while the higher resolution panel is an option. However, the XPS 15 also offers a 3.5K (3456 x 2160) OLED panel.

We tested the XPS 15 with the OLED display, and it offered extremely wide and accurate colors, decent brightness, and OLED’s typical inky-black contrast. The XPS 17’s IPS UHD+ display is also excellent, with even wider colors (although slightly less accurate), significantly more brightness, and a very high contrast ratio for an IPS panel.

Both displays are excellent for creators who demand wide and accurate colors. The XPS 15’s OLED display offers incredibly deep blacks and better high dynamic range (HDR) support, so it’s the better all-around display.

I didn’t test the lower-resolution models, but Dell tends to use lower-quality screens on its base models.

Dell XPS 15 9520
(OLED)
Dell XPS 17 9720
(IPS)
Brightness
(nits)
391 543
AdobeRGB gamut 96% 100%
 sRGB gamut 100% 100%
Accuracy
(DeltaE, lower is better)
0.42 0.58
Contrast ratio 27,930:1 1,870:1

Performance

Dell XPS 17 9720 front view showing display and keyboard.

Ultimately, the reason for the existence of the XPS 17 is extra performance. It’s more than just a slightly bigger version of the XPS 15, largely thanks to its more powerful GPU options. You can configure the XPS 17 with up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, whereas the XPS 15 is stuck at an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti.

The XPS 17 is 51% faster in 3DMark’s Time Spy benchmark, which results in significantly higher frame rates in modern 3D games. The XPS 17 could play games like Fortnite at 112 frames per second at Epic settings (in 1200p), 96% faster than the XPS 15.

Note that both laptops utilize Dell’s thermal control utility that allows tuning the fans and CPU speed for quieter operation or faster performance. I’ve reported both balanced and performance mode results in the table below. In most tests, the XPS 15 showed significantly faster speeds in performance mode while the XPS 17 didn’t demonstrate as much of a difference.

Even though both laptops utilized the same CPU, the 45-watt, 12-core (4 Performance and 8 Efficient) Core i7-12700H, the XPS 17 was faster in all our benchmarks. That’s likely due to the larger chassis and more room to move air in and heat out.

The XPS 17’s faster GPU also makes a huge difference in content creation. For example, rendering video in an application like Adobe Premiere Pro can tax the GPU more heavily. As you can see in the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark, the XPS 17 was 12% faster in performance mode than the XPS 15 was in balanced mode — for some reason, the XPS 15 dropped its score in this benchmark in performance mode. This speed difference has a significant impact on large video projects.

Both laptops offer processor options that range from the Intel Core i5-12500H up to the Core i9-12900HK. The memory and storage options are also the same: Both laptops support up to 64GB of DDR5 RAM and can be configured with up to a 2TB PCIe 4.0 SSD. In addition, both machines have two SSD slots for running in RAID for better performance and reliability or expanding storage.

Dell XPS 15 9520
(Core i7-12700H)
Dell XPS 17 9720
(Core i7-12700H)
Geekbench 5
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,470 / 9,952
Perf: 1,714 / 11,053
Bal: 1,712 / 13,176
Perf: 1,747 / 13,239
Handbrake
(seconds)
Bal: 100
Perf: 77
Bal: 74
Perf: 71
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
Bal: 1,509 / 11,578
Perf: 1,806 / 13,313
Bal: 1,778 / 12,696
Perf: 1,779 / 14,086
Pugetbench Premiere Pro Bal: 760
Perf: 729
Bal: 771
Perf: 853
3DMark Time Spy Bal: 4,470
Perf: 4,520
Bal: 6,767
Perf: 6,958
Fortnite
(1200p/Epic)
Bal: 57 fps
Perf: N/A
Bal: 112 fps
Perf: N/A

Battery life

The larger screen and improved performance of the XPS 17 does come with one compromise: battery life. Even though the XPS 17 has 97 watt-hours of battery capacity compared to the XPS 15’s 86 watt-hours, the smaller device saw better battery life in most of our tests. Surprisingly, the XPS 15 will likely last a full day of typical productivity work on a single charge, but the XPS 17 will need its charger to make it all the way through.

This is, of course, for the high-resolution models that I tested. The Full HD+ models should last at least an extra hour or two longer, though I haven’t tested them yet to confirm those numbers. Either way, the smaller screen helps the XPS 15 get more juice out of its battery.

Dell XPS 15 9520
(Core i7-12700H)
Dell XPS 17 9720
(Core i7-12700H)
Web browsing 9 hours, 38 minutes 7 hours, 36 minutes
Video 12 hours, 40 minutes 13 hours, 5 minutes
PCMark 10 Applications 11 hours, 14 minutes 7 hours, 3 minutes

Conclusion

For most people, the XPS 15 9520 will offer more than enough performance. That’s especially true if you’ll primarily be working with more CPU-dependent applications.

If you aren’t gunning for the top-level XPS 17 with the Nvidia RTX 3060, it’s a better value to go with the XPS 15. Depending on the configuration, the XPS 17 sells for $300 to $400 more than the XPS 15 with comparable hardware.

The XPS 17 is suitable if you need more GPU power. If you’re able to drop around $3,000 on the RTX 3060-powered model, then you’ll see a substantial performance increase that makes the 17-incher ideal for professional video editing or 3D modeling.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

M2 MacBook Air teardown reveals bad news for performance

The newly released MacBook Air featuring Apple’s latest proprietary M2 chip has the gotten teardown treatment from the Max Tech YouTube channel, revealing a basic look at the internals of the notebook and some bad news about the system’s performance.

The featured model included 256GB SSD in a single NAND storage chip. MacRumors noted this specs setup has the potential to result in a notebook that performs 30% to 50% slower in SSD benchmark tests than MacBook Air models with higher specs or older MacBook Air models with the same specs. This was also a problem with the recently launched M2 MacBook Pro.

