Friday, 6 December 2019

HP Elite Dragonfly Review First Impressions

HP’s Elite Dragonfly is aimed at mobile trailblazers who don’t want to compromise on quality, portability, and performance. Put another way, it’s a beautiful and lightweight successor to the EliteBook 1030, one of the best portable computers I’ve ever used.
Oh, and it’s blue. Or what HP calls Iridescent Dragonfly Blue.
That will be the first thing you notice about this new 360-degree convertible laptop.
But once you get your hands on it, and pick it up, your mind will start to drift elsewhere because the Dragonfly, as I’ll now call it, is also the lightest and most portable PC in its class. It weighs just 2.18 or 2.5 pounds, depending on whether you opt for a 2-cell (38 Wh) or 4-cell (56.2 Wh) battery. But even the 2-cell variant delivers 16.5 hours of battery, according to HP. The slightly heavier 4-cell hits 24.5 hours.
(Those are allegedly real-world figures; HP says that a 4-cell Dragonfly with its most efficient display option can achieve up to 15 hours in video playback time. Yes, I’ll be testing battery life.)
The other thing you’ll notice, especially if you’re as familiar with the Elite line of products as I am, is that the Dragonfly doesn’t just look different, it feels different. And that’s because it’s made of magnesium, and not aluminum, as with other Elite PCs.
As you probably know, both Microsoft and Lenovo use this material in at least some of their PCs, and its known to be both durable and lightweight. But in HP’s case, the change has led to some almost startling improvements over the EliteBook 1030. The Dragonfly is about 27 percent lighter than its predecessor overall, and individual components, like the keyboard (26 percent lighter) and glass precision touchpad (36 percent lighter), are likewise dramatically improved.
HP is also starting to address one of my key pain points with its laptops: Its previously-massive display bezels are getting smaller—much smaller—as well. The top bezel on the Dragonfly is fully 42 percent thinner than that of its predecessor, thanks largely to a web/IR camera system that is only one-third the size of its own predecessor. And the bottom bezel is 14 percent thinner. Combined with the already-thin side bezels, the Dragonfly offers a great 86 percent screen-to-body ratio.
From a ports perspective, the Dragonfly doesn’t disappoint. You’ll find a full-sized USB 3.1 port and a nano SIM card tray on the left, along with a lighted power button and a lock.
And on the right, you’ll see a full-sized HDMI 1.4 port, two Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, and a headphone/mic port.
As you would expect, you can use either USB-C port for power. But here is a complaint HP hasn’t addressed: Both ports are on the same side of the PC. And because they’re not at the back of the PC, the power cord will be in the way if you’re a righty and using a mouse.
The keyboard and touchpad are largely unchanged from previous versions. That’s a good thing: The keyboard offers a perfect 1.3 mm of key travel and an ideal typing experience. And the glass touchpad is excellent, and not too large.
The Dragonfly offers Windows Hello sign-in capabilities via its webcam and a typically-excellent HP fingerprint reader.
HP offers three display options on the Dragonfly, all of which support multitouch and HP’s line of smartpens. The review unit shipped with the base display, a pleasant 400 nit Full HD (1920 x 1080) panel that draws just 1-watt of power and offers the best battery life. But you can also choose between a 550 nit UHD (3840 x 2160) HDR 400 panel and a 1000 nit HP Sure View Gen3 panel with Full HD and integrated privacy capabilities if you prefer. (I would personally choose the base display, but choice is always good.)
Internally, the Dragonfly can be had with 8th generation Intel Core i5-8265U, i5-8365U, or i7-8665U processors, 16 GB or 32 GB of RAM, and 256 GB or more of SSD storage, with some Intel Optane options as well.
I have a lot more to say about the Dragonfly, but I’ll save it for the review. So let me just leave you with the pricing. The HP Elite Dragonfly starts at about $1550 for a Core i5/8 GB/256/Full HD configuration, and can quickly escalate to $1850 (Core i5/16 GB/256/Full HD Sure View) and even $2080 (Core i7/16 GB/512 with 32 GB of Intel Optane/Full HD) and beyond. This is very much a premium PC.

