Tag: notebook

PC sales continue to fall

elepantsCanalys analysts have been playing with their slide rules and worked out that PC sales have fallen 13 percent more than the previous year.

Total global PC shipments, including desktops, laptops, convertibles and tablets comprised 101 million units in the first quarter of 2016. This is the lowest total Canalys has recorded since the second quarter of 2011. Two in Ones did ok with a 13 percent growth but otherwise sales were weak.

Tim Coulling, Senior Analyst at Canalys said that shipments of two-in-ones and detachable tablets are expected to continue to do well in the US and will grow in high income markets.”

But that gear is too expensive to make much of an impact for a while.

“Although other vendors are coming to market with cheaper alternatives, they are unlikely to have a big impact on volumes in the short term.”

Tablet sales fell 15 percent compared to the previous year, Notebook shipments in EMEA plummeted 18 percent.

Canalys considers tablets as PCs.  Apple is the top vendor but not far ahead of Lenovo. Apple saw a fall of 17 percent  amounting to just over 14 million devices. Apple and Lenovo are effectively neck-and-neck which is a sign that any advantage Apple gained by popularising tablets has been lost to people who make the same thing better and cheaper.

All these figures tie to the recent Gartner figures for the first quarter of 2016, which showed a 9.6 percent drop compared to Q1 of 2015, with total shipments falling below 65 million units for the first time since 2007. That figure did not include tablets.

We all knew the market was rubbish but it does not seem like it is pulling out anytime soon.

Nvidia tinkers with its high end

nvidiaGPU maker Nvidia is making a few changes at its ultra-high-end, and introducing a “new” mobile GPU that’s not really a mobile.

The GeForce GTX 980 has not shipped with the traditional “M” on the end of the model number. For Nvidia fans looking to buy a notebook with the chip inside it, that would not be a problem – they would know that this was not a mobile chip.

Nvidia has done its best to configure the GPU so that it will not drain the battery too fast. It has made some careful optimisations of the components that accompany the GPU. This includes changes to the memory, voltage regulation module, and PCB.

This helped Nvidia take the full desktop GeForce GTX 980 GPU (GM204) and cram it into mobile form factors. These helped it achieve high frequencies at lower-than-typical voltages.

The GPUs are paired to 7Gbps GDDR5 memory and heatsinks with up to 2X the cooling capacity.

Notebooks powered by this GPU will be unlocked, and fully overclockable. And they’ll also offer users the ability to alter fan curves.

The GeForce GTX 980 will apparently allow notebooks powered by the GPU to push multiple screens or power VR gear.

MSI GT80 is huge for a mobile PC, and packs in a mechanical keyboard and 18.4” display and we suspect you will need to be as rich as Croesus to own one. But it is telling that the gaming market is becoming so important that Nvidia is prepared to tinker with its top of the range models to make them fit into notebooks – even if they are not true mobile chips.

ODMs pushing convertible notebooks

Taiwanese ODMs are reportedly persuading brand vendors to sign up for new 2-in-1 convertible designs, which are Microsoft’s and Intel’s latest attempt to halt the Android onslaught. Unlike Ultrabooks, 2-in-1 convertibles should feature sexier form factors and they could go after high-end tablets.

However, notebook peddlers might need a bit more convincing before they take the bait. Although convertibles should be straightforward to produce they will still end up pricier than high-end tablets. Based on Intel x86 chips and Windows 8, they simply need more silicon and battery capacity to run properly. In addition, consumers don’t appear to be too interested in first generation designs, which might be the biggest problem with the push.

Wistron chairman Simon Lin said technology is not an issue, but the real challenge is coming up with designs that meet consumer demand, Digitimes reports. This might prove a lot more challenging than actually designing and building the next generation of 2-in-1 convertibles.

Convertibles are supposed to feature the best of both worlds, but at the moment they simply don’t. They fall short on a number of fronts. In terms of productivity they are trumped by 13-inch and bigger notebooks, but at the same time they are bulkier and more expensive than tablets. The technology might be there, but that doesn’t mean there is much of a market for such devices.

