Razer Unveils Project Linda: Turning the Razer Phone into an Android Laptop

As part of their announcements today, Razer is lifting the lid on one of its internal projects. Like other previous Razer prototype developments that get a female name, Linda follows in the footsteps of Christine, Cheryl, Valerie, and Ariana, some of which made it to retail. Linda at its heart is an accessory for the Razer Phone, turning the smartphone into an Android laptop with a bigger screen, more storage, and a bigger battery, all while using the super-loud front facing Razer Phone speakers and the phone display as a configurable touchpad.

Razer’s aim here is to provide Razer Phone owners with the ability to be more productive as well as have a mouse and keyboard gaming experience in a clamshell-like environment from the phone. Linda is still in the prototype phase, with Razer getting extensive feedback. But ultimately what the user gets is a 13.3-inch display in a 0.59-inch (14.99-mm) clamshell with a Razer Chroma enabled keyboard, USB 2.0 ports, enough battery for 3 full recharges of the Razer Phone, 200GB of additional storage, a webcam/array microphone, and perhaps some other features still to be decided.

The Razer Phone sits in the dock in the clamshell, and is fixed into place by the adjustable USB Type-C connector inside the dock that the user controls via a button. Everything is then attached via this USB interface – the display, keyboard, and storage. The idea is that the phone can be installed and removed seamlessly, and apps can take advantage of the dual screen by having the phone display custom buttons during gaming. The USB ports can be used for a mouse, enabling (in Razer’s own words) ‘PC style gaming’, although we should reiterate that this is still an Android system.

For wireless connectivity, the clamshell will use the Wi-Fi or LTE connection of the smartphone, although no additional antenna arrangement would be provided by Linda. The combined device is unlocked using the smartphone fingerprint sensor as well. To save cost, no speakers are in the clamshell, with Razer making full use of the smartphone speakers. It will be interesting to see how the users arms muffle the audio while over the keyboard – while none of the renders we were provided have a 3.5mm headphone jack as part of Linda, we were able to confirm from Razer that one will be there. Adding such a jack would likely require USB Type-C audio passthrough (which is probably electrically noisy), or an additional DAC in Linda which would add to the cost.

Most of the features are still to be ironed out. Razer is aiming to make the display match the resolution and refresh rate of the phone (which will be a big chunk of the cost of Linda), although they are not there yet.

During our briefing, we were probed for thoughts and feedback – my main concern is that most of the time I am on my PC or laptop, I also have my phone out as I use them very differently. For example, when watching a film, I might have social media on my phone, or when working doing a live blog, I’ll be writing on my laptop while taking photos on my phone. If Linda allowed for a wired cable (or wirelessly, though that would take battery) to do the same thing, it might work. However, as an Android device, it might not be terribly useful for my multi-tasking workflow as it stands.  One other thing I requested is the ability to do some level of base functionality without the phone, such as Netflix.

Razer is going after gamers though – the subset of gamers that also bought the Razer Phone. If Linda was to become a retail product, ideally it would work with multiple generations of Razer Phones, which would mean allowing for an adjustable hole in Linda, or keeping the same phone dimensions.

If this sounds a bit like Windows Continuum, where users would dock a Windows Phone and get a Windows-like experience on a large display, it is kind of like that but with Android, similar to the desktop style experiences seen with Samsung’s DeX (Desktop Experience) and Huawei’s smartphone as a desktop feature.

Price of Linda is also a consideration. Even though it’s basically a USB device under the hood and not a full laptop, a 13.3-inch, 120 Hz touch display with 200GB of storage isn’t going to come cheap, especially if the panel is IPS and not TN. I’m guessing that Razer should aim for a bundle with the Phone at $999, although speaking to other editors, anything over $200 would be too much.

We’re getting some hands-on time with the prototype at CES, more info to come.

Here’s a quick refresher on the history of Razer projects:

Razer Internal Projects
AnandTech Year Concept Status
Female Names:
Linda 2018  Smartphone Clamshell Dock Prototype
Cheryl 2017 Razer Phone On Sale
Valerie 2017 Tri-Screen Laptop Stolen
Ariana 2017 Display Projector with Chroma Prototype
Sheena 2015 Capture Card Prototype
Winona 2015 Streaming Camera Razer Kiyo ?
Christine 2014 Modular Gaming PC Concept
Fiona 2012 Dual Controller Gaming Tablet See Nintendo Switch
 Male Names : None.
Other Names:
Breadwinner 2016 Toaster April Fool
McFly 2015 Hover Mouse April Fool
Switchblade 2011 7-inch Gaming Netbook Prototype

HP Announces Updated Elitebook 800 G5 series and ZBook 14U/15U Laptops b

HP has announced today updates to its Elitebook and Zbook lines, with an aim to ‘bring premium experiences and features to the mainstream’. Ultimately, it comes down to a mobile workforce, which is a key aspect to HP’s latest marketing push and updates.