The Motorola One Hyper brings a pop-up camera, all-screen design for $400

Motorola has what might be the best-looking mid-range smartphone with the "Motorola One Hyper," a $400 phone with flagship touches like an all-screen front design and a motorized, pop-up camera. It's like a mini OnePlus 7 Pro! You won't find any notches or other screen blemishes here.
For specs, you have a 6.5-inch 2340×1080 IPS LCD, a 2GHz Snapdragon 675, 4GB of memory, 128GB of storage, and a 4000mAh battery. The are two rear cameras: a 64MP main sensor and a 8MP wide angle lens, and a 32MP front camera. Both the main front and back cameras have a pretty high megapixel count, and both have an optional "quad pixel" mode, which merges every four pixels together for better light pickup.
There's a rear fingerprint reader, a 3.5mm headphone jack (!), a microSD slot for expandable storage up to 1TB, and NFC. There is clearly some cost cutting here, but that's to be expected at $400. You'll get a USB-C port capable of 45W quick charging, but you'll only get a 15W charger in the box. The body is made of plastic, and while it has a "water-repellant design" there's no official IPxx rating. Motorola is not great at OS updates, but at least out of the box, the phone has Android 10.
The One Hyper is being sold unlocked, and it's GSM compatible, so in the United States it will only work with AT&T and T-Mobile. Buy the One Hyper direct from Motorola and the company will even throw in a Moto G6 or G6 Play (a $249.99 value) with your purchase.

Intel Comet Lake-S 14nm Desktop 10 Core & 6 Core ES CPU Benchmarks Leak Out – Z490 Motherboards Spotted Too

