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Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 4K tablet hands-on review

03 Mar 2014

Mobile World Congress 2014 saw a wave of new processors appear on the scene. This kicked of with Intel, when it launched a major offensive into the smartphone market, unveiling its dual-core Merrifield and quad-core Moorefield Atom processors. Not wanting to be outdone by the PC heavyweight, Qualcomm answered back, unveiling its latest top-end Snapdragon 805 64-bit processor.

On paper the Snapdragon 805 is pretty impressive. Built up of four Krait 450 cores with a maximum clock speed of 2.7GHz, the chip also integrates an Adreno 420 GPU and 128-bit memory interface. But a chip by itself is never the whole story, and it's all about how it works with the other parts and software in the device.Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 4K tablet front

We got to test the Snapdragon running inside several demo Android tablets at Qualcomm's MWC stand, and we were very impressed by how well they ran. Trying out the first tablet with a variety of pre-installed applications, the device was lighting fast. We were particularly impressed with how well it dealt with heavier, more demanding tasks such as 1080p 3D gaming.

We're guessing this is due to the chip's upgraded Adreno 420 GPU, which is listed as offering 40 percent better performance than the older 320. It's also likely a consequence of the fact that the Adreno 420 GPU supports new hardware tessellation and geometry shaders for 4K rendering.

Hardware tessellation is a feature traditionally only seen in discrete GPUs for PCs and it has only recently been incorporated into DirectX and next-generation games consoles such as Sony's PS4 and Microsoft's Xbox One. For us the feature's inclusion on the Snapdragon 805 is sign that Qualcomm is working to further close the gap between PCs and tablets.

4K ultra HD resolution display
We noticed the biggest Snapdragon perk on a second tablet, which had a 10.1in 4K ultra HD 3840x2160 resolution display. This display quality is only possible on the tablet thanks to the advanced GPU and CPU combination in the Snapdragon 805, and we have to concede that the 4K display is a serious technical achievement.

Viewing a variety of images on the device, we found it one of the crispest and sharpest displays we've seen on a tablet. From, what we've seen of the test device so far, the display easily beat the iPad Air's performance. Holding the tablet as close to our face as we could, we still couldn't discern individual pixels on the screen.Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 4K tablet city

As an added bonus the Snapdragon 805 also offers 4K video playback, featuring support for the hardware 4K HEVC (H.265) decode for mobile. Sadly, we didn't get a chance to test this during our hands on.

There's currently no word about when the first Snapdragon 805 tablets will be go on sale, but from what we've seen of the Qualcomm demo devices, we're pretty excited. The demo tablets we tried seemed lightning fast and, while we didn't get a chance to benchmark them, they did seem to offer substantially improved performance on Qualcomm's previous Snapdragon 800 processor.

That said, the real question isn't how the Snapdragon 805 compares with the 800, it is how it will match up to the performance of Intel's Moorefield. We're yet to get a chance to test this, but with Dell, Lenovo and Asus confirmed to be working on devices using the upgraded Atom chips, hopefully we won't have to wait long to do so.

By V3's Alastair Stevenson

Qualcomm Toq smartwatch hands-on

09 Sep 2013

BERLIN: Chip designer Qualcomm took the wraps off a smartwatch at IFA on Thursday, rivalling the Asian technology giants Sony and Samsung, the latter of which unveiled its own smartwatch at the German trade show earlier this week.

Working in the same way as Sony's Smartwatch 2 and Samsung's Galaxy Gear, the Toq, which is actually pronounced "talk" as opposed to "tock", hooks up to any Android device running Android 4.0.3 and above, and syncs data such as calls and text messages from the phone straight to the wrist to bridge the gap between your wrist and your pocket.

Qualcomm's Toq smartwatch hands-on at IFA 2013 front

We got a quick demo of the wearable device at IFA this week, where Qualcomm's senior director of product management Shane Dewing allowed us to poke and prod at the latest build of the Toq smartwatch to see how it works.

