NVIDIA Releases 387.92 WHQL Game Ready Driver: Fast Sync for SLI

Ahead of tomorrow’s launch of Middle-earth: Shadow of War, today NVIDIA has released driver version 387.92, featuring support for four Game Ready titles: Middle-earth: Shadow of War, The Evil Within 2, Forza Motorsport 7, and ARKTIKA.1 (VR). This release also introduces the new 387 driver branch, bringing along feature updates such as Fast Sync under SLI and OpenGL 4.6. Several bugs were also addressed, making 387.92 a rather extensive update.

For Shadow of War, the driver brings Ansel and SLI support. As a reminder, until October 16th select GTX 1080 and 1080 Ti cards will come with a copy of the game as a bundle.

As far as the new features go, 387.92 adds Fast Sync support for SLI, with some caveats. Introduced with Pascal in 2016, Fast Sync is a v-sync mode roughly analogous to triple buffering, aimed at mitigating the high latency of traditional v-sync. For 387.92, Fast Sync under SLI is only available for bridged Maxwell GPU configurations at resolutions less than 4K, and bridged Pascal and later GPU configurations at any resolution.

The 387 branch also sees NVIDIA GameStream support for HDR under Windows 10. However, NVIDIA does note a relevant open issue: on notebooks using hybrid graphics, where the discrete GPU drives the primary display, there is graphical corruption before a streaming game goes into full-screen.

In addition, the 387 branch brings OpenGL 4.6 support, as well as DirectX Intermediate Language (DXIL) support for Kepler and later GPUs, which includes full support for DX12 Shader Model 6.0. NVIDIA has also implemented improvement in full-screen Vulkan applications for 32-bit Windows swapchains.

For bug fixes in 387.92, NVIDIA has resolved the following issues:

  • Low GPU usage for SLI configurations on X299 platforms, resulting in poor performance
  • With Fast Sync enabled, moving the cursor causes twitching in full-screen YouTube videos
  • Share FPS overlay appears in Discord
  • HTC Vive VR view jumps at random times
  • Custom resolutions in NVIDIA Control Panel are not preserved after updating driver
  • For ASUS 4K displays, “Use NVIDIA Color Setting” in NVIDIA Control Panel is not saved after updating or rolling back driver
  • Lines flash across the screen while booting into Windows

Wrapping things up, NVIDIA has also added or updated the following SLI profiles:

  • Earthfall
  • Lawbreakers
  • Middle-earth: Shadow of War
  • Nex Machina
  • ReCore
  • RiME
  • Snake Pass
  • Tekken 7
  • The Evil Within 2
  • We Happy Few

The updated drivers are available through the GeForce Experience Drivers tab or online at the NVIDIA driver download page. More information on this update and further issues can be found in the 387.92 release notes.

How to add a fast new SSD to your old Mac or MacBook for only $150

When I first wrote about using solid state drives (SSDs) to radically improve the performance of older Macs, high-capacity SSDs were just beginning to become affordable. Replacing a Mac’s 500GB or 1TB hard drive with a same-sized SSD required at least $250 back then, but the benefits were tremendous: even an aging machine became markedly (5x) faster, silent, and — unexpectedly — more fun to use. All for much less than the price of a new Mac.

Today, high-capacity SSDs are more affordable than ever. Replacing your old 500GB hard drive with a same-sized SSD from a reputable manufacturer costs only $150, while 1TB drives are under $330, each $100 less than only a couple of years ago. Once unthinkably huge 2TB and 4TB SSDs are now commonly available, too, albeit at eye-watering prices.

With this week’s release of macOS High Sierra, Apple has officially made SSDs its preferred Mac storage solution, introducing the new APFS standard to further optimize SSD performance over Fusion and traditional hard drives. So this is a perfect time to revisit the topic of SSD upgrades; if you held out before, now’s the time to jump in!

The Big Picture

For nearly a decade, SSDs have been acknowledged as the “future” of Mac storage. Even without changing a Mac’s CPU, GPU, or RAM, replacing the hard drive with an internal SSD instantly leads to much faster macOS performance, app loading, restarting, and file accessing. A Mac that once took over a minute to boot can now start working in seconds; Macs built with SSDs can awaken from sleep instantly.

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Despite superior performance, high prices led Apple to slowly stagger solid state drive adoption across individual Mac product lines. The January 2008-vintage original MacBook Air was the first Mac with the option of a 64GB SSD (for a $1,300 premium over the laptop’s base price), and 1TB SSDs were going for roughly $4,000 — Apple didn’t even try to sell 1TB SSDs at that point.

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Nine years later, dramatically faster and smaller SSDs with the same capacities can be had for less than a tenth of those prices, so every current Mac either has an SSD by default or as an option. Running cooler, quieter, and with superior energy efficiency than traditional hard drives, SSDs have fewer failures, and reputable manufacturers tend to warranty them for longer than their predecessors.

For instance, Samsung’s consumer drives generally have 5-year warranties, and if you’re willing to pay more, its PRO series drives have 10-year warranties, eclipsing all but the most expensive enterprise-class desktop hard disks. Not all SSDs are equivalent in reliability and performance, but ones from top-tier chip companies are pretty incredible.

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Which Mac Models Can Be Internally Upgraded?

Good news first: most older Macs and even some current Macs can be easily user-upgraded to include SSDs. With limited expertise and only three tools, I was able to swap out my 2011 iMac’s old hard drive for an SSD in roughly 30 minutes. [Alternately, if your Mac has a SuperDrive, you may be able to replace that optical CD/DVD drive with the SSD, though it’s important to note that the SSD mightn’t run as fast due to slower Mac internal connections to the SuperDrive. Hard drive replacement is generally the best option.]