As Intel preps up its 10th Generation Comet Lake-S desktop lineup, there have been several leaks including performance tests which were performed on engineering samples of the said lineup. The Intel Comet Lake-S desktop family is once again going to feature an enhanced 14nm process node that would deliver faster clocks but the biggest improvement of the lineup over 9th Gen would be the addition of multi-threading across all SKUs.
Intel Comet Lake-S 10 and 6 Core Desktop CPUs Tested, More Threads Equal Higher Multi-Threading Performance
Since our previous leak, there have been little to no reports on the Intel Comet Lake desktop CPU family. However, some digging by Momomo_Us and Komachi_Ensaka has brought to us new performance metrics for the Comet Lake-S 10 core and 6 core parts which will be featured in the Core i9 and the Core i5 family, respectively.
Intel Comet Lake-S 10 Core / 20 Thread Core i9 ES Desktop CPU:
All of the Comet Lake desktop processors that have been tested are still very early engineering sample but they are part of the GenuineIntel Family 6 Model 165 which means they are indeed Comet Lake-S based. The first sample is the 10 core and 20 thread Core i9 model which features Stepping 1. It has a base frequency of 1.51 GHz and a maximum boost frequency of 3.19 GHz. The chip scores 4074 points in the single-core and 25962 points in the multi-core performance tests on Geekbench 4.
This is lower than the Core i9-9900X and the Core i9-9900KS in both metrics but the lower clocks and the early ES state are to be blamed for that. Also, the chip is featured in an HP Pavilion 23 All-In-One PC which doesn't necessarily feature the best cooling capabilities so thermal throttling is to be expected. The other listing is also for the 10 core and 20 thread chip which is spotted within the SiSoftware database. This chip has a higher base clock of 2.60 GHz along with the 20 MB of L3 cache. This test is also from an OEM build setup (Acer Predator Orion PO5-615s) but unlike the HP one, this isn't an AIO but a full desktop-grade (full-tower) setup.
Intel Comet Lake-S 6 Core / 12 Thread Core i5 ES Desktop CPU:
Next up, we have several entries of the 6 core and 12 thread Core i5 chip, featuring 12 MB of L3 cache. Finally, the Core i5 models are getting the much-needed multi-threading support that is required to even compete against AMD's dominant Ryzen 3000 processor lineup and the more fierce Ryzen 5 chips which have taken the mainstream market by storm.
All of the entries made on SiSoftware for the 6 core Core i5 chip feature a 3.00 GHz base clock speed. The maximum reported boost speed in the database is 3.9 GHz which is fairly lower than where existing Core i5 lands so we can tell that this is another engineering sample. The chip has several entries but the most noticeable ones are with the Z490 chipset based motherboards from SuperMicro (SUPERO) and ASRock.
The entry on UserBenchmark is also more interesting since it was made just recently on a Z490M ITX motherboard from ASRock. The UserBenchmark listing reports a base clock of 3.5 GHz and a boost clock of 4.1 GHz. Once again, compared to the Core i5-9600K, the Comet Lake-S 6 core part is slightly slower in all-metrics expect the 8-core and 64-core bench since the Comet Lake-S part packs 12 threads compared to a measly 6 threads on the 9th Gen Coffee Lake-R part.
The 6 core chip was also tested in the HP Pavilion 23 AIO PC on Geekbench 4 with reported clocks of 2.00 GHz base and 2.90 GHz boost on Stepping 0. The chip submitted scores of 3667 points in single-core, 15843 points in multi-core and 32576 points in OpenCL tests. These scores are once again much lower than the Core i5-9600K despite the 10th Gen part featuring multi-threading support. The clock speeds are once again the issue here as is the case with all engineering samples.
Here's Everything We Know About Intel's 10th Gen Comet Lake-S Desktop CPU Family
The Intel 10th Generation desktop processor family will be known as Comet Lake. Comet Lake-S which is the official codename for the mainstream desktop family is based on a refined 14nm++ process node. The family would be replacing Intel's 9th Gen Core CPU family which recently saw the launch of the flagship Core i9-9900KS (you can read our complete review of the CPU here). Since 10nm production is still not up to par for mass deployment, Intel will be skipping it however as of recently, Intel claims to see the release of 10nm desktop processors in 2020.
Following are some of the main platform features of the 10th Generation Comet Lake-S family:
Up To 10 processor cores for enhanced performance
