Pine64 today announced that its Quartz64 single-board computer is now available and revealed a system-on-module (SoM) based on that design called the SOQuartz.
The company said in February that the Quartz64 model-A would feature a Rockchip RK3566 SoC, a veritable smorgasbord of ports, and between 2GB and 8GB of LPDDR4 memory in a board measuring 5.2 x 3.1 x 0.7 inches (133 x 80 x 19mm).
Pine64 isn’t offering any Quartz64 models with 2GB of RAM at launch, however, opting instead for a 4GB model that costs $60 and an 8GB model that costs $80. It didn’t say when a base model featuring 2GB of memory is expected to debut, either.
The Quartz64 model-B is supposed to arrive “in the coming months.” Pine64 said the model-B will feature either a “BL-602 RISC-V 802.11n and BLE 5.0 module, currently undergoing open-sourcing, or an AP6256 802.11ac WiFi + Bluetooth 5.0 module.”
Meet the SOQuartz
Quartz64 laid the foundation for a new SoM called the SOQuartz. The new device should look awful familiar to Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 owners.
”On the bottom of the PCB you will find the now industry-standard 100-pin high density connectors,” it said. ”This means that it will be possible to use the SOQuartz as a drop-in replacement for the most popular solution on the market.”
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Put directly: SOQuartz could possibly be a drop-in replacement for the Raspberry Pi Compute Module 4 as the pair appear to be based on the same connector, but hardware and software compatibility is still unknown at this time.
Pine64 said the SOQuartz will feature the RK3566 SoC, the Azurewave AW-CM256SM WiFi 802.11ac Bluetooth and WiFi module with a U.FL antenna connector, and the option of using its eMMC modules or shipping with soldered-on storage.
SOQuartz appears to be in the prototyping stage. Pine64 didn’t offer additional details about the SoM’s specs, expected release date, or price.
Screenshots of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 11 operating system have appeared online today. Originally published at Chinese site Baidu, the screenshots show off the new Windows 11 user interface and Start menu. The UI changes look very similar to what was originally found in Windows 10X before Microsoft canceled that project in favor of Windows 11.
App icons are now centered on the taskbar, with a new Start button and menu. The Start menu is a simplified version of what currently exists in Windows 10, without Live Tiles. It includes pinned apps and the ability to quickly shut down or restart Windows 11 devices. The operating system is identified as Windows 11 Pro in screenshots, and we can confirm they are genuine.
While Microsoft canceled its Windows 10X operating system, the company is clearly reusing large parts of that work with Windows 11. Windows 10X was originally designed for dual-screen devices, before shifting towards traditional laptops and then being canceled. Windows 10X included a number of refined and simplified aspects to Windows, and some of those are present in the leaked screenshots.
Microsoft has been dropping hints that it’s ready to launch Windows 11. The software giant is holding a special Windows event to reveal its next OS on June 24th. The event starts at 11AM ET, and the event invite includes a window that creates a shadow with an outline that looks like the number 11. Microsoft execs have also been teasing a “next generation of Windows” announcement for months, and one even described it as a “new version of Windows” recently. Microsoft also teased Windows 11 during an 11-minute video last week.
(Pocket-lint) – It’s probably no surprise that the Realme GT’s international reveal happened just one day after the OnePlus Nord CE hit the headlines. Because, while the GT isn’t a direct competitor – it’s actually more powerful than OnePlus’ more budget offering – it’s certainly a handset that wants to lead the young brand’s charge on OnePlus’ ongoing dominance in the alt-flagship space.
It’s even pulled the same old-hat promotional tagline – “flagship killer” – which is rather cheeky. But that gives Realme a platform upon which to stand. It is a bit cheeky. It has previously released phones with eye-slapping phrases plastered on them – we lambasted the Realme 8 Pro for its ‘Dare To Leap’ slogan. It’s that bit different, that bit of fun.
With the Realme GT the company is looking to enter the fast lane – the ‘Grand Tourer’ name reference name says it all really – for this alt-flagship has top-tier Qualcomm processing power, a more grown-up looking vegan leather finish than earlier Realme devices, and arrives at a price point that could make you pay attention to this brand over better-established products such as, say, a Moto G100 or Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite.
Design & Display
6.43-inch AMOLED panel, 1080 x 2400 resolution, 120Hz refresh rate
Colours: Racing Yellow, Dashing Silver, Dashing Blue
Dimensions: 156 x 73 x 9.1mm / Weight: 186g
Finishes: Vegan leather or glass back
In-display fingerprint scanner
With phones often gigantic slabs these days, it’s rather refreshing to hold onto the Realme GT – because it’s sensibly proportioned, not too thick even in its vegan leather finish, and is on the right side the 200g weight barrier (a limit that we’ve pretty much decided to impose having handled the all too heavy Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra).
Motorola’s new Moto G9 Plus is a stunner of a phone – find out why, right here
By Pocket-lint Promotion
That the volume control buttons are on the opposite side to the Realme GT’s power button – a rarity in most Android phones – is something you might not immediately love, but we stuck with it and it’s actually a sensible layout. Taking one-handed screengrabs is easier, as one beneficial example.
But it’s not the layout that’ll first catch your attention. It is, but of course, that bright yellow rear – which Realme calls ‘Racing Yellow’, keeping in theme with that GT name. It’s a bold, bright finish, almost like an exemplary Pantone shade card for what a true yellow should represent.
That it’s vegan leather is another standout point, but less for its apparent environmental kudos – although there’s an argument that processes for this material aren’t actually Thunberg pleasing – and more for its tactile quality. It’s nice and grippy. It doesn’t become smeared in heaps of fingerprints. It looks consistent – and the black stripe down from the integrated cameras panel helps to soften the look.
Why, then, Realme has decided to (literally) stick its logo onto the rear is a big question. This silvered stick-on will inevitably fall off over time – not that we’ve actively been picking at it. Maybe that’d be for the better though – we’re not fans of any brand sticking big logos onto its phones. Motorola used to, before realising it looks much better to be subtle. Still, Realme ought to deboss or emboss for added chic.
Flip the phone over to its front and the Realme GT houses a 6.43-inch AMOLED panel, delivering a screen that’s capable of deep blacks and strong colours. Sadly, however, its auto-brightness adjustment is so shy that you’ll often end up squinting at the dulled screen trying to find the manual brightness slider. At maximum brightness it can remain visible in outdoor sunlight though. At lowest brightness there’s some ‘black crush’ to visuals, which is fairly common – an issue other Oppo phones present (Realme is effectively under the same umbrella as that brand).
Interestingly this panel has some top-end features, such as a 120Hz refresh rate, to keep visuals extra smooth and easy on the eyes. You needn’t have the 120 refreshes per second active for the sake of battery life, though, as a 60Hz option is found within the menus – which is on by default anyway. In terms of resolution the Full HD+ span of pixels over the 20:9 aspect ratio panel delivers ample detail – these days you don’t really want or need much more, as it rarely enhances apps and mostly just squeezes the battery life.
Performance & Battery
Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 platform, 8GB/12GB RAM
Realme UI (v2.0) software over Google Android 11 OS
4,500mAh battery capacity, 65W fast-charging
Stainless steel cooling system
That the Realme GT can cope with a 120Hz refresh rate is no surprise given its top-end hardware under the hood. There’s a Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 processor, paired with 8GB or 12GB RAM (there are two variants, we have the lower spec 8GB model in for review).
It’s this “my processing power’s bigger than yours” angle that will garner the GT a lot of attention – especially for its asking price. And so it should, for this Realme performs really well whether you’re casually navigating between pages and apps, or digging deep into a gaming session.
Other than when recharging it doesn’t overheat either, which is impressive in the context of a faux leather-backed device with such a strong performance engine running things. The stainless steel cooling system designed within must be part of the reason for the apparent well-managed heat dissipation.
With mixed use we’ve found the GT’s battery life to be perfectly acceptable. Long days will see you finish close to the 20 per cent mark, after around 18 hours, but that includes some gaming so we think that’s pretty good innings. Besides, with a 65W fast-charging capability – no wireless to be found here – topping it up is speedy. It can even learn your typical charging pattern as to not refill the battery too quickly, which will help with long-term battery health.