Bad news: the newer the Mac, the greater the likelihood that actually installing the drive yourself will be tricky. Apple continues to shrink its desktop and laptop machines, more tightly integrating the few remaining components inside, so you’ll want to follow an iFixit disassembly guide to safely open and close your machine. Owners of the very latest MacBook and MacBook Pro models shouldn’t bother going further; these laptops have hardwired SSDs that can’t be replaced, a trend that Apple may expand to future desktop Macs.

If your Mac is one of the following models, it can probably be upgraded with an SSD.

iMac: Up through 2017 (current) models

Mac mini: Up through late 2014 (current) models.

Mac Pro: Up through late 2013 (current) models

MacBook: Up through mid-2010 models

MacBook Air: Up through 2017 (current) models

MacBook Pro: Up through mid-2015 models

For Non-Upgradable Macs, Consider External SSDs

Ideally, you’ll install the SSD inside your Mac, squeezing maximum performance out of its chips without needing to power an external device. But if your Mac can’t be internally upgraded, or you’re squeamish about opening up your computer, you can buy an external SSD and connect it to a USB 3 or Thunderbolt port. You’ll see definite speed improvements for whatever files and apps you place on the SSD, though overall macOS performance won’t change unless you’re booting from the SSD itself.

Preparing Your Mac for an SSD

Before any hard disk to SSD swap, my advice is to run a complete Time Machine backup to an external drive — preferably one that’s connected with a cable rather than Wi-Fi — so all of your old hard drive’s contents will be ready to transfer over to the new SSD. I strongly recommend updating your Mac to the latest non-beta version of macOS it can run before beginning the backup process.

Once you’ve swapped the drives, hold Command (⌘) and R down on the keyboard when first restarting your SSD-equipped Mac. This will enable you to use Disk Utility to format the SSD. If your Mac can run macOS High Sierra or later, choose APFS formatting for the SSD; otherwise, choose Mac Extended + Journaled formatting. Then restore directly from your Time Machine backup. The restoring process will take hours, but you’ll come back to a fresh macOS install with everything pretty much as it was left on your old drive.

 

Alternately, you can install a new copy of macOS on the drive, then install only the apps and files you want. Achieve this after a Command-R boot by choosing Reinstall macOS from the macOS Utilities list, and selecting the new SSD as the destination for macOS. This will give you a completely fresh start, though your emails, app settings, and other files will need to be separately hunted down and brought over from your other hard drive.

For users with plans to swap an optical drive for an SSD, keeping the SSD as a non-boot drive, nothing needs to be done to prep software beforehand. Backing up your Mac is always a good idea before opening it up, but all you’ll need to do after the SSD installation is run Disk Utility and format the new drive, then transfer files over as you see fit.

However, if you plan to make the SSD your boot drive, follow the instructions above so you can enjoy the speed benefits of running macOS directly from the SSD. Once you’ve set up the SSD with macOS and your files, choose the SSD as your boot disk from the Choose Startup Disk utility, found in System Preferences (Startup Disk) or the macOS Utilities suite.

One brief note on TRIM, a topic that was a bigger deal when I originally wrote SSD guides; read about it (and third-party software) in greater depth here. In short, TRIM — automatic recycling of SSD space freed up by deleting files — is a background task performed by your Mac. It’s handled in the background by OS X, though for reasons unknown, Apple officially guarantees TRIM support only for its own drives. Under macOS High Sierra, the Samsung EVO drives I recommend here shouldn’t have any problems working perfectly with your Mac, but if you need a tool for another drive, Cindori’s TRIM Enabler 4 is an option.

iMac: Internal + External SSD Options

imacopen6

I’ll leave the specific iMac opening instructions to the experts at iFixit (this guide works for pre-2012 27-inch iMacs), but it suffices to say that the iMac isn’t super difficult to upgrade – iFixit suggests less than an hour of total install time, and I personally took around half an hour in total.

Before you begin, you’ll need several components: the SSD, a mounting bracket, an in-line digital thermal sensor, and a small collection of tools.

For the SSD, I recommend Samsung’s 850 EVO series (250GB/$100 and up), and NewerTech’s AdaptaDrive mounting bracket ($15) to secure the drive inside your iMac. Other World Computing/OWC now sells the thermal sensor and all necessary tools in $40 iMac model-specific bundles, a better deal than choosing and buying the parts separately. OWC’s videos walk you through installation, too.

Owners of SuperDrive-equipped iMacs also have the option of swapping the optical drive for an SSD. iFixit has model-specific SuperDrive replacement guides for the 21.5-inch iMac (late-2009, mid-2010, and mid-2011), 27-inch iMac (late-2009, mid-2010, and mid-2011), and earlier 17-, 20-, and 24-inch models that are about as far back as you should consider for possible SSD swaps. The guides omit only one step: placing the small SSD you buy within an adapter/caddy as large as the optical drive you’re replacing.

Some people skip the adapter and use pieces of double-sided tape to hold their SSDs in place, but if you’d like to use a mount to keep your SSD firmly within the old optical drive bay, this $10 Micro SATA Cables-branded adapter is inexpensive and praised for its fit in 27-inch iMacs. Alternately, this $19 Nimitz hard drive caddy is designed to fit a variety of 2009-2011 iMacs.

If you prefer to go with an external drive, I would recommend LaCie’s Rugged Thunderbolt + USB 3.0 SSD ($285/500GB) if you need a Thunderbolt interface, otherwise a much smaller and less expensive Samsung T5 USB 3.1 SSD ($200/500GB). which will be forward-compatible with USB-C computers.