Up To 30 PCH-H High-Speed I/O lanes for port flexibility
Up To 40 PCIe 3.0 Lanes (16 CPU, up to 24 PCH)
Media & Display features for premium 4K content support
Integrated + Discrete Intel Wireless-AC (Wi-Fi/BT CNVi) Support
Intel Wi-Fi 6 (Gig+) Support
Enhanced Core and memory overclock
Integrated USB 3.2 Gen 2x1 (10 Gb/s) support
Intel Rapid Storage Technology (Intel RST)
Programmable (Open FW SDK) Quad-Core Audio DSP
C10 & S0ix Support for Modern Standby
The Intel 10th Generation Comet Lake-S family would initially launch with 9 SKUs with more to come later. They would be segmented in the Xeon W, Core i9, Core i7, Core i5, Core i3, Pentium and Celeron parts. Surprisingly, Intel would have two different chip layouts for their Comet Lake family. The 10 core and 8 core variants would be based on the Comet Lake-S 10+2 wafer while the rest of the parts would be based on the Comet Lake-S 6+2 wafer.
According to the Intel slide, the 10th Generation Comet Lake family would deliver an 18% performance improvement in multi-threaded compute workloads compared to 9th Generation processors and an 8% generational improvement over 9th Gen parts in general windows workloads.
As expected before, all 10th Generation Core SKUs would feature multi-threading support. The Core i9 lineup would get 10 cores and 20 threads, the Core i7 lineup would get 8 cores and 16 threads, the Core i5 lineup would get 6 cores and 12 threads while the Core i3 lineup would get 4 cores and 8 threads. The Pentium lineup would also get multi-threading support with 2 cores & 4 threads. This leaves the Celeron lineup out which won't receive multi-threading support and would be limited to 2 cores and 2 threads. It can be seen that neither of the 'K' unlocked SKUs has been mentioned in the list which means that they would be released later on.
Do note that the TDP for 'K' unlocked SKUs would be higher than the non-K models and they would be featuring support on the Z490 chipset while the more mainstream-aimed non-K chips would be aimed at the W480, Q470 and H410 chipset based motherboards.
Intel 400-Series Platform & LGA 1200 Socket Support
This brings us to the next topic which is related to the 400-series platform and the new LGA socket. It is now confirmed that Intel is indeed moving to a new socket with their 400-series motherboards that will be introduced next year too. While the LGA 1200 socket has the same dimensions as the LGA 1151 socket (37.5mm x 37.5mm), the socket keying has shifted to the left side and Comet Lake is no longer electrically or mechanically compatible with Coffee Lake motherboards. Some details of the new LGA 1200 package and socket for Comet Lake:
Comet Lake will transition to a higher pin-count package
Comet Lake LGA will not have backward compatibility with legacy platforms
No changes to ILM dimensions or thermal solution retention
Comet Lake LGA improves power delivery and support for future incremental I/O features
Pin 1 orientation remains the same, but socket keying has shifted left
The good thing is that your existing coolers would still be compatible with the LGA 1200 socket so that's one hardware change you shouldn't be worrying about. The Comet Lake-S family will retain support for DDR4-2666 memory UDIMM and support up to 32 GB capacity DIMMs per channel.
Intel plans to have several chipsets deployed in the 400-series family. There would obviously be Z490 which will target the 'K' unlocked SKUs I mentioned above but aside from that, we are looking at the W480 (Entry Workstation), Q470 (Corporate with Intel vPro) and H410 (Value) chipsets. These would target more corporate and entry tier users. Also interesting to note is that H410 is not pin-compatible with W480 and Q470 chipsets which reveals a very cut down design for the entry-level chip.
In terms of chipset features, W480 would be the most feature-rich of the three chipsets that are mentioned here. Z490 would be the most appealing for the enthusiast and gaming audience but let's take a look at the mainstream chipsets. The W480 chipset would offer a total of 46 high-speed IO lanes and a total of 40 PCIe Gen 3.0 lanes. The CPUs would retain 16 lanes with the chipset offering up to 24 PCIe 3.0 lanes.
There would be support for up to 8 SATA III ports, 8 USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports or 10 USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports, 14 USB 3.2 Gen ports and Intel RST. Neither of the three chipsets would feature overclock support since that is restricted to the Z490 chipset but we will get more information on overclocking later on from Intel themselves.