We suspect the GT could last longer if various settings were activated to throttle the experience. But we’re glad that’s not the case. So often we hit a wall with, say, a Xiaomi phone because its software default controls the way in which apps respond – often causing notification issues or delays. Realme doesn’t have that issue; its Realme UI (version 2.0 here) is effectively a rework of Oppo’s ColorOS, which we’ve found in recent iterations to be generally pleasing.
Triple rear camera system:
Main (26mm): 64-megapixel, f/1.8 aperture, Sony IMX682 sensor, 0.8µm pixel size
Given the phone’s price point its camera setup is the one area to expect some compromise. Realme has gone down the “triple camera” route – but, really, it’s a main camera paired with ultra-wide that show their worth, while the low-resolution close-up macro camera isn’t even worth including in our view. It’s a trap so many makers have fallen into – to oversell their cameras.
Anyway, that’s not to say expect bad things all across the board. As a straightforward point-and-shoot camera the main 64-megapixel sensor – which uses six-in-one processing to deliver 12-megapixel results by default – is capable enough. For sharing snaps on socials and so forth it’ll deliver the goods.
That said, however, it’s not the most refined in terms of processing. Where detail lacks – subject edges such as buildings, or busier areas such as trees and shrubs – there’s oversharpening, often to the detriment of realism. Colour also can look as though it’s been washed over with a blue filter, while contrast is a bit punchier than needed.
: Main cameraMain camera
Then there’s the wide-angle camera. Results from this aren’t consistent with the main lens – the colour looks different, for example – while detail lacks, and optically speaking it’s not particularly great. The benefit of having the wide camera is, of course, that it’s wide; that you can fit more into a shot, even if the edges are blurred and the contrast pushes image noise into greater visibility. You can compare the main camera and the wide camera – including 100 per cent zoom-in for each shot – in the gallery above.
The Realme GT might have wide-angle covered, but it doesn’t really cater for zoom. Well, it depends how you look at it. The camera app does offer 2x and 5x as part of the controls, but we’d strongly suggest avoiding using these as it’s nothing more than digital zoom. Given that the main sensor is 64-megapixels, however, the 2x ought to be better than it is. The 5x really pushes beyond what’s acceptable, with soft and unimpressive results. You can see the zoom stages from wide to main to 2x to 5x in the gallery below:
: Ultra-wide (16mm)Ultra-wide (16mm)
So while the zoom is one to avoid and the wide-angle isn’t great, the GT’s main camera is passable. It recognises backlighting to boost high dynamic range (HDR). It’s managed pretty well in low-light conditions, too, so if you’re shooting indoors at night then it can still focus and present enough detail – as we found out in a basement distillery at Edinburgh Gin.
That’s the long and the short of it: there’s not really much that’s “GT” about this Realme’s cameras. A “Pro” version might be able to rectify that – but it’d also come at cost, given the list price of camera components. And, really, that’s not the point of this phone. The GT is all about flagship performance for the day to day, not top-tier cameras – if you want that then you’ll have to pay out a lot more cash elsewhere.
From its striking yellow-colour vegan leather finish, to its impressive performance thanks to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 888 platform, the Realme GT is an impressive alt-flagship – but one that will depend on its eye-catching asking price to lure in a fan base.
As we said up top, this Realme has arrived at a time when OnePlus is no longer, well, “being OnePlus” – i.e. delivering flagship devices for considerably less cash. In that sense, then, the GT slots into the space that OnePlus once occupied in its earlier days, a tactic that’s as measured as it is a bit cheeky.
No, the GT doesn’t offer the greatest of cameras, its auto-brightness is shy to activate, and as a brand name it might not yet resonate with the masses.
But it’s hard to not see the GT’s specification for what it is: more powerful than a Motorola equivalent, such as the G100; and more software consistent than a Xiaomi device, such as the Mi 11 Lite.
In that sense, then, the Realme GT sure does enter the alt-flagship fast lane, overtaking some of the big competition that are also jostling for pole position.
Xiaomi Mi 11 Lite 5G
We love the Xiaomi’s colour finish and slender build – it’s a great alternative to the current glut of massive flagship phones. That said, it’s less powerful and the software brings its share of irks.
Read our review
It’s about the same price, but with a slightly lower-spec processor, equally so-so cameras, but a more established brand name and near flawless software.
We like a meaty homemade build, and this seems to tick all the boxes. This online ad filter lives inside a tin of Spam and is powered by the Raspberry Pi alternative Orange Pi board. This stealthy, meaty project was created by Daniel Hepper, and spotted by Hackaday.
Within the tin, which once contained 200g (7oz) of the pre-cooked meat product, sits an Orange Pi Zero LTS, a small SBC that runs on an Allwinner H2+ (Cortex A7) CPU and measures just 2in x 1.8in (52 x 46mm). The tiny board features Wi-Fi, Ethernet, up to 512 MB of RAM, USB 2.0 and a microSD card slot plus a 26-pin GPIO header. The Ethernet port supports passive POE (with a little bit of soldering), and this is used to power the board, which runs the Pi-Hole network ad-blocking software.
Daniel brought the tin back from a trip to Australia ten years ago. He originally considered a Raspberry Pi Zero for the role, but it wouldn’t fit in the can with the USB to Ethernet and POE adaptors it would need. The Orange Pi fitted perfectly, requiring only a Micro SD extension cable to change the position of the card slot, and the elegant single-cable POE solution means there’s no need for the Wi-Fi antenna. It sits on a 3D printed frame that exposes the Ethernet port through the part of the can and label that once held the Spam’s nutritional information.
A Dremel made short work of the tin, both creating the aperture for the Orange Pi to protrude through and for removing the expired mass of spiced meat. Daniel doesn’t recount how it smelled, but does recommend carrying out the operation in the bathtub.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has a bright display and long battery life, but its performance could be stronger, and it has a very high price, even for a business-class laptop.
+ 5G option
+ Bright Display
+ Long Battery Life
– Middling Performance
– Expensive even for a business-class computer
The original HP Elite Dragonfly challenged the Lenovo ThinkPad line with its style and excellent keyboard. Now, there’s a variant, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max ($2,199 to start, $2,789 as configured).
Despite the Max title implying that this device would be bigger, it’s actually the same size as the original, which is one of the best ultrabooks. This version adds a bright Sure View Reflect screen and 5G networking. But if neither of those appeal to you — the Sure View Reflect screen in particular suffers from some really harsh viewing angles that undercut its positives — you might be better off looking at the original Dragonfly or other options.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is a slick, thin convertible laptop with a glittery matte black shell that feels durable but loves to collect fingerprints. There’s a symmetrical, reflective HP logo on the lid and a smaller logo below the screen, plus EliteBook and Bang & Olufsen branding on the keyboard deck.
What’s most noticeable about this laptop is the size, although it’s not especially larger or smaller than most other ultraportables. At 11.98 x 7.78 x 0.63 inches, it’s a little wider than the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 (11.6 x 8.2 x 0.6 inches) and the Razer Book 13 (11.6 x 7.8 x 0.6) but not too much thicker. But at 11.6 x 7.8 x 0.55 inches, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano is significantly thinner than the HP Elite Dragonfly Max.
The Elite Dragonfly Max is on the lighter end when it comes to weight, however. Its 2.49 pound weight is only beaten by the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 2 pounds. Meanwhile, the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and Razer Book 13 are 2.9 and 3.1 pounds, respectively.
Ports on the Elite Dragonfly Max are varied but poorly distributed. While the left side has the NanoSim card reader (if you have a model with cellular networking capabilities, as we did) and a single USB Type-A port, the convertible’s right side has two Thunderbolt 4 connections, an HDMI 2.1 connection and a single 3.5mm combination headphone/microphone jack. This uneven port distribution can make charging your laptop a pain if your desk setup makes its left side more accessible.
Productivity Performance of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
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The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is HP’s latest attempt to compete with Lenovo’s ThinkPad, specifically the ThinkPad X1 Nano. That means it aims for plenty of productivity power, and comes equipped with the slightly more powerful Intel Core i7-1185G7 to accomplish this. But the ThinkPad, with the Intel Core i7-1160G7 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Razer Book 13 with Intel’s Core i7-1165G7 CPU still offered strong performance and won out in some tests.