Mac mini: Internal + External SSD Options

macminihd

courtesy iFixit

Internal SSD replacement for the 2010 to 2014 “unibody” Mac mini requires considerably more effort and skill than the iMac. iFixit’s guides correctly describe many upgrades to unibody (metal-topped) Mac minis as being “difficult.”

This is the mid-2010 Mac mini guide, for which you’ll need a 2mm hex screwdriver, T6 and T8 Torx screwdrivers, a spudger, and a special Mac mini Logic Board Removal Tool, plus hours of disassembly and reassembly time.

You’ll need to disassemble the Mac mini’s chassis, fan, and antenna plate before disconnecting the logic board and hard drive — which steps become even more challenging on the current (2014 design) models. I would recommend that you seek professional assistance for an internal drive upgrade of this model, and seek out Transcend’s upcoming JetDrive 820, which promises 2014 Mac mini compatibility in 240GB ($230), 480GB ($400), and 960GB ($670) capacities.

macminiopen

Thankfully, earlier Mac minis are easier to open, requiring only a putty knife, Phillips #00 Screwdriver, and spudger. You can replace the hard drive, or instead remove the Mac’s SuperDrive optical drive, swapping the SSD in while preserving the original hard disk. This $19 Nimitz hard drive caddy is designed to fit 2009-2010 Mac minis.

The same sort of 2.5-inch internal and external drives can be used in the older Mac minis as on the iMac. While the 2010 Mac mini limits you to FireWire 800 or USB 2.0 — probably not worth the effort of adding an external SSD, for speed reasons — the 2011 model has a Thunderbolt port, and the 2012 version has USB 3.0 ports, making external SSDs more beneficial.

The Samsung T5 USB 3.1 SSD ($200/500GB) is a great choice if you have USB 3.0 ports; LaCie’s Rugged Thunderbolt + USB 3.0 SSD ($285/500GB) is a great pick for Thunderbolt.

Mac Pro: Internal + External SSD Options

owc-sled

Current-generation (late-2013 design) Mac Pros ship with large, fast SSDs, making SSD swaps less critical. Regardless, Transcend will soon release the Mac Pro-compatible JetDrive 820, which promises up to 950MB/second speeds, and will be available in 240GB/$230, 480GB/$400, and 960GB/$670 capacities.

First-generation Mac Pros can definitely benefit from an SSD’s speed increase. As iFixit’s guide notes, the process of installing a first-generation Mac Pro hard drive is as simple as flipping a rear latch, pulling the Mac’s side panel and hard drive bay out, then using a Philips head screw driver to attach a hard drive sled to your new drive. But with an SSD, there’s another step: use the OWC Mount Pro ($23), which holds the tiny SSD within a custom-fit replacement for the Mac Pro’s hard drive bay.

The old Mac Pro’s physical size and multi-drive-ready internal architecture make it an ideal candidate for an internal SSD. But if you’re considering an external drive, you might want to think again; the aged model’s outdated USB 2.0 and FireWire 800 ports aren’t going to cut it.

Old MacBook/MacBook Pro: Internal + External SSD Options

ifixit-hd2

courtesy iFixit

Aluminum-bodied 13-inch MacBooks of 2010 or earlier vintage (not current 12-inch models) and MacBook Pros sold in 2015 or earlier can be upgraded with 2.5-inch internal SSDs. If you’re going to do an internal hard drive swap, the Samsung 850 EVO I previously recommended offers a superb combination of speed, reliability, and quality for the price.

As shown in these iFixit guides (MacBook Pro 13-inch 2009 / 2010 / 2011 / 2012, and MacBook Pro 15-inch), the hard drive swap process requires a Torx T6 screwdriver, one Philips #00 screwdriver, and a flat-head screwdriver (or spudger).

You just unscrew and remove the bottom cover of your MacBook, pull out the hard drive, replace it with the SSD, then reattach the bottom cover. It’s even easier for the short-lived 2008 metal MacBook, which has a pop-off bottom panel without screws for easier hard drive replacement.

If your MacBook has a SuperDrive, swapping it for an SSD is quite easy. iFixit publishes separate guides for the 13-inch unibody metal MacBook, non-Retina MacBook Pro 13-inch (mid-2010, early 2011, late 2011, and mid-2012 to 2015 model), the non-Retina MacBook Pro 15-inch, and MacBook Pro 17-inch, all of which involve one screwdriver, opening the bottom compartment, and disconnecting some connectors before reassembling the machine. To hold the new SSD in place within the former optical drive bay, this $9 ZXUY drive caddy works with the metal 13-inch MacBook and pre-Retina, pre-2012 13-/15-/17-inch MacBook Pros.

External options depend upon the ports your MacBook/Pro has, but again, you’re best off with the Samsung T5 USB 3.1 SSD ($200/500GB) if you have a free USB port, while LaCie’s Rugged Thunderbolt + USB 3.0 SSD ($285/500GB) will likely give you better speeds if you have Thunderbolt.

macbookprossd-2

Retina MacBook Pro: Replacing Your SSD

There aren’t as many generations of the Retina MacBook Pro as there are for the MacBook Air, so the choice between SSDs is simpler.

