Categories
Computing

Why the M1 Is Intel’s True Rival For Alder Lake and Beyond

There have been two major CPU announcements in the past couple of weeks — Apple’s M1 Pro and M1 Max and today, the Intel 12th-gen Alder Lake platform. Although two different CPU generations with different purposes, Apple and Intel are in hot competition with each other, even if that competition isn’t direct.

These two platforms are more alike than they may seem, which could shift the balance of power in the CPU market. For decades, it has been a matchup between Intel and AMD. Apple is a new competitor in the ring, which is something that Intel recognized with the launch of Alder Lake.

AMD is resting on its laurels, which might pay off in the short term. Going forward, though, hybrid CPU architectures are what will dominate desktop and mobile platforms. Here’s why.

M1 Max and Alder Lake: More alike than different

Intel’s 12th-gen Alder Lake chips and Apple’s M1 range both use hybrid architectures. Sure, Intel uses an x86 instruction set while Apple uses the ARM instruction set, but both ranges of processors drive toward a similar goal: Increase performance and efficiency by putting the right workload on the right core.

If you’re unfamiliar, a hybrid CPU combines performant (P) cores and efficient (E) cores onto a single processor. This design — known as big.LITTLE — was pioneered by chip designer ARM, and you can find it in nearly all mobile devices available today. Apple brought that design to laptops and desktops, and now Intel is following suit.

Intel actually tried this concept a couple of years back with Lakefield, but the range never got off the ground. Intel only made two Lakefield chips, and they only showed up in a few laptops like the Galaxy Book S. Alder Lake is different. It uses a hybrid architecture, but it keeps the same improved P-cores you’d find in a typical CPU generation.

Although it’s tempting to throw more fast cores at a processor to improve performance, that’s not the best way to go about things. Small workloads, background tasks, and simple calculations don’t need such powerful cores. The result is that P-cores end up sharing bandwidth with low priority tasks instead of focusing resources on the most important tasks at hand.

That’s what makes hybrid architectures different. The P-cores can focus on the big, important tasks while the E-cores handle all of the minute background tasks. The results speak for themselves. Phones now use the latest chip-making technology, not computers, and Apple’s M1 chip — which is basically a tricked-out mobile chip — manages to outperform its Intel predecessors while staying cooler and consuming less power.

Intel sees the writing on the walls. The company hasn’t been shy about pointing out Apple as its true competitor in the future, not AMD. Meanwhile, AMD continues to stick with architectures that focus on fast cores and a lot of them instead of focusing on a hybrid approach.

The true competitor

MacBook Pro laptops.

Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger has made one thing clear since returning to Intel: Apple is the competition, not AMD. In an interview from October, Gelsinger made that crystal: “We ultimately see the real competition [is] to enable the ecosystem to compete with Apple.”

Apple has used its own silicon in mobile devices dating back to the original iPhone. But it wasn’t until the M1 chip replaced Intel’s options in MacBooks, the iMac, and the iMac Mini that Intel started to change its stance. In a recent interview, Gelsinger said that was ultimately a good move. “They moved the core of their product line to their own M1 and, you know, its derivative family because they thought they could do a better chip. And they’ve done a good job with that.”

Gelsinger says the ultimate goal is to “win them back,” which requires making a chip that outperforms the M1 — or whatever future generation Apple is on — with higher efficiency and similar power draw. Apple has little incentive to switch back to Intel. For that, Intel has to make chips that are too good to ignore.

Alder Lake looks like a paradigm shift for Intel, and if leaked benchmarks are accurate, the mobile chips could outperform Apple’s M1 Max. It’s important to recognize that Alder Lake is part of a larger strategy for Intel, though. The company has shared its road map through 2025, and it’s filled with hybrid.

AMD hasn’t been as clear about its roadmap, likely because it doesn’t need to be. With desktop and server leadership, AMD is sitting cozy at the moment. For now, we know that AMD’s next-generation Ryzen 6000 chips won’t use a hybrid architecture. AMD has suggested that hybrid still needs work, and has pointed the finger at hybrid architectures as a marketing ploy to “have a bigger number.”

It’s true that hybrid needs work, mainly to optimize the operating system’s scheduler to handle each core type appropriately. Apple has clearly done some work on that front, and Intel worked with Microsoft to optimize Windows 11 for Alder Lake’s Thread Director feature. We’ll just have to wait until Alder Lake is here to see if that work will pay off.

Regardless, it’s clear Intel is looking forward. Guided by marketing or a chance at market leadership, it doesn’t matter: Intel is driving after Apple, and AMD is still driving after Intel. I don’t know who’s gambit will pay off. But I do know that Apple is leaving Intel and AMD in the dust, and Intel is the only one talking about it right now.

Hybrid is the wave of the future

Render of Intel Alder Lake chip.

With the launch of Alder Lake, Intel has shown that hybrid is here to stay. Apple is continuing to develop its own hybrid chips, and Intel will continue doing the same for the next few years. Early murmurs suggest AMD could use a hybrid architecture on its Zen 5 CPUs — the generation after Ryzen 6000 — but that’s a couple of years off, at least.