In Geekbench 5, a synthetic benchmark for testing general performance, the Elite Dragonfly Max achieved a single core score of 1,512 and a multi-core score of 5,195. That puts it slightly ahead of the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 1,473 single core score but about on par with its 5,155 multi-core score. But the XPS 13 2-in-1 and the Razer Book 13 beat it on both fronts, and by a much wider margin when it comes to multi-core performance. The former earned scores of 1,539/5,571, and the latter hit scores of 1,556 and 5,495.
The Elite Dragonfly Max did have a slightly faster SSD than its competitors, transferring 25GB of files at a rate of 558.9 MBps. The Razer Book 13 was the next fastest, hitting 479 MBps, while the ThinkPad X1 Nano came in towards the bottom of the pack with a 424.81 MBps speed. The XPS 13 2-in-1 was the slowest computer here, transferring the files at a rate of 405.55 MBps.
Our Handbrake video transcoding test, which tracks how long it takes a machine to transcode a video down from 4K to FHD, saw the Elite Dragonfly Max once again land on the weaker side. It took 19:44 to finish transcoding, while the ThinkPad X1 Nano took 16:55. The XPS 13 2-in-1 was faster at 15:52, while the Razer Book 13 was the quickest at 14:46.
We also ran the HP Elite Dragonfly Max through Cinebench R23 for 20 consecutive runs to see how well it operates during an extended work session. Scores started out at 4,172 before dropping to the high 3,000s for most runs, and achieved an average of 3,925. There were a few peaks and valleys during tests, which might have been related to short bursts of throttling we noticed throughout the 20 runs. Most of the throttling happened during the beginning of the tests, but there were instances of it throughout. The CPU ran at an average 2,405.82 MHz clock speed during this test, and sat at an average temperature of 69.16 degrees Celsius (156.49 degrees Fahrenheit).
Networking Performance of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
Our configuration of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max came with a Nano Sim card slot for 5G networking, plus a prepaid card from AT&T. When I tested the laptop in downtown Brooklyn, I found that it was only slightly slower than my home Verizon Fios connection.
I was able to watch videos, download apps and stream music with no interruptions. The biggest difference I noticed was the time it took to load pages, which would sometimes take about a second longer than on Wi-Fi.
Still, your experience might differ based on where you live and your choice of carrier.
Display on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is, no matter how you configure it, a pricey computer. And for that extra cost, you do get a new, almost absurdly bright HP Sure View Reflect display, which also packs novel privacy and anti-blue light technology. While we were impressed with a measured 707 nits of average brightness, we were let down by extremely strict viewing angles. This screen tended to wash out for me when I moved more than 45 degrees away from it, perhaps because of the privacy features.
But when I was sitting directly in front of the screen, I had a great experience even in my brightly lit office. I tested the screen by watching the latest trailer for Cruella on it, and colors were vivid while blacks were deep. Glare also wasn’t an issue, although the screen had some minor reflectivity to it.
When I looked at the screen in a darker environment, reflectivity became less of a problem, but viewing angles still remained tight.
HP Sure View Reflect is one of HP’s privacy-oriented displays, with a built-in app (you can also turn it on with the F2 button) that turns the image into a blank copper rectangle when you look at it from more than 45 degrees away. This worked well for me when I turned it on, but given that the image is already so washed out at those angles, it seems like an unnecessary addition, especially because it also made my screen uncomfortably dim even when looking at it from straight on. I also wonder if building the screen to accommodate this technology reduces viewing angles even when the privacy feature isn’t turned on.
Still, there’s no denying that the screen is pleasant under optimal conditions. Our colorimeter showed it covered 81.7% of the DCI-P3 spectrum, which is much higher than the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 71.6% and the XPS 13 2-in-1’s 70%. Only the Razer Book 13 came close, with 80.7%.
And, of course, 707 nits is immensely bright. The ThinkPad X1 Nano is much dimmer at the still very bright 430 nits. At 426 and 488 nits, respectively, the Razer Book 13 and the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 are in a similar boat. However, there is such a thing as diminishing returns, and we’re not sure that the extra brightness is worth it — we still had great viewing experiences on these competitors, some of which boast better viewing angles.
What might be worth the extra cost is HP’s Eye Ease technology. This always-on, hardware level anti-blue light filter supposedly shifts harmful blue light spectrum images to more comfortable places on the spectrum without affecting the look of the image. This is because the screen only targets a very specific area of blue light, rather than tinting the whole image yellow like most solutions. After a whole day of working on the Elite Dragonfly Max, I did notice a lack of eye strain; however, I’m not sure if it was a placebo effect. I tend not to feel too much strain from my regular monitor, either, and I feel like I’d need to judge this feature over the course of a few weeks to fairly assess it.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Stylus on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has a chiclet style keyboard that feels stiff and hard when pressing down keys, but I still managed to type quickly on it
On 10fastfingers.com, I regularly hit 78 – 79 words per minute, which is towards the upper end of my usual score range. However, I also had a number of typos during my tests, and keypresses didn’t exactly feel cushiony. Aside from the typical notches on the F and J keys, the keycaps also don’t have any distinct build features to help you find your fingers’ position by touch alone. This left typing feeling a bit like a chore, even if I technically typed speedily.
The large, 4.3 x 2.6 inch precision touchpad is, by contrast, a more pleasant experience. It feels smooth to the touch, and scrolling happens just as smoothly, although there’s enough friction to easily make precise adjustments. Multi-touch gestures like scrolling with two fingers or switching apps with three fingers were also a breeze to pull off.
There’s also a small, separate fingerprint reader to the right of the touchpad, which is a nice plus given that much of this computer’s competition integrates fingerprint readers into the touchpad instead, which creates dead zones.
Audio on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max comes with four speakers by Bang & Olufsen (two top-firing and two bottom-firing) that have impressive bass. I listened to “Butter” by BTS on them, and I didn’t feel like I lost any information from the beat heavy song. Audio was also clear with no tinniness, even on high vocals, and I could easily hear the song across my two-bedroom apartment at max volume.
At around 50% volume, I had about as optimal of a listening experience as I would expect to get from a device this size.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also comes with an audio control program called, well, HP Audio Control. Unfortunately, I didn’t hear much of a difference between its music, movie and voice presets.
Upgradeability of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
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The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is surprisingly easy to open for an ultraportable. It’s got five Torx T5 screws on the bottom, and the case easily lifts off after removing them. (The hardest part may be finding a Torx screwdriver.) Once you’re inside the laptop, you’ll have immediate access to both the Wi-Fi and 5G chips, plus you’ll see a silver shield above the battery with a pull tab on it. If you pull on that tab, you’ll have direct access to the laptop’s SSD.
Battery Life of the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has an edge on battery life over its competition. In our battery benchmark, which continually browses the web, runs OpenGL tests over-Wi-Fi and streams video at 150 nits, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max held on for 13 hours and 9 minutes.
That’s a bit more than an hour longer than its longest-lasting competition, the ThinkPad X1 Nano, which had a 12 hour battery life on the same test. The Razer Book 13 lasted for 11 hours and 44 minutes, while the Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 was the quickest to die with a 10 hour and 52 minute battery life.
Heat on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max runs on the cool side for an ultraportable laptop, plus it has special software to keep it extra cool when it’s on your lap.
After 15 minutes of streaming video, the laptop’s touchpad measured 77.5 degrees Fahrenheit, while the center of its keyboard (between the G and H keys) was about 10 degrees hotter at 88.9 degrees Fahrenheit. The laptop’s underside was mostly about 90.1 degrees Fahrenheit, although it ran closer to 102.7 degrees Fahrenheit closer to its vents.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also has HP Context Aware software, which uses machine learning to detect when the laptop is on your lap so it can lower the performance mode. HP claims this can reduce the temperature by up to 9 degrees Fahrenheit, although you can turn the feature off if you’re using a lap desk and would prefer to prioritize performance. For my part, I noticed that the Dragonfly was still warm on my lap, but it did adjust its performance mode on and off as advertised. Unfortunately, I don’t have a temperature reading camera at home to test lap temperatures.