  1. First-generation 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros (sold mid-2012 to early-2013) can use Transcend’s JetDrive 725 (240GB/$200, 480GB/$350-370, 960GB/$500), or OWC’s Aura Pro 6G (240GB/$170, 480GB/$280, 1TB/$516). Both come with the tools you’ll need to do the SSD swap, plus external enclosures. Expect 460-570MB/second speeds from these drives. [iFixit’s SSD replacement guide is here.]
  2. First-generation 13-inch Retina MacBook Pros (sold late-2012 to early-2013) can use Transcend’s JetDrive 720 (240GB/$210, 480GB/$370, 960GB/$500), or OWC’s Aura Pro 6G (240GB/$170, 480GB/$280, 1TB/$516). Both come with the tools you’ll need to do the SSD swap, plus external enclosures. Expect 460-570MB/second speeds from these drives. [iFixit’s SSD replacement guide is here.]
  3. Late-2013 to mid-2015 13-inch and 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros use newer SSDs with faster PCIe 3.0 connectors. Transcend’s soon-to-be-released JetDrive 820 promises up to 950MB/second speeds, and 240GB/$230, 480GB/$400, and 960GB/$670 capacities.

For the 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro, SSD replacement is virtually identical to the newer MacBook Airs: dead simple, with 10 undercarriage screws, a battery connector, and one interior screw to remove.

As noted above, the Transcend and OWC kits come with the screwdrivers you’ll need, as well as external drive housings to help you migrate your files. The original 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro requires quite a few additional steps; Apple significantly simplified the SSD replacement process for subsequent-generation 13-inch machines, bringing them to parity with the 15-inch model and MacBook Airs.

 

macbookairssd-2

MacBook Air: Replacing Your Old Hard Drive or SSD

There are five key generations of the MacBook Air that use different types of solid state drives.

  1. First-generation 13-inch MacBook Airs (sold between 2008 and mid-2009) can be upgraded to a 1.8-inch SSD with a ZIF connector. On price, your best choice is a 64GB ($52) or 128GB ($84) KingSpec drive. Expect speeds in the 50-90MB/second range. iFixit’s guide to this MacBook Air can be found here.
  2. Second-generation 13-inch MacBook Airs (sold between 2008 and mid-2009) can be upgraded to a 1.8-inch SATA drive with between 120GB to 480GB of capacity. Other World Computing/OWC’s Mercury Aura Pro comes in 120GB ($125) or 480GB ($300) versions with promised read/write speeds in the 275-285MB range. iFixit’s guide to this MacBook Air is here.
  3. Third-generation MacBook Airs (11-inch and 13-inch, sold between late 2010 and mid-2011) use blade-style SATA III SSDs that look similar to RAM boards. The 240GB Transcend JetDrive 500 now sells for $232 on Amazon, with a 480GB model at $350, and a 960GB SSD at $690. They promise 460-570MB/second speeds. OWC’s Aura/Aura Pro series for this particular MacBook Air has had weaker reviews, but a 1TB OWC Aura drive for the same computer can be had for $494 through Amazon. iFixit’s guides for this 11-inch Air and 13-inch Air are here.
  4. Fourth-generation MacBook Airs (11-inch and 13-inch, sold starting mid-2012) should go with the Transcend JetDrive 520 models (240GB/$189, 480GB/$350, 960GB/$568), which promise 460-570MB/second speeds. iFixit’s guides for this 11-inch Air and 13-inch Air are here.
  5. Fifth-generation MacBook Airs (11-inch and 13-inch sold starting early 2013) switched to faster PCIe SSDs. Transcend’s soon-to-be-released JetDrive 820 is compatible with these and current MacBook Air models, promising up to 950MB/second speeds, and 240GB/$230, 480GB/$400, and 960GB/$670 capacities.

How easy is installation? Except for the older first- and second-generation MacBook Airs, the process is incredibly simple: you generally use a Pentalobe screwdriver to remove 10 screws from the Air’s bottom, then a Torx T5 screwdriver to unscrew one screw on the SSD, gently removing the old SSD, and then repeating the steps in the opposite direction to replace the screws.

This $8 JBtek kit includes both screwdrivers. Alternately, iFixit’s $30 64-Bit Driver Kit may be overkill for this particular situation, but it includes all the wacky screwdriver pieces you’ll need for other Apple projects.

 

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The directions are more complex for Apple’s oldest 13-inch MacBook Air models: you instead need only a Phillips #00 screwdriver, but will have to pull 10 external screws, 13 internal screws, the full battery, and multiple cables before reaching the hard drive, then go in the opposite direction to close everything up. If you have one of these old machines, you’re probably best off seeking the services of a third-party Mac repair shop to do the SSD swap.

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So, Can I Really Do This Myself?

After I published my first SSD swapping article, several commenters opined that they felt the upgrade was too difficult for regular people to handle on their own. In my opinion, reasonable people — given their particular skills, concern levels about technology, and Mac models — will differ on this subject.

I personally find 30 minutes of using a suction cup, screwdrivers, and tweezers a lot easier than remodeling a bathroom or changing a car’s tire. But you may feel otherwise, and some Mac models are more complex than others. There’s no shame in saying a particular DIY project isn’t right for you.

If opening your Mac isn’t up your alley, you have options. Amazon now offers an “Expert Installation” add-on for SSDs, currently priced at $100-$110 depending on city, with a promise that a technician will arrive at your location with “the right tools and experience to complete the installation quickly, correctly, and safely the first time.” Data transfer is also included in the price. You can add this to your cart at the time of SSD purchase.

Alternately, you can seek out a local Mac repair shop to do the hard drive to SSD swap. Be prepared to pay between $50-$100 (plus the cost of the SSD and possibly other parts), and transport your Mac to and from the shop in its original packaging to avoid damaging it in transit.

You’ll also want to make sure the shop has specific experience in Mac hard drive replacements, and is insured in the event something goes wrong, as these are the only potentially important differences between hiring someone else and doing it yourself.