Intel has made some big claims about Alder Lake — identical multi-threaded performance as 11th-gen chips at less than a fourth of the power, up to a 47% improvement when multi-tasking, and up to double the content creation performance as the previous generation. Some of that is on the back of Intel’s new manufacturing process. However, a lot of it comes from Alder Lake’s high core counts and hybrid architecture.

As long as AMD and Intel are making chips, they’ll be compared to each other. With Intel’s switch to a hybrid architecture, though, it’s clear that the company sees a new challenger approaching — one it used to call a partner. If Intel’s performance claims are true, Alder Lake will take the fight to Apple. And if that battle pays off, AMD will likely follow suit.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Computing

Intel NUC 11 Extreme Review: A True Mini Gaming PC

Intel Beast Canyon NUC 11 Extreme review: A true mini gaming PC

MSRP $1,180.00

“The NUC 11 Extreme is too expensive, but that still doesn’t hold it back.”

Pros

  • Stays quiet
  • Solid processor performance
  • Support for full-size graphics cards
  • Excellent connectivity

Cons

  • Too expensive
  • Larger than previous NUCs

There’s an empty space on my desk where my gaming PC used to live, now occupied by Intel’s NUC 11 Extreme, otherwise known as Beast Canyon. It’s a barebones kit of welcome compromises, balancing desktop-like performance with a form factor that’s smaller than a recent game console.

It’s too expensive, inconvenient to work with compared to a full-size machine, and slightly underpowered put up against a desktop chip. But I can’t stop using the NUC 11 Extreme. It’s a smartly designed PC that makes concessions only where necessary, and it’s fit to exist in a category all its own.

That doesn’t mean Beast Canyon is for everyone. It’s targeted at a very particular market — those with an affinity for tinkering that don’t mind paying up for interesting designs. That said, if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty (and you have a spare graphics card to put inside), the NUC 11 Extreme is excellent.

Design

The side of an Intel NUC 11 Extreme.

Intel first unveiled the NUC, or Next Unit of Computing, concept in 2012. Intel provides the bones of the PC, including the power supply, motherboard, and processor, and you bring everything else (including RAM, storage, and with recent NUCs, a graphics card). The heart of the PC is the compute element, which you can slot out like a graphics card.

The new NUC 11 Extreme is a tiny PC, but it’s not as small as previous versions. The 8-liter chassis measures 14.1 inches long, 7.1 inches high, and 4.7 inches wide. The NUC 9 Extreme is taller at 8.5 inches but much shorter and slightly less wide. It also doesn’t support full-size graphics cards as Beast Canyon does.

That’s the trade-off with Beast Canyon. It’s larger than previous NUCs and other mini PCs, but it supports a full-length graphics card. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, and I’m happy with the compromises Intel made. As I’ll get to in the upcoming sections, the NUC 11 Extreme still punches above its weight class despite the slightly larger size.

That’s clear when comparing it to other small form factor options. The Cooler Master MasterBox NR200P is one of the smaller mini ITX cases that supports a full-size GPU, and it’s still 10 liters larger than the NUC 11 Extreme. There are smaller NUC cases like the Razer Tomahawk, but that machine comes with an older compute element and at a premium over the NUC 11 Extreme.

The star of the show is a massive RGB skull on the front of the NUC 11, which joins ambient RGB strips lighting the bottom of the case. You can, thankfully, tweak and turn off the LEDs if you want. The bundled NUC Software Studio allows you to independently control the skull, as well as the front, right, and left LEDs.

Skull on the Intel NUC 11 Extreme.

It’s a decent suite, allowing you to set a solid color or set standard RGB modes like strobing or breathing. Also in the NUC Software Studio, you can monitor system temperature and usage, change your fan curve, and switch between processor performance modes.

Although the NUC Software Studio presents a decent list of options, it’s a little buggy. Jumping around the software is easy enough, but it would consistently hang for a second or two after I changed any setting. It’s not a deal-breaker, but the NUC Software Studio doesn’t feel great to use.

For my testing, I stayed on the Balanced fan mode to see the curve Intel intended. There’s a trio of 92mm fans under the top panel to keep everything cool, and they never got loud enough to bother me while testing (even in a Cinebench R23 loop). They make noise, but the NUC 11 Extreme is remarkably quiet given its size. While answering email or just hanging out online, the NUC 11 Extreme was silent.

Connectivity

Intel could have trimmed down on the number of ports with the NUC 11 Extreme, but it didn’t. As is the case with a lot of aspects of the kit, you’re giving up surprisingly little compared to a full-size desktop. You’re spoiled for port options with the NUC 11 Extreme, and in some ways, it goes beyond some full-size PCs.

Front ports on Intel NUC 11 Extreme.

Up front, you have quick access to two USB 3.1 ports, a headphone/microphone combo jack, and an SDXC card slot. That proved to be enough in my testing, though I missed a front panel USB-C connection. I often use a Samsung T5 external SSD to swap games between PCs, and it would’ve been nice to just throw it in front of the case.