In any case it seems the ODMs, or Intel and Redmond for that matter, have nothing better to offer so we’ll see some on the market whether we like it or not, despite the fact that the industry itself doesn’t seem convinced the push will work. Then again, the PC industry ran out of good ideas a long time ago, so who can blame them for trying.

Intel reportedly pushing Android convertibles

Windows 8 can’t be described as a flop just yet, but it is no success story, either. Now it appears that Intel might be about to start pushing Android convertible notebooks, in an effort to stimulate demand and move away from Windows.

Rumour loving Digitimes reports that several major vendors, including Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, Acer and Asus will launch Intel based convertibles sometime in the third quarter. Lenovo will lead the way and it will introduce its first Android based notebook a bit earlier, in May. 

Intel is rumoured to be targeting the sub-$500 market with Android based convertibles. Pricier designs, such as Haswell based Ultrabooks should cost at least a couple of hundred more and they will feature Windows 8 rather than Android. In terms of hardware, the convertibles will have to feature a completely detachable keyboard that will allow them to transform into a tablet. With a completely detachable keyboard, the whole concept sounds a lot like Asus’ Transformer series of Android devices.

It might sound a bit farfetched, and since Digitimes can sometimes be a squeaky cog in the rumour mill, the report should be taken with a grain of salt. However, with the demise of the netbook, Intel might have a vested interest in pushing cheap notebooks and convertibles based on Android, or even Chrome OS.

Android could be a pretty good choice for no frills notebooks and convertibles. It is getting more productivity apps with each passing day, there are plenty of office applications and best of all it is completely free, unlike anything coming out of Redmond. 

Windows 8 to drive touchscreen boom

Touchscreen sales are set to boom as notebook manufacturers get to grips with Windows 8 touch optimisation. 

The growth in smartphones and tablets has typically been regarded as the main driver for touchscreen revenues. However, with the introduction of Windows 8, and combined with the forthcoming release of Intel Ultrabooks with hybrid tablet features, the range of devices featuring touch is expected to widen.

According to DisplaySearch, the market for touchscreen module revenues is set to hit $16 billion this year, before doubling to $31.9 billion in 2018. This is largely driven by smartphone, tablet and handheld console sales, such as the PS Vita. Such devices are said to account for $13.6 billion in revenues this year.

However with the imminent release of Windows 8, larger PCs are also set to make an impact on touchscreen revenues.  Microsoft has been showing off the touch features of Windows Office recently and touch capabilities are strongly suited to the Metro interface.

Along with a push from Ultrabook vendors to kit a new range of devices out with touchscreens, this is expected to see touch on notebooks jump fourfold from two percent in 2012 to eight percent next year.

This would be good news for Intel, which has so far been struggling to meet the expectations it set itself for the ultrathin devices. The company seems confident touch will increase demand for the devices.

Intel has been taking no chances and has been investing in its touchscreen supply chain, signing deals with the likes of Wintek and HannTouch to ensure that it is ready to meet demand.

In addition to notebooks, the growth in all in one PCs, which already often feature touch, is likely to help boost module revenues.  Automotive applications are also set to rise.

Lite-On targets small business with E200 solid state drive

Optical storage maker Lite On has made its first move into the UK solid state drive market with the E200.

Aimed at small to medium business users it is attempting to push for more widespread SSD use, which are becoming more and more affordable.

Although a UK price has not yet been agreed, we are told, the SSD will be released in 80GB and 160GB flavours.

The 2.5 inch SSDs will be shipped with a 3.5 inch bracket meaning that the storage devices will be easy to put into a notebook or desktop.

The E200 will have sequential read and write speeds of up to 503 Mb/s and 265 Mb/s.  Random read and write speeds are 71,000 IOPS and 64,000 IOPS.

The drive also supports the latest SATA 6GB/s and uses a Marvell controller.   This means fast boot up times, as you would expect from an SSD, and less faffing around for office workers and those using business PCs.

Lite On is also promising reliable performance over a long period to combat any slow down with heavy usage of the E200.  True Speed certification standards mean that this should not be a problem, with efficiency staying the same throughout its lifespan.

With SSD prices dropping the popularity of the storage devices looks set to increase this year, both in the consumer space and for businesses.

Never mind Linux on the desktop – what about on laptops?