Cheap primes lenses – affordable fun lenses for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras

Is there any such thing as the best cheap lens? Surely lenses should be optically brilliant, which costs money? Well, not necessarily – on both counts. First, for many photographers, lenses are about getting the right 'look', regardless of technical quality. Second, there are quite a few cheap lenses that are actually rather good, mostly because they're basic but effective designs that don't cost a lot to make.
Most of us have already got standard and telephoto zooms that cover pretty much any eventuality, so any new lens has either got to offer up whole new shooting opportunities, be incredibly CHEAP or, in the best of all worlds, achieve both!
What if you could get an extra lens that's cheap, compact, light and easy to pop into a spare corner of your camera bag? And what if that lens enabled a different style of shooting to your regular zoom lenses and could give your photography a new twist?
That's just what the best Lomo and Lensbaby lenses do, but they can be pretty expensive, and we've got a whole separate guide for those. Instead, here's a choice selection of prime lenses that add value to your camera outfit – and definitely with the emphasis on value!
1. Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM
This tiny DSLR lens comes with a tiny price, but it's actually rather good
Mount: Canon EF-S | Elements/groups: 6/5 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.16m | Maximum magnification: 0.27x | Filter thread: 52mm | Dimensions (WxL): 68x23mm | Weight: 125g
Very small and light
Excellent image quality
Great for street photography
Autofocusing not the quietest or fastest
This is a ‘pancake’ lenses that's about an inch thick and a real lightweight at just 125g. It’s brilliant for street photography with a Canon APS-C format SLR, where it gives an effective focal length of just over 38mm in full-frame terms – so it's a handy all-round standard lens, in face. The f/2.8 aperture rating is also useful, and rather faster than in a kit zoom lens. It's inexpensive for an own-brand Canon lens but still features an aspherical element, Super Spectra coatings and a fairly well-rounded seven-blade diaphragm. Autofocus is taken care of by a stepping motor, with an electronically coupled manual focus ring. The small build means the STM autofocus is gear-type rather than linear, so it’s audible and not particularly quick in operation, but gets the job done. Image quality is very good indeed, making you wonder why some prime lenses need to be quite so big.
2. Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM
A thrifty fifty that actually outperforms Canon's pricier 50mm f/1.4
Mount: Canon EF | Elements/groups: 6/5 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Stepping motor | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.35m | Maximum magnification: 0.21x | Filter thread: 49mm | Dimensions (WxL): 69x39mm | Weight: 160g
Small and light
Great image quality
Very versatile
Nothing, at this price!
The so-called ‘nifty fifty’ is one of the most popular types of prime lens on the market, and with good reason. You can get a much tighter depth of field than with a kit zoom lens, for blurring the background and focusing all of the attention on the main subject. You can use it as a 50mm lens on full frame Canons, while on APS-C Canon's you get an 80mm effective focal length – perfect for portraiture. This lens uses a gear-type autofocus stepping motor which is audible but much quieter than the more basic electric motor of previous Canon 50mm f/1.8. Handling is also improved, as the manual focus ring no longer rotates during autofocus. Apart from in the extreme corners, sharpness remains impressive even at the widest aperture, and barrel distortion is negligible. There’s some noticeable axial (or longitudinal) colour fringing when shooting wide-open at f/1.8 but overall image quality is very good.
3. Nikon AF-S 50mm f/1.8G
A bargain full frame 50mm prime lens for Nikon DSLRs
Mount: Nikon F | Elements/groups: 7/6 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.45m | Maximum magnification: 0.15x | Filter thread: 58mm | Dimensions (WxL): 72x53mm | Weight: 185g
Good performance for price
Handy for portraits on DX models
Focus distance scale
Bokeh highlights not quite circular
This Nikon lens is ideal any time you need a wider aperture than is available from your kit zoom lens, either for letting in more light to increase shutter speeds, or to get a tighter depth of field. It’s equally useful for portraiture on DX format Nikons, where the 1.5x crop factor gives a longer effective focal length of 75mm. You get seven diaphragm blades, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus with full-time manual override, and an optical path that features one aspherical element. There's also a weather-seal ring on the mounting plate, and a focus distance scale. The sharpness and contrast are impressive even when shooting wide-open at f/1.8. Bokeh is nice and smooth as well although, typical of seven-blade diaphragms, defocused lights take on a heptagonal shape when stopping down a little.
4. Nikon AF-S DX 35mm f/1.8G
An ultra-compact standard prime lens for APS-C Nikon DSLRs
Mount: Nikon F | Elements/groups: 8/6 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Ultrasonic (ring-type) | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Maximum magnification: 0.16x | Filter thread: 52mm | Dimensions (WxL): 70x53mm | Weight: 200g
Very compact
Good value
Solid build for the money
Corner sharpness not great
More fringing than similar lenses
Unlike Canon, Nikon makes a ‘standard’ prime for its DX (or APS-C) format SLRs, in the shape of this 35mm lens, which gives an effective focal length of 52.5mm. You a hood and carrying pouch (unlike Canon). Inside the lens barrel are eight optical elements, including one aspherical element. Build quality is pretty good for such an inexpensive lens, with a metal rather than plastic mounting plate, ring-type ultrasonic autofocus system and a fairly well-rounded seven-blade diaphragm. However, there’s no focus distance scale nor the weather-seal ring that’s often featured on the mounting plates of Nikon lenses. Autofocus is reasonably quick and whisper-quiet and image quality is mostly good, although corner-sharpness is a little disappointing throughout the entire aperture range. Even so, this lens is compact and lightweight, and well worth the asking price.