Elitebook 800 G5 Series

The 800 G5 series is a mid-level commercial laptop resting below the flagship premium design of the Elitebook 100 series. HPs goals with this generational update are to bring down features of that premium design to the mainstream and the majority of users. To that end, the Elitebook 800 G5 series was redesigned using an all-aluminum chassis with a lighter color, a narrow border ultrabright IPS display (adapt to changing light conditions through ambient temperature sensors), as well as performance bumps through using the latest 8th generation Intel Core processors.

HP claims that the new Elitebook 800 G5 series is said to the worlds thinnest 14” notebook with discrete graphics (AMD Radeon RX540). Even with the discrete GPU and 8th Generation Intel Core processor, the battery life is listed as running for up to 14 hours, and supports HP Fast Charge, which claims to provide 50% charge in around 30 minutes. The Elitebook 800 G5 series is also focused on I/O – according to HP, ITDMs were requesting a lot of IO capabilities, so these models use a diverse set including USB Type-C connections with TB3 support, an ultraslim dock connector (dual docking capability), RJ-45, HDMI, cards readers, etc.

The Elitebook 800 G5 series adds a third microphone, a ‘world-facing’ implementation, located on the back of the monitor panel. This microphone can function in two ways: first in individual mode will be used as a noise canceling device; second, in conference mode, means it can be used as a standard microphone to pick up voices, etc. The device can also be used as a full function speakerphone, to text and answer calls (HP Phonewise), and is Skype Business certified including shortcut keys for present, answer, and hang-up functions.

On the security and manageability side, HP trickled down its suite of security functions to the 800 series. Features such as HP Sure Start (BIOS recovery/healing – powered by endpoint security controller), HP Sure Run (maintains and protects company firewall and AC), HP Sure Recover (quick and easy reimage of device), and HP Sure Click (protects against malware/ransomware through browser), and HP Sure View Gen 2 (for screen privacy, reduces viewing angle to ~35°) all make their way to this series. In addition, the 800 G5 series also includes biometric multi-factor authentication through Windows Hello and a fingerprint sensor. And for those who cover their cameras up with post-it notes, the new Elitebook includes an integrated shutter users can slide over covering the camera ensuring privacy.

All Elitebook models will be available in February 2018. With the 830 G5 (13″) starting at 1049, the 840 G5 (14″) at $1029, and the 850 G5 at $1039.

HP Elitebook 830, 840, 850 Series G5 
Price ($US) Starting at ~$1029
Type Notebook PC
Processor Family 7th and 8th Generation Intel Core i7 and i5
Processors i7-8650U (4-core – 1.9 GHz base, 3.9 GHz Turbo)
i7-8550U (4-core – 1.8 GHz base, 4.0 GHz Turbo)
i5-8350U (4-core – 1.7 GHz base, 3.6 GHz Turbo)
i5-8250U (4-core – 1.6 GHz base, 3.4 GHz Turbo)
i5-7300U (2-core – 2.6 GHz base, 3.5 GHz Turbo)
i5-7200U (2-core – 2.5 GHz base, 3.1 GHz Turbo)
Maximum Memory 32GB DDR4-2400 (2 SO-DIMMs)
Network Connectivity Intel Dual-Band Wireless AC 8265 802.11ac Wi-Fi + Bluetooth 4.2
Intel I219-LM GbE
Intel I219-V GbE (non vPro)
Internal Storage 256GB up to 1TB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD
512GB M.2 SATA FIPS
128GB up to 256GB M.2 SATA SSD
Graphics Intel HD / UHD Graphics 620
AMD Radeon RX540 (4GB GDDR5)
Expansion Slots 1 x Smart card reader
Display 13.3″ / 14″ /  15.6″ – FHD IPS LED-backlit touchscreen (220 cd/m 45% sRGB)
13.3″ / 14″ /  15.6″ – HP Sure View Integrated Privacy Screen – FHD IPS
13.3″ / 14″ /  15.6″ – FHD IPS anti-glare LED-backlit (400 cd/m – 72% sRGB)
13.3″ FHD IPS anti-glare LED-backlit (220 cd/m – 45% sRGB)
14″ / 15.6″ 4K IPS anti-glare LED-backlit (400 cd/m – 72% sRGB)
14″ HP Sure View IPS anti-glare LED-backlit (700 cd/m – 72% sRGB)
Ports and Connectors 1 x Thunderbolt 3 (USB Type-C)
2 x USB 3.0 (charging)
1 x HDMI 1.4b
1 x RJ-45
1 x docking connector
1 x headphone/microphone combo
1 x AC Power
Input Device HP Premium Collaboration Keyboard (spill resistant with drain, optional backlit)
Camera HD Camera, HD IR webcam
Power 45W/60W USB Type-C adapter
45W/60W External AC power adapter
HP Long Life 3-cell, 50 wh Li-ion
Dimensions  830 – 12.22″ x 9.03″ x 0.7″
840 – 12.84″ x 9.22″ x 0.7″
850 – 14.6″ x 9.91″ x 0.72″
Weight 2.94lbs / 3.27lbs / 3.94lbs

