This One’s for Apple : Make the MacBook Pro “Pro” Again

Although the latest MacBook Pro was a hit among some people, most of the Apple fan boys were quite upset with certain features of the flagship device, which was released last year. These include, removal of the legacy USB-A ports, including a graphics card that would not handle 1080p resolution in games and a heavy price tag. I’m going to share some of the possibilities for the 2017 model of the Apple MacBook Pro that the users would love to expect.

Processor

During CES (Consumer Electronics Show), Intel introduced the 7th generation processors for the future MacBooks.

7th-generaion-of-intel-core-processors

Figure 1 : 7th Generation of Intel Core Processors [1]

Although Apple rushed to release the new MacBook Pro last year, they should have waited for the new processors to be released by Intel, so that the users could feel that their product is truly revolutionary. Well, for the Mac lovers who have a bit of patience, it is quite possible that the 2017 models will feature the 7th generation processors (codenames Kaby Lake), which are said to be quite power efficient. Though Ryzen processors, which are manufactured by AMD (the main competitor of Intel), made some waves during this year’s CES, it is very much unlikely that these would be equipped in the new MacBook Pro.

RAM

The current models have 16 GB of RAM, which seems to be an ample amount, some users have complained that this amount is not sufficient for complex tasks. According to Apple, only 16 GB was used as the maximum possible amount of RAM because battery life could be reduced with greater amounts of RAM. According to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, there is a “high-end 15-inch model” with 32 GB of RAM which could be released later this year with desktop class RAM with “emerging memory technology like LPDDR4 or DDR4L” [2].

Graphics

The 2016 MacBook Pro comes with AMD Radeon Pro 450,455 or 460 dedicated graphics chip, the latter being a component for the custom built machine. If you recall, the high-end Mid 2013 15-inch model was equipped with a 2 GB nVidia Geforce GT 750M with 2 GB of GDDR5 memory. Radeon Pro 450 and 455 have 2 GB of VRAM and this is not sufficient for playing games on high definition with high quality today. However, Apple would argue that the MacBook Pro is meant for professionals but a “Pro” laptop should be targeted to the gaming community as well. Both 2012 and 2013 models were equipped with nVidia chips and then Apple moved to Radeon chips by AMD in 2014 and has been using them ever since. According to an article by Apple Insider, there is a possibility that the 2017 models could feature nVidia chips again [3]. I am not quite sure about the agreement between Apple and AMD to provide graphics chips for future Macs, so it is also possible that the 2017 model could feature Radeon Pro 500 series as the dedicated graphics chi. At CES 2017, a Radeon RX 570 graphics card had been spotted with 8 GB of VRAM [4]. Also, it would be better if the basic model consists of a graphics chip with 4 GB of VRAM rather than 2 GB.

Storage

The basic amounts of storage of the 2016 models are 256 GB and 512 GB. These days, people download movies with 1080p quality and hence 256 GB is clearly not an option for the modern world. Also, if Windows 8.1 or 10 is installed by creating a Bootcamp partition, there will be less space for the Macintosh HD partition. Of course there are external hard drives as a viable solution but who would like to spend money on another peripheral storage device after already spending enough money on a laptop that is quite expensive? Therefore, models with 1 TB of storage have to be made available without making the buyers to spend more for an upgraded storage option.

Ports

Since the 2016 model featured only four USB-C (Thunderbolt 3) ports (15-inch model) and one headphone port , it is very much likely  that Apple would stick to USB-C boasting  about the versatility of the port with the help of adapters.

usb-c-to-usb-adapter

Figure 2 : Apple USB-C to USB Adapter [5]

If that is the case, it would be nice if at least one USB-C to USB-A adapter is included in the box (like the lightning-to-3.5 mm adapter that comes with the iPhone 7), considering the fact that most flash drives, mice and Apple’s very own iOS devices have USB-A data cables, without making the users buy adapters separately as the laptop itself has a heavy price tag.

Price

The basic pre-configured 13-inch model, which features a dual core Intel Core i5 processor costs $1,499 while the 15-inch model, which features a quad core Intel Core i7 processor costs $2.399. These laptops are quite expensive when compared to the ones that are manufactured by competitors such as HP and Dell with outstanding specifications. Therefore, a drop in price is highly essential.

 

After reading this article, I would like to request my fellow readers, who are potential MacBook Pro upgraders, to hold their horses as the release of the 2017 variants is not far away and the devices will have best value for money, hopefully.

