Tech Update (November 2017)

Andy Cormack gives us the heads up on what’s on the horizon in hardware and technology, giving you the lowdown on the next big thing.  

This month, he looks at Razer’s new smartphone, yet another hyped up hypercar project which seems to show a lot of promise, and the latest incarnation of Microsoft’s X-Box, the One X.

Razer Dips Its Toes In The Smartphone Waters

Razer, a company predominantly focused on gaming peripherals, more specifically typically PC gaming peripherals, have been branching out as of late, with the Razer Blade gaming laptop released earlier this year, and they’re now taking a trip over to smartphone territory. This new smartphone is Razer’s attempt to punch above its own weight with the big boys over at Google and Apple, and to vie for consumers money in another gaming space, banking on high-end hardware and some unique features that they believe gamers will love in order to win hearts and minds.

Let’s start off with the specs and features, giving you an idea of what they’re doing differently than the other current smartphone offerings.

For starters, it has a screen the likes of which you’ve never experienced on a smartphone before, and we’re not talking about colours and sharpness here. Razer have opted to aim for the stars with a screen that runs at up to 120 Hertz, double the frequency of most current smartphones on the market today. What does this mean for the average user? Well, it makes the user interface incredibly fast and smooth, Razer have worked closely with Google to bring this technology to bear in order to ensure that it works as flawlessly as possible. On top of which, the screen doesn’t slack in other areas, being a Quad HD resolution display (1440 x 2560) with a wide colour gamut, quite possibly resulting in one of the most visually stunning displays on the market today.

Next up, something else you don’t see often enough on modern smartphones: a quality pair of front-facing speakers. These speakers take up almost the entirety of the bezel you see across the top and bottom edges of the device, with plenty of room to have some nice audio kit fit in there. The hardware is THX certified and uses Dolby ATMOS to push out some quite impressive audio.

Digging into the guts that really make it tick, it’s no slouch there either, with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, and with a staggeringly (almost unnecessarily large?) 8 gigabytes of RAM, there’s almost no possible way you’re going to see stuttering while multitasking on this phone, period. This latest tech also helps the phone maintain its 120 Hertz visuals on the display, for those buttery smooth transitions between apps and in games that support it.

When it comes to the cameras Razer aren’t messing around either, touting dual 12 megapixel cameras, one being a f1.7 wide angle lens, and the other a 2 times telephoto lens for greater control between zoomed in and wide angle shots, along with a camera app that can seamlessly transition between the two cameras, depending on what’s required at the time. Along with this, it also has a dual tone flash for more natural results than your run of the mill flashes and also sports a front facing 8 megapixel camera for all of your selfie and video chat needs.

You might think that keeping this monster of a device juiced up sounds like a problem, so Razer slapped a 4000 mAh battery in it too, making it one of the largest capacity batteries found in a smartphone on the market today, ensuring you can make use of it for as long as possible on any given day’s use.

As far as storage goes, it has 64GB internal storage space, as well as an external microSD slot that supports up to 2TB microSD cards.

While this smartphone is clearly aimed at gamers, and coming from a company that focuses heavily on that market, it appears that Razer have done a great job in creating a device that not only satisfies gamers of all kinds, but also the high end techies and “gotta have the latest and greatest” consumers among us.  A great all round package with some impressive hardware to back it up.

The Razer smartphone releases officially on the 17th of November, retailing for roughly £600 SIM free, and currently can only be bought on contract from Three.