HP ZBook 14u/15u G5

The HP ZBook 14u/15u G5 is the next product line in the Zbook family to get an upgrade. The ZBook 14u reduces its thickiness by 28% compared to the last generation, while both the 14u and 15u lines get an upgrade to 8th Generation Intel Core processors (up to quad core). Updates also include Radeon Pro discrete graphics, and high speed PCIe SSD options for fast storage. HP has also put the 14u/15u through MIL-STD 810G testing including additional testing for bench handling and crash hazard shock.

Outside of the performance and durability, HPs aimed to deliver premium features to the mainstream in the Zbook as well. The chassis of the HP Zbook 14u/15u uses a CNC machined LCD cover along with an aluminum keyboard deck, which HP claims gives a solid fit and finish that was selected for both aesthetics, and durability. It comes in a silver color with different shades on the chassis, keyboard deck, and touchpad.

For specifications, these new models will also Intel 8th Generation processors along with Radeon Pro Graphics. For storage, the Zbook 14u/15u G5 will use the HP Z Turbo drive PCIe SSD with capacities ranging from 256GB to 2TB. It is also the first workstation which uses the integrated privacy screen using HPs Sure View Gen 2 technology. These, like the Elitebook above, are also mindful of security and use the Sure Start, Sure Recover, and Sure Click features from HP.

HiSilicon Kirin 970 – Android SoC Power & Performance Overview b

Today I would say that there’s only two truly vertically integrated mobile OEMs who have full control over their silicon: Apple and Huawei – and of the two one could say Huawei is currently even more integrated due to in-house modem development. Huawei’s semiconductor division, HiSilicon, has over the last several years been the one company which seems to have managed what the others haven’t: break in into the high-end market with solutions that are competitive with the current leader in the business, Qualcomm.

I remember the Honor 6 with the newly branded (Previously not having any “halo” line-up name) Kirin 920 SoC as the first device with the company’s in-house SoC that we reviewed. These and the following generation the Kirin 930 suffered from immaturity with problems such as a very power hungry memory controller and very disappointing camera processing pipeline (ISP/DSP). The Kirin 950 was in my opinion a turning point for HiSilicon as the product truly impressed and improved the quality of the product, catching many eyes in the semiconductor industry, including myself in the resulting review of the Huawei Mate 8.

Over the last several years we’ve seen great amounts of consolidation in the mobile semiconductor industry. Companies such as Texas Instruments which were once key players no longer offer mobile SoC products in their catalogue. We’ve seen companies such as Nvidia try and repeatedly fail at carving out meaningful market-share. MediaTek has tried providing higher end SoCs with the Helio X line-up with rather little success to the point that the company has put on hold development in that segment to rather focus on higher margin parts in the P-series.

Meanwhile even Samsung LSI, while having a relatively good product with its flagship Exynos series, still has not managed to win over the trust of the conglomorate’s own mobile division. Rather than using Exynos as an exclusive keystone component of the Galaxy series, Samsing has instead been dual-sourcing it along with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon SoCs. It’s therefore not hard to make the claim that producing competitive high-end SoCs and semiconductor components is a really hard business.

Last year’s Kirin 960 was a bit of a mixed bag: the SoC still delivered good improvements over the Kirin 950 however it was limited in terms of what it could achieve against competing flagship SoCs from Samsung and Qualcomm as they both had a process node advantage. Huawei’s introduction of flagships with new generation of SoCs in the fourth quarter is more close to the release time-frame of Apple than the usual first quarter that we’ve come accustomed of Qualcomm and Samsung.