MacBook Air motherboard, as shown by Max Tech teardown.

The video also discussed some interesting details during the teardown, such as the more elongated design, which allows for a larger and more powerful battery cell in the M2 MacBook Air. This model features a 52.6-watt hour battery, a slight upgrade from the 49.9 watt-hour battery in the M1 MacBook Air. While subtle, Eremenko noted that the new notebook has more internal volume, which allows it to hold a larger battery, which is expected to power the device for up to 18 hours at a time.

The notebook features speakers located at the front of the paneling. They are also front-firing, which is intended to make for better audio.

Finally, the teardown mentions that the M2 MacBook Air includes an ultra-wideband chip within its motherboard. The component appears to currently not be functional; however, it has the potential to be unlocked in the future for uses, including Air Tags and lossless wireless audio.

M2 MacBook Air Teardown: Apple’s SECRET Revealed (& SSD)

The M2 MacBook Air has been available for pre-order since July 8 and is now on sale in stores. Prior reports detailed that the notebook was quickly back -ordered and experienced shipment delays as late as mid-August, as soon as pre-orders opened.

Many Apple products have experienced shipping delays throughout the year; however, it is not clear whether the M2 MacBook Air shipping delays have been caused by consumer demand or by supply chain issues.

The M2 MacBook Air model, which is featured in the video, starts at $1,199.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

F1 2022 performance guide: Best settings for high frame rate

F1 2022 is here, and like every annual release from the popular racing series, it’s a huge benchmark for PC performance. It’s demanding but well optimized. I booted up the DT test bench to find the best settings for F1 2022 so you can have a high frame rate.

You don’t need to do a lot of work to get F1 2022 working, especially with its multiple upscaling options. Ray tracing is a performance killer, though, and it’s not worth the frame rate dip for the vast majority of players.

The best settings for F1 2022

F1 2022 has a ton of graphics options, and none of them destroy performance or image quality. Ray tracing, which I’ll dig into later, is the main culprit of performance issues. Otherwise, you can stick with one of the game’s five presets to get an image you like, as well as use the dynamic resolution option in the Display settings menu to improve your frame rate. If you want to go at it on your own, here are the best settings for F1 2022:

  • Lighting quality: Medium
  • Post process: High
  • Shadows: Medium
  • Particles: Low
  • Crowd: Medium
  • Mirrors: High
  • Car and helmet reflections: High
  • Weather effects: High
  • Ground cover: Medium
  • Skidmarks: High
  • Skidmarks blending: On
  • Ambient occlusion: HBAO+
  • Screen space reflections: Medium
  • Asynchronous compute: On
  • Texture streaming: High

I mainly optimized the settings with the best practices for PC game graphics. That means bumping down the shadows and lighting quality first, which both have the biggest impact on performance. I kept some of the smaller settings, like skidmarks and weather effects, turned up because of their limited performance hit. Feel free to bump down these settings if you’re running into issues, though.

Most people should stick around medium to high settings. I’ll go more in-depth in the benchmarks below, but F1 2022 shows diminishing returns beyond Medium for most settings. The Ultra Low preset isn’t too useful for the best graphics cards, offering only a slight bump over the Medium preset. With multiple upscaling options available, the only reason to go down to Ultra Low is if you’re running well below the recommended system requirements.

F1 2022 system requirements

System requirements for F1 2022.

F1 2022 doesn’t call for much, but the system requirements are a little misleading. At a minimum, an ancient Core i3-2130 or AMD FX 4300 is all you need, but I’d recommend sticking with the recommended specs when it comes to the CPU. F1 2022 is really CPU limited, so pairing a fast GPU with an older processor is sure to cause a PC bottleneck.

For graphics, even a GTX 1050 Ti should be enough at 1080p (though one of the best 1080p graphics cards is better). F1 2022 is really well optimized with ray tracing turned off, and you have a lot of bandwidth to improve your performance with dynamic resolution and the supersampling options in the game.

Ray tracing is the killer. You’ll need a GPU with DirectX 12 support to run the game, even if you want to turn ray tracing off. With ray tracing on, you’ll also need a much faster GPU. The system requirements only call for an RTX 2060 or RX 6700 XT, but I wouldn’t recommend ray tracing with anything less than an RTX 3070. Otherwise, you’ll likely have to settle for frame rates below 60 fps, especially if you want to run at a high resolution.

F1 2022 benchmarks (4K, 1440p, 1080p)

4K benchmarks for F1 2022.

There are five graphics presets in F1 2022, and I tested all of them across 4K, 1440p, and 1080p with a Ryzen 9 5950X, RTX 3070, and 32GB of DDR4-3200 memory. Across resolutions, one preset is vastly slower than the others: Ultra High. This is the only preset that turns on ray tracing as a default option, and it’s extremely demanding.

At 4K, for example, you can see that the RTX 3070 just barely manages 30 fps with the Ultra High preset. The next step down results in a massive 238% increase in performance mostly on the back of turning ray tracing off. Medium offers a solid 32% bump over that, as well.

As mentioned, F1 2022 is fairly CPU limited, so performance returns start to fall off beyond the Medium preset. 1440p and 1080p illustrate this point clearly. They’re much closer in performance at each preset, and in some cases, such as the Medium preset, 1440p and 1080p show nearly identical performance. Take advantage of the lower settings if you have an older processor, but don’t count on them to improve your graphics performance.

Ray tracing in F1 2022

It should be clear by now, but ray tracing is extremely demanding in F1 2022. The most demanding Ultra High ray tracing preset can cause as much as a 63% slowdown in your average frame rate, so keep ray tracing turned off unless you have a super power graphics card like the RTX 3090 Ti, or if you take advantage of upscaling options.

Before getting to ray tracing performance, we need to talk about how it works in F1 2022. The game supports ray-traced shadows, reflections, transparent reflections, and ambient occlusion. You have a toggle for each of these settings, as well as three overall quality presets for ray tracing: Medium, High, and Ultra High. You can’t set the quality for individual settings, but the quality doesn’t have a huge impact on performance regardless.