 

References:

[1] Redmond Pie. 2017. Intel Unveils New Kaby Lake 7th Gen Core Processors Destined For Future Macs | Redmond Pie. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.redmondpie.com/intel-unveils-new-kaby-lake-7th-gen-core-processors-destined-for-future-macs/. [Accessed 19 January 2017].

[2] AppleInsider. 2017. Apple to offer 32GB of desktop RAM in top-end 2017 MacBook Pro, 16GB for 12″ MacBook. [ONLINE] Available at: http://appleinsider.com/articles/17/01/16/apple-to-offer-32gb-of-desktop-ram-in-top-end-2017-macbook-pro-16gb-for-12-macbook. [Accessed 19 January 2017].

[3] AppleInsider. 2017. Nvidia working with Apple on graphics for ‘revolutionary’ new Mac products. [ONLINE] Available at: http://appleinsider.com/articles/16/09/26/nvidia-working-with-apple-on-graphics-for-revolutionary-new-mac-products. [Accessed 19 January 2017].

[4] Wccftech. 2017. AMD Radeon 500 Series Mobility is an OEM-Rebrand of 400 Series. [ONLINE] Available at: http://wccftech.com/amd-radeon-500-mobility-rebrand-rx-570/. [Accessed 21 January 2017].

[5] Apple. 2017. USB-C to USB Adapter – Apple. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.apple.com/shop/product/MJ1M2AM/A/usb-c-to-usb-adapter. [Accessed 21 January 2017].

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Discover the Next Galaxy

Today I had the opportunity to get a hands on experience with the latest Galaxy devices of the Samsung flagship, namely Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge and thought of sharing my experience with my readers. Design

Figure 1 : Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

Figure 1 : Samsung Galaxy S6 (left) and S6 Edge (right) [1]

The Galaxy S6 has a sleek design, which cannot be found any previous models. The four corners of the phone are curved (Figure 1). The front and rear consists of glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 4) while the rest of the body is made out of metal in both models, which give a premium feel.

Figure 2 : Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge [2]

Figure 2 : Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge [2]

As shown in Figure 2, the 3.5 mm headphone and charging ports can be found at the bottom of the phone. The grill at the bottom-right is the speaker, which could produce good (but not great) bass. Both S6 and S6 Edge have 5.1″ QHD AMOLED displays with a resolution of 1440 x 2560. Micro-SIMs cannot be used with these models as they use nano-SIMs. Performance Both Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge have Samsung Exynos 7420 Octa-core processors (Quad-core 1.5 GHz Cortex-A53 & Quad-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57) and 3 GB of RAM under the hood, which take multitasking to a whole new level [3].

Samsung Exynos 7 Octa processor

Figure 3 : Samsung Exynos 7 Octa Processor [4]

I checked the RAM usage via Applications Manager and found out that the system uses 1 GB of RAM. I am not quite sure whether the phone might run slow after a lot of apps and widgets have been installed though as the retail devices run quite smoothly without any lag. The software which runs in both models is Android 5.0.2 (Lollipop). The Li-Ion battery in S6 and S6 Edge is non-removable and has capacities of 2550 mAh and 2600 mAh, respectively.

Figure 4 : Samsung Galaxy S6 camera [5]

Figure 4 : Samsung Galaxy S6  rear camera [5]

The rear camera on both S6 and S6 Edge is 16 MP and has optical image stabilisation while the front camera is 5 MP, ideal for taking selfies. The camera application has a shortcut too; just press the Home button twice. The only negativity i found in the camera is the design : The camera protrudes from the back, making it difficult to keep the phone flat on a surface. However, this problem could be solved by using a case.

The least amount of storage in both of these devices is 32 GB, which is quite large (although approximately 15.3 GB of this will be used by the system). This is the reason for the elimination of the micro SD card slot. I do not know why fans keep on complaining about this though.

Another cool feature that I found in both devices is wireless charging. You don’t have to carry the charging cables and adapters always as wireless charging stations are going to be equipped at places such as restaurants.

Here’s what I feel about the latest flagship devices by Samsung. To be honest, the Galaxy S6 looks like an iPhone 6 by Apple. Don’t just take my word for it, give them a try. Also take care when handling these devices as they are not waterproof !

References :

[1] Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.samsung.com/uk/galaxys6/images/kv-phones.png. [Accessed 14 March 2015].