Qualcomm's Toq communicates with Android devices via Bluetooth. Although many of the average smartphone functions aren't available directly through the watch, it is more of an extension of the smartphone, working in conjunction with an app to display events, text messages and call notifications, as well as other smart bits and bobs like displaying the weather and controlling music.

Qualcomm's Toq smartwatch hands-on at IFA 2013 app

Quacomm couldn't tell us the size of the screen, but we know that it's a Mirasol display, similar to E-ink, which means that it's visible in brightly lit conditions. During our demo, Dewing held the watch up towards the window and we saw how the display seemed to absorb the light as opposed to reflecting it.

Below and above the screen are two touch-sensitive buttons that we assume work by haptic feedback technology. Touching the one at the top turns on the backlight, which seemed fairly bright in our demo, though not as bright as Samsung's Galaxy Gear. The button below the screen takes the watch back to the homescreen.

Qualcomm's Toq smartwatch hands-on at IFA 2013

The Toq user interface looks more sophisticated than that of the Galaxy Gear, with more options to choose from. It also seems simpler to use and on first try it became clear which icons achieved what, unlike the Samsung Galaxy Gear that confused us a little at first.

Qualcomm said that the watch will take around an hour and half to charge and last for about three to four days before it needs recharging. The most interesting thing here is that the watch's rechargeable battery is charged wirelessly via a charging dock.

Qualcomm's Toq smartwatch hands-on at IFA 2013 charger

Dewing was keen to point out that our demo model wasn't the final build version of the Toq, so there were some slight software issues remaining when it was being shown to us. For instance, Dewing explained that the home screen face of the watch is interchangeable - done via the app on the phone and then synced across to the watch - but in our demo this function didn't seem to work. Qualcomm will surely resolve this in the final build of the product. However, other than this little glitch, the watch was fluid and responsive to the touch, opening its various screens quickly.

Design and build
Comparing the Toq to the recently launched Galaxy Gear watch, it definitely has a more premium feel, which is reflected in its price. Dewing said that Qualcomm will offer limited sales of the Toq online sometime this year to get an idea of customer demand, with initial stock retailing for around $300.

Qualcomm's Toq smartwatch hands-on at IFA 2013 clasp

Dewing didn't let the Toq smartwatch stray far from his wrist during our demo, but we did manage to convince him to take it off so we could get an idea of its size and weight. The exact weight is unknown, but when we held it in our hands it felt quite light, weighing much less than Samsung's Galaxy Gear.

Qualcomm's Toq smartwatch hands-on at IFA 2013 back

A feature we found rather interesting about the Toq was the position of the battery, which sits within the clasp, allowing the face of the watch to be much slimmer and flat against the wrist.

Qualcomm said it is in talks with OEMs regarding future sales. We'll have more on the Toq when we get our hands on a review unit in the near future.

CES: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series hands on review

08 Jan 2013

LAS VEGAS: It's not easy to follow in the footsteps of Windows and Xbox, but that's exactly what Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 chip was tasked with doing in the first ever non-Microsoft CES opening keynote.

The mobile chip was the headlining announcement in the headlining address of the biggest technology conference of the year. With that billing comes high expectations. Does the Snapdragon 800 measure up?

Snapdragon 800 series

The first versions of the 800 series, which will be aimed at the tablet sector, are only available in prototype devices. The first OEM models equipped with the hardware are still some months away and will likely only arrive in full force towards the end of the year.

Qualcomm has made a point of playing up the muscle behind Snapdragon. The company loves to show its complex images rendered as wireframe to underscore just how much processing power is being put into each of its demonstration scenes.

Snapdragon 800 series

The Snapdragon 800 will largely target the gaming market in its earliest incarnations. However, where high-end gaming is found, creative professionals and other high-demand business users are not far behind. The chip offers console-quality graphics and high frame rates, while controls were fluid and responsive, even for a prototype.

Snapdragon 800 series power management

Along with more processing power, Snapdragon 800 chips will feature brand new power management tools. The above meters show the chip regulating its power intake by completely turning off unused processor cores and regulating the activity of the GPU as needed.