Lamborghini And MIT Team Up To Create Hypercar Of The Future

The Terzo Millennio or “Third Millennium”, is quite the intriguing, albeit completely outrageous, concept of possible future hypercars, created by the collaboration between Lamborghini and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The pairing happened about a year ago, with the partnership stating that their goal for the project was to “rewrite the rules on super sports cars”, with five core areas they intended to address in order to make it happen:

Energy storage systems
Innovative materials
Propulsion system
Visionary design
“Emotion”

Working our way through this list, we begin with the energy storage. The Terzo Millenio uses supercapacitors for power, which has been used once before by Lamborghini in the V12 Aventador back in 2012. So in order to create a storage system capable of supplying power effectively, as well as recouping kinetic energy at the same time while driving, they collaborated with MIT’s Department of Chemistrys Professor Mircea Dinca with the goal of achieving this in mind.  In a statement from MIT, “The Lamborghini collaboration allows us to be ambitious and think outside the box in designing new materials that answer energy storage challenges for the demands of an electric sport vehicle.”

The energy storage system works in harmony with the individual electric motors powering each wheel, putting down full four wheel drive power onto the road. Separating the electric motors out like this also has the knock-on effect that it frees up the body from this huge engine section that was needed to fit somewhere when designing the layout of the car, which now provides more “freedom for designers and aerodynamicists”.

The body of the Millennio will be leaning on Lamborghini’s significant expertise in carbon fibre, netting not just a hefty weight reduction but also working in a way for those panels to act as another energy absorption source. The research into carbon fibre materials required for this feat of engineering has been tasked to MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering Professor John Hart, the possible outcome being that the entire body of the car could potentially store energy that can be used.

Also, speaking of the body of the car, far from content with simply making the entire car body effectively into a battery, MIT also want to experiment with self-healing technology for the body work, so that minor damage such as cracks or scratches can correct themselves, not dissimilar to that of self-healing road initiatives.

The Millennio will also be autonomous, but not in the way you’d think, based on other initiatives developing these systems at present. Instead, it will be designed so that the car can record expert track laps and then play them back, taking you on a thrilling ride around the track hands free, with the next lap then being up to you, while supplying an augmented reality ghost car to imitate, comparable to that of racing video games.

All in all, the Terzo Millennio is shaping up to be quite an off the wall concept with some incredible ideas. If the team manages to pull it off, it will be quite something to behold.  Guess we’ll have to wait and see!

Microsoft’s Xbox One X Arrives On The Scene

After quite some time since the initial “Project Scorpio” announcement back at E3 in July 2016, the Xbox One X is finally out, and with it comes the most powerful games console on the market today, and not by a narrow margin in some aspects.

Getting some nerd stats out of the way, the Xbox One X comes equipped with an 8 core custom AMD CPU, a 6 teraflop GPU, 12GB of GDDR5 graphics memory and memory bandwidth of 326 GB/second. On top of all these shiny numbers, we get some good features, not least of which is HDR support.

Unlike the PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X has the sheer horsepower to run games at native 4K; not to be confused with the upscaled, albeit very clever, faux 4K of the Pro, and Microsoft has been keen to tout this capability at every opportunity and won’t let you forget it anytime soon!

A game Microsoft has been working closely with in order to get it running at 4K resolution and 60 frames per second (fps) in order to be the poster child for the console’s performance, is none other than Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 7, a game series many an Xbox gamer will have heard of. Indeed, the game achieves this very high performance bar and excels at delivering crisp, smooth, and responsive gameplay, and now that the console has been released there will no doubt be many more games with 4K patches coming.

All of the games that currently exist within the Xbox One ecosystem all work just fine on the new Xbox One X, many even better than before, if they’re either capable of taking advantage of the new hardware or have received patches in order to do so. One such example of this is Halo 5: Guardians, having recently released an update for Xbox One X visual upgrades, allowing the game to run at 4K 60fps. The update also added larger texture resolutions, giving a much crisper overall appearance to all the models in the game.

Other games choose some of their own approaches to utilising the power of the console’s hardware, such as Ark: Survival Evolved, casting aside the shiny 4K buzzword in favour of two modes: a smoother 1080p 60fps mode, or a 1440p 30fps ‘detail mode’, which uses up those other 30 frames to boost draw distances and shadow quality, among other things to up the visual quality.

The Xbox One X is out now for around £450.

Tech Update – October 2017

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