Ray tracing benchmarks for F1 2022.

You can see that in the graph above. The High and Ultra High ray tracing presets have almost identical performance (the game actually uses the High settings for the Ultra High graphics preset). The Medium setting offers a solid 75% increase over the High preset, but it’s still far below just turning ray tracing off.

I’m struggling to see a difference between the quality modes for ray tracing, so if you turn it on, I’d recommend sticking with Medium quality. Most people should just turn ray tracing off, though, as the screen space reflections offer plenty of visual glitter without the massive hit to your frame rate.

DLSS and FSR in F1 2022

Ray tracing is demanding, but F1 2022 gives you options to combat the performance deficit. The game supports Nvidia’s Deep Learning Super Sampling (DLSS) and AMD’s FidelityFX Super Resolution (FSR). They both give you a way to improve performance by lowering the resolution the game renders at. F1 2022 includes its own dynamic resolution setting, too, though it doesn’t look nearly as nice as DLSS or FSR.

DLSS benchmarks for F1 2022.

DLSS doesn’t offer the highest performance, but it’s the best option to maintain image quality. At 4K with the Ultra High preset, it offered a 50% boost in performance with the Quality mode. That’s big, but I’d recommend most people stick with the Balanced mode when using DLSS. It more than doubled my average frame rate without sacrificing image quality too much.

FSR benchmarks for F1 2022.

Unfortunately, DLSS only works on Nvidia’s RTX graphics cards. For everyone else, there’s FSR. F1 2022 only supports FSR 1.0, not the much better FSR 2.0 we’ve seen in games like DeathloopI wouldn’t go beyond the Balanced preset for FSR 1.0 if you want decent image quality, though. FSR falls apart beyond that point.

An interesting trend with both DLSS and FSR is that they fall off past the Balanced mode. With F1 2022 being CPU limited the way it is, the more aggressive quality modes don’t offer as much of a bump in performance as they should.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

The M2 MacBook Pro’s performance is worse than expected

Additional benchmarks have shown the entry-level model of Apple’s MacBook Pro with an M2 chip is performing far worse than anyone expected. This comes after initial tests revealed that the device had a slower SSD when compared to last year’s MacBook Pro with an M1 chip.

Spotted by MacRumors, the M2 MacBook Pro reportedly lags behind in day-to-day multitasking performance in apps like Photoshop, Lightroom, and Final Cut Pro. Even file transfers to an external SSD suffer on Apple’s latest flagship laptop. This is all because the M2 MacBook Pro appears to be using space on the 256GB SSD as virtual memory when the in-built 8GB of Apple Unified memory is used up by the system and other apps.

Just like the issue with SSD speeds, this is believed to be due to the fact that Apple is only using a single NAND chip on the 2022 MacBook Pro 13-inch M2 models. That’s compared to the M1 MacBook Pro, which has two NAND chips for faster speeds.

Apple

A lot of the tests in question have been done by the YouTuber, Max Tech. In his 12-minute video, he showcases that when his tests are down on their own without background activity, the M2 MacBook Pro defeats the M1 MacBook Air. It’s only when multitasking and background activity on both machines comes into play that things go bad for Apple’s latest 13-inch flagship laptop.

For basic multitasking in Google Chrome, the M2 MacBook Pro loads several tabs and pages like Google Drive slower than the M1 MacBook Pro. Having that open on top of exporting 50 RAW images in Adobe Lightroom Classic, meanwhile, takes longer on the M2 MacBook Pro at a time of 4 minutes and 12 seconds versus just 3 minutes and 36 seconds on the M1 MacBook Pro.

In other tests done by Max Tech, the Apple M2 MacBook Pro falls even further behind the M1 MacBook Pro with so-called “pro app” background activity going in Final Cut Pro. A 5-minute 4K HVEC export on the M2 MacBook Pro took a total of 4 minutes and 49 seconds. The M1 MacBook Pro did that same test in 3 minutes and 36 seconds with similar background activity.

Even SSD File Transfers appear to suffer on the M2 MacBook Pro. Max Tech finds that in his video transfer tests, the M1 MacBook Pro writes a 35GB video file to an external SSD in 34 seconds, but the M2 MacBook Pro does it in 1 minute and 25 seconds.  As for read speeds, the results are closer, with the M2 MacBook Pro doing it in 58 seconds, and the M1 MacBook Pro doing it in 45 seconds.

With all this in mind, if you’re considering buying a new MacBook Pro model with an M2 chip, you should definitely pay for the $200 upgrade and buy the higher-end model with 512GB of storage. Or, hold off and buy an older M1 model.

Editors’ Choice




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Computing

Asus Vivobook S 14X review: Lovely display, sad performance

Asus Vivobook S 14X

MSRP $1.00

“The Asus Vivobook S 14X has disappointing performance and battery life, offsetting the incredible 120Hz OLED display.”

Pros

  • Solid productivity performance
  • Spectacular 120Hz OLED display
  • Good keyboard and touchpad
  • Conservative good looks

Cons

  • Inconsistent performance overall
  • Poor battery life
  • Build quality is subpar

OLED laptops are not only becoming more common, they’re now even getting faster.

The new Vivobook S 14X (S5402) from Asus is the first OLED laptop to include a blistering 120Hz refresh rate. That’s pretty noteworthy, especially for a laptop in Asus’ budget to mid-range line.

I reviewed the high-end Vivobook S 14X configuration, $1,100 for a Core i7-12700H CPU and a 14.5-inch 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800) 120Hz OLED display. It’s an odd machine in that it features a fast, 45-watt CPU without a corresponding discrete GPU, relying instead on the integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics. The display is indeed spectacular, but my enthusiasm was tempered by this Vivobook’s inconsistent performance and cooling.