Nokia Lumia 920 hands-on review

14 Sep 2012

Nokia's forthcoming Lumia 920 made a surprise appearance at Qualcomm's IQ Berlin 2012 event. On hand at the show, V3 took the time to take a more thorough look at Nokia's new Pureview camera packed smartphone.

Design and build
Visually the Lumia 920 looks incredibly similar to Nokia's previous flagship smartphone, the Lumia 900. Both phones feature the same striking Lumia design, featuring curved sides, flat tops and pointed edges. The two smartphones are also incredibly similar in size, with the 920 measuring in at 130x71x10.7mm and the 900 measuring 128x69x12mm

However, in hand the Lumia 920 feels like a completely different handset. This is largely due to the Lumia 920's carbonate casing finish. Where the 900 and 800 featured matte finishes, the 920's casing is shiny and significantly smoother. This makes the Lumia 920 feel fairly different and gives it a more striking look when viewed up close.Nokia Lumia 920 hands on Windows Phone 8 side

Another key factor differentiating the Lumia 920 from the 900 is that Nokia has given it a curved glass display. In hand this meant that we found the 920 much more comfortable to hold, with it making the device's design feel a bit more ergonomic than its flat-screened predecessor.

The Lumia 920 features a 4.5in Nokia PureMotion HD+ WXGA IPS LCD display, complete with Super Sensitive touch technology and Nokia ClearBlack with high brightness mode and enhancements designed to make it easier to read in sunlight.

Nokia claims that the technology makes the 920's display one of the crispest on market. Testing the screen in the dark, poorly lit conditions of the IQ 2012 conference centre, we found the screen looked amazing. Putting the 920 head to head with the Lumia 800 and HTC One X during our tests, we would honestly say the 920 looked the best.

Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to test the Lumia 920's screen in regular or outdoor lighting conditions, meaning we didn't get to see how the device's Nokia ClearBlack technology with its high brightness mode or sunlight tweaks turned on.

The Lumia 920 comes with Microsoft's Windows Phone 8 operating system. The OS is set for release in October and adds a host of new features and services to Microsoft's mobile offering. The upgrades include resizable tiles, multi-core processor support and improved security. Not content with these core upgrades, Nokia has added to the WP8 features with its own series of custom services.

Chief of the new services available on the Lumia 920 is Nokia's new City Lens feature. The feature offers users an augmented reality display that gives dynamic information about users' surroundings. 

Nokia Lumia 920 Microsoft Windows Phone 8 City Lens

City Lens is one of the new Lumia smartphone's most interesting additions and we were really keen to properly test it out, unfortunately though, being stuck in a windowless conference hall we didn't get the chance. However, our demo video from the Lumia 920 launch showed impressive results.

The Lumia 920 features a 1.5GHz Dual Core Snapdragon S4 that is backed up by 1GB of RAM. Nokia claims the tech will allow the Lumia 920 to match the performance of most top-end quad-core Android handsets, arguing that Windows Phone 8 is significantly less power hungry than Android.

During our hands-on, we tried racing the 920 against the One X, seeing which smartphone was faster loading web pages faster and was smoother to navigate and found that there was some truth to Nokia's boasts.

The Lumia 920 matched the One X step for step, with it being all but impossible to tell which was faster. We're really looking forward to getting a chance to put the Lumia 920 through its paces, seeing how it deals with more power hungry, intensive tasks come our full review.

The Lumia 920 comes with an 8.7MP rear-facing camera complete with Nokia PureView advanced optical image stabilisation technology and Carl Zeiss optics.

Nokia claims the Lumia 920's rear camera is the best currently available on any smartphone capturing "five to 10 times more light than competitors devices".

During our hands on we didn't really get a chance to try out the Lumia 920's camera, with the Nokia spokesman on call all but slapping the device out of our hands the moment our fingers veered towards the photo app. Maybe the firm is still touchy about fake photo-gate.

Overall our opening impressions of Nokia's Lumia 920 are incredibly positive. Even though the device looks incredibly similar to the Lumia 900, even in the short time we had the device, it became increasingly clear that the 920 is a radically different handset, featuring greatly improved tech and software.

