Steam Machine is a tough sell. Steam Link isn’t. Steam Controller? I really don’t know

Valve’s developers and Polygon’s editors share thoughts on the potentially revolutionary new hardware

As a veteran Linux user, I was really a big supporter of Steam Machines when the idea started to take off. The freedom and power that Valve was giving to the traditional PC was inspiring. Your PC could finally be your console and viceversa. Clever.

The execution has to prove many things, and Polygon editors share their first impressions about the first machine from Alienware (good design), the user interface (clunky), the openness (fantastic, but here developers must tell if it is useful or useless), the controller (amazing in some ways, confusing in others), and the games (good catalog, not perfect, big franchises out).

I admire the concept, but I guess it will be a tough sell for end users. Consoles give a pretty good environment, good user interface, fantastic multiplayer online options and the newest games… at really compelling prices. I wonder how Valve will market this.

The Steam Link is different: streaming Windows games to your TV seems a nice option to have –PCGamer agrees on this– for $50 bucks. The Xbox One supposedly will have this option in the future (you can stream games from the console to a Windows 10 PC), but for people who prefer to play on PC and has no console, the idea is pretty much perfect.

Source: Steam Machine hands-on: Does Valve’s hardware live up to its potential? | Polygon

Follow up: The Alienware Steam Machine: finally, a gaming PC for the living room | Engadget

9 reasons why the new iMacs are a disappointment

Yesterday Apple renewed their iMacs and peripherals with the traditional fanfare. The company masters product placement and their media coverage is astounding. In fact, most media seems to just believe the exact same message Apple sends on their press releases, and it’s difficult to find proper insight that goes beyond what Apple wants us to talk about.

imac2
Prepare your wallet. This will hurt.

That’s what we’re here, of course. Since The Unshut is about talk freely and openly about all kind of things tech related, let’s talk about what Apple didn’t say on this particular occasion. The announcement speaks about stunning new Retina displays: we’ve got now a 4K 21.5” option on the smaller iMac, and the Retina 5K display is present on all the 27” iMacs. The new machines come with new peripherals too: the Magic Keyboard (as The Verge notes, the keyboard is magic now: it was just wireless before) , Magic Mouse 2 and Magic Trackpad 2 are also a matter of debate.

Here are 9 reasons why the new iMacs and their new peripherals are a (big?) disappointment.

  1. No Target Display Mode: you won’t be able to use the new Retina Displays to connect your console, a MacBook or Windows laptop, or a tablet, for that matter.
  2. Broadwell on the 21.5 inches iMac: Apple has decided to use the old Broadwell family of processors, and for a good reason: they’re integrating the latest SocS from this 5th generation because they include Iris Pro integrated graphics. That’s reasonable now that there is a 4K display with many pixels to move arround, but there are absences as well: no discrete graphics option on the 21.5 inches models. I could talk about memory too: no DDR4 support even on the new, Skylake 27” models. That’s not very important (benefits aren’t that amazing), but we’ve got again big costs for memory upgrades: $200 for each additional 8 GBs, when you could by for example a nice set of 16 GB (2x8GB) Crucial Ballistix Sport for $75 at Amazon.
  3. Hard drives. 5400 RPM: In 2015? Seriously? With products that cost a minimum of $1,100? This is even harder to believe on the 27 inches models, that start with 1TB hard drives (7200 RPM, miraculous) for $1,799. You’ve got to be kidding me.
  4. Fusion Drive with 24 GB of Flash: hybrid storage devices from Apple combine traditional hard drives with Flash memory, but on the 1TB base model you will have only 24 GB of Flash, when previous models had 128 GB (on 2TB and 3TB versions the drives actually include 128GB of Flash storage, you’ll have to pay $100 for each additional TB).
  5. Magic Keyboard isn’t magic: no backlightning, no numeric keypad. This is a desktop keyboard, why is Apple so obsessive with getting a keyboard as small as possible? The rechargeable battery is nice, even though you’ll have to use wires from time to time. $99 dollars for this, a non-mechanical keyboard, seems overpriced to me.
  6. Magic price for the Magic TrackPad 2: this is a good peripheral with a good feature -Force Touch is a more than welcome addition- but the price ($129) isn’t right again. Logitech T650 (true, no Force Touch there) is $40 at Amazon.
  7. Not much magic on the Magic Mouse 2 either: the big change here is the rechargeable battery and the Lightning port. That’s it. No Force touch (would have been nice), and that super flat design. Again, not very affordable at $79.
  8. No Thunderbolt 3, no USB-C: Apple continues to support Lightning above all the alternatives -not on the MacBook though, wonder why- and doesn’t take advantage of the new Thunderbolt 3 spec with the USB-C ports. I wonder if this is a limitation of the new motherboards in the iMacs.
  9. No Thunderbolt Displays: there was no news for Mac Pro -two years now without a big refresh- but the thing is even worse when Thunderbolt Displays are now 4 years old. It’s ironic: we’ve got 27 inch 5K Retina displays, but we haven’t got that on an independent display. I’d love to check that screens. 5K seems to me a bigger deal (1440p on perfect scale) than current 4K/UHD offers.