Design

Asus Vivobook S 14X back angled view.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Simple lines and a minimalist aesthetic. That seems to describe so many laptops lately that I feel like I could cut and paste from one review to another. The Vivobook S 14X fits that description as well, with just a few exceptions. Its chassis is one solid color, with no chrome accents and only a new, more elaborate Vivobook logo adorning the lid. Color choices include Midnight Black (my review unit), Sand Grey, and Solar Silver.

The keyboards are color-matched, which is a nice look, and a vent along the left-hand side lends some aggressiveness to the design. Otherwise, the angles are pedestrian, and overall, the aesthetic is quite conservative. Two other touches stand out on the keyboard, namely a red Esc key and white stripes along the bottom of the Enter key — although frankly, those look odd and unnecessary. The Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon is another simply designed 14-inch laptop, while the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 stands out with a rounded and much more stylish look.

The 14.5-inch display is an unusual size, making the Vivobook S 14X slightly larger than others.

The Vivobook S 14X is constructed entirely of aluminum except for plastic display bezels that stand out as less than premium. There’s some bending in the lid and flexing in the keyboard deck, making the chassis feel less than rigid. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7 is a much more solid laptop, as is the Yoga 9i Gen 7, but of course, both of those are significantly more expensive than the Vivobook. And it’s not that the Asus feels cheap; it’s just not as solid as I like to see in a laptop over $1,000.

The 14.5-inch display is an unusual size, making the Vivobook S 14X slightly larger than other 14-inch class laptops. Its bezels are small on the sides and on top, but the bottom chin is large and that adds some size as well. For example, it’s about half an inch wider and taller than the IdeaPad Sim 7 Carbon while being thicker at 0.70 inches versus 0.59 inches and heavier at 3.53 pounds versus 2.4 pounds. The IdeaPad is a very thin and light 14-inch laptop, though, so let’s compare it to the Yoga 9i Gen 7.

In that case, the Vivobook is again about half an inch wider and taller, and the Yoga 9i Gen 7 is 0.60 inches thick and weighs 3.09 pounds. The Vivobook S 14X isn’t the smallest, lightest, or thinnest laptop in its class, but even so, it doesn’t feel overly large or heavy.

Ports

The Vivobook S 14X enjoys a solid selection of modern and legacy ports. On the left-hand side is a single USB-A 2.0 port. On the right-hand side are two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, a full-size HDMI 2.0 port, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, and a 3.5mm audio jack. The only glaring omission is an SD card reader, which would have been welcome.

Wireless connectivity is up to date with Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2.

Performance

Asus Vivobook S 14X front view showing display.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

Up to now, every laptop we’ve reviewed with the 45-watt, 14-core (6 Performance and 8 Efficient), 20-thread Intel Core i7-12700H has been equipped with a discrete GPU. The Vivobook S 14X is the first we’ve seen that relies exclusively on integrated Intel Iris Xe graphics. At the same time, every other thin-and-light 14-inch Intel 12th-gen laptop we’ve looked at has used the 28-watt, 12-core (4 Performance and 8 Efficient), 16-thread Core i7-1260P. That makes the Vivobook an outlier on a couple of fronts.

I can imagine what Asus was trying to do: Provide a faster CPU for tasks that can utilize it while minimizing power and heat by skipping a discrete GPU. The problem is that despite its IceCool thermal technology with dual fans and heat pipes, the Core i7-12700H throttled during every benchmark with temperatures reaching as high as 97 degrees C (still less than the chip’s 100 degrees C maximum) and CPU frequencies often dipping down below 1GHz. As a result, the Vivobook S 14X’s performance was inconsistent and, in some cases, downright bad for the class of CPU.

For example, it was the slowest laptop in our comparison group running Geekbench 5, with only the Asus ZenBook S 13 OLED being slower in single-core mode with its 8-core/16-thread AMD Ryzen 7 6800U. In fact, the Vivobook was much slower than even the Core i7-1260P laptops in the table below. I’ll also note that the Asus thermal tuning utility wasn’t terribly effective, with performance mode offering only modest increases over balanced mode but with very loud fans. I’ve reported results from both modes.

The powerful, 45-watt chip seemed wasted on the Vivobook S 14X.

In our Handbrake test that encodes a 420MB video as H.265, the Vivobook S 14X was slower than the other Core i7-12700H machines and more in line with those running the Core i7-1260P. Its Cinebench R23 score was faster, still behind the other laptops with the same CPU but at least within the same range. And then, it scored a little low on the PCMark 10 Complete benchmark that tests a variety of productivity, multimedia, and creative tasks. Only the Dell XPS 15 9520 was slower (an unusually low score for that laptop).

Finally, I ran the Pugetbench Premiere Pro benchmark that uses a live version of Adobe Premiere Pro. That benchmark leverages discrete GPUs, so we don’t typically test machines with integrated graphics. But I was interested to see how the Vivobook would perform. In a word, its performance was abysmal. It scored just 190 in balanced mode and dropped significantly to 137 in performance mode. That compares to the Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 with a Core i7-1260P and Iris Xe graphics that scored 265 in balanced mode and 332 in performance mode. Laptops with discrete GPUs tend to score 700 or more in this benchmark. It seemed like the Vivobook was severely throttled in this real-world test.

Overall, the 45-watt chip seemed wasted on the Vivobook S 14X. Yes, its Cinebench scores were decent, but its Handbrake scores were mediocre and its Pugetbench results were terrible. It’s a fast enough laptop for productivity workloads, but it’s not a creator’s laptop. And as we’ll see below, there was a price to pay in efficiency.