[2] Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: http://cdn3.pcadvisor.co.uk/cmsdata/features/3596185/Samsung_Galaxy_S6_Edge_800.jpg. [Accessed 14 March 2015].

[3] Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge – Full phone specifications. 2015. Samsung Galaxy S6 edge – Full phone specifications. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s6_edge-7079.php. [Accessed 14 March 2015].

[4] Samsung Exynos 7 Octa processor. 2015 . [ONLINE] Available at: http://i-cdn.phonearena.com/images/articles/167183-thumb/samsung01148.jpg. [Accessed 14 March 2015].

[5] Samsung Galaxy S6 rear camera. 2015 . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.samsung.com/uk/galaxys6/images/features-camera.png. [Accessed 14 March 2015].

A Phone with a Curved Edge Screen

Last week, I checked out the phone which Samsung is boasting about which is equipped with a curved display, named “Galaxy Note Edge”, and thought of sharing my views on the flagship device.

Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Figure : Samsung Galaxy Note Edge [1]

Design

Note Edge consists of a 5.6″ Quad HD+ Super AMOLED screen with a resolution of 1600 x 2560 pixels and the edge of the screen is curved. This feature helps the user to view notifications without interruption and he/she will not miss them, even if the cover of the phone is closed.

Specifications The year 2014 became a year with selfies. The camera in Note Edge is ideal for these (even wide ones) as it has a front camera with a resolution of 3.7 MP and a rear camera with a resolution of 16 MP.

Figure 2 : Rear camera of the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge

Figure 2 : Rear camera of the Samsung Galaxy Note Edge [2]

To improve security, the software has a fingerprint scanner, so it is not necessary to remember the passcode to unlock the phone.

Figure 2 : Block diagram of the Snapdragon 805 processor

Figure 3 : Block diagram of the Snapdragon 805 processor [3]

Multitasking has just got better with the 2.7 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Krait 450 processor and 3 GB RAM. There is so much space for music and pictures as the phone consists of 32 GB of internal memory. Android 4.4 (KitKat) is the operating system of the phone but I think it would be possible to upgrade it to 5.0 (Lollipop). The phone is not that heavy and according to the official specifications, it only weighs 174g [4]. This incredible device has been powered by a 3000mAh battery which could be charged from 0 to 50% in about half an hour !

In conclusion, I would give this phone 8/10 overall. At first, I thought that the edge screen was pointless but then it does have a purpose.

References :

[1] Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.t-mobile.com/content/dam/tmo/en-g/PhotoStory/samsung-galaxy-note-edge/samsung-galaxy-note-edge-photo-story-blade-1.jpg. [Accessed 30 January 2015].

[2] Rear camera of Samsung Galaxy Note Edge. 2015. . [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.androidcentral.com/sites/androidcentral.com/files/styles/xlarge_wm_brw/public/article_images/2014/11/galaxy-note-edge-review-45.jpg. [Accessed 16 March 2015].

[3] Snapdragon 805 Processor Specs and Details | Qualcomm. 2015. Snapdragon 805 Processor Specs and Details | Qualcomm. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.qualcomm.com/products/snapdragon/processors/805. [Accessed 16 March 2015].

[4] Samsung GALAXY Note Edge – Specs. 2015. Samsung GALAXY Note Edge – Specs. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.samsung.com/global/microsite/galaxynoteedge/noteedge_specs.html. [Accessed 30 January 2015].

iPhone Joins the “Phablet” Club

19th of September was a big day for Apple fans as the iPhone 6 was launched worldwide for the public. I too had the opportunity to experience the flagship device and thought of sharing my thoughts with my readers.

Figure 1 : iPhone 6 (Left) and iPhone 6 Plus (Right)

Figure 1 : iPhone 6 (Left) and iPhone 6 Plus (Right)

  The first thing I love about this phone is the change in design. Since iPhone 4, Apple had been designing phones which are physically very similar but iPhone 6 has a more curved and sleek design, similar to the Samsung Galaxy devices. Secondly, I must say “Apple, welcome to the family of phablets !”. The iPhone 6  has a 4.7″ screen and the 6 Plus has a massive screen of 5.5″. That’s huge !! I personally did not find it difficult to handle an iPhone 6 Plus using one hand but if a particular user is having trouble, the phone has a feature called “Reachability”, which can be activated by tapping the Home button twice. The contents displayed on the screen get shifted down close to one’s thumb.