Instead, I had to connect it in the back, but that wasn’t a problem. Even in this small of a size, Intel manages to cram six USB 3.1 Gen 2 ports, 2.5G Ethernet, and two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the back of the case. The motherboard also includes an HDMI 2.0b output in case you want to use the integrated graphics.

Of course, the HDMI out isn’t all you have access to if you slot in a video card. It’s only there to provide the option for integrated graphics, so if you add a graphics card, you’ll have access to the ports that it has, too. In the case of the RTX 3060 inside my review unit, that included a single HDMI and three DisplayPort outputs.

Back ports on Intel NUC 11 Extreme.

Over the NUC 9 Extreme, this unit adds another two USB ports in the back and upgrades the Thunderbolt ports from Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 4. Even if you run out of ports — which is unlikely given the eight USB ports surrounding the case — you can always throw a Thunderbolt dock into the equation to expand your connectivity further.

For wireless connectivity, the NUC 11 Extreme includes Intel’s AX201 chip, which provides dual-band Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2.

Internals

Intel offers the NUC in two configurations: Either with a Core i7-11700B or Core i9-11900KB. As is the case with all NUCs, you’ll need to bring your own graphics card, SSD, RAM, and operating system. Everything else you need is already inside the compute element or the case. That includes a 650W 80+ Gold power supply and an Intel AX201 chip.

CPU Intel Core i9-11900KB or Intel Core i7-11700B
GPU Support for full-size, dual-slot GPU or Intel UHD 750
Memory Up to 64GB of dual-channel SO-DIMM DDR4
Storage Up to two PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSDs, up to two PCIe 3.0 M.2 SSDs
Power supply 650W 80+ Gold
USB ports Up to 12, eight included
Thunderbolt ports Two Thunderbolt 4
Networking 2.5G Ethernet, dual-band Wi-Fi 6
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.2
Ports Headphone/microphone jack, SDXC reader, HDMI 2.0b

My review unit came kitted out with the Core i9-11900KB compute element, which is a beefed-up laptop chip that’s part of the 10nm Tiger Lake family. In short, you shouldn’t confuse it with the desktop Core i9-11900K, which is built using Intel’s 14nm process and requires over twice the power.

The Core i9-11900KB is a 65W chip, but it still comes with eight cores and 16 threads, and it can turbo up to 4.9GHz based on Intel’s specs. My chip never reached that speed during testing, but it got close at just above 4.8GHz. The slightly cheaper Core i7-11700B still comes with eight cores and 16 threads, but a slightly lower clock speed.

Both chips come with integrated graphics, but I was disappointed to find that they use Intel UHD graphics, not Iris Xe like many mobile Tiger Lake chips. As I’ll get to in a bit, you need a discrete GPU if you want any reasonable gaming performance out of Beast Canyon.

Otherwise the NUC 11 Extreme supports what you can bring to it. That includes up to 64GB of dual-channel DDR4 laptop memory (SO-DIMM), a dual-slot graphics card, and up to four M.2 SSDs, one of which you’ll need to install in the compute element.

Opening everything up is a breeze. There’s some nice attention to detail on Intel’s part here, including the tiny captive screws holding on the back plate, a handy door for unlatching the compute element, and an SSD slot on the bottom so you can quickly upgrade your storage.

Intel NUC 11 Extreme without a GPU installed.

Once you have the side panels off, the NUC 11 Extreme opens up to provide unprecedented access in this small of a form. The top panel, which holds three fans, flips up to give you clearance around all parts of the case. And there’s not a lot going on inside.

Most of the PC lives inside the compute element, so you’re left with a small, specially designed motherboard, the power supply, the compute element, and GPU if you have one installed. The NUC 11 Extreme has exactly what it needs, trimming the fat that often comes along with small builds.

It’s not without issues, though. The latch for the graphics card PCIe slot is almost impossible to reach with a card installed. I had to push the back end of a screwdriver between the GPU and the compute element to get it open, and you have to remove the GPU before getting at the compute element.

Support for full-size graphics cards should come with a big asterisk, as well. It’s true that you can slot a full-length, dual-slot GPU into the NUC 11 Extreme, but that’s it. That doesn’t take into account the extra modular power cables, either, which need to share the space with the tail end of the GPU.

The NUC 11 Extreme has exactly what it needs, trimming the fat that often comes along with small builds.

Dual-slot is the limit, though. If your cooler even protrudes slightly past the dual-slot mark, it won’t fit in the NUC 11 Extreme. Nvidia Founder’s Edition cards might pose an issue, too. The RTX 3080, for example, has a fan on both sides. One fan would be directly against the back side of the power supply in that case.

Overall, though, this is the most pleasant small form factor experience I’ve ever had. I have a few niggles with the graphics card slot and the extra cables, but those are easy to overlook with the clear attention Intel paid to the building experience. The NUC 11 Extreme continues to make a case for barebones, small form PCs.

The most disappointing part of the NUC 11 Extreme is that you can’t buy it complete. Adding RAM, an SSD, and Windows is easy enough, but Beast Canyon really shines with a GPU installed. And adding the price of an expensive graphics card on top of the already high price of the NUC 11 Extreme is a tough sell.