Geekbench
(single / multi)
Handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single / multi)
PCMark 10
Complete
Asus Vivobook S 14X
(Core i7-12700H)
Bal: 1,595 / 6,692
Perf: 1,681 / 7,175
Bal: 113
Perf: 102
Bal: 1,757 / 10,339
Perf: 1,792 / 12,051
5,378
Asus ZenBook Pro 14 Duo
(Core i7-12700H)
Bal: 1,699 / 12,042
Perf: N/A
Bal: 94
Perf: 82
Bal: 1,793 / 12,045
Perf: N/A
6,242
Dell XPS 15 9520
(Core i7-12700H)
Bal: 1,470 / 9,952
Perf: 1,714 / 11,053
Bal: 100
Perf: 77
Bal: 1,509 / 11,578
Perf: 1,806 / 13,313
4,940
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(Core i7-1260P)
1,650 / 8,080
Perf: 1,621 / 8,544
116
Perf: 120
1,587 / 7,682
Perf: 1,611 / 8,078
5,537
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
(Core i7-1260P)
1,717 / 9,231
Perf: 1,712 / 10,241
130
Perf: 101
1,626 / 7,210
Perf: 1,723 / 8,979
5,760
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(Ryzen 7 6800U)
1,417 / 6,854
Perf: 1,404 / 7,223
112
Perf: 111
1,402 / 8,682
Perf: 1,409 / 8,860
5,647

The Vivobook S 14X was an even worse performer in our gaming benchmarks. In the 3DMark Time Spy test, it scored well below the rest of the Iris Xe field. That translated to a poor showing in Fortnite, where it hit just six frames per second (fps) at 1200p and epic graphics. I didn’t even bother running the game at 1600p. Perhaps it’s a driver issue with the Core i7-12700H, but the laptop was fully updated, and it simply performed atrociously. We don’t expect great gaming from integrated graphics, but we expect better than this.

3DMark
Time Spy
Fortnite
(1080p/1200p Epic)
Asus Vivobook S 14X
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,251
Perf: 1,253
Bal: 6
Perf: 7
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,899
Perf: 1,886
Bal: 17 fps
Perf: 16 fps
MSI Summit E14 Flip
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,740
Perf: 1,959
Bal: 15 fps
Perf: 19 fps
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,658
Perf: 1,979
Bal: 12 fps
Perf: N/A
LG Gram 16 2-in-1
(Intel Iris Xe)
Bal: 1,746
Perf: 1,919
Bal: 15 fps
Perf: 20 fps
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(AMD Radeon)
Bal: 2,110
Perf: 2,213
Bal: 19 fps
Perf: 19 fps

Display and audio

Asus Vivobook S 14X front view showing display.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The Vivobook S 14X’s hallmark feature is its 14.5-inch 16:10 2.8K (2,880 x 1,800) OLED display running at a refresh rate of 120Hz. Asus also touts the panel’s incredibly fast 0.2ms response time. Put those two together and you have a display that’s buttery smooth in running Windows 11, with no cursor ghosting, clear text scrolling, and windows that fly across the display. It’s a noticeable difference over standard 60Hz displays, and if the Vivobook were capable of gaming, it would make for a pleasant experience there as well. Of course, the colors were bright and plentiful as always with OLED displays, and the blacks were inky and deep.

According to my colorimeter, this is a phenomenal panel to find in an $1,100 laptop. Its colors were wide at 100% of sRGB, 99% of Adobe RGB, and 99% of DCI-P3, and they were accurate at a DeltaE of 1.07 (1.0 or less is indistinguishable to the human eye). Its contrast ratio was incredibly high, as is typical of OLED displays, and it was bright at 403 nits. It competed well against our very strong group of comparison machines in all metrics.

It’s a spectacular display that will please productivity workers, media consumers thanks to the VESA DisplayHDR True Black 600 high dynamic range (HDR) support, and creators who can live with the laptop’s performance.

Brightness
(nits)
Contrast sRGB gamut AdobeRGB gamut Accuracy DeltaE
(lower is better)
Asus Vivobook S 14X
(OLED)
403 27,930:1 100% 99% 1.07
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(IPS)
386 1,900:1 100% 81% 0.78
MSI Summit E14 Flip
(IPS)
516 1,320:1 100% 89% 1.10
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
(OLED)
406 28,380:1 100% 95% 0.87
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7i Pro
(IPS)
369 1,340:1 100% 80% 1.65
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon
(OLED)
397 27,590:1 100% 96% 0.88

Two downward-firing speakers at the front bottom of the chassis provide the sound, backed up by Harman Kardon tuning and DTS Audio Processing. I found the sound clear and bright, with nice highs and mids but minimal bass. The volume was just loud enough to be usable, and I could see myself watching some Netflix without pulling out a pair of headphones.

Keyboard, touchpad, and webcam

The Vivobook S 14X's keyboard.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

As mentioned above, the keyboard is color-matched with the chassis and presents a nice appearance. The red Esc key and white stripes on the Enter key are distracting, but I suppose I’d get used to it. The keycaps are large and slightly sculpted, and the key spacing is generous. The switches are light and bouncy, with a nice snap and a precise response. My only complaint is that the bottoming action is a little abrupt, which might get uncomfortable over exceptionally long typing sessions. It’s a good but not great keyboard.

The touchpad is adequately sized, although there’s room on the palm rest for a larger version. It was smooth and responsive, with Microsoft Precision touchpad drivers providing full support for Windows 11’s complement of multitouch gestures. An optional NumberPad 2.0 LED touchpad provides a virtual numeric keypad, which is available on the Solar Silver model only. The display was not touch-enabled, which is always a disappointment.

Asus Vivobook S 14X webcam view.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

The webcam is 720p, so it hasn’t kept up with the move to Full HD on many other laptops. It does feature the Asus 3D Noise Reduction technology, which I found to be effective in making a clear image. It’s a fine webcam, but a higher resolution would have made it more effective for today’s hybrid workers. The webcam also features a physical slider that covers the lens for some extra privacy.

Finally, Windows 11 Hello passwordless login is provided by a fingerprint reader embedded in the recessed power button. It was fast and reliable during my testing.