If some weird and geeky reincarnation of Muddy Waters were to sing today “I’ll Put a Penguin On Your Lap” I’d probably say “thanks, but no thanks”. I wouldn’t want to cook my internal organs by Penguin Exposure.

With the introduction of the APU by AMD, which integrates a CPU and a GPU core on the same die, the netbook and laptop market has seen a small invasion of decent, sometimes great, kit powered by AMD’s C-series and E-series APUs. These offer a much better performance / value ratio compared to the previous generations, where the CPU and the GPU were two separate power-hungry, yet measly, things.

Sometimes, certainly more frequently than in the past, you can also find some of these notebooks without Windows pre-installed, thus saving another €80 or so.

So, if you’re lucky and a little careful about the specs, you can easily end up with a netbook sporting a nice 720p screen, only slightly larger and heavier than a tablet, for one half of the price. Oh, and with the capability to, say, develop & edit some RAW photos on the road, not just limited to Angry Birds or The Next Big Fad.

That same ‘book can also come in handy for long train rides or flights, when with a pair of earbuds you can isolate yourself from that noisy family sitting next to you and watch hours of your favorite TV show in HD – you did buy a six-cell battery ‘book, didn’t you?

The problem is – and please keep in mind that I’m talking about a product more than a year old – that simply slapping Ubuntu or Fedora on your Windows-free ‘book, simply won’t cut it. AMD releases updated, proprietary graphic drivers every single month (the Catalyst suite, called “the binary blob” by OSS purists). You’d imagine that in a year, without having to release any source code to anyone, it would have had all the time in the world to come up with something that can fully take advantage of those two great cores, sitting cozily on the same die, right?

Wrong. Even compared to an unfinished product such as Windows 8, both Developer and Consumer Preview, the performance and power drain delta is, simply put, immense. On Linux, HD Flash video is simply out of the question, while HD local content is barely viewable, if you can stand the “liquid redraw” effect that often occurs.

Heat and noise levels, inversely proportional to how long your battery will actually last, are uncomfortably high on Linux. Every Kernel version, every Catalyst version – I’ve tried them all in one year. On Windows, your favourite HD local content will barely stir the fan. Otherwise the general performance is snappy enough for a €240 netbook.

In one final attempt to give the Penguin another chance, I doubled the RAM bringing it up to 4GB, and replaced the slow HD with a smaller but far snappier SSD. Alas, as Led Zeppelin said, the song remains the same. In the process, my netbook has become a much more expensive little thing, thanks to the upgrades. Or, to put it in another way, it is still a warm brick, but now it cost me a lot more.

Never mind the infamous Year of Linux On the Desktop that never comes: on the AMD APU front, especially in its portable incarnation, the Penguin doesn’t stand the remotest of chances.

Finally – and sadly – realising this, last week I capitulated at last and bought a Windows 7 licence. And now I’m a happy Borg drone! And my first victim has been a cute little Penguin.

The news in reviews – another hardware roundup

Razer, the gaming accessory maker, has branched out into gaming laptops, bringing forth the Razer Blade 17.3-inch notebook. Not being a notebook specialist, it has accomplished a great deal, with Anandtech going to the point of calling it the Windows answer to a 17-inch MacBook Pro. Slim, powerful but pricey, though. It goes to show that the powerful notebook makers really need to roll up their sleeves and get with the program.

Asus uses its Direct Copper II cooling systems on Guru 3D to eke out all the performance it can of an already massively performing Radeon HD 7970. This huge tri-slot card will fulfil your graphics cravings, for sure, but be ready to drop a pretty penny.

Tom’s Hardware has updated its “Best graphics for the money” feature for March. You can find there what the best product is for every pocket, from the sub-$100 category to the gargantuan $400 plus. The update includes the newly-releases Pitcairns and Cape Verde aka HD 7800 and HD 7700 series graphic chips.

Hardware Canucks is having a long hard look at forthcoming Asus Z77-based motherboards. It’s a full lineup of enthusiast kit, Republic of Gamers inclusive. You can expect some good things coming out of the Asus design shop.

Shortly after your traditional reference design graphics card reaches the market, add-in board partners are sure to start churning out their unique take on the original récipe. Hardware Heaven has reviewed the Sapphire HD 7970 OverClock Edition Dual-X graphics card. The dual-fan behemoth is very silent and a huge improvement over the reference design.