I don’t know about you, but for me the new iMacs are pretty much a fraud. I would only consider them if I really would take advantage of the new, promising screens and that gorgeous resolution. No gaming here (even on the $2,549 27 inch model with a Radeon M395X), the only real reason to upgrade is… none.

This is an adaptation of the original post, in Spanish, at Incognitosis.

 

Microsoft Display Dock is asking for copycats

At its Windows 10 hardware event today in New York City, Microsoft unveiled the Display Dock. This accessory extends your Windows 10 phone into a PC-like experience, though it reportedly will cost $99.

I love what Microsoft announced on October 6th: the new high end Lumia smartphones are now capable of becoming your PC, but you’ll need this little dock, and it ain’t cheap.

$99 is a lot for what essentially is a way to connect a monitor. Most users will connect a wireless keyboard and mouse, so I wonder how this can be so expensive.

I can’t wait for chinese copycats to show their capabilities, but there will be other alternatives. Months ago Belkin announced their new USB-C cables (DisplayPort and HDMI versions included), and others will follow.

Nice try, though, Microsoft.

Source: Microsoft unveils Display Dock, a Lumia accessory that turns your Windows 10 phone into a PC | VentureBeat | Mobile | by Emil Protalinski

Dell buys EMC, a new IBM is born

 

Michael Dell

Dell has paid a staggering $67 billion for EMC, an enterprise storage solutions provider (oh, and that VMware thing). That could sound nice in the regular newspaper, but the deal is a little weird both for end users and for enterprise users.

End users don’t really know that Dell has been playing a prominent role in different enterprise scenarios for the last few years: they only know the company as a PC maker.

They were born this way, but they recognized long ago that the PC era wasn’t going to be eternal. The dawn of the smartphone has made Michael Dell change its focus, and now enterprise is what really matters.

It’s the same thing IBM did when they recognized that their business was not going to be in the end-user space: clones were threatening their IBM PCs, so they withdrew that market. The enterprise market was a safe bet.

Dell is doing the same. I wonder how many surprises we’ve got left from this company in the end-user market. Their Dell XPS machines have been a solid and interesting proposal, but they don’t seem to be able (or be interested, for that matter) to keep the pace of that Microsoft that is surprising us with the new Surface Book.

I guess the PC market is now a liability for them. The company is now more boring than ever, but this has been probably a good business choice.

Source: Dell Buys EMC For $67B In Largest Deal In Tech History

Samsungate coming

Owners say that TSMC A9 SoC delivers two hours more battery life than Samsung’s A9.

Problems coming for Apple. This doesn’t make much sense: TSMC chips are made with 16nm vs Samsung’s 14nm. That would benefit the latter in efficiency and raw power but the tests show exaclty the opposite.

I wonder if this is some kind of weird support for the chips at the kernel level in iOS 9. Let’s see what Apple has to say (and do) in this regard.

Source: iPhone 6S battery life may vary, depending on which A9 chip is inside | Ars Technica UK

Who are you Microsoft, and where have you left the old behemoth?

Microsoft has accomplished something extraordinary today. It has made people not to need their products, but to actually want them. The new Lumias 950/XL became a dream come true: real convergence for devices that can act as smartphones or as complete PCs depending on our needs.

But even more impressive is the launch of both the Surface Pro 4 (“the Surface Pro is leading Apple’s iPad instead of chasing it“, says Savov) and the amazing Surface Book. The event was fantastic in everyway, and even the closing remarks by Satya Nadella were thoughtful:

But the more important thing that Nadella noted was Microsoft’s emphasis on getting people to want its products and services rather than just need them.