HP Elite Dragonfly Max Webcam
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max comes with a 5MP webcam that captures photos at 1440p, which is a higher resolution than you’ll find on even most desktop webcams. Plus, it’s also got a physical camera shutter.
That said, artifacts are still present on photos taken with this laptop’s camera, although lighting and color is accurate. The quality should be more than enough for most casual use cases, but my face is more pixelated than I like when I view this camera’s photos at full screen.
Pixelation becomes more noticeable in low-light environments, but color and lighting remains strong.
This camera’s performance in saturated lighting conditions is unique, but maybe flawed. I’ve never seen a webcam take such a detailed photo through a window pane before (usually, they’ll just depict windows as sheets of white), but my face is bathed in so much shadow that I’m not sure the camera counts as usable under these conditions.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also has two front facing mics and two world facing mics, which lets it use AI noise cancellation to help keep background noise out of calls. I found that the AI noise cancellation works well, although the microphone quality itself is questionable. My recordings sounded echo-y and especially muffled, and part of me wonders if the AI noise cancellation contributed to this.
This laptop also has a sliding physical webcam cover.
Software and Warranty on the HP Elite Dragonfly Max
This laptop does not skimp on the pre-installed software, with over 16 HP-branded programs alone coming pre-loaded on it. And that’s not even everything. There’s also a program that tries to get you to install free trials for different Adobe Creative Cloud programs, plus typical Windows pre-installs like Microsoft Solitaire Collection and Maps.
At least the HP apps are generally useful. HP Wolf Security, for instance, is a free firewall not unlike Windows Defender. HP QuickDrop lets you easily transfer files across devices, including mobiles phones. There’s even HP Easy Clean, which is a novel app that shuts down all of your laptop’s input for a few minutes so you can sanitize it without accidentally pressing any buttons (there is a 2-button keyboard shortcut to unlock your PC early if you need to, though).
But there’s no reason all of these utilities have to be their own separate programs. It’s easy to see them as clutter that way. If I were HP, I’d consider rounding up most of these functions into one central hub app, similar to Lenovo’s Vantage program.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max also comes with a three year limited warranty.
HP Elite Dragonfly Max Configurations
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max has two pre-built Wi-Fi only configurations, one pre-built Wi-Fi and 5G configuration and one fully customizable option. Our review configuration was that Wi-Fi and 5G pre-built option, which came with an Intel Core i7-1185G7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 13.3 inch FHD display. It costs $2,789.
The Wi-Fi only pre-built models are $2,199 and $2,399, respectively, although the only difference between them seems to be whether the laptop uses an i7-1165G7 chip or an i7-1186G7 chip. Otherwise, you’ll get 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 13.3 inch FHD display.
The configurable option is exclusive to HP’s website, and starts at $2,409 for the Windows version (the website says it technically costs $3,347, but there’s a permanent $1,000 discount applied to it). You can shave $236 off the price if you want to go for FreeDOS, which might be useful if you intend to install Linux on the device.
More realistically, you’ll be configuring your PC to add on to it. Here, you can bump the CPU up to an i7-1185G7 processor and the RAM up to 32GB for a combined $489, and the SSD up to 2TB for $865. There’s also in-between options— bumping the SSD to just 1TB will cost you an extra $235, and there are 16GB and 32GB RAM bundles available for both the cheaper i7-1165G7 CPU and the more costly i7-1185G7 CPU.
You can also choose to go Wi-Fi only in a custom build, or go for either Intel XMM LTE ($155) or Qualcomm SnapDragon 5G ($440) networking. Plus, there’s add-ons like an optional Wacom pen, which costs $74.
HP’s website says custom builds won’t ship until October, although HP assured us that this is incorrect, and is in the process of sending us more information.
The HP Elite Dragonfly Max is an expensive convertible with a great look and a bright screen that purports to have an anti-blue light feature, but it doesn’t have a worthwhile power boost compared to cheaper options and doesn’t exactly make up for it with its keyboard or its display’s other specs.
I acknowledge that our configuration has an extra cost tied to it thanks to the 5G, which was admittedly only slightly slower than my Wi-Fi when I tested it in downtown Brooklyn. But even without the 5G, this computer costs more than $2,000. Compare that to the ThinkPad X1 Nano, another business class convertible which either beat it or performed on par with it in all of our productivity tests and only costs around $1,600 from certain e-tailers, and it’s hard to justify getting the Elite Dragonfly Max.
Granted, the HP Elite Dragonfly Max has a slightly higher battery life and a much brighter screen than the ThinkPad X1 Nano. But viewing angles on this display are excessively strict, so it still comes with caveats. Plus, you lose out on that great ThinkPad keyboard and the ThinkPad X1 Nano’s 16:10 aspect ratio.
If you go for a non business-class computer like the XPS 13 2-in-1 9310, you can get even more power for even less.
If you’re a business-oriented buyer and you really want 5G or bright displays or niche security software like HP Sure View, then this laptop might be for you. Otherwise, you can get more raw power for less elsewhere, plus maybe some better viewing angles while you’re at it.
The Roccat Kone Pro is a very comfortable ergonomic mouse with a unique look and shape that’s more considerate of the ring and pinky fingers than most rivals. Its mundane plastic can easily attract moisture, dust and fingerprints. But once you download the mouse’s software, there’s a lot of programmability.
When it comes to the shape of your best gaming mouse, you may prefer an ambidextrous design that’s symmetrical in shape or opt for an ergonomic mouse, which typically curves in a way that caters to the right-handed gamer’s thumb. The Roccat Kone Pro (and wireless Kone Pro Air) are a more unique approach to ergonomic gaming mice with bolder curves that also provide support to the ring and even pinky finger.
For $80, the Kone Pro can keep up with the competition when it comes to specs, software and functionality. But an unimpressive plastic chassis with some questionable gapping in places like under the primary click buttons stop it from being flawless.
Roccat Kone Pro Specs
125, 250, 500 or 1,000 Hz
8, (including 3 scroll wheel functions)
LED Zones and Colors
5.9 foot (1.8m) USB Type-A, braided
4.94 x 2.83 x 1.57 inches (125.6 x 72 x 40mm)
2.34 ounces (66g)
1x extra set PTFE feet
Design and Comfort of Roccat Kone Pro
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The Kone Pro’s best asset is, perhaps, its shape. It caters to parts of the hand that many gaming mice today neglect: the ring and pinky fingers. Ergonomic mice often focus on curving in for a righty’s thumb, and the Kone Pro does too. But it also provides a subtler, longer curve in its right side, where the ring finger can easily rest and the pinky may find respite too. I have longer hands for a woman, and sometimes I noticed my pinky dragging on my mouse pad in my typical claw and palm grips still, but this happened less often than with most gaming mice I’ve tested.
The mouse’s shape makes palm gripping very comfortable. My palm’s outer edge makes comfortable contact with the Kone Pro’s hump, while the deepest part of my palm hovers above. In both palm and claw grips, my ring finger often grazes the gap underneath the right click button. This is a small annoyance but one worth noting for perfectionists. This wouldn’t be an issue if I used a fingertip grip, but I find the mouse a bit bulky for that, and a more symmetrical shape would be helpful too.
Roccat’s Kone Pro measures 4.94 x 2.83 x 1.57 inches and weighs 2.34 ounces. For comparison to other ergonomically shaped wire mice for righties, the Razer DeathAdder V2 is longer, less wide, taller and heavier (5 x 2.43 x 1.68 inches / 2.89 ounces), and the honeycomb-filled Glorious Model D is about the same length and weight but less wide, taller and lighter (5.04 x 2.4 x 1.65 inches / 2.4 ounces). Especially with its lightweight plastic, the Kone Pro does a good job of feeling light for its size, but I wouldn’t call it lightweight, especially with the likes of honeycomb mice like the 2.08-ounce Glorious Model O- around.
Available in black or white (the above picture shows both color schemes available for the wired and wireless versions of the mouse, and the white version is wireless), the Kone Pro’s plastic shell is nothing remarkable. It’s carved with a gathering of parallel lines on the sides where it curves in, and it’s easy for fingerprints together there and elsewhere, making the mouse look extra unremarkable, especially with the black unit we’re reviewing. The chassis lacks gripping and is a little slick without being gross or too slippery, but some more grip would be appreciated.