Conclusions

From my perspective, adding an SSD to an old Mac is the best investment you can make to keep it going; you’ll begin to notice how much faster it is pretty quickly after the installation process is complete. The machine will resume from sleep instantly, reboot in seconds, and load apps as if they’re tiny. Large photo libraries will scroll with zips rather than chugs, and finding files will be a snap.

Until there’s a major breakthrough in macOS software development that demands a substantially better CPU or GPU, your old Mac will be a viable (and faster) daily driver — not bad for only $150 or so.


Check out 9to5Mac on YouTube for more Apple news:

Super fast bionic glass: iPhone 8 Review

Apple’s latest iPhone 8 is supercharged by its new A11 Bionic chip, which does the heavy lifting for a series of major new camera features as well as making everything faster. It also packs iPad Pro’s True Tone display and Fast Charging, and adds Qi wireless charging through its beautifully glossy rear glass back, built in a familiar shape but with a new steel structure ringed in an aluminum band with precision seams that continue the water and dust resistance of the previous 7 generation.

iPhone 8

iPhone 8 models carry forward all of the features of Apple’s previous iPhone 7 and 7 Plus (this year’s top selling smartphones), along with top to bottom enhancements including: a new aluminum-ringed, strengthened glass case architecture that provides a distinctive appearance and enables the convenience of Qi “wireless” inductive charging with iP67 dust and liquid intrusion resistance; new USB-PD Fast Charging; compatibility with EVS high-quality voice calls over LTE; support for True Tone on its 3D Touch, Wide Color Retina HD Display (which remains the same resolution and size as previously); Apple’s most advanced mobile chip yet: the A11 Bionic, which features a new 6 core architecture that adaptively scales up for performance and back down to deliver energy efficiency for battery life; larger, faster camera sensors with deeper pixels, new the standard iPhone 8 model) paired with an incredible Slow Sync flash feature for better and more realistic scene illumination in low light settings.

The 2017 iPhone Lineup

The new 8 and 8 Plus models are now priced at $699 and $799–that’s $50 and $30 more (respectively) than last year’s entry price for 7 and 7 Plus. However, the new iPhone 8 models start with 64GB of storage, compared to 32GB last year on the 7 lineup. The new entry price of the 64GB iPhone 8 is now right in the middle of the earlier launch price of the 32GB and 128GB iPhone 7, while the 256GB iPhone 8 is the same price ($849) as the 256GB iPhone 7 was.

That means Apple didn’t just arbitrarily raise the price of iPhone 8; it enhanced its entry configuration, leaving more room below to accommodate the continued sale of earlier models at reduced prices. Previous 7 models are now reduced by $100 (now $549 and $669), and the earlier 6s and 6s Plus are being sold at $200 less than their original debut prices ($449 and $549).

Lastly, the A9-powered, 4 inch iPhone SE, which now starts at $349 ($50 than previously) remains Apple’s least expensive iPhone, despite its capable processor and camera technology refresh from last year (and it, too, now gets double the storage capacity from before).

Along with the upcoming launch of iPhone X, which starts at $999, Apple now offers (by far) its broadest range of pricing tiers ever. However, there’s little to be confused about despite all the SKUs. With a new peak of nearly 1 billion iPhone users, Apple now has the widest range of users to accommodate.

In addition to their other new features, iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (and iPhone X) are the only models currently offering 64GB and 256GB capacities; iPhone 7, 6s, and SE models are all now available only in either 32 and 128GB versions.

Conversely, iPhone 8 models have fewer new finish color options than last year: Silver (with a white face), Gold (with a white face) and Space Grey (with a back face). Due to their glass back (detailed below), those finishes deliver a very distinctive look–at least until you hide them inside a typical case, where the camera window offers only a glimpse of the newness of its finish.

iPhone 7 models continue to sell in the same five finishes as last year, including Rose Gold and the unique Black and Jet Black finishes that generation introduced. Also now missing is the Product(RED) version that Apple sold within the last year. The 6s and SE generations still sell in their original four color options (including Rose Gold). In other words, no changes from one year ago.

Apple has historically introduced exclusive new, unique color finishes to distinguish its latest iPhone generations, but both iPhone 8 and the upcoming iPhone X focus entirely on technology and design–looking new in depth, not just on the surface.

As with Product(RED) iPhone 7 which was sold this year between March and September, it seems likely that Apple could introduce new color options for its new iPhone 8 models later on as it catches up with initial demand.

What’s new #1: Induction charging brings the glass back back

Apple continues to enhance its iPhone lineup along a strategic trajectory, incrementally building on previous technology developments with a clear strategy, rather than just incrementally bumping up the display resolution, changing the size of its screens or introducing a temporary gimmick features for a season or two (remember fads like 3D displays, Project Ara modular function blocks, Amazon’s Dynamic Projection, mini secondary side displays and epaper screens, LG’s G Flex banana phone, Samsung’s hand-waving Air View and eye-tracking Smart Scroll, built-in projectors and phone-netbook docking?).

The display, architecture and materials used in iPhone 8 all factor into this progression. Two years ago, Apple launched 3D Touch for iPhone 6s, using the “Taptic Engine” to deliver haptic feedback–literally touch sensations–delivered by a precision vibration actuator

Last year’s iPhone 7 models got a larger, more precise Taptic Engine that not only provided haptic feedback for 3D Touch but also served as the force feedback that enabled its new solid state Home button.

The new Home button also made it easier to achieve dust and liquid intrusion resistance, in parallel with moving audio to Lightning or wireless delivery so Apple could get rid of the analog minijack and reclaim that internal volume.