Figure 2 : iPhone 6 Plus reachability feature

Figure 2 : iPhone 6 Plus reachability feature [2]

If you do not prefer viewing content on the 6 Plus in portrait, landscape viewing is available. Simply tilt the phone 90 degrees anti-clockwise.

Figure 3 : iPhone 6 Plus Landscape Mode

Figure 3 : iPhone 6 Plus Landscape Mode [3]

Including the retina display found in Macbook Pro’s is also a plus sign for Apple, giving users the option to view movies in high resolution. The phone is pre-loaded with iOS8 with incredible new features such as Quicktype, Health and Continuity. (Please check the official website of Apple iOS 8 for more details). I also checked the technical specifications of both models using the website given in the references below [4] [5]. Both models have a dual-core processor (A8 and M8) and 1 GB of RAM. “Bummer, isn’t it?” I was expecting at least a quad-core processor with 2 GB of RAM. “Oh well…Apple……”. The iPhone 6 has a more advanced iSight rear camera with 8MP of resolution. Again, I was expecting a 13MP rear camera because most of the phones of Apple’s competitors, such as Samsung and HTC, are now equipped with a 13 MP rear camera. Maybe they’re leaving these hardware changes for iPhone 6S? Fingers-crossed. The hexa-core graphics processor is a plus for playing games. Sometimes, the numbers in the specifications can turn you down, so I checked some benchmark results on the performance and I was shocked by the result. Even though iPhone 6 has a dual-core processor, the benchmark score exceeds that of Samsung Galaxy S5, which has a quad-core processor ! The video given below shows this:

A final piece of advice : If you have a Mac, it’s better to go for an iPhone rather than an Android phone since syncing your phone with iTunes is very, very easy. Trust me on this. Plus, because of the lightning cable, you do not have to check the side of the connector when you try to connect your iPhone for syncing or charging. One more thing, please don’t drop your iPhone 6, if you buy one.

References :

[1] iPhone 6 | Release date, price, specs, new features, pictures – PC Advisor. 2014. iPhone 6 | Release date, price, specs, new features, pictures – PC Advisor. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/mobile-phone/3436742/iphone-6-release-date-specs-new-features-uk-price-on-sale/. [Accessed 21 September 2014].

[2] How to Enable and Use Reachability with the iPhone 6. 2015. How to Enable and Use Reachability with the iPhone 6. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tekrevue.com/tip/reachability-iphone-6/. [Accessed 07 March 2015].

[3] iPhone 6 Plus Landscape Mode. 2015. [ONLINE] Available at: http://cdn1.itpro.co.uk/sites/itpro/files/styles/gallery_wide/public/lanscape_mode.png?itok=d892EIOs. [Accessed 07 March 2015].

[4] Apple iPhone 6 – Full phone specifications. 2014. Apple iPhone 6 – Full phone specifications. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gsmarena.com/apple_iphone_6-6378.php. [Accessed 21 September 2014].

[5] Apple iPhone 6 Plus – Full phone specifications. 2014. Apple iPhone 6 Plus – Full phone specifications. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.gsmarena.com/apple_iphone_6_plus-6665.php. [Accessed 21 September 2014].

The Freescale DSP56321 – An Overview

Today, I would like to share something that I have learnt when I was following my Undergraduate degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at University of Manchester. It is about the Freescale DSP56321.

The DSP56321 is the fastest member of the DSP563xx family and is ideal for systems requiring a minimum cheap count. Below is a block diagram showing the internal architecture of the device.

DSP56321 block diagram

Figure : Internal architecture of the Freescale DSP56321[1]

Let’s look at the hardware components briefly.

Memory

The DSP56321 has three internal memory areas, namely program memory (which contains the coding or instructions), x-data memory and y-data memory, and each area of memory has its own data and address bus. These communicate with the outside world using bus multiplexers. The program memory is sub-divided into 32768 words of user programmable RAM and 192 words of bootstrap ROM. This ROM holds a special program that is automatically invoked when the device is reset. The x and y areas of data memory can store up to 40,960 words of user data. This is an extension of the Harvard architecture because many algorithms used in signal processing utilise two distinct signal vectors. For example, FIR (finite impulse response) filters require memory to store the incoming signal and memory to hold filter coefficients and FFT (fast Fourier transform) routines require memory to hold the real and imaginary Fourier components.

The Data ALU

The Arithmetic and Logic Unit (ALU) of the DSP56321 has the task of carrying out the mathematical and logical processing of the data stored in x and y-data memories and contains an enhanced 24-bit fixed-point filter co-processor, which processes using values between -1  and +1. The ALU comprises four 24-bit input registers.