5. Olympus 9mm f/8 Fisheye Body Cap
Flatter than a pancake, and great fun to use
Mount: MFT | Elements/groups: 5/4 | Diaphragm blades: Fixed | Autofocus: N/A | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.2m | Maximum magnification: 0.05x | Filter thread: N/A | Dimensions (WxL): 56x13mm | Weight: 30g
Incredibly small and light
Fun to use... and cheap!
Gives a funky fisheye perspective
Image quality isn't the best
No aperture adjustment
No autofocus
Inch-thick ‘pancake’ lenses have become quite common, but this Olympus lens is even thinner, at about half an inch thick, literally about the size of a body cap. Olympus also makes a similarly priced 15mm lens, but it's not that great and doesn’t really give you anything that’s not covered by a standard zoom. The 9mm fisheye gives a completely different shooting experience, producing the trademark extreme barrel distortion, while still utilizing the entire image sensor. This lens has no adjustable diaphragm, just a fixed aperture of f/8. There’s also no autofocus but the depth of field is so enormous that the two-position focus lever is all you need. The viewing angle of 140-degrees is not as wide as the 180-degrees of most diagonal fisheye lenses, and the fisheye effect itself looks less extreme. Sharpness is pretty reasonable but drops off quite a bit towards the corners, where colour fringing can be very noticeable – but its performance/price ratio is brilliant.
6. SLR Magic 26mm f/1.4 Toy
Cheap yet very cheerful - it's all about getting the toy camera look
Mount: MFT | Elements/groups: Unspecified | Diaphragm blades: Unspecified | Autofocus: N/A | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: Unspecified | Maximum magnification: Unspecified | Filter thread: 30.5mm | Dimensions (WxL): 37x39mm | Weight: 90g
Funky interchangeable lens ring grips
Gives a distinctive toy camera look
No electronic assitance
Sharpness purposefully poor off-centre
The 26mm Toy is designed to blur off-centre areas of the frame, giving a ‘toy camera’ effect. Unlike SLR Magic's 35mm f/1.7 lens, it’s only available for Micro Four Thirds cameras, so there’s no Sony E-mount option. This is a strictly manual lens, with a manually controlled aperture marked between f/1.4 and f/8. A conventional focus distance scale is replaced by basic near/far directional arrows. To add a bit of flourish to the control rings, the lens comes with a range of black, white and brightly coloured rubber grip rings. The blurring effect away from the central region of the frame lives up to its billing, and can produce an almost swirly look. Another trick for focusing attention on the central attraction is that the lens produces fairly heavy vignetting. All in all, it’s a fun lens to use, as any ‘toy’ should be. Just remember this lens is all about the 'look' not serious optical quality.
7. Pentax smc DA 50mm f/1.8
A great value prime for Pentax DSLRs, though with noisy autofocus
Mount: Pentax K | Elements/groups: 6/5 | Diaphragm blades: 7 | Autofocus: Camera drive | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.45m | Maximum magnification: 0.15x | Filter thread: 52mm | Dimensions (WxL): 63x39mm | Weight: 122g
Very light
Good sharpness when stopped down
Decent bokeh quality
Very noisy AF and quite slow
Soft image quality at f/1.8
Only for APS-C DSLRs
This lens may have a typical 50mm standard prime focal length, but it's designed exclusively for use with APS-C format SLRs, rather than being full-frame compatible, so really it's a short telephoto prime with an effective focal length of 75mm. That’s often ideal for still life, portraiture and any time you want a bit more reach than a standard focal length will deliver. This is a little smaller than most 50mm lenses and is noticeably lighter, at 122g. That’s mostly due to it having a plastic rather than metal mounting plate, and no autofocus motor. Instead, autofocus is driven by a motor in the camera body via a helical thread. The autofocusing is reasonably quick but is very noisy compared to any comparable lens with an in-built AF motor. There’s also no focus distance scale. Sharpness is mostly very respectable, but underwhelming when shooting wide-open at f/1.8. The seven-blade diaphragm is fairly well-rounded, helping to maintain decent bokeh when stopping down a little.
8. SLR Magic 35mm f/1.7
Great for blurring the surroundings around your subject
Mount: Sony E, MFT | Elements/groups: Unspecified | Diaphragm blades: Unspecified | Autofocus: N/A | Stabilizer: No | Minimum focus distance: 0.3m | Maximum magnification: Unspecified | Filter thread: 37mm | Dimensions (WxL): 44x39mm | Weight: 90g
Very compact and light
Great for isolating your subject
Decent build for the money
Totally manual
Sharpness intentionally soft off-centre
Available in Sony E and Micro Four Thirds mount options, this low-cost lens is made by SLR Magic and distributed in the UK by Holdan. It’s remarkably small and lightweight for a 35mm f/1.7 lens, at just 44x39mm and 90g, and is a fully manual optic. This means there’s no electronic communication with the host camera, and focusing and aperture control are applied by control rings on the lens itself. The focus ring has distance markings on it, while the stepless aperture ring has markings at f/1.7, then in full f/stops from f/2 to f/5.6, then nothing until f/16. Go beyond this and the diaphragm closes completely. Build quality feels pretty good for such a small and inexpensive lens and the control rings have a smooth action. Sharpness is pretty good in the central region of the frame, even when shooting wide-open at f/1.7. However, towards the edges and corners, the lens aims to give a deliberately soft and blurry look, bumping up the bokeh. It achieves this very well.