You can see an edge but it’s almost impossible to feel

This year, Apple had to redesign the case of iPhone 8 to accommodate its new Qi wireless charging feature, which involves an induction coil behind its new glass back. The case of earlier 6, 6s and 7 models was effectively an aluminum tray that the display and electronics were dropped into; the new case has a steel internal frame that supports the display panel on the front and the magnetically-translucent glass panel on the back, ringed with an aluminum bumper.

The seams along the edges of this new design are so perfectly precise that it still feels like a solid tray, as if the back is just painted on rather than being a separate panel. These perfect edge seams were also required to retain the IP67 water and dust resistance that iPhone 7 introduced.

Rich glossy color on the back, plain up front

The strengthened glass back has multiple layers of color applied to it, giving it a creamy luster. The Gold version, rather than being the solid, metallic champagne or rose gold color of previous generations, features a back panel with a warm, antique pearl appearance with a subtle dusty pink tone that looks luxurious and stunning in contrast to the coppery-gold frame that rings its sides and the camera lens. It looks spectacular.

Similarly, the back of the Silver version has a hint of grey (the grey-white color of fat-free milk, or perhaps pallor mortis) which sets it apart from its silvery metal edges, but it sort of begs to be covered up by a colorful case.

The Space Grey phone is now a real gray, not just a fancy word for black. In contrast to iPhone 7’s inky dark Jet Black, the back glass on iPhone 8 looks like slate grey coated in gloss, with a distinct, but dark metal edge.

The front of all three models is just the basic, familiar white or black seen on earlier iPhones. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t look new. I wish the front carried forward the styling of the back, because the backs are so beautiful–or at least unique–they make you want to just stop what you’re doing and admire the work that went into them.

The new glass backs of iPhone 8 are not only eye catching, but are also grippier to the touch, a change from the metal backs of recent iPhones. The feel is very similar to iPhone 7 in Jet Black, which coated its aluminum skin with a gloss that (counterintuitively) feels less slippery than bare metal.

The glass back seems more resistant to scuffs and scratching than previous anodized aluminum iPhones or the lustrous gloss finish of the Jet Black iPhone 7. However, being glass it can be chipped and shattered on impact, and the cost of replacing the back panel is more expensive than replacing a screen under AppleCare (it’s the same “other damage” fee as replacing the back of previous non-glass iPhones).

From the back, the new pearlescent glass iPhone 8 design looks like a luxurious heirloom, an anachronism of futuristic technology could either have been rescued from the baggage of a millionaire who perished on the Titanic, or alternatively belongs in the world of Bladerunner. Flip it over, and it just looks like an ordinary iPhone.

From the front, you can only see a faint hint of the new finish colors around the edges

Of course, when you do flip it over it also reveals that magical computer screen of bitmapped graphics that can do anything you want it to do. I don’t know what the thinking was behind making the front disconnected from the styling of the back, but perhaps it serves to give what’s on the screen a basic, neutral frame. Every iPhone, even the colorful 5c series, has kept the front bezel a basic black or white.

The Jet Black front of the Space Grey version is nearly invisible around the display, but the white front of the Gold and Silver stands out more, making its lack of any pigment feel like Apple just forgot to paint it. Note that the upcoming iPhone X doesn’t have a white front option at all, apparently to allow its TrueDepth sensor array to blend into the body.

What’s new #2: True Tone display color management

Beyond avoiding an influence of display perception with a colored face, iPhone 8 now enables the True Tone white balance first introduced on iPad Pro (and which we anticipated would also make it to iPhone 7 last year).

True Tone uses a “four-channel ambient light sensor” to measure both light intensity and color temperature, with the intent of making what’s on the screen respond to the environment the way an actual paper document reflecting that ambient light would.

Similar to Night Shift (which cuts down the blue light that tends to excite and wake your brain up), True Tone can be turned on or off in Control Center by deep pressing on the display brightness slider. There’s also a switch in Settings / Display. The effect is far more subtle than Night Shift, which you can dramatically see as soon as you turn it on.

Apple outlined that the goal of True Tone technology was to have “colors appear as they would on a printed sheet of paper.” Apple’s marketing materials for iPad Pro boasted that a True Tone display is “almost like looking at a sheet of paper.” The company says True Tone reduces eye strain, which sounds nice and certainly can’t hurt, but it doesn’t feel like a compelling feature on its own that will drive people to upgrade. True Tone represents the tip of the iceberg of Apple’s work in delivering sophisticated color management to iOS with the same, often taken-for-granted capabilities of ColorSync on the Mac

However, True Tone represents the tip of the iceberg of Apple’s work in delivering sophisticated color management to iOS with the same, often taken-for-granted capabilities of ColorSync on the Mac.

The True Tone display on iPhone 8 is most obvious when compared to an otherwise similar iPhone 7. At first glance, it appeared that True Tone made the display warmer in side by side comparisons. Later it seemed like the opposite: the new 8 looked bluer next to a warmer iPhone 7 screen.

However, if rather than comparing two phones with each other you instead compare iPhone 8 next to a neutral white piece of paper, you can see that True Tone does indeed keep the display balanced in comparison to the lighting.

Apart from the 120hz ProMotion high refresh rate delivered on new iPad Pro models, it seems that iPhone 8 with True Tone delivers what could be the last big jump in LCD technology for iPhones before transitioning to OLED (as in iPhone X) or micro-LED on the horizon.

No arbitrary screen changes

Apparently nothing else is different about the iPhone 8 display over previous 7 models–which already featured very high contrast ratios, very low reflectance, peak brightness levels above 700 nits and were calibrated to deliver accurate colors and display a P3 Wide Color gamut.