The premium makes sense, though. You can’t build anything quite like the NUC 11 Extreme with off-the-shelf parts. If you’re willing to shop around and have a mini ITX graphics card, though, there are options like the Velka 3 that are actually smaller than the NUC 11 Extreme.

Processor performance

Getting down to the raw power of Beast Canyon, it’s more powerful than I expected. The Core i9-11900KB isn’t quite on the level of a full desktop part, but it doesn’t need to be in this small of a package. There’s a small trade-off, but it’s much smaller than it should be considering the size of Beast Canyon.

I started testing with PCMark 10, which provides a nice overview of performance across a long list of tasks. The NUC 11 Extreme earned an overall score of 7,520, which is just slightly off the MSI Aegis RS 10 —  a mid-tower desktop packing a full-size Core i9-10900K. It handily beat the flagship Tiger Lake chip in the HP Elite Dragonfly Max, too, scoring nearly 3,000 more points.

Compute element in Intel NUC 11 Extreme.

PCMark 10 is demanding, too. The processor reached a maximum temperature of 93 degrees Celsius during the benchmark, but it never downclocked. Even when slammed, my i9-11900KB continued to boost slightly above 4.8GHz.

Cinebench R23 came next, which pushes processors to their limits by forcing them to render a complex 3D image. Here, the Core i9-11900KB earned a single-core score of 1,636 and a multi-core score of 11,424. The multi-core score is on the high end, though a desktop Core i9-10900K can still outpace it by about 30%. Any other Tiger Lake chip, however, doesn’t even come close.

The Core i9-11900KB actually beat the desktop Core i9-10900K in the single-core test by about 23%. Although a strong showing, Cinebench revealed some weaknesses of Intel’s design. The Core i9-11900KB peaked at its maximum operating temperature of 100 degrees Celsius — according to HWiNFO64 — before downclocking to 3.4GHz. Even with a solid cooling solution, the NUC 11 Extreme is susceptible to throttling when pushed to the limit.

GeekBench 5 isn’t nearly as demanding, and the NUC 11 Extreme once again showed its power. Similar to PCMark 10, the Core i9-11900KB beat the desktop Core i9-10900K in the single-core test and came in a close second in the multi-core one. It shot way ahead of the NUC 9 Extreme, too, beating the older unit by around 23%.

It’s a competent counterpoint to a desktop chip, and performs far above any other Tiger Lake offering available.

Handbrake told a similar tale. The NUC 11 Extreme shaved 13 seconds off our encoding time of the Elysium trailer compared to the NUC 9 Extreme. That said, Handbrake showed that the Core i9-11900KB is still, at its core, a mobile part. Compared to the desktop Core i9-10900K, the chip was a full 30 seconds slower.

Finally, I turned to PugetBench for Premiere Pro to see how the NUC 11 Extreme would handle video editing. This kind of machine seems perfect for the task, and my results back that up. Overall, it scored above a desktop Core i9-10900K configured with an RTX 3060 and 32GB of RAM. That’s mostly on the back of smooth playback performance, however, as the NUC 11 Extreme fell short of the desktop in the export and GPU scores.

You’re not getting the full performance of a desktop chip with the NUC 11 Extreme, but at less than half the wattage, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s a competent counterpoint to a desktop chip, and performs far above any other Tiger Lake offering available. Heat was an issue in Cinebench, but that benchmark is a bit of a stress test. You shouldn’t experience throttling in most tasks.

Gaming performance

I only ran a few gaming tests with the NUC 11 Extreme because it doesn’t actually ship with a graphics card. Your performance is going to depend on what you slot inside. Still, I wanted to get an overview of how the RTX 3060 inside my review unit would stack up against one inside a full desktop. And good for Intel, there’s virtually no difference.

The NUC 11 Extreme averaged exactly the same frame rate as a desktop configured with a Core i9-10900K and RTX 3060 in Fortnite at 1080p Epic settings. Up to 1440p, only three frames separated the NUC 11 Extreme from the desktop, with the NUC averaging 83 fps (frames per second) and the desktop averaging 86 fps.

Intel NUC 11 opened up.

That was the case in Civilization VI, too, where the NUC averaged 141 fps at 1080p Ultra and the desktop averaged 143 fps. At 1440p with the same settings, the two machines were within a frame of each other. The NUC 11 Extreme’s side panel offers plenty of air to the GPU, and based on my limited range of tests, cards should perform about as well as they do in a desktop.

If you order a NUC, you won’t get this performance without adding a graphics card. The UHD graphics inside the Core i9-11900KB are pitifully slow for gaming. They’re available, but a bit of a non-option. In fact, I couldn’t complete my 1440p tests because the integrated graphics simply wouldn’t hold up.

3DMark Time Spy showed just how much of a difference there is. With the RTX 3060 installed, the NUC 11 Extreme earned an overall score of 8,953. With the GPU out, the machine scored just 828 points, less than a 10th of what the RTX 3060 could manage. I couldn’t push past 1080p High settings in Fortnite, either, with the integrated GPU averaging just 15 fps.