A Roccat Kone logo stamped on the plastic chassis is inoffensive, yet snooze-worthy. The chunky, plastic side buttons don’t look the most premium to me; although I like the contrast they create on the white version of the mouse. Of greater concern is the amount of spacing under the primary click buttons, between them and throughout the scroll wheel, where dust accumulated during my weeks of testing. The gaps under the primary click buttons allow RGB to shine through in a unique, appealing way. But if you look through the spacing at the right angle, you’ll be alarmed to see some of the mouse’s internal components. (Note that the mouse has a 2-year warranty.)
Although the scroll wheel can get dusty and some might think it looks flimsy, it adds a special touch to the Kone Pro. Instead of opting for some pattern-textured rubber, the Kone Pro’s scroll wheel is a thin, but hard, piece of aluminum. It makes for a cool side profile, as I can see through the wheel into some RGB lighting. Tactile scrolls are subtly reassuring, and it’s a little heavier to press in than other wheels. It’s also not as grippy as some rubber wheels, but slippage shouldn’t be a problem unless you’re literally sweating. And if you are (no judgement here), this wheel may be a bother.
Gaming Experience on Roccat Kone Pro
The Kone Pro starts off with the right tech to compete with other gaming mice in its price range. Its Roccat Owl-Eye sensor is based off PixArt’s PAW3370 and can reach 50g max acceleration and a sensitivity of up to 19,000 CPI. But while many mice offer a way to change CPI settings without ever opening an app, the only way to change the Kone Pro’s CPI out of the box is by downloading software. There’s even a profile switch button on the mouse’s underside, but this doesn’t change CPI by default. Even worse, CPI was set uncomfortably low. Swarm eventually confirmed it was set to 800 CPI, when I’d prefer around 2,500-3,000.
I used the Kone Pro across CPI settings, from a comfortable 2,500, to the lowest (50) and highest (19,000). Regardless, tracking seemed as smooth and accurate as expected of a premium gaming mouse. I had no trouble with large sweeping swipes or careful, small movements, meaning the mouse was part of the action rather than a hindrance.
The primary click buttons use what Roccat calls Titan Switch Optical mechanical switches. If you haven’t heard the hype around optical mechanical switches, (which are finding homes in some of the best gaming keyboards too), yet, basically they actuate when their stem goes through a light beam, rather than via metallic contact. This should prevent them from suffering from accidental double-clicking, which has been reported among some premium gaming mice after a years of extended use. Roccat claims these Titan switches are particularly “great for FPS and action games.”
I tried the Kone Pro across some shooters and found it easy to press the primarily click buttons with my fingers at various positions. It didn’t take much force or effort to press those buttons or the cheaper feeling plastic side buttons.
Compared to left-click, right-click felt clunkier though. In a side-by-side comparison with mice using standard mechanical switches I had on hand, including the Logitech G203 Lightsync, Cooler Master MM711 and Razer Orochi V2, the Kone Pro’s clicks sounded noticeably softer and seemed easier and lighter to actuate, but the other mice’s clicks felt sharper.
In the Human Benchmark reaction time test, where you must click when the screen turns from red to green, I averaged 178.6ms with a low of 168ms with the Kone Pro, compared to 205ms and 163ms, respectively, with the Orochi V2.
Meanwhile, the side buttons are large and high enough to be easily accessible without repositioning. Both myself and a man with larger hands had no issue accessing both buttons that way with palm and claw grips and without accidentally pressing another button on the mouse.
The Kone Pro keeps up with the design trends of other gaming mice in its price range, with its 5.9-feet-long braided cable and “heat-treated pure PTFE glides.” The PTFE feet are spread across the top of the mouse’s underside, plus around the sensor and on the bottom. Roccat also includes an extra set of feet in the box. The mouse moves slightly easier and more lightly than I expected from looking at the chunkier rat, but it’s not as slippery a glide as I’ve experienced on other mice, such as the small Razer DeathAdder V2 Mini.
Roccat’s Kone Pro proved comfortable enough for hours of gaming but after a few minutes of heavy gaming it felt a little clammy and moist. There’s not much in the way of grip here either. There are slimier mice out there, but after a bit you may want to take a moisture break from the Kone Pro.
Features and Software of Roccat Kone Pro
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The Kone Pro uses Roccat’s Swarm software, which is a required download if you want to change the mouse’s default CPI setting. There’s no button that’ll change CPI out of the box unless you program it to in Swarm. Swarm’s UI is pretty extensive but harmless to use; however, every saved change in Swarm results in a 1-2 second delay, making detailed changes to the mouse a little tedious.
The Settings page has tweaks that many gaming peripheral makers don’t include in their software, including vertical scroll speed and double-click speed. Here’s also where you can change the DPI settings from 50-19,000 in 100-unit increments. There’s a CPI calibration tool too, but I’ve found it ineffective here and with other Roccat mice because it always suggests I go just a little higher or lower than what I’ve already set it to.
Swarm’s Button Assignment section lets you assign functions for the programmable buttons: left and right click, scroll up, down or in, the two side buttons and the profile cycle button on the underside. Swarm even includes 3 extra presets to give you some ideas for using all that functionality. Additionally, if you program one button as the Easy-Shift[+] button, all aforementioned inputs can have a secondary function when pressing the Easy-Shift[+] simultaneously. The mouse’s RGB will automatically switch to blue to inform you that Easy-Shift[+] has been activated.
That ultimately means you can program 16 different inputs with the Kone Pro, from launching programs, to keyboard functions and macros and opening a new browser window. A macro manager also lets you set up macros that’ll automatically launch with games and other apps.
Illumination controls the Kone Pro’s 2 RGB zones, including a brightness slider. You get 5 RGB presets, (plus off), with most offering a slider for speed too. You can pick a solid color for each individual zone if you want via a color selector or by entering red, green and blue values.
I used the Kone Pro as my primary mouse for about a month on and off using its Aimo reactive RGB setting. According to Roccat, Aimo RGB is meant for “adapting to your play the more you use them, and becoming more dynamic and nuanced as AIMO products combine.” Swarm adds that “Roccat is continually developing exciting new features and effects for Aimo, which will see your level increase.” But I’ve never been able to get my AIMO level past 15% when reviewing Roccat’s Kone Pro, Burst Pro or Kain 200 Aimo; however, I haven’t combined Aimo peripherals. I did hit 35% with the Vulcan 122 Aimo keyboard but didn’t feel like RGB was reacting to what I was doing on the PC. The case was the same with the Kone Pro.
In Swarm’s Advanced Settings tab you can choose among a 125, 250, 500 or 1,000 Hz polling rate (sorry, extremists, no 8,000 Hz here yet). There are also tools for playing with things like distance control and angle snapping.
Swarm lets you program a generous 5 onboard memory profiles. If you have Swarm open, you can also have the profiles launch automatically with specific programs.
The Roccat Kone Pro is a solid gaming mouse, especially where ergonomic shapes are concerned. A well-endowed hump, accessible buttons and space for the ring and smaller pinky fingers make it a win for palm and claw grips especially. And while it’s not the most exciting look in all black (the white version does pop more), an aluminum scroll wheel and RGB-lit left and right-click buttons help differentiate the mouse.
The Kone Pro’s plastic shell is not a standout though. There’s nothing to help boost your grip, and it easily starts feeling moist when gaming. Plus, there are gaps throughout the design where dust easily builds up. For a better grip in an ergonomic design, consider the Razer DeathAdder V2 Pro, which is going for $30 less ($50) than the Kone Pro as of writing. And if you hate cables, note that there’s a wireless version of the Kone Pro.
But if your fingers have earned some extra attention, the Kone Pro knows what to do.
TechPowerUp prides itself on covering in great detail products from brands big and small, and the first product review from Sharkoon was among our earliest ever! Over time, we have examined Sharkoon cases, mice, and accessories. However, it took until today to get the first Sharkoon keyboard review up. Part of this delay has to do with the brand being centered around Europe and yours truly only just getting there. The brand has been marketing itself more lately, especially in terms of value you get for the money, and so here we are in what is no doubt the first of many to come in the future. Thanks again to Sharkoon for sending a sample of the keyboard to TechPowerUp!