Processor ports

There are five logical ports (A to E) in the DSP56321 which are used for communication with external devices such as memory and interfaces. Each port has a particular designated operation of communication. For example, port A is the memory expansion port that is used when external memory is connected to the processor.

Register control of peripheral systems

This device also contains separate registers that control various peripheral systems. It is possible to modify the operation of a peripheral by loading different control words to these registers.

References

[1] DSP56321 Internal Architecture [ONLINE] Available at:http://cache.freescale.com/files/graphic/block_diagram/DSP56321BD.jpg. [Accessed 19 March 2014].

[2] Lecture Notes by Prof. P. Gaydecki (2013)

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – Review

This week I went to Phones 4u to get hands-on experience with Samsung Galaxy Note 3. It has been there in the stores for several months now but unfortunately I did not get some time to try it out.

First, I will explain the hardware. This mobile phone weighs 168 g and runs Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) but can be upgraded to Android 4.4.2 (KitKat) after purchase and consists of a 5.7″ FHD (full HD) sAMOLED (Super Active Matrix Organic Light-Emitting Diode) display with a resolution of 1080×1920 pixels. This feature is suitable for a user who enjoys watching movies and playing games on his or her phone. I did not find this really fancy because it is hard to control the screen using just one hand. Note 3 has been manufactured with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chipset and a Krait 400 quad-core processor with a clock speed of 2.3 GHz, so the processing is lighting fast. It also comprises of 3 GB RAM (random access memory), which is ideal for multitasking, and also contains 32 or 64 GB flash memory onboard, so more files can be stored without installing additional storage using microSD cards, although it is possible to expand flash memory up to 64 GB. There is a 13 MP Auto Focus rear camera with features such as Smart Stabilisation, LED flash and Zero Shutter Lag and a front camera of 2 MP. The cameras also feature Dual Shot, Dual Recording and Dual Video Call, so both the cameras can be used simultaneously. The battery installed is a 3200 mAh Standard Battery, which supports up to 11 hours of internet usage time on LTE (Long Term Evolution) and 3G HSPA+, up to 13 hours on WiFi usage and up to 380 hours on standby with LTE, which is impressive. The phone also supports wireless networks such as GSM, GPRS, EDGE and Bluetooth 4.0.

Now I will explain the features in the software. The main feature is Air Command, where a user can hover the stylus known as “S Pen” over the screen and tap the embedded button to open the Air Command, which consists of a list of useful features such as Memo and Scrapbook. Another feature is Action Memo, which allows a user to make a quick handwritten note that instantly activates a function. such as making a call, adding a new contact, creating a To-Do item or email, looking up an address on the map or searching the web [1]. Scrapbook is the third feature that the software contains, which organises photos and videos stored in different places, including online storage, so the user does not have to waste time searching for them. Finally, the S Note, which helps a user to create instant notes, browse through and edit them without having to recreate them. If the user scribbles a chart on S Note, the Easy Chart feature embedded in S Note can transform this in to a professional-looking graph.

In conclusion, this phone is suitable for professionals in the industry of art and design because it is easy to write down notes or ideas and draw sketches on the go using this incredible phone and the S Pen.

Screen Shot 2014-03-08 at 12.04.25

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with S Pen [1]

References :

[1] Galaxy Note 3 – 4G, 3G, Wi-Fi, NFC, 13MP, 5.7“ FHD, 2.3GHz – Samsung UK – FEATURES. 2014. Galaxy Note 3 – 4G, 3G, Wi-Fi, NFC, 13MP, 5.7“ FHD, 2.3GHz – Samsung UK – FEATURES. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.samsung.com/uk/consumer/mobile-devices/galaxy-note/smartphones/SM-N9005ZWEBTU-features. [Accessed 08 March 2014].

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 with S Pen [1]

References :

[1] Galaxy Note 3 – 4G, 3G, Wi-Fi, NFC, 13MP, 5.7“ FHD, 2.3GHz – Samsung UK – FEATURES. 2014. Galaxy Note 3 – 4G, 3G, Wi-Fi, NFC, 13MP, 5.7“ FHD, 2.3GHz – Samsung UK – FEATURES. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.samsung.com/uk/consumer/mobile-devices/galaxy-note/smartphones/SM-N9005ZWEBTU-features. [Accessed 08 March 2014].