Civilization VI was a little better at 1080p with Medium settings, but even then, the UHD graphics averaged just 23 fps. The integrated graphics aren’t good for gaming unless you’re willing to drop down to 720p and run at Low settings, and even then, some games may struggle.

You’re clearly supposed to add a GPU to the NUC 11 Extreme. The integrated graphics aren’t very good, but the good news is that you’re giving up virtually nothing between a full-size desktop and the NUC 11 when it comes to GPU performance. The design of the chassis allows plenty of air inside, so most cards should hold up.

Our take

The NUC 11 Extreme is excellent — as long as you can deal with its high price. The kit starts at $1,150 for the i7-11700B, and that doesn’t include an operating system, RAM, an SSD, or critically, a graphics card. Add those into the mix, and you’re looking at a machine that easily costs over $2,000, and that’s without a high-end GPU.

It’s way too expensive, but that’s kind of the point. You already know if the NUC 11 Extreme is for you. It’s not a machine that’s trying to hit a certain price or offer a certain value. Instead, it showcases excellent small form factor design, a unique way to lay out a computer, and performance that gives even full-size desktops a run for their money.

If you’ve been looking at the NUC with envy, it will deliver on your expectations — given that you have a graphics card to slot inside.

Are there any alternatives?

There are other mini PCs, but nothing quite like the NUC 11 Extreme. Unless you seek out a boutique case and configure your own rig, there isn’t another machine that crams as much power as the NUC 11 Extreme does in this small of a case. Most mini ITX cases are not only larger, but also more difficult to work with.

That said, you can save some money by building your own machine if you’re OK with a slightly larger case or can settle for a mini ITX GPU.

How long will it last?

The point of a NUC is that you’ll be able to upgrade it with a new compute element over time. Assuming Intel continues delivering them, you’ll be able to use the NUC 11 Extreme until the power supply gives out.

Should you buy it?

Yes, as long as you know what you’re getting into. The NUC 11 Extreme isn’t just a mini PC, so if you’re looking for something you can set up and forget, a machine like the M1 Mac Mini is probably better.

Editors’ Choice




Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Game

Five ways Valve’s Steam Deck seems too good to be true

Today we’re looking at the Valve Steam Deck, a gaming machine with built-in game controls that runs SteamOS. This device’s industrial design owes to several machines that’ve found some measure of success in the past – the Sega Game Gear, Razer Project Fiona, and the most obviously similar recent powerhouse of a device like this: Nintendo Switch. But might this be a device that’s too idyllic to make it to gamer hands in the real world?

5. Could this be the one that sticks?

If you take a peek at Razer’s Project Fiona, you’ll find a gaming tablet with controllers at its sides. That machine ran a Steam-style game manager on top of Windows – and never really caught on with the gaming masses. That might’ve been released a bit earlier than it should have, back in the year 2012. Something about that combination of software and hardware didn’t quite capture the public’s imagination – or didn’t do so well enough to make it viable enough for more than one attempt.

SEE TOO: Steam Console news tipped by Gabe Newell

The Steam Deck concept – complete with remote game streaming – could also be compared in part to an earlier machine-and-software combo in the NVIDIA SHIELD handheld gaming system. We were remotely streaming AAA games with this device back in 2014. That device could – and still DOES – have the ability to stream games from a user’s Steam account.

Something about the idea that one would have a smart game streaming device with built-in controllers did not work for more than a single generation with major gaming companies NVIDIA and Razer. What makes the Steam Deck different in 2021?

4. Were Steam Machines just a dream?

It was October of 2013 when Valve started talking about Steam Machines. Those were computers/consoles that’d run SteamOS. They went so far as to reveal and release a few – from top-tier PC manufacturers. Over the next half-decade, we remained hopeful that the Steam Machine would… somehow… keep on trucking. But by April of 2018, it was entirely clear that Steam Machines weren’t going to be what Valve envisioned.

Why should a device sold by Valve, running SteamOS here in late 2021 and early 2022 be any different from the Steam Machines we never really saw take hold over the past near-decade? Will the built-in display make a difference? Will it make a difference that Valve itself is overseeing manufacturing and effectively promising quality software?

3. Can this device really run whatever?

It’s difficult to imagine a new device released running a software that’s different from the operating systems we use all the time, every single day of the year. Especially when the software requires that its maker keep a keen eye on development, it requires faith in the creator of said software that the user would invest in the device.

On the other hand, this device isn’t particularly locked down. As noted by official SteamWorks documentation, “Steam Deck is a PC, and players will be able to install whatever they like, including other OSes.” As such, you could potentially install whatever other game or app stores you like – it’s your device, you can do what you want with it. Will this sort off allowance of freedom in a piece of hardware like this change the way competing gaming devices are expected to do business?

2. Will developers use all of these buttons?

Early Steam Deck developer kits look a whole lot like the imagery that appears on the main Steam Deck webpage. This indicates – but does not guarantee – that this device will be what the machine looks like when it’s ready for public use. UPDATE: Valve has confirmed that “functionally”, the Steam Deck Developer Kit EV2 (engineering verification test build) will be “identical to the Steam Decks that will be shipping to customers later this year.”