Coinciding with Marvell’s announcement of a new SSD controller, Xbit Labs has thrown together a review of several Marvell-based SSDs. Crucial, Corsair and Plextor fight it out against some SandForce units. It’s quite interesting to see that Marvell’s server experience passes on down the food chain.

Expreview has its first-hand look at Nvidia’s GTX 560 SE. It’s an OEM product that’s cut from the same block as the GF114, like the GTX 460. However, it performs a lot worse than a 1GB GTX 460, and no one will mourn its passing when the time comes.

The Sapphire Edge HD3 is a mini-PC based on AMD’s Brazos E-450 CPU. It’s a tiny little thing that SilentPCReview thought of reviewing. The Edge HD3 packs 4GB of DDR3, a 320GB HDD, Gigabit ethernet, 802.11n wireless, front USB 3.0 ports to expand storage, HDMI and above all… FreeDOS.

TrustedReviews got its hands on some serious business with the HP Folio 13 Ultrabook. Folios aren’t new-new to the market, but the Ultrabook classification says it looks and feels more and more like a MacBook than anything else. It carries a full assortment of audio and video features, plus the still odd Wi-Di connection. Since this is a business kit, it also comes with Intel’s Trusted Platform Module 1.2.

Western Digital's head almost above water post Thai floods

After many weeks of doom and gloom there was a glimmer of hope for the hard drive industry plagued by the flooding in Thailand.

Two of the biggest players have signalled that they are ahead of schedule with factory clean-ups and have raised their revenue forecasts accordingly.

Western Digital reckons its revenues will hit $1.8 billion in December, up from between $1.05 billion and $1.25 billion back in October.  Seagate indicated that it too had been recovering from the floods.

If their assurances are correct then this is no mean feat – as last time we checked factories were variously underwater or besieged by crocodiles and cobras

Now, work has started in one of the buildings which until very recently was under six feet of water, according to a statement released by WD.

Of course, Western Digital CEO John Coyle did note that “much work remains to be done”, and he’s not wrong there.  Western Digital will have to take a hit to the tune of between $225 and 275 million for the floods, and the global supply chain is in tatters.

Workers may have done a good job of pumping water out of some of the factories, but HDD prices have got UK distributors in a flutter, and the knock-on effect means that notebooks are likely to see price increases for some time to come.

In fact, while Seagate claims that it has recovered quickest from the floods, it has recently highlighted the dire straits the industry is likely to be in for many more months to come.

Competitors rub palms over HP PC deathbed

HP’s thumb-twiddling over its PC business is allowing rivals to encroach on its European notebook sales and elsewhere, too.

TechEye endeavours to find out more, as always, but with most approaches to the redundant art of public relations of the wing and a prayer variety, actual comment is few and far between.

Acer has been experiencing increased orders in the European channel, with volumes heading north of three million.

According to Digitimes, downstream channel retailers are beginning to turn to the likes of Asustek and Acer thanks to Action Man Apotheker’s suicide note.  Acer already has a decent presence in the European market so it can ill afford to wait around.

While it originally seemed that the increase would be but a short blip, orders are continuing to soar.  Even for netbooks which the analysts claim have been suffering lately.

TechEye approached representatives of Sony, Dell and Asus, represented by Beige London, Axicom and TruPR respectively.

However so far we’ve received nothing and will be forced to play that waiting game before the usual belated and tepid, drafted response.  Otherwise the usual black hole for doomed PR requests awaits, with a large piled titled ‘TechEye’ growing steadily at the bottom while the admins obsess over metrics in spreadsheets.

You would think the CEOs of these companies would be keen to get their message across. The problem is the agencies aren’t aware that they’re hated by the companies that hire them for trumped up admin, and really do think they control the news.

Let the guessing game of PR roulette commence. First Prize goes to Asus, represented by Tru PR, which came back with a resounding ‘no comment’ in a rather respectable one and a half hours after our original request. Tru PR prefers sending out fluff releases like their terminally crap “Newsflash! The speaker is dead” failed viral that was so bad we couldn’t ignore it.