It’s tempting to say that Apple “should have” made more changes to the display on iPhone 8, but its restrained focus on improving color accuracy and making the screen more responsive to your environment (in a way that’s easy to control and set according to your preference) is a benefit to developers and users alike, as it means apps won’t need to make arbitrary adjustments to look good on the new models.

There is also another disadvantage to hiking the screen resolution just for bragging rights: more pixels put additional load on the processor. Unless that additional resolution offers a true advantage (iPhone 4 radically enhanced the sharpness of the UI with higher pixel density; iPhone 5 added breathing room to the Home screen and apps with a taller new display aspect ratio; iPhone 6 introduced larger screen sizes), that processing capacity can be better put to use elsewhere.

While iPhone 8 models keep all the display variables as they were, iPhone X introduces a new resolution as well as a higher pixel density, a taller screen ratio and new screen size all in one jump, which we’ll consider more in-depth in its own review, looking at the pros and cons of all those changes.

What’s new #3: Qi wireless charging

iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are Apple’s first phones to ship with support for “wireless” (induction) charging. Apple previously shrugged off wireless charging as not being all that useful because you still needed to run a USB cable to your charging pad, which then transfers energy to the device laid on top of it without requiring a physical plug.

Apple doesn’t include a wireless charging disc in the iPhone 8 box, and the new phones don’t work with the existing charging discs for Apple Watch.

Because Apple supports the common Qi charging specification, there is a wide range of compatible charging pads available, including low-priced options from Ikea, which has been selling Qi pads for years that integrate with its furniture and fixtures, as well as Qi pads from Belkin and mophie sold in the Apple Store.

Apple plans to introduce its own AirPower charging pad next year, with unique support for charging up to three devices at once (including the new Apple Watch Series 3, which appears to more closely align with the Qi standard).

We set up and tried out a $60 Belkin Boost Up Qi charging pad. The model we used comes with a non-USB wall charger, which requires you to hunt down a free outlet; you can’t just plug it into the USB on your Mac or use one of the USB adapters you already own. Once you plug it in, there is some convenience to dropping the phone on it without having to find a cable or line up a connector.

However, like the anemic 5-watt adapters Apple throws in the box, Qi charging is currently limited to a rather slow 5-watt recharge rate. Apple says it will issue an update to support faster 7-watt charging. It’s not clear if the new phones can handle being charged any faster than that wirelessly.

The convenience factor of Qi charging probably outweighs charging time if you’re dropping your phone to charge at home overnight or just want to top things up at an airport or cafe where wireless charging pads are available.

What’s new #4: USB-PD Fast Charging

If you’re in a hurry to recharge, you’ll want to plug your iPhone in to take advantage of the significantly faster charge you can get using a standard 10 or 12 watt iPad adapter (which can be used to safely recharge any iPhone significantly faster than the included plug or Qi pad).

New to iPhone 8 is an even quicker “Fast Charging” feature that uses the 29-watt USB-Power Delivery specification associated with USB-C and USB 3.1 to get you from zero to 50 percent in 30 minutes.

This missing accessory costs $25 but saves you lots of time

As with 12.9 inch and 10.5 inch iPad Pro models, the latest iPhone 8 and 8 Plus (and upcoming iPhone X) can make use of Apple’s 29 watt USB-C MacBook power adapters (or the 61W or 87W USB-C power adapters that ship with new MacBook Pros) via Apple’s USB-C to Lightning cable to charge at 29 watts (14.5 volts at 2 amps). Fast Charging is the kind of super compelling feature that once you get it, you won’t ever want to digress back into the world of yesterday.

The nature of electricity means that when you are Fast Charging your phone heats up. It’s definitely fast, and while the device gets warm it did not ever get dangerously or even uncomfortably hot.

Fast Charging is the kind of super compelling feature that once you get it, you won’t ever want to digress back into the world of yesterday.

Note that Apple’s (rather expensive $25) cable is designed specifically to accommodate the USB-PD 29 watt charging standard. Third party USB-C power adapters may support USB-PD, but they aren’t required to as part of the USB-C or USB 3 specifications. Similarly, third-party cables with a USB-C port on one end and Lightning on the other don’t necessarily support USB-PD, even if they do work fine for regular USB data sync and basic 10 to 12-watt charging.

Along the same lines, if you use a standard Lightning cable with a USB-C to USB-A adapter, even Apple’s 29-watt charger will only support basic (non-PD) 12-watt charging (5.2 volts at 2.4 amps). This is not a conspiracy; the cables involved must all be designed to support the higher power distribution of USB-PD, not simply offer a physical chain of connections.

It’s good that USB-PD is smart enough to not work unless it should. Forcing a higher voltage over a cable that was designed to be thin and light could result in overheating and potentially a fire hazard.

Also note that it’s only the wall chargers that support USB-PD; anything you plug into your USB-C MacBook ports (even with a USB-C Lightning cable) will still charge at the same (non-PD) 10 watts as other modern Mac USB ports (5.2 volts at 2.1 amps).

That’s also why you can’t recharge a MacBook Pro daisy-chained to another MacBook via a USB-C cable; the new USB-C MacBooks use the same USB-PD specification to charge their own battery, but can’t deliver (or pass through) enough wattage to charge another USB-PD device.

Plugging in your iPhone into an older Mac or PC may deliver USB power even slower at around 2 watts (5v at 0.5 amps), which is the actual specification for USB 2.0. Starting with Macs from around 2011, Apple began providing additional (up to 10 watts) charging power than the spec allowed to devices (after determining they could handle it).

Whether you opt for the effortless Qi pad or a fast USB-PD cable, the total cost is going to be somewhere around $30-70, so it boils down to a choice between not having to poke in a cable and not having to wait for hours.