The Steam Deck has several hardware controls on it, and, thanks to extensive work with controller integration, it’ll have the ability to work with 3rd-party controllers, too. The controllers on the sides of the Steam Deck are not removable, but the entire device is able to dock and output video signals, as it is effectively a tiny gaming PC. There’ll eventually be an “official dock” with what Valve’s indicated will include ports like USB-C, HDMI, DisplayPort, ethernet, and full-sized USB.

Controls on the Steam Deck include a 7-inch touchscreen, trackpads (effectively Steam Controller touchpads), gyroscope (detecting position of the machine as you move in real space), as well as joysticks, directional pad, XYAB buttons, triggers, and grip buttons. Grip buttons appear under the rim, on the back for the fingers that grip the sides of the machine. Will games actually make use of all the controls, or will some remain un-used while others are used non-stop?

1. Could the price be right?

Steam Deck’s most basic iteration has a listed price of $399 USD. That includes 64GB eMMC internal storage and a hardware carrying case. Each of the first wave of Steam Deck have the same processor, a custom AMD APU with AMD Zen 2 + RDNA 2 GPU with 16GB LPDDR5 RAM. All models include a microSD card slot for storage expansion.

The middle-tier version of Valve’s Steam Deck has 256 GB NVMe SSD (PCIe Gen 3 x4) storage (that’s faster than the eMMC in the most basic model). This version also has the basic carrying case, and adds an “Exclusive Steam Community profile bundle”. The middle-tier model will cost users around $529 USD.

The most extravagant version has a price of $649 USD, and includes 512GB “high-speed NVMe SSD” (PCIe Gen 3 x4). This is the fastest storage of the three. This version of the Steam Deck has an “Exclusive Steam Community profile” as well, and an Exclusive virtual keyboard theme, and an Exclusive carrying case. The most expensive version here has special “Premium anti-glare etched glass” over its display, too – so you’re getting that one hardware upgrade in addition to the faster (and larger amount of) storage.

Valve’s Steam Deck has a release date of December, 2021. That’s their “starts shipping” date, anyway. They’ve indicated that reservations open on July 16, 2021, at 10AM PDT. If this machine is everything Valve professes it will be, the least expensive version of the Steam Deck seems like a winning proposition. Avoiding the whole “different versions of the machine have different capabilities” mess that is Nintendo’s Switch Lite – and the like – seems like a positive move, too.

SIDENOTE: Should the display be better?

The touchscreen display panel on this machine is a 7-inch 1280 x 800px “optically bonded LCD for enhanced readability” with 60Hz refresh rate. That’s clearly aimed at gamers looking to make the most of the platform to win games, rather than people that tend to buy whatever smartphone is available with the most extravagant display panel. This device isn’t running with the 120Hz refresh rate we’ve seen on some recent smartphones and tablets, and it’s not going to be as bright or sharp as a display on a high-end Samsung slate, or an iPad Pro. But those devices aren’t really competing with the Steam Deck, are they?

Much like Nintendo Switch, the on-device display represents one of several ways to play games with the machine. It can be plugged in to a bigger display and used like a gaming console. It can be plugged in to a PC display and used like a desktop of sorts. Does that mean the display on the device doesn’t need to be as high-end as a dedicated tablet?

Repost: Original Source and Author Link

Categories
Tech News

Remember that research linking more screen time to depression? Not true

Even a casual follower of the news over the last few years is likely to have encountered stories about research showing that digital technologies like social media and smartphones are harming young people’s mental health. Rates of depression and suicide among young people have risen steadily since the mid-2000s, around the time that the first smartphones and social media platforms were being released. These technologies have become ubiquitous, and young people’s distress has continued to increase since then.

Many articles in the popular and academic press assert that digital technology is to blame. Some experts, including those recently featured in stories by majornewsoutlets, state that excessive use of digital technology is clearly linked to psychological distress in young people. To deny this connection, according to a prominent proponent of the link, is akin to denying the link between human activity and climate change.

In an effort to protect young people from the harms of digital tech, some politicians have introduced legislation that would, among other things, automatically limit users’ time spent on a social media platform to 30 minutes a day. If the evidence is so definitive that digital technology is harming America’s youth in such substantial ways, then reducing young people’s use of these devices could be one of the most important public health interventions in American history.

There’s just one problem: The evidence for a link between time spent using technology and mental health is fatally flawed.

Know thyself – easier said than done

Absent from the discussion about the putative harms of digital tech is the fact that practically all academic studies in this area have used highly flawed self-report measures. These measures typically ask people to give their best guesses about how often they used digital technologies over the past week or month or even year. The problem is that people are terrible at estimating their digital technology use, and there’s evidence that people who are psychologically distressed are even worse at it. This is understandable because it’s very hard to pay attention to and accurately recall something that you do frequently and habitually.

Researchers have recently begun to expose the discrepancy between self-reported and actual technology use, including for Facebook, smartphones, and the internet. My colleagues and I carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of discrepancies between actual and self-reported digital media use and found that self-reported use is rarely an accurate reflection of actual use.