AOC’s Agon AG493UCX: A 49-Inch Ultrawide Curved Monitor w/ 120 Hz Refresh & VRR

In recent years, displays with an ultrawide aspect ratio have gained traction both among gamers and among prosumers. At first, monitors with a 21:9 aspect ratio were released by a handful of manufacturers, but more recently, most of leading brands launched even wider LCDs featuring a 32:9 or 32:10 ratios. TPV Technology – which makes displays under AOC and Philips brands – was among the first manufacturers with professional-grade 32:9 monitors, so now it's following-up with the gamer-focused AOC Agon AG493UCX.
The AOC Agon AG493UCX uses a 5120×1440 VA panel that features a 1800R curvature, which essentially means that the display offers the same number of pixels and screen real estate as two 27-inch QHD LCDs. Other specifications of the LCD include a max luminance of 550 nits, a 3000:1 contrast ratio, 178º/178º vertical/horizontal viewing angles, a 1 ms MPRT response time, and a refresh rate up to 120 Hz. The monitor can display 121% of the sRGB or 93% of the DCI-P3 color gamuts. Additionally, it comes factory calibrated to a Delta<2 accuracy (presumably for the sRGB color space).
Since we are dealing with a monitor aimed at gamers and entertainment enthusiasts, the AOC Agon AG493UCX supports VESA Adaptive-Sync variable refresh rate technology, so expect it to be certified by AMD for its FreeSync as well as NVIDIA for its G-Sync Compatible label. Speaking of certifications, the display also carries VESA’s DisplayHDR 400 badge.

Just like other premium monitors for gamers, the Agon AG493UCX has multiple display inputs (two DisplayPort 1.4 inputs, two HDMI 2.0 ports, and one USB Type-C port with a 65-W Power Delivery) as well as a triple-port USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A hub. What is surprising is that the monitor has docking capabilities, which includes a GbE port, and a KVM switch, features which aren't particularly common in gaming-focused gear. In addition, it has built-in 5 W speakers and a headphone output.
One indisputable advantage of AOC’s Agon AG493UCX is its stand that can adjust its height, tilt, and swivel, a very rare feature on large displays.
The AOC Agon AG493UCX will be available starting from January 7, 2020, for $999.99 in the US. Meanwhile, since AOC China already lists the display on its website, expect the monitor to hit the market in the country shortly.

Following the wild, roaring success of its Snapdragon 8cx Arm laptop chip, Qualcomm's back with the 8c, 7c