Battery life

Asus Vivobook S 14X rear angle view showing hinge and ports.
Mark Coppock/Digital Trends

There are 70 watt-hours of battery packed away inside the Vivobook S 14X, which powers both a high-res OLED display and a fast 45-watt CPU. I wasn’t expecting miracles, but what I got was still disappointing.

The laptop lasted just 6.3 hours in our web browsing test that runs through some popular and complex websites, which is a couple of hours less than we like to see. It also made it to just 8.25 hours on our video test that loops a local Full HD Avengers trailer, which is again several hours short. And in the PCMark 1o Applications test, which is the best indication of productivity battery life, the Vivobook S 14X made it to just seven hours.

Across the board, the scores were less than our comparison group, some of which also had power-hungry OLED displays. The Dell XPS 15, for example, had both the same CPU and a larger 15.6-inch OLED panel. Although it had just 23% more battery capacity at 86 watt-hours, it lasted 50% longer in our web browsing test, 53% longer in our video test, and 60% longer in the PCMark 10 Applications test. The Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 7 also lasted considerably longer with its own 14-inch OLED display.

The Vivobook S 14X is unlikely to make it through a full day of light productivity tasks, and if you push the CPU, you’ll be plugging in by noon. That’s not great, even for a laptop with an OLED panel.

Web browsing Video PCMark 10
Applications
Asus Vivobook S 14X
(Core i7-12700H)
6 hours, 20 minutes 8 hours, 18 minutes 7 hours, 1 minute
Dell XPS 15 9520
(Core i7-12700H)
9 hours, 38 minutes 12 hours, 40 minutes 11 hours, 14 minutes
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7
(Core i7-1260P)
10 hours, 10 minutes 16 hours, 12 minutes 10 hours, 33 minutes
Lenovo Yoga 9i 14 Gen 7
(Core i7-1260P)
9 hours, 10 minutes 12 hours, 45 minutes 8 hours, 32 minutes
 Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED
(Ryzen 7 6800U)
8 hours, 4 minutes 13 hours, 13 minutes N/A
Lenovo IdeaPad Slim 7 Carbon
(Ryzen 7 5800U)
10 hours, 6 minutes 11 hours, 12 minutes 9 hours, 22 minutes

Price and configurations

There will be two configurations of the Vivobook S 14X when it ships in July 2022. My review unit will be a Costco exclusive priced at $1,100 with a Core i7-12700H, 12GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB solid-state drive (SSD), and the 14-inch WQXGA+ OLED display. The other model will cost $900 with a Core i5-12500H, 8GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and the OLED display.

Our take

The Asus Vivobook S 14X is a challenging laptop to rate. Its performance is inconsistent and generally slower than it should be given the fast CPU, and its battery life is poor. Its build quality is also a bit less rigid than I like. But it’s only $1,100 with a competitive configuration and a spectacular 120Hz OLED display that’s better than those on much more expensive laptops.

In the end, the performance and battery life hold me back from recommending the Vivobook S 14X. You might have to spend more money, but there are better 14-inch laptops available today.

Are there any alternatives?

We haven’t reviewed it yet, but the HP Pavilion Plus 14 looks like a solid alternative. It’s $1,190 for a more robust configuration with the same CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB SSD, and a 2.8K OLED display. You can spend a little more and get a discrete GPU, albeit the entry-level Nvidia GeForce RTX 2050.

If you’re willing to spend more money, Lenovo’s Yoga 9i Gen 7 is a great option. It has a stunning design, performs similarly, has better battery life, and enjoys a lovely OLED display. It’s also a convertible 2-in-1, so it has some additional flexibility.

Finally, you could slightly drop down in display size to the new Apple MacBook Air M2. Although it’s $1,200 with less RAM at 8GB and storage at 256GB, it will be significantly faster and with much better battery life. And its display should be more than good enough.

How long will it last?

Although I dinged the Vivobook S 14X for being a little less rigid than I like, it should still last for years as long as it’s taken care of. The one-year warranty is industry standard.

Should you buy it?

No. There are better 14-inch laptop options available with more consistent performance and better battery life, and it’s a shame because that 120Hz OLED display is awesome.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

Razer Blade firmware update could improve GPU performance

Razer is introducing two new configurations to its Blade 17 series gaming laptops for 2022, as well as bumping performance on some existing units through a firmware update.

The new Razer Blade 17 models will now include options for up to Intel Core i9-12900H processors and Nvidia GeForce 3070 Ti GPUs.This hardware setup has never before been seen on the Blade 17 laptops, as Razer pointed out.

Paired with a display upgrade for the entry model, the 17.3-inch QHD display will now come with a 240Hz refresh rate instead of 165Hz. It also boasts 16GB DDR5 RAM and it will start at $3,400. The 17.3-inch UHD display features a 144Hz refresh rate and 32GB DDR5 RAM, along with a starting price of $3,800.

Several models of the 2022 laptop that were released earlier this year are also available, with the cheapest version starting at $2,700. Like other models, the latest Blade 17 sells with a two-year battery warranty.

Razer also claims the 2022 Blade 17 models running 3060 and 3080 Ti GPUs will receive a boost in total graphics power (TGP) via an upcoming firmware update. Benefits that can be expected from the update include an additional 10 watts of system performance power for each system. The Blade 17 with the RTX 3060 GPU can expect a maximum TGP of 130 watts (115 watts + 25 watts) and the Blade 17 with the 3080 Ti a maximum of 175 watts (150 watts + 25 watts).

Models newer than these are set to release with increased TGP from production.

In addition to the Blade 17, Razer has also been showcasing its Blade 15 and Blade 14 laptops throughout the year. The Blade 15 is somewhat similar to the Blade 17 with many display options and a power focus. The Blade 14 has a thin and light ultrabook design with AMD processor options, in addition to Intel.

Razer is also offering a limited-time deal, giving those who buy a Razer Blade 17 or Razer Blade 15 with a 12th-gen Intel processor a free 6-month subscription to the Vegas Post 365 video production bundle or 40% off a one-year subscription. The deal is available until July 31.