This has enormous implications. Although measurement isn’t a sexy topic, it forms the foundation of scientific research. Simply put, to make conclusions – and subsequent recommendations – about something you’re studying, you must ensure you’re measuring the thing you’re intending to measure. If your measures are defective, then your data is untrustworthy. And if the measures are more inaccurate for certain people – like young people or those with depression – then the data is even more untrustworthy. This is the case for the majority of research into the effects of technology use over the past 15 years.

Imagine that everything known about the COVID-19 pandemic was based on people giving their best guesses about whether they have the virus, instead of highly reliable medical tests. Now imagine that people who actually have the virus are more likely to misdiagnose themselves. The consequences of relying on this unreliable measure would be far-reaching. The health effects of the virus, how it’s spreading, how to combat it – practically every bit of information gathered about the virus would be tainted. And the resources expended based on this flawed information would be largely wasted.

The uncomfortable truth is that shoddy measurement, as well as other methodological issues including inconsistent ways of conceiving of different types of digital tech use and research design that falls short of establishing a causal connection, is widespread. This means that the putative link between digital technology and psychological distress remains inconclusive.

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Tech News

Wyze Buds Pro true wireless earbuds offer ANC at a budget price

Wyze, the company that made a name for itself with its low-price home security cameras, has expanded its portfolio again, this time announcing the launch of its new Wyze Buds Pro true wireless earbuds. The new model has launched for preorder at $59.99 USD, which is a budget price considering the model’s Active Noise Cancellation feature.

The Wyze Buds Pro packs in a number of high-end features, including the promise of up to 18 hours of battery life (including the charging case battery) with Active Noise Cancellation turned on. Each earbud features a trio of microphones designed to ‘isolate and amplify’ the user’s voice when taking calls or using a personal assistant.

The Active Noise Cancellation is by far the most interesting feature; it offers 40dB ANC with wind noise reduction tech. Wyze includes a Transparency Mode that can be turned on with the press of a button to amplify ambient sounds, a safety feature for the times you’re out in public or need to hear someone talking nearby.

Wyze says that its new Wyze Buds Pro features 4.5 hours of battery life from a single charge with the ANC feature turned on; that number jumps to 6 hours with the ANC turned off. The case supports quick charging, giving the user an hour of audio playback for every 15 minutes spent in the case. The case likewise supports Qi wireless charging in addition to USB-C.

The Wyze Buds Pro model is offered in black for preorder at $59.99 USD, plus a $5.99 USD shipping cost for a total price of $65.98. The company says that preorders will start shipping to customers in July. The model ships with three silicone ear tip sizes.

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Tech News

Bowers & Wilkins P15 and P17 true wireless headphones are made for audiophiles

Bowers & Wilkins has introduced its new P15 and P17 true wireless earbuds featuring stunning designs and the promise of high-end audio performance. The models are targeted at audiophiles and include some notable features absent from more casual models, including Adaptive Noise Cancellation and wireless charging support.

The Bowers & Wilkins P17 is the leading model in this new lineup, boasting key features like Dual Hybrid Drive units and 24-bit audio processing for high-resolution audio experiences. The company claims these earbuds ‘work just like high-performance speakers,’ adding in things like Adaptive Noise Cancellation for maintaining the experience in different real-world settings.

The model features half a dozen microphones split between each earbud, enabling users to take calls using a touch interface in addition to the noise-cancellation function. The model is joined by a companion Smartcase that supports a wireless audio retransmission feature — meaning the case itself can be connected to a sound source and then transmit the audio to the earbuds.

Joining the P17 is the P15 model, which Bowers & Wilkins claims features “class-leading” quality when compared with other true wireless headphones. This model features Active Noise Cancellation and more than 24 hours of battery life, making them suitable for people who often keep their earbuds in all day. The companion case features rapid charging that offers another two hours of listening after 15 minutes of charging.

Both models can be used with the company’s companion app for user configuration, plus both support Google Assistant and Siri voice assistants. Likewise, both the P15 and P17 earbuds support pairing with multiple audio sources. Consumers can purchase the P15 and P17 true wireless earbuds now for $249 USD and $399 USD, respectively.

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Game

Life is Strange: True Colors revealed with a surprising shake-up

As promised, today Square Enix announced what’s next for the Life is Strange series. Life is Strange: True Colors is the name of the next game in the franchise, and it’ll be arriving later this year. Just as well, Square Enix will be remastering the original Life is Strange and Life is Strange: Before the Storm, but we don’t have a ton of details on those just yet.

What we do know is that Life is Strange: True Colors will focus on a new protagonist named Alex Chen, who will be attempting to solve the mystery behind her brother’s death. Alex has empathic psychic powers, and she’ll use those to uncover details about the accident that claimed her brother and the “dark secrets buried by the small town of Haven Springs.”

What, specifically, does having empathic psychic powers entail? According to Square Enix, Alex will be able to “experience, absorb and manipulate the strong emotions of others, which she sees as blazing, colored auras.” It sounds like Alex considers this power to be a curse rather than a gift, so she’ll probably spend some amount in the game coming to terms with her capabilities.