As such when pitting the Kirin versus Snapdragon and Exynos’s we’re looking at a product that’s more often than not late to the party in terms of introduction of new technologies such as process node and IP. The Kirin 970 fits this profile: as a 10nm Cortex-A73 generation-based SoC, it lagged behind Qualcomm and Samsung in terms of process node, yet being too early in its release to match up with ARM’s release schedule to be able to adopt DynamiQ and A75 and A55 based CPU cores for this cycle. That being said the Kirin 970 enjoys a few months with technical feature parity with the Snapdragon 835 and Exynos 8895 before we see new Snapdragon 845 and Exynos 9810 products later in the usual spring refresh cycle.

Nevertheless, the article today is a focus on the Kirin 970 and its improvements and also an opportunity to review the current state of SoCs powering Android devices.

HiSilicon High-End Kirin SoC Lineup
SoC Kirin 970 Kirin 960 Kirin 950/955
CPU 4x A73 @ 2.36 GHz
4x A53 @ 1.84 GHz
4x A73 @ 2.36GHz
4x A53 @ 1.84GHz
4x A72 @ 2.30/2.52GHz
4x A53 @ 1.81GHz
GPU ARM Mali-G72MP12
746 MHz
ARM Mali-G71MP8
1037MHz
ARM Mali-T880MP4
900MHz
LPDDR4
Memory
4x 16-bit CH
LPDDR4 @ 1833 MHz
29.9GB/s
4x 16-bit CH
LPDDR4 @ 1866MHz
29.9GB/s
2x 32-bit
LPDDR4 @ 1333MHz 21.3GB/s
Interconnect ARM CCI ARM CCI-550 ARM CCI-400
Storage I/F UFS 2.1 UFS 2.1 eMMC 5.0
ISP/Camera Dual 14-bit ISP Dual 14-bit ISP
(Improved)
Dual 14-bit ISP
940MP/s
Encode/Decode 2160p60 Decode
2160p30 Encode
2160p30 HEVC & H.264
Decode & Encode

2160p60 HEVC
Decode

1080p H.264
Decode & Encode

2160p30 HEVC
Decode

Integrated Modem Kirin 970 Integrated LTE
(Category 18/13)

DL = 1200 Mbps
5x20MHz CA, 256-QAM

UL = 150 Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

Kirin 960 Integrated LTE
(Category 12/13)

DL = 600Mbps
4x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

UL = 150Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

Balong Integrated LTE
(Category 6)

DL = 300Mbps
2x20MHz CA, 64-QAM

UL = 50Mbps
1x20MHz CA, 16-QAM

Sensor Hub i7 i6 i5
NPU Yes No No
Mfc. Process TSMC 10nm TSMC 16nm FFC TSMC 16nm FF+

The Kirin 970, isn’t a major IP overhaul as it continues to use the same central processing unit IP from ARM that was used in the Kirin 960. The new SoC even doesn’t improve the frequency of the CPU clusters as we still see the same 2.36GHz for the A73 cores and 1.84GHz for the A53 cores. When ARM originally launched the A73 we had seen optimistic targets of up to 2.8GHz on TSMC 10nm, but we seem to have largely missed that target, a sign of ever increasing difficulty to scale frequency in mobile SoCs as the diminishing returns from process node updates become worse and worse.

The Kirin 970 does bring a major overhaul and change in the GPU configuration as we see the first implementation of ARM’s Mali G72 in a 12-cluster configuration, a 50% increase in core count over the Kirin 960’s G71-MP8 setup. The new GPU is running at a much reduced frequency of 746MHz versus the 1033MHz of the Kirin 960. In Matt Humrick’s review of the Kirin 960 we saw some disastrous peak average power figures of the Mali G71 outright exploding the thermal envelope of the Mate 9, so hopefully the architectural improvements of the new G72 alongside a wider and lower clocked configuration in conjunction with the new process node will bring significant improvements over its predecessor.

The new modem in the Kirin 970 now implements 3GPP LTE Release 13 and supports downlink speeds of up to 1200Mbps thanks to up to 5x20MHz carrier aggregation with 256-QAM, making the new Kirin modem feature equivalent to Qualcomm’s X20 modem that’ll be integrated in the Snapdragon 845.