Editors’ Choice




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Categories
Computing

Mac Mini 2022: new design, better performance, and more

At WWDC 2022, Apple announced the M2 chip that would power the 13-inch MacBook Pro and redesigned MacBook Air. However, the Mac Mini was notably absent from this announcement and the event at large. Apple may still release the M2 Mac Mini, but it’s hard to tell when.

If you’re looking to get into Apple’s Mac ecosystem, the superb Mac Mini is one of the best-value ways to do it. After 2020’s M1 model, expectations are high for how Apple could follow up with new chips and new features, including a high-end model for more demanding users.

We’ve put together this roundup with as many details on the next Mac Mini as we can find. Simply read on to see what Apple has planned for its smallest desktop Mac.

Release date

Rich Shibley/Digital Trends

For a while, there were rumors of two Mac Minis being in the works, with one high-end model and one entry-level version said to be coming. After Apple’s Peak Performance event in March, it became apparent that the rumored high-end Mac Mini was almost certainly the Mac Studio, which essentially looks like several Mac Minis stacked on top of each other.

With that out of the way, we’re still waiting on updates to the main Mac Mini line. Not only has the M1 Mac Mini not been updated since late 2020, but Apple is still selling an Intel-based Mac Mini on its website, despite promising to have almost completed its transition to its own Apple Silicon chips. That means both versions could be updated sooner rather than later.

But when specifically can we expect these changes? Well, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) on June 6th was a good bet, but the Mac Mini didn’t make an appearance. However, that doesn’t mean that the M2 Mac Mini isn’t coming out. It just didn’t launch at the same time as the new MacBooks.

A new Mac Mini is still on the way, and that idea is bolstered by a discovery made by iOS developer Steve Troughton-Smith, who unearthed an interesting clue in firmware for Apple’s Studio Display monitor. The firmware made mention of an as-yet-unreleased Mac dubbed “Macmini10,1,” which Troughton-Smith believes could be referring to an M2 Mac Mini. Having it mentioned in official firmware is a strong indication that Apple is almost ready to deploy the Mac, and even with WWDC out of the way, it could still release in 2022.

As for the high-end Mac Mini that is set to replace the Intel-based version, the timing of this model is less certain. We’ll have to wait and see.

Price

The latest Mac Mini, sitting under a PC monitor.

Now for the price. The current M1 Mac Mini starts at $699, with a second model costing $899. The Intel version starts at $1,099, meanwhile. That pricing structure makes sense, so we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple stuck with it for the new models.

The only caveat is that there are rumors swirling that the forthcoming high-end Mac Mini will get a redesigned chassis. When Apple has done this in the past, it has sometimes come with a price increase — see the 2021 16-inch MacBook Pro for a recent example — so we could see a similar situation hit the Mac Mini.

A familiar design?

Renders of the next Mac Mini, complete with a new design.

As we outlined above, one rumored Mac Mini — complete with a redesigned chassis — turned out to be the Mac Studio. However, there is another rumor that has not yet been disproved that suggests the Mac Mini will still get a new look.

In May 2021, leaker Jon Prosser released renders depicting the next Mac Mini with a much slimmer design than its current iteration (largely due to the more power-efficient Apple Silicon chip inside), with an aluminum body topped with a plexiglass-like surface. He also asserted Apple has been experimenting with different color options, but whether this will make it to the finished product is unknown.

As well as that, in August 2021, Mark Gurman stated in his Power On newsletter that the Mac Mini “will have an updated design and more ports than the current model.” However, he did not go into specifics regarding the shape and size of the upcoming device.

The slimmed-down design attested by Prosser makes sense. With the advent of the M1 chip, Apple has been able to design its computers around the chip’s greater efficiency compared to Intel processors by cutting their bulk. We’ve already seen the results in the totally overhauled 24-inch iMac, which was reduced to a minuscule 11.5mm in thickness, and the Mac Mini could be next to get this treatment.

It’s also believable for another reason. The Mac Mini is a popular computer in server farms thanks to its small size, which is one reason we doubted the rumored “multi-stack” Mac was actually a Mac Mini (and in the end, it was released under the Mac Studio name instead). If Apple thins down the Mac Mini’s chassis, it will be good news for server farms, which will potentially be able to squeeze even more of the machines onto their racks.

All that said, there was a dissenting voice in the form of well-known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In a tweet from March 2022, Kuo explained that “the new Mac Mini in 2023 will likely remain the same form factor design,” and suggested that Apple will not go for a slimmed-down appearance. Kuo accurately predicted that there will be no new Mac Mini at WWDC 2022 since he said 2023 will see the next new Mac Mini.

Even better performance

The Apple Mac Mini 2018 under a monitor with two external speakers.
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

We can’t be certain of the next Mac Mini’s performance for one big reason: It’s not yet clear what chip it will use. Right now, rumors suggest it could be either the as-yet-unreleased M2 chip or the M1 Pro.

Right now, the M2 seems to be making the stronger case, especially since the new M2 MacBook Air launched at WWDC (along with hardware refresh for the 13-inch MacBook Pro). It would seem odd for Apple to launch an M2 Mac — its next generation of chip architecture — then also launch a previous-generation M1 Pro Mac Mini alongside it. Such a move could potentially make the Mac Mini instantly feel out of date. For that reason, an M2 Mac Mini feels much more likely, with an M2 Pro Mac Mini perhaps following later in 2022 or 2023.

So if the M2 is the most probable chip we’ll see inside the next Mac Mini, what kind of performance can we expect?  Well, if Apple’s numbers from WWDC can be believed, the M2 will be nearly 20% faster than the M1. That’s a sizeable performance bump, although it maintains the same number of cores as the last generation. Early speculation predicted that the M2 would have more cores than the M1, which ended up not being the case.