While we're not convinced the Lumia 920 will turn around Windows Phone's fortunes overnight, we were impressed with our initial demo.

Check back with V3 soon for a full review of the Nokia Lumia 920.

Qualcomm Snapdragon vs Samsung Exynos tablet processor benchmarks

10 Sep 2012

BERLIN: Qualcomm's developer tablet was on show at the company's IQ 2012 Berlin event on Monday.

V3 took the chance to test the Qualcomm developer tablet's Snapdragon processor against the Exynos quad-core chip used in Samsung's popular Galaxy Note 10.1.

On paper, the Note and Qualcomm development tablet are incredibly similar. Both devices run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and house 10.1in screens.

Additionally, both the Note and the development tablet feature processors made by their parent companies. Specifically, the Note 10.1 features a Samsung-made 1.4GHz quad-core Exynos 4412 processor, while Qualcomm's development model packs a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro.Qualcomm Snapdragon vs Samsung Exynos Antutu

This means comparing the two should be fair, with both featuring custom designed components.

To start its comparison, V3 tested both the Note and the development tablet using the Antutu and Quadrant benchmarking apps. On both occasions Qualcomm's Snapdragon S4 Pro demo unit came out on top.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon demo unit scored an impressive 138,888 on Antutu; the Note by comparison scored a still impressive 12,578.

With Quadrant's CPU, I/O and 3D graphics benchmark, the Qualcomm tablet scored 7,639, while Samsung's Galaxy Note tablet scored a less impressive 5,261.

This means that on paper the Qualcomm developer tablet is on paper one of the fastest we've ever seen, easily trumping most, if not all of the top end tablets currently available.

Interestingly though this increased power doesn't translate into a better user experience on Qualcomm's demo unit.

The Qualcomm tablet is by its nature a demo product and as such doesn't feature the same polished feel the Note does. The Snapdragon tablet's WXGA display is significantly less responsive than the Note's and doing basic things like navigating the display is cumbersome.

Additionally, the Qualcomm demo unit's 13MP camera didn't really live up to our expectations. While photos taken using the unit looked reasonable, they weren't as detailed as we'd expect. We're thinking this is due to a software oversight that stops the tablet taking full advantage of its 13MP sensor.Qualcomm Snapdragon tablet screen

While these oversights can be forgiven on a demo unit, they would be unforgivable on a product released for purchase to the general public. Hopefully though these problems will be fixed by other manufacturers hoping to release products using the Snapdragon S4 Pro, letting the impressive processor really show off what it can do.

Check back with V3 later for further coverage of Qualcomm's IQ 2012 event.

Colour coming soon to an e-book reader near you

28 Nov 2011

The first e-book reader with a screen that combines the advantages of e-ink with the ability to display interactive content has been unveiled in Korea, paving the way for such devices to become widely available in the future.

The Kyobo device is based on Qualcomm's Mirasol technology, which in this case delivers an e-book reader with a 5.7in 1,024x768 screen that can display in colour, yet still offers a battery life of several weeks' worth of reading, according to the maker.

Kyobe ereader with Mirasol colour display

Until now, e-reader vendors have been faced with a choice of e-ink displays or more conventional LCD screens to build into their devices.

While LCD can provide full colour, it requires a backlight that eats up battery power - hence the screen going dark on your phone after a period of inactivity.

Meanwhile, e-ink displays do not require battery power to hold an image and have high contrast in ambient light, making them suitable for reading purposes. However, the screen is slow to update and current models offer only a monochrome display.

Qualcomm's Mirasol screens use a technology called interferometric modulator display, which produces pixels using the combination of a reflective microscopic mirror and a thin film stack that can be flipped into one of two states to allow light through or block it.

The result is a display technology that can show colour, by combining pixels tuned to reflect red, green or blue light, and one which can potentially change state quickly enough to show video content. Qualcomm has already demonstrated a prototype that can handle 30 frames per second, for example.

While the Kyobo e-reader appears to be aimed at the Korean domestic market, it points the way to colour e-readers that should be widely available in the near future, while the Mirasol technology might eventually find its way into other devices such as smartphones.

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