The big story surrounding the Kirin 970 was the inclusion of a dedicated neural processing unit. The NPU, as HiSilicon decided to name it, is part of a new type and generation of specialised dedicated acceleration blocks with the aim of offloading “inferencing” of convolutional neural net (CNNs). Many will have heard buzzwords such as artificial intelligence surrounding the topic, but the correct term is machine learning or deep learning. The hardware acceleration blocks with various names from various companies do not actually do any deep learning, but rather are there to improve execution (inferencing) of neural network models while the training of the models will still remain something that will be done either in the cloud or by other blocks in the SoC such as the GPU. It’s still the early days but we’ll have a proper look at the NPU in its dedicated section of the article.


SoC die shot image & labels courtesy of TechInsights Mate 10 teardown

As aforementioned one of the bigger improvements of the Kirin 970 is the switch to a TSMC 10FF manufacturing node. While 10nm is supposed to be a long-lived node for Samsung’s foundry – where indeed we’ll see two full generations of SoCs produced on 10LPE and 10LPP – TSMC is taking a different approach and sees its own 10FF process node a short-lived node and stepping-stone to the much anticipated 7FF node, which is to be introduced later in 2018. As such the only TSMC 10FF mobile products to date have been the low-volume MediaTek X30 and Apple 10X in summer and the high-volume Apple A11 and HiSilicon Kirin 970 in Q3-Q4, a 2-3 quarter after Samsung had entered high-volume production of the Snapdragon 835 and Exynos 8895.

HiSilicon’s expectations of the new process node are rather conservative improvement of only 20% in efficiency at the same performance point for the apples-to-apples CPU clusters, below ARM’s earlier predictions of 30%. This rather meagre improvement in power will be likely one of the reasons why HiSilicon decided not to increase the CPU clocks on the Kirin 970, instead focusing on bringing down power usage and lowering the TDP when compared to the Kirin 960.

The SoC does enjoy a healthy die size shrink from 117.72mm² down to 96.72mm² even though the new SoC has 50% more GPU cores as well as new IP blocks such as the NPU. Our colleagues at TechInsights have published a detailed per-block size comparison between the Kirin 960 and Kirin 970 and we see a 30-38% decrease in block size for apples-to-apples IP. The Cortex-A73 quad-core cluster now comes in at only 5.66mm², a metric to keep in mind and in stark contrast to Apple which is investing twice as much silicon area in its dual-core big CPU cluster.

Lenovo Recalls Some ThinkPad X1 Carbon Laptops Due to Potential Overheating b

Lenovo this week has began a voluntarily recall of some of its 5th Generation (Kaby Lake, Intel 7000-series) ThinkPad X1 Carbon notebooks because of an unfastened screw that can potentially damage the battery and cause a thermal runaway. The recall covers tens of thousands of laptops produced between late 2016 and mid 2017.

So far Lenovo has received three customer complaints about an issue with this range of laptops, which have resulted in increased thermal activity beyond expected safe boundaries. Upon inspecting the issue, the conclusion is that an unfastened screw has the potential to damage the laptop batteries, causing thermal runaway. To date, no actual laptops have resulted in combustion, nor have they caused any injuries or property damage, but Lenovo naturally wants to eliminate any potential issues related to the manufacturing oversight.

After conducting an internal investigation, Lenovo has confirmed that some of its ThinkPad X1 Carbon notebooks (machine types 20HQ, 20HR, 20K3, and 20K4) produced between December 2016 and October 2017 are affected by the issue, and as a result it has started a voluntarily recall program. The ThinkPad Carbon X1 computers made before or after the said dates are not affected. The PC maker advises ThinkPad Carbon X1 owners to visit a special website and check out whether their machines are recalled.

Lenovo reports that the aforementioned ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptops were sold worldwide and that customers need to check their machines and contact Lenovo for a free-of-charge repair. The company confirmed that around 83,500 units were sold in the U.S. and Canada, but did not indicate how many of them were shipped to customers in other countries.

Lenovo advises customers who have an affected laptop to stop using it immediately and contact the manufacturer. The company claims that it will set up a repair date for each customer, and fix the things with a minimal delay. The repair process itself should not take long because the only thing that has to be done is the elimination of an unfastened screw.

In the recent years laptop recalls because of potential battery problems have became more frequent. As batteries and notebooks are becoming more compact, any damage to a battery pack has the potential to cause severe problems (not just for the user, but also for the reputation of the company). Nonetheless, this is the first situation in recent memory that has identified an unfastened screw as a potential thermal cause for recall.