The keyboard in question is the SKILLER SGK30, a new entry to the Sharkoon keyboard lineup that primarily has other SKILLER-named peripherals to go along with matching mice and headsets. This is a full-size keyboard, and I have the US ANSI layout in the standard 104 keys here. Nothing extra, and Sharkoon is instead marketing the SKILLER SGK30 as a compact, fat-trimmed keyboard of high quality. There are also claims of software support for customization we will put to the test in this review that begins with a look at the specifications in the table below.
Sharkoon SKILLER SGK30 Keyboard
104-key US ANSI layout, other language support depending on region
“Can it run Doom?” is a question nearly as old as Doom itself, as creative hardware hackers and software savants across the internet work to try and get the 1993 classic shooter to run on virtually anything that has a microprocessor. The latest absurd entry: an Ikea Trådfri GU10 345 RGB LED bulb, which Next-Hack has managed to hack into running a modified version of Doom.
The actual hack is a bit of a cheat, given the fact that unlike past Doom hack candidates, like the Nintendo Game & Watch, the MacBook Pro Touch Bar, or a TI calculator, the Trådfri bulb doesn’t have any buttons or a display. Next-Hack had to add those, using the MGM210L RF board that powers the “smart” part of the bulb, and modifying a copy of Doom to run on its paltry 108kB of RAM.
And even then, there’s a lot of impressive workarounds to get the actual game to run, including adding additional storage, getting audio to work, and the ever-tricky management of RAM.
For deeper technical details, it’s worth reading the full article, but the results speak for themselves — the processor has enough power to not only run Doom, but run the modified version pretty well. Not bad for a light bulb.
Gaming peripheral company Turtle Beach announced at E3 2021 that it’s getting into a new product category: flight sim hardware. The company is launching the VelocityOne Flight system for $350, and it’s compatible with PC and Xbox consoles via USB. And, for a first effort in this competitive space, it seems like a very comprehensive offering and a decent value if you’re into playing Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020.
The VelocityOne Flight was made in collaboration with aeronautical engineers and pilots to provide a realistic flight experience. It has a 180-degree yoke handle with rear rudder controls for easy access. To its right, there’s a modular throttle quadrant with an integrated trim wheel, as well as both vernier-style and lever controls (with swappable tops for prop and jet planes). All in all, Turtle Beach says the VelocityOne Flight features 12 analog axes, two POV switches, two four-way HAT switches, and 18 extra buttons that can be mapped to your liking.
In addition to controls, this hardware includes a 3.5mm jack on its left side for private listening. To deepen immersion (and to avoid having to push multiple buttons when you just want to fly and chill) the yoke has a display that can show stats like flight time, time at destination, and more. There’s a panel that can show other indicators, like real-time alerts, landing lights, landing gear, and more (though Turtle Beach says some of these features will be added later by software and firmware updates). This hardware doesn’t feature force feedback or rumble.
CEO Juergen Stark said in a press release that this hardware “provides everything a new flier needs, along with the capability and features that hardcore flight simmers want.” In case you were curious, Turtle Beach says this hardware will work with other flight simulators — not just Microsoft’s latest one that’s available now on PC and coming later to console on July 27th. This hardware has a release window targeted for the summer.
The company is also releasing its first traditional controller for the Xbox Series X / S called the Recon Controller. It’s an intimidating-looking $60 wired model, and what makes it special is its audio chops. If you plug any set of headphones into its 3.5mm jack, you can turn on mic monitoring and swap through audio presets to modify how your game sounds. You’ll also have the option to use Turtle Beach’s Superhuman Hearing feature usually found in its own headsets, which amplifies easy-to-miss sounds that might give you the edge in a game. There are also buttons to adjust the game and chat audio mixes.
In addition, the sensitivity of the analog sticks can be tweaked and different profiles can be saved to one of the controller’s mappable quick-action buttons located on the rear. Its directional pad supports eight-way input, and its 10-foot braided cable is attached via USB-C to the controller. It’s also coming out sometime this summer.
Microsoft is ending support for Windows 10 on October 14th, 2025. It will mark just over 10 years since the operating system was first introduced. Microsoft revealed the retirement date for Windows 10 in an updated support life cycle page for the OS. Thurrott reports that this is the first time Microsoft has ever described the end of support for Windows 10.
It’s not clear exactly when the support document was updated, but Thurrott reports it only previous documented “when specific Windows 10 versions would leave support,” and not the entire OS. It could be another hint that a new version of Windows is on the way.
Microsoft has been dropping lots of hints that it’s ready to launch Windows 11. The software maker is holding a special Windows event to reveal the “next generation” of the OS next week. The event starts at 11AM ET, and the event invite includes a window that creates a shadow with an outline that looks like the number 11. Microsoft execs have also been teasing a “next generation of Windows” announcement for months, and one even described it as a “new version of Windows” recently. Microsoft also teased Windows 11 during an 11-minute video last week.
We’re expecting Microsoft to announce a new version of Windows with significant user interface changes, and an overhaul to the Windows Store. Microsoft has been working on something codenamed “Sun Valley,” which the company has referred to as a “sweeping visual rejuvenation of Windows.” There will be many other changes, so read our previous coverage for what to expect.
Microsoft originally committed to 10 years of support for Windows 10, with an original mainstream end of support date set for October 13th, 2020. That mainstream end of support has not yet commenced, as Microsoft has been introducing regular updates and extending active Windows 10 support.
We’re still not in the extended support phase of Windows 10 yet, which is the period when Microsoft doesn’t add new features to an operating system and simply maintains support with bug fixes and security patches.
Windows 10 has been an unusual release for Microsoft, as it moved away from its typical cadence of releasing a new version of the OS every few years. Instead, Microsoft moved Windows to more of a service, updating it twice a year with new features. Microsoft may have described Windows 10 as “the last version of Windows,” but it has now been nearly six years since its release and Microsoft looks ready to move on to something new.
(Pocket-lint) – OnePlus has be on something of an exploratory journey over the past 12 months or so. Rather than delivering one or two phones at a time and launching them both globally, it took a more regional approach.
That meant while some markets got the original Nord, others – like the US – didn’t, then OnePlus followed up with various models to suit different territories. It even continued this approach with the OnePlus 9 series, offering a 9R in India, but nowhere else.
This is pretty standard practice for most manufacturers, but wasn’t for OnePlus. At least, not until now. But obviously this transition to being a ‘proper’ smartphone manufacturer is working, because it’s back again with another Nord: the Nord CE 5G.
Dimensions: 159.2 x 73.5 x 7.9mm / Weight: 170g
No official waterproofing
3.5mm headphone port
Blue Void, Charcoal Ink and Silver Ray colours
For a while there’s been this sense that when building a good smartphone, you have to start with the right materials. It had to be aluminium or steel and glass. Using plastic was as good as writing ‘cheap trash’ over the back of the phone in capital letters. But things have changed, thanks in part to the efforts of Samsung.
With its Galaxy Note 20, S20 FE and this years S21, it showed you can use plastic materials in a way that doesn’t detract from the look and feel of the phone. OnePlus has taken the same approach with the Nord CE. Our unit in Blue Void has a lovely frosted/matte finish to it that’s very reminiscent of the Samsung approach, and we like it a lot.
It has an eye-catching blue finish with just the slightest splash of purple up the edges. There are two other safer colours in Charcoal Ink (Black-ish grey) and Silver Ray.
Being a frosted/matte finished plastic does have its advantages too. Firstly, it’s not at all slippery. So it’s not hard to keep a hold of one-handed, and it’s not likely to just randomly slide off the arm of your sofa. Secondly, it not as likely to crack or turn into tiny shards when it’s dropped or banged against something. It’s a very practical choice.
Also, it just feels, well, nice.
That’s not the only practical choice made by OnePlus with the Nord CE. It’s both slimmer and lighter than the first Nord, so it doesn’t feel like a huge phone in your hand. It’s not exactly compact, but it’s easy to hold and comfortable enough to use. And it has a 3.5mm socket for wired headphones and headsets.
One choice that might not go down so well with long-time OnePlus fans is the removal of the alert switch. For years this simple slider button on the side has set the company’s phones apart from rivals, offering an easy tactile way to switch your phone to silent or vibrate. Apparently, that’s not considered ‘Core’ enough to make it on to a ‘Core Edition’ OnePlus phone.