Qualcomm will today expand its range of Snapdragon system-on-chips for always-connected Arm-based Windows 10 tablet-laptops from one to three.
Last December, it launched the 7nm 64-bit Arm-compatible Snapdragon 8cx, aimed at fanless lightweight slabtops that are always connected to the internet one way or another, via a built-in 4G/LTE modem or Wi-Fi, and have smartphone-like battery lives.
Despite all that fanfare, machines using the system-on-chip are rather thin on the ground. The $999 13.3" Samsung Galaxy Book S is one example of an 8cx laptop, though it's not actually shipping yet. The $999 13" Surface Pro X uses Microsoft's SQ1 processor, which is a tweaked 8cx. The price tags were also higher than some expected, performance lower than some anticipated, and software compatibility issues lingered with Windows 10 on Arm.
Unperturbed, Qualcomm is pushing ahead, and will unveil its Snapdragon 7c and 8c laptop microprocessors this morning at its Snapdragon Tech Summit. These chips are expected to arrive in future portable PCs. The marketing angle will be a long battery life, slim slabtop form factor, and that always-available internet connectivity for cloud-backed apps, video and music streaming, and such stuff.
The 8nm Snapdragon 7c includes eight 64-bit Arm-compatible Kryo 468 CPU cores clocked up to 2.4GHz, an Adreno 618 GPU, and AI math acceleration, and will be paired with Qualcomm's X15 4G/LTE cellular modem. It supports Wi-Fi 6, a 2048-by-1536-pixel on-device display at 60Hz and 2560-by-1440 externally, two channels of 2133MHz LPDDR4 RAM, Bluetooth 5.1, and other bits and pieces. It is aimed at entry-level fanless slabtops, which hopefully this time round will be affordable for more people.
The 7nm Snapdragon 8c, meanwhile, features an integrated X24 4G/LTE modem and can be optionally paired with an X55 5G modem. It includes eight 64-bit Arm-compatible Kryo 490 CPU cores clocked up to 2.45GHz, an Adreno 675 GPU, and AI math acceleration. It supports Wi-Fi, a 4K UHD on-device display and up to two 4K monitors externally, four channels of 2133MHz LPDDR4 RAM, Bluetooth 5.0, and other bits and pieces.
The 8c is aimed at the beefier-end of thin, battery-friendly fanless touchscreen notebooks running Windows 10, and will replace the Snapdragon 850. The 8cx will remain as the high-end offering, and the 7c as the brains for budget laptops.
We also understand Adobe Creative Cloud is coming to 64-bit Windows 10 on Arm.
Additionally, Qualcomm touted what's called the 8cx Enterprise Compute Platform, which promises to, basically, be a more polished variant of last year's 8cx with system software optimized to increase performance and security. And it is peddling a chipset for 5G-enabled augmented reality goggles, dubbed XR2.

While we wait for MSI’s 240Hz portable gaming monitor, here’s a 60Hz version

MSI managed to earn a CES innovation award for a portable gaming monitor with a 240Hz refresh rate, which we wrote about a few weeks ago. It's now available, but with a much lower refresh rate—it's listed at 60Hz instead of 240Hz. So, what's going on?
The Optix MAG161V now available is a precursor to faster versions that will debut sometime later. Even though the MAG161V's product page for the MAG161V prominently displays the same award badge as the MAG161 (no "V" at the end) that was touted in MSI's award announcement, it's a different monitor—I'm told MSI will release two more models, one with a 240Hz refresh rate and one with a 120Hz refresh rate.
This portable display consists of a 15.6-inch IPS panel situated on a kickstand, similar to a Microsoft Surface tablet, minus the keyboard and other hardware. It has a 1920x1080 resolution, 178-degree viewing angles (vertical and horizontal), 180 nits brightness, and a 700:1 contrast ratio (the global product page lists it at 800:1, but MSI tells me that's incorrect, and that the US product page is accurate).
None of MSI's product pages or datasheets list the response time, but on Newegg, it shows as being 25ms (gray-to-gray). That seems awfully high, even on an IPS screen, yet it's accurate—I confirmed it with MSI directly.
"The future models may not be entirely the same as the 60Hz [model], we are looking to improve the overall build quality and features on the other models," MSI told me.
Fair enough. Also, dropping to 60Hz is not necessarily a deal killer, if this is to be used as a secondary monitor for chat and other things that wouldn't benefit from a fast refresh rate. Maybe it would work well with Stadia.
For anyone who might have purchased a laptop with a lower refresh rate and was looking forward to a portable 240Hz display for gaming (one of the niche markets for something like this), the 60Hz refresh rate is certainly disappointing. But, it's not the end of the road—240Hz and 120Hz variants are coming.
In the meantime, the Optix MAG161V is available now on Newegg for $249.99.