In something of a shake-up for the franchise, Life is Strange: True Colors won’t be split up into episodic releases. The game will be playable from start to finish when it releases on September 10th, and it’ll be available on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC, and Stadia with pre-orders opening today.

Those remasters of Life is Strange and Before the Storm will be bundled together in the Life is Strange Remastered Collection, which at first will only be available as part of the $79.99 True Colors Ultimate Edition. Square Enix says that the Remastered Collection will be available as a standalone game in the future, but we don’t have any details on when that will happen. We’ll keep an eye out for more information from Square Enix, so stay tuned for that.

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Tech News

If this March Apple event leak is true, OnePlus has reason to worry

Now that March is here, we’re getting into spring reveal event territory, and today we may have learned the date for the next Apple event. Assuming today’s rumor turns out to be true, that event could just be a couple of weeks away. We’re also hearing about the devices Apple might announce during this event, so thanks to think leak, we could already have a very good idea of what to expect from Apple’s next event.

On Twitter today, Youtuber and noted leaker Jon Prosser suggested that Apple’s next event will be happening on March 23rd. Previous leaks suggested a March 16th date for the event, so even though the leaked information seems to agree that the event is happening at some point in March, Prosser’s leak moves the date back a bit.

In a follow-up tweet, Prosser says a “reliable source” told him that AirTags, iPad Pro, AirPods, and Apple TV are all “ready.” We’re told to “take that however you like,” though the suggestions certainly seems to be that any or all of these products could be revealed during Apple’s event.

It’s worth pointing out that, should this date turn out to be correct, Apple won’t be the only company hosting a reveal event on March 23rd. OnePlus has also confirmed that it will be fully revealing the OnePlus 9 lineup on March 23rd, so if Apple is indeed plotting the same date for its own event and neither company reschedules, that will be a packed day in the world of consumer technology.

We’ll see what Apple announces, but if this event is happening at some point in March, then we should get official word of it soon. We’ll let you know when that official word comes down the pipeline, so stay tuned for more.

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Tech News

Apple iCloud bug locks user with “True” surname

Many computer software, be it locally or on the cloud, are designed to take into account ways that people, intentionally or not, could break the system. Programmers tend to account for potential errors in human input or intentional methods of gaming the system, but it’s statistically impossible to be prepared for all of them. One strange case, in particular, has seemingly locked an Apple iCloud user from her account for months, just because Apple cloud storage software wasn’t prepared to handle someone whose last name happens to be “True”.

In many computer languages, “true” is a reserved keyboard to denote something that is, well, true. Of course, that is also a normal and often-used word in the English language and may even be someone’s name. Unfortunately, a single capitalization mistake seems to have made iCloud’s software mistake one for the other and lock Rachel True out of her account.

The author took to Twitter to express her frustration at a months-long problem that didn’t have any end in sight. Her surname is “True” but, whether by her own mistake or the system’s, was changed to “true” somewhere in the process. That, in turn, was interpreted by the software as an actual part of the code and triggered a bug that locked her out of her iCloud account.

This would have been a funny anecdote if not for the fact that Ms. True has been trying to get that situation fixed since September last year to no avail. In the meantime, she was still paying the monthly subscription fee for Apple iCloud despite not having access to it, probably just to keep her files intact. According to some programmers, what looks like a trivial issue may not actually be that simple to fix, especially if it means touching a cloud-based service used by thousands of users around the world.

The somewhat good news is that all the media attention finally got True part of her intended results. Apple said they will get back to her next week, hopefully with a real and more permanent solution.



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Tech News

Marshall Mode II true wireless earbuds offer ‘thunderous’ audio

Marshall, the company known for its old-school amps and modern personal audio devices, has introduced Mode II, its first pair of true wireless earbuds. The model comes with the company’s signature black-and-gold design, as well as a unique charging case that packs an elongated design and retro cover.

The Marshall Mode II true wireless earbuds feature an in-ear design, a small charging case, and the promise of ‘thunderous’ audio in addition to wireless voice experiences. The device features a rubberized finish that Marshall describes as durable, as well as an IPX4 water-resistant rating for use in rain or while exercising.

Users can expect five hours of playback from the earpieces, as well as up to four more full charges from the case for a combined total of around 25 hours of playback. The model features Bluetooth 5.1 connectivity, as well as touch controls for accessing voice assistants, transparency mode, controlling audio, and answering calls.

As with competing models, the Mode II features customizable ear tips so that users can get the ideal fit. The earbuds pack 6mm dynamic drivers, a frequency range of 20Hz to 20kHz, and customizable EQ settings accessible in the companion app.

Marshall’s new true wireless product, while still affordable, skews toward the more expensive end of the market at $179 USD. This model joins the company’s Mode, Mode EQ, and Minor II Bluetooth earbuds, which are tethered with a wire, as well as several on-ear headphones, including the Monitor, Monitor Bluetooth, Major III, Major III Voice, Monitor II ANC, and more.

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