In case you were wondering: yes, that’s what CE stands for.
Other core design choices include: not having a physical fingerprint sensor. Instead, there’s an in-display one so there’s nothing on the back, breaking up that glorious matte blue surface. The camera housing is a pretty basic pull-shaped protrusion and the display has just the one hole punched through it for a single camera.
Sadly, one last feature not deemed essential to a Core Edition phone is a subtle haptic motor for feedback. That means, with it enabled, keyboard taps are accompanied by a nasty feeling buzz, rather than a subtle tap. We quickly switched it off.
Display and software
6.43-inch AMOLED 90Hz display
1080 x 2400 resolution
Screen resolutions haven’t changed much in recent years with most smartphones opting for some version of full HD. This particular flavour is 1080 x 2400, which is the same as on most other OnePlus phones. That means it’s plenty sharp enough for day-to-day tasks with individual pixels imperceptible.
It’s AMOLED too, which means it’s a pretty punchy panel with vibrant colours and deep blacks. In its default ‘vivid’ mode the screen often over eggs the colours a bit, but with this being a OnePlus phone running OxygenOS, you get to customise its balance quite lot. Switching to ‘sRGB’ mode balances things out a lot more, but does make it a bit less exciting.
The 90Hz refresh rate ensure that when you touch the screen, or swipe at something in the interface, the response is immediate and smooth. It doesn’t reach the heights of the OnePlus 9 Pro’s 120Hz, and doesn’t feature the advanced adaptive refresh rate tech that adapts it to the content, but it’s impressively fluid and smooth for a mid-ranger.
That’s not the only element where you just about get the hint this isn’t a top tier panel.
For instance, despite being AMOLED, when the screen’s off (or black) it’s not quite as dark as the black frame around the panel, so you don’t get that blending effect, you can see where the bezel stops and the screen starts. There’s also a slight colour shift when you look at a white screen from different angles.
Just for a little perspective though, the fact we’re picking up on such non-issues as a slight negative shows two things: how competitive the mid-range market has become recently and how good this phone is for the money OnePlus is asking for it.
Part of the joy of OnePlus phones over the years is the customisation on offer from the OxygenOS software. We’ve already mentioned the ability to calibrate the screen to your exact liking, but there are also modes like Reading Mode which turns the screen monochrome for when you load up your favourite e-book app.
There’s not much new to report from a software side with the Nord CE. It’s the same as the software found in the OnePlus 9 series and OnePlus 8T that came before it. It’s OxygenOS 11 based on Android 11, which represented a major redesign when it first launched.
While OnePlus was often seen as a manufacturer offering a stock-like Android experience with lots of customisation choices, it no longer feels that way. Oppo’s ColourOS offers far more customisation of elements like the fingerprint scanner animation, always-on display, icon styles and shapes. OxygenOS by comparison feels quite stripped back and bare.
This does help it retain that feeling of ‘essentialism’ though. It has everything you need, presented in a clean and clutter free way. There aren’t any unecessary apps pre-loaded, and even core parts of the experience like phone, messages and software updates are now powered by Google’s own apps, rather than OnePlus’ own design.
Power and performance
Qualcomm Snapdragon 750G processor (8nm)
6GB, 8GB or 12GB RAM – 128GB or 256GB storage
30W fast charging
Where the Core Edition OnePlus Nord gets it right is the feeling of speed and fluidity under your fingertips. A big part of that, as mentioned, is down to the high refresh rate of the screen and the software. OnePlus has always done a great job of optimising its software animations to feel speedy.
That performance transitions well into games and apps too. Using it daily as a main phone, it never left us in any real need of more, despite ‘only’ having Snapdragon 750G. It’s not a top-tier platform, but just like the Snapdragon 765G that appeared in the first Nord, this one gets the job done without any trouble.
Playing Mario Kart Tour was a hassle-free and smooth experience, as was browsing the web, scrolling through Twitter and any other app we came across in our day-to-day phone usage.
Similarly, the 4500mAh battery inside is more than strong enough to cope with the most demanding of days. For the most part, with light usage, we’d finish the day with something like 40 per cent of the battery left over. That’s with the usual hour or so of web browsing and social media, plus a chunk of gaming.
Once empty it fills up quickly, as is typical OnePlus style. It uses a 30W wired charger, which OnePlus has clunkily named ‘Warp Charge 30T Plus’. In actual fact, it’s almost the same as Warp Charge 30T, in that it can fill 70 per cent of the battery in abut half an hour. It’s been a mainstay feature for OnePlus phones for many years and something of a lifesaver when you’ve forgotten to charge your phone or when it drains unexpectedly.
Triple rear camera system:
64MP primary camera
8MP ultra-wide (119-degree)
2MP monochrome sensor
4K recording at 30fps
Ah, OnePlus and cameras. It seems to be an age-old complaint of OnePlus phones having a not-quite-good-enough camera system. They’ve definitely improved the quality over the past couple of years, there’s no denying that, and for the most part the primary snapper on the Nord CE is decent.
You’ll get sharp photos with good colours and depth of field from the 64-megapixel sensor. It pixel bins down to 16-megapixel images automatically, so isn’t using all 64 million of those pixels individually. Not unless you enable it.
It has all the camera features you’d expect too. It’ll take portrait shots with excessive background blur, night mode shots, panoramas, timelapses, slow motion video and even has a ‘pro’ mode for adjusting ISO, white balance and shutter speed manually yourself.
There is one major weakness we’ve encoutered on the Nord CE’s primary lens however, and that’s focus distance. It really, really doesn’t like focusing on anything closer than about 13 or 14cm, which means close up shots of flowers, bugs, berries and the like are near-on impossible. You can see examples that would normally be simple shots, impossible because it refused to focus.
The only solution is either taking the photo from further away and cropping the photo in edit, or using the 2x zoom function to zoom in digitally when taking the photo.
We don’t expect super macro skills from an affordable mid-range necessarily, but we do expect it to at least handle close up focusing a bit better than this.
Without being too cricital though, having the 2x zoom and the seperate ultra-wide lens means you get enough versatility in shooting to make it useful in most situations. There’s a variety in focal lengths, but we do question the decision to put such a visually distinct different between them.
What we mean by that is there’s a noticeable drop in quality when switching from the main to the ultra-wide. Images lose some crispness, and appear visually more contrast heavy and darker, losing a lot of vibrancy in the colours while adding more noise, even in daylight. At times it also adds a hyper-real element to the colours where they just seem unnaturally saturated. It’s not the most consistent of cameras.
As for the third camera, that’s just a low resolution black and white sensor to act as a backup to the other two, bringing in some more light data.
Motorola’s new Moto G9 Plus is a stunner of a phone – find out why, right here
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On the front, the selfie camera is decent enough with OnePlus’ HDR capability shining when it comes to balancing out heavy backlighting behind you when snapping pictures of yourself. So even if the sky and clouds look too bright to get a decent shot of your face, the system does well to make sure that it’s not over-exposed and washed out.
OnePlus Nord ‘Core Edition’ is something of an unusual phone in its position. The first OnePlus Nord in itself was supposed to represent the core essentials of OnePlus phones. Stripped down, but without real compromise. So in essence, the OnePlus Nord CE is a Core Edition of a Core Edition phone. But that’s perhaps overthinking it a bit.
What really matters is that for the money you’re getting a phone without any significant flaws. It’s fast and responsive, is well-designed, has a good camera and a good screen. It’s comfortably one of the best phones in its price bracket.
We question the removal of the alert slider though. It was one of the few remaining fixtures that helped OnePlus phones stand out from its competition. Without it, it feels like OnePlus is doing more blending in with the environment. It’s transitioned away from standout phone maker, to just another phone maker and the CE is the culmination of that effort.
Alternatives to consider
The original Nord is still here, and still packs a punch. It’s fast, fluid, smooth and has a more premium glass back, slightly more powerful processor and is now discounted because it’s a bit older.
Read the review
Redmi Note 10 Pro
The Redmi Note 10 Pro is one of 2021’s best value smartphones. It boasts similar specs and capabilities to the Nord CE, but is cheaper. Crucially, it has a bigger battery, bigger display and is water resistant.