When we eventually get a high-end Mac Mini, its M2 Pro chip (assuming that’s what it comes with) will be a noticeable upgrade over the M2. The current M1 Pro and M1 Max have various options, with memory ranging from 16GB to 64GB. They also include the following core options:

  • M1 Pro with eight-core CPU and 14-core GPU
  • M1 Pro with 10-core CPU and 14-core GPU
  • M1 Pro with 10-core CPU and 16-core GPU
  • M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 24-core GPU
  • M1 Max with 10-core CPU and 32-core GPU

The M2 Pro and M2 Max (if the Mac Mini gets it) are likely to upgrade those core counts, although it’s too early to say what the complete lineup might look like. However, Mark Gurman has stated Apple is working on a 14-inch MacBook Pro with an M2 Pro chip featuring 12 CPU cores and 38 GPU cores. A previous newsletter from Gurman had also suggested Apple was planning an M2 Pro chip with 12 CPU cores and 16 GPU cores. It’s possible that one or both of these will be offered inside the upcoming Mac Mini.

Note that both Gurman and 9to5Mac have separately claimed that Apple is testing an M2 Pro Mac Mini but have not mentioned an M2 Max version, so we’re skeptical that the Mac Mini will get that chip at this stage.

Features: More ports and monitor support

The port selection in the rear of a Mac Mini.

The new chips won’t just mean more power — they will also affect the features you can expect to find in the upcoming Mac Mini. That’s because they control a number of things beyond simply raw performance, such as the port selection and external monitor support.

While the M1 Mac Mini was a step up over its Intel predecessor in almost every way, it had one notable drawback: Instead of the four Thunderbolt ports the Intel model offered, the M1 edition only came with two. The most likely explanation is that that was a limitation imposed by the chip itself.

There are no such worries on Macs with M1 Pro and M1 Max chips. The 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pros, for example, offer three Thunderbolt ports compared to the two found on the M1 MacBook Pro. And according to both Mark Gurman and Jon Prosser, the Mac Mini will also get a more generous port selection.

While Gurman has been coy about the exact port arrangement, Prosser has laid his cards on the table: Four Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, two USB-A slots, one Ethernet port, and one HDMI port is his prediction, and that matches the offering on the current Intel-based model. There could also be a MagSafe-style power adapter like the one on the 24-inch iMac, Prosser believes.

The M1 Pro and M1 Max chips could fix another annoyance linked to the M1 chip: The poor support for external monitors. Every M1 Mac is limited to one external display (barring the Mac Mini itself, but that’s only thanks to its HDMI port). That’s something we lamented in our M1 MacBook Air review, and it isn’t really good enough these days.

Luckily, the latest Apple chips have remedied this situation. The M1 Pro allows up to two 6K displays to be attached to the 2021 MacBook Pro, while the M1 Max can support up to four monitors (three 6K and one 4K). With the Mac Studio, meanwhile, you can attach up to five external displays (four 6K and one 4K). The Mac Mini doesn’t come with its own display, so external monitor support is crucial — and the more you can connect, the better.

Editors’ Choice






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Categories
AI

New Relic allows enterprises to monitor ML model performance

Hear from CIOs, CTOs, and other C-level and senior execs on data and AI strategies at the Future of Work Summit this January 12, 2022. Learn more


San Francisco-based New Relic, a company that offers a cloud-based observability platform to help enterprises visualize, analyze, and optimize their entire software stack, has announced a solution to monitor the performance and accuracy of machine learning models in real-time.

In today’s data-driven landscape, organizations are heavily leaning towards AI and machine learning applications to improve business resilience and gain a competitive advantage. A recent survey conducted by IBM revealed that almost one-third of businesses are now using artificial intelligence, and as many as 43% have accelerated the rollout of AI as a result of COVID-19.

However, as the adoption continues to increase, the gap between data science teams developing ML models and DevOps teams operating those models is also increasing. The reason? Most engineers build and train models in siloed environments, resulting in reduced collaboration to monitor and govern the models in production. Such situations mean teams could fail to notice models that might be becoming irrelevant over time, particularly models based on static data, and consequently lose out on millions.

New Relic integrates model performance monitoring

To prevent this, New Relic is extending the capabilities of its flagship observability platform — New Relic One. The company said on Wednesday that the solution can now be enhanced with model performance monitoring integrations, providing data science and DevOps teams a single place to monitor and visualize model performance telemetry data, including critical signals such as recall, precision, and accuracy.

The platform, as New Relic’s General Manager for AIOps Guy Fighel explained in a blog post, is getting support to integrate popular MLOps frameworks such as AWS SageMaker, DataRobot (Algorithmia), Aporia, Superwise, Comet, Dagshub, Mona, and TruEra. Each of these would appear within New Relic Instant Observability (I/O) — an open-source ecosystem of quickstarts, integrations, and resources in New Relic One — and could be integrated within minutes, complete with custom performance dashboards and other observability building blocks.

This will ultimately allow companies to monitor their ML models and interdependencies with the rest of the application components and make necessary changes to ensure that the algorithms remain relevant in the long run — for maximum business impact.

New Relic also notes that data science and DevOps teams can use the offering to enable predictive alerts for unusual model-related changes in advance. This way, once the issue is detected, they could collaborate in the production environment to contextualize the situation and take decisions to address the problem.

“We are committed to making observability a daily best practice for every engineer, and with the launch of New Relic Model Performance Monitoring, we deliver the only unified data observability platform that gives Data Science and DevOps teams unprecedented visibility into the performance of their machine-learning-based applications,” Fighel said.

Growing space

The development comes as the latest step from New Relic to strengthen its footprint in the enterprise observability space and take on players like Dynatrace and DataDog. Back in February, the company had added a visualization tool called Explorer to make it simpler for IT professionals to discover the root cause of issues.

Globally, the IT monitoring and observability market is estimated to be a $17 billion market opportunity.

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