This is indeed a new Microsoft. A very welcome one.

Source: Microsoft has warmed my cold cynical heart with hot new hardware | The Verge

Twitter, the social network that never was

twitter

I love Twitter. I use it constantly and it replaced RSS feeds as my main source for information long ago. I believe the product accomplishes what it promised nicely, but others are now getting more interest at what Twitter did better first.

Facebook and new contenders such as Apple News or even apps that weren’t supposed to do this -Snapchat, Instagram, what are you doing in this party?- are focusing on the same problem Twitter has tried to solve, but from a different perspective, and all are becoming a valid source of information. Of viral information.

That’s probably what is not working in Twitter. This micro blogging service has never been a social network, but lots of people compared it to Facebook or Google+ for years. And maybe Twitter should really do something to become a real social network. Maybe focus on your friends more than in valuable sources of information, but then again, Twitter was born to keep you updated with news sources you trust. Connecting with (old) friends was never the goal.

And so, we find Twitter in a difficult position. Jack Dorsey has come back as CEO, and according to Re/code the new Jack Dorsey is much better prepared than the old one to take this responsability: “He seems to be a completely different man than the one who returned to Twitter in March 2011 as executive chairman and product czar“.

He’s got big problems to solve, so it will be interesting how he tries to solve them.

Good luck.

 

The useless Nexus

nexus

I wasn’t impressed by last year Nexus 6, and I’m not impressed by this year’s Nexus 5X and 6P either. The first one was an expensive super-phone (in every sense), and the new phones are not cheap either (at least not outside the US) and they aren’t specially different from the proposals from the traditional Google partners.

Vlad Savov makes a good argument trying to explain what possibly could have motivated Google to launch this products. There were valid reasons originally:

The original Nexus One in 2010 was Google’s first effort at selling its own phones directly to consumers, and was thus the boldest attempt the United States had yet seen of circumventing the market dominance of mobile carriers. The Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus then served as valuable references for the best of Android at a time when Google’s hardware partners were aggravating their users with awful Android skins and long delays on delivering updates. Since then, the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5 — especially the Nexus 5 — have raised our expectations for what we can get from a good Android phone on a budget

That’s exactly right. Since then, though, the reasons are different, and as Savov points out, it seems Google makes this smartphones just because it can.

It seems Google partners aren’t happy with the situation. Motorola’s Moto X Pure is a good example of a device that should get promoted by Google, and not rivalled by your partner. Maybe Google just use Nexus as ads, like Savov explains, but if that’s the idea, I really don’t see the benefit.

Google should concentrate on making Nexus as the best examples of what a good, affordable device can do with the newest version of Android. That’s it. Let makers make.

Source: Google’s Nexus phones are just ads | The Verge

Amazon banning Chromecast, Apple TV: my country, my rules

 

Amazon.com Inc. will stop selling media-streaming devices from Google Inc. and Apple Inc. that aren’t easily compatible with its video service, the latest example of the company using its clout to promote products that fit with its own retailing strategy.

It’s unfair for users that take advantage of Amazon great service, but it’s a logical decision from a business point of view.

The move, coming just before the year-end holiday shopping season, shows how Amazon is willing to sacrifice sales of popular brand name products — Apple and Google have the best-selling media streaming devices generally — to bolster its own video-streaming service

The explanation is weak, yes -Chromecast and Apple TV aren’t “easily compatible with its video service- but at the end what matters is trying to get traction in this segment. Helping competitors to get their content instead of yours is silly.

I’d have done the same exact thing.

Source: Amazon to Ban Sale of Apple, Google Video-Streaming Devices – Bloomberg Business

Google’s Pixel C has a smart aspect ratio, but what about the stylus?

The aspect ratio on Google’s new tablet is the square root of two. Why?

Brian Barrett gives us an explanation of the weird aspect ratio ( 1:√2, about 1:1.41) on the new Google Pixel C Tablet. The explanation is divided in two:

  1. It makes websites and webapps more “appealing”.
  2. If you divide the Pixel C’s screen in two, you get the same exact aspect ratio over and over again. Useful for spliting screens/windows

Smart move to differenciate these tablets from the ones other makers are producing, but still, one big thing is missing from Google’s proposal: the stylus.

Source: What’s With the Aspect Ratio on Google’s Pixel C Tablet?