Would you believe our previous Aqua Computer product review was almost four years ago? That CPU block in many ways heralded modern designs with a lower-profile installation and an integrated OLED display, but the VARIO feature to uniquely fit the installation pressure based on your specific CPU IHS is still a novel thing I would absolutely have given the innovation award to if we had it back then. The only other Aqua Computer product we’ve checked out is the Dr. Delid tool, which is a clear sign of its times, too. I got in touch with the company recently to get a GPU block in for the ongoing RTX 3080 water block series, and we will cover it in due time, but then something I was not expecting happened.
See that beautiful build using Aqua Computer products? It does look nice with a watercooled CPU and GPU, and one of the company’s fancy ULTITUBE D5 reservoirs. I am sure the company did leak testing using its own Dr. Drop kit, which is similar to many other DIY air-based solutions but not the most elegant. Somewhere along the lines, an Aqua Computer personnel must have thought they can do better. What if there were an easier way to monitor a DIY loop for leaks and have it be a permanent part of the loop with an integrated display for monitoring, say as a replacement lid for the reservoir as seen above? What if said way could integrate with the company’s extensive aquasuite software to also trigger an alarm and shut down the PC automatically? Now imagine that same thing managing to go one step further by actually mitigating leaks too. This is a fantastic example of needing to see it to believe it as we cover the Aqua Computer LEAKSHIELD today, and thanks to the company for sending a review sample to TechPowerUp!
Twitter user Kepler has discovered a new AMD patent that details moving tasks (threads) between different types of cores in a heterogeneous processor. In other words, the patent lays the groundwork for a microarchitecture that resembles Arm’s big.LITTLE design that uses clusters of ‘big’ high-performance cores paired with ‘little’ efficiency cores.
AMD files over a plethora of patents every year, so there’s no guarantee that all of them will manifest as real products. That said, there are plenty of reasons to think that we could see a hybrid AMD design come to market. Intel has already embraced a hybrid design on its desktop parts with the upcoming 12th-Gen Alder Lake family. It’s reasonable to assume that AMD will eventually hop on the hybrid bandwagon at some point in time.
Although the Method of Task Transition Between Heterogeneous Processors patent was just published a couple of days ago, AMD filed it back in 2019. This patent may be an extension of a similar patent that AMD also filed in the same year about implementing instruction set architecture (ISA) in a heterogeneous processor.
There’s an ongoing rumor that AMD’s Ryzen 8000 (reportedly codename Strix Point) APUs could arrive with a hybrid setup. The chips allegedly feature high-performance Zen 5 cores and low-powered Zen ‘4D’ cores. Unless AMD has been diligently working behind the scenes, it’s unlikely that Strix Point will make it to the market in time to compete with Intel’s Alder Lake chips that may launch in late 2021 or early 2022. However, the APUs will probably go head-to-head with Raptor Lake, the alleged successor to Alder Lake.
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The patent explains that the process to relocate a task or task from the first processor to the second processor will be based around performance metrics based on certain thresholds or some other trigger. AMD didn’t specify which cores are which, but for the sake of conversation, we can assume that the first processor refers to the big cores and the second processor refers to the power-efficient cores.
Obviously, the whole point behind a hybrid configuration is to optimize performance-per-watt while also improving performance. To achieve this goal, tasks must be moved quickly and efficiently between the big and small cores. AMD’s method consists of comparing one or multiple metrics to a threshold on a checklist to determine whether or not to pass the task from one processor to another. Once the assessment is complete, the first processor essentially pauses operations while the information is transferred over to the second processor.
AMD mentions numerous examples of the type of metrics that the chipmaker could leverage for the task relocation process. The chipmaker mentions task execution time, core utilization, memory usage, idle state of a single core, or duration of a single-core execution – just to mention a few scenarios.
In one example, AMD measures the period of time that the small cores are running at the maximal clock speed and compares it to a threshold. If the duration is greater than the established time threshold, the task shifts over to the bigger cores. In another example, AMD takes into account an external factor: memory. If the memory utilization is less than the threshold established on the small cores, the task will remain on said cores.
Hybrid processors won’t succeed unless there is proper software support. Recent rumors point to a new, more efficient scheduler in Windows 11 that’s optimized for hybrid setups. That new update is rumored to land later this year at the same time as Alder Lake, which should pave the way for better support for hybrid processors.
Bitcoin is about to get a significant upgrade. A proposal called Taproot finally received the 90% approval rating it needed to start the Speedy Trial phase before officially joining the Bitcoin Core software at the heart of the cryptocurrency.
Bitcoin Core developer Gregory Maxwell proposed Taproot in January 2018 in a bid to make Bitcoin transactions more efficient, private, and scalable via smart contracts. (More information about the proposal is available via the Bitcoin Optech website.)
Coindesk explained that the Bitcoin Core approval process states that “1,815 out of 2,016 blocks mined within a period have to include a little piece of encoded information that indicates that the miner who mined that block is in favor of the upgrade.”
That was just the first phase. The next phase is the Speedy Trial itself, effectively giving developers five months to add support for the Taproot soft fork. Taproot will then be officially activated when the Speedy Trial ends in November.
CNBC reported that Taproot’s activation is expected to make “smart contracts cheaper and smaller, in terms of the space they take up on the blockchain “by using Schnorr signatures rather than the Elliptic Curve Digital Signature Algorithm.
Marathon Mining CEO Mark Thiel told CNBC that improved smart contracts are “the primary driver of innovation on the ethereum network.” He said improving support for them should allow more complex apps and businesses to be built using Bitcoin.
Those improvements come at a pivotal moment for Bitcoin. Although some countries have become more enthusiastic about the cryptocurrency recently, it’s also faced increasing criticism from regulators, especially in China.
Taproot’s activation code is available now via Bitcoin Core 0.21.1, which can be downloaded from the Bitcoin Core website.
The open source RISC-V instruction set architecture is gaining more mainstream attention in the wake of Intel’s rumored $2 billion bid for SiFive, the industry’s leading RISC-V design house. Unfortunately, RISC-V has long been relegated to smaller chips and microcontrollers, limiting its appeal. However, that should change soon as RISC-V International, the organization that oversees the development of the RISC-V instruction set architecture (ISA), has announced plans to extend the architecture to high performance computing, AI, and supercomputing applications.
The RISC-V open-source ISA was first introduced in 2016, but the first cores were only suitable for microcontrollers and some basic system-on-chip designs. However, after several years of development, numerous chip developers (e.g., Alibaba) have created designs aimed at cloud data centers, AI workloads (like the Jim Keller-led Tenstorrent), and advanced storage applications (e.g., Seagate, Western Digital).
The means there’s plenty of interest from developers for high-performance RISC-V chips. But to foster adoption of the RISC-V ISA by edge, HPC, and supercomputing applications, the industry needs a more robust hardware and software ecosystem (along with compatibility with legacy applications and benchmarks). That’s where the RISC-V SIG for HPC comes into play.
At this point, the RISC-V SIG-HPC has 141 members on its mailing list and 10 active members in research, academia, and the chip industry. The key task for the growing SIG is to propose various new HPC-specific instructions and extensions and work with other technical groups to ensure that HPC requirements are considered for the evolving ISA. As a part of this task, the SIG needs to define AI/HPC/edge requirements and plot a feature and capability path to a point when RISC-V is competitive against Arm, x86, and other architectures.
There are short-term goals for the RISC-V SIG-HPC, too. In 2021, the group will focus on the HPC software ecosystem. First up, the group plans to find open source software (benchmarks, libraries, and actual programs) that can work with the RISC-V ISA right out of the box. This process is set to be automatized. The first investigations will be aimed at applications like GROMACS, Quantum ESPRESSO and CP2K; libraries like FFT, BLAS, and GCC and LLVM; and benchmarks like HPL and HPCG.
The RISC-V SIG-HPC will develop a more detailed roadmap after the ecosystem is solidified. The long-term goal of the RISC-V SIG is to build an open-source ecosystem of hardware and software that can address emerging performance-demanding applications while also accomodating legacy needs.
How many years will that take? Only time will tell, but industry buy-in from big players, like Intel, would certainly help speed that timeline.
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