If you’re already a USB-C MacBook or MacBook Pro user, you should definitely get an USB-PD-compatible Lightning cable rather than just use a simple USB-A adapter dongle with the default (skinny) Lightning cable, because it not only lets you connect to any Lightning device (iPad, Siri Remote, Magic Mouse, etc.) with less hassle, but allows you to borrow your MacBook adapter for super fast refills of the new iPhones and iPad Pro models.

It seems like Apple should at least include a 12-watt adapter with its premium-priced iPhone 8 models, and should also make it a little easier for users to understand how fast their devices are charging, and why. There’s no indication in iOS that shows if you have achieved Fast Charging, or whether your Mac or whatever USB plug you’re using is delivering 2, 5, 10 or 12 watts.

On a side note: Qualcomm Quick Charge is a proprietary protocol that is built into the Snapdragon SoCs used in many premium-priced Android phones, and is often cited as an advantage of Android reviews. It claims to support even faster charging than USB-PD, but it does this by modifying Vbus voltage levels and pin assignments of USB ports, creating new incompatibility issues between chargers and cables that “look like USB.”

Google itself is strongly recommending its Android licensees against adopting Quick Charge rather than using the same USB-PD standard that Apple has adopted in its new MacBooks, iPad Pros and now iPhones.

iPhone 8 Body details

The new Qi charging support doesn’t seem like it would add any appreciable weight to the phone, but apparently the new steel frame and beautiful glass panel that accommodates wireless charging are what contribute to its slight increase in heft over iPhone 7.

The standard iPhone 8 weighs in at 5.22 ounces (148 grams) and the 8 Plus weighs 7.13 ounces (202 g). While the 7 generation was a bit lighter less than the 6s, the new 8 models outweigh both. They don’t feel terribly heavy, but definitely have a more substantial weight to them, which actually reinforces that classy appearance of their stunning rears.

For comparison, the standard iPhone 7 weighed 4.87 ounces (138 grams) compared to the 5.04oz (143g) iPhone 6s, while iPhone 7 Plus weighed 6.63oz (188g) vs 6.77oz (192g).

The new models are also ever so slightly thicker, but not enough to even see when you lay them out next to each other. Their dimensions haven’t changed enough to prevent you from using old covers on the new phones, and Apple says its new covers can be used on the older models. You can check out Apple’s latest cover colors at the bottom of this review.

What’s new, #5: A11 Bionic: faster, more efficient, new capabilities

This year, new to iPhone 8, Apple’s new A11 Bionic Application Processor delivers specialized capabilities, starting with Apple’s first internally-designed GPU.

A new 3 Core GPU for graphics, GPGPU & ML

Apple’s first internally-designed GPU, built into the A11 Bionic Application Processor, claims to be 30 percent faster than the Imagination-based GPU used in iPhone 7 models–which was already the leading graphics architecture in smartphones.

Just as impressively, Apple’s new GPU isn’t just faster but more efficient, allowing it to match the work of the A10 Fusion GPU using only half the energy.

GPUs were originally created to accelerate graphics, but for years they have been tasked with doing other kinds of math with a similar repetitive nature, often referred to “General Purpose GPU.” Apple initially created OpenCL as an API to perform GPGPU, and more recently folded GPGPU Compute into its Metal API that’s optimized specifically for the GPUs Apple uses in its iOS devices and Macs. The latest version, Metal 2, was detailed at WWDC17 this summer.

Now that Apple is designing both the graphics silicon and the software to manage it, expect even faster progress in GPU and GPGPU advancement. Additionally, Apple is also branching out into Machine Learning, one of the tasks that GPUs are particularly good at crunching. ML involves building a model based on a variety of known things–such as photos of different flowers–and using that model of “knowledge” to find and identify matches–things that could be flowers in other new photos, or in the camera viewfinder.

Apple hasn’t yet provided many technical details about its new GPU design, other than that it has “three cores.” Different GPU designs are optimized for specific tasks and strategies and define “core” in radically different ways, so it’s impossible to make direct, meaningful comparisons against GPUs from Intel, Nvidia, AMD, Qualcomm, ARM Mali and others.

TB;DR

It is noteworthy that Apple describes its new mobile A11 Bionic GPU Family 4 graphics architecture as using Tile Based Deferred Rendering. TBDR is a rendering technology created for mobile devices with limited resources. It effectively only finishes rendering objects that will be visible to the user in the 3D scene. On desktop PC GPUs (as well as Qualcomm Adreno and ARM Mali mobile GPUs) “Immediate Mode” rendering is performed on every triangle in the scene, running through rasterization and fragment function stages and out to device memory even if it may end up being covered up by other objects in the final scene.

TBDR skips doing any work that won’t be seen, breaking down a scene into tiles before analyzing what needs to be rendered for each. The output is saved temporarily to high speed, low latency Tile Memory. This workflow enables it to better use the entire GPU because it can perform vertex and fragment asynchronously. Apple notes: “the vertex stage usually makes heavy use of fixed function hardware, whereas the fragment stage uses math and bandwidth. Completely overlapping them allows the device to use all the hardware blocks on the GPU simultaneously.”

As a technique, TBDR is closely associated with Imagination’s PowerVR, which developed in parallel to desktop GPUs on a road less traveled, then emerged around the launch of the first iPhone as the perfect mobile-optimized GPU architecture, with efficiency advantages scaled down PC GPUs couldn’t rival.

But while Imagination initially complained that Apple hadn’t ‘proven that it wasn’t infringing’ its IP this spring, it does not now appear to be continuing any claim that Apple’s new GPU uses any unlicensed PowerVR technology, and instead sold itself off at a huge discount after losing Apple’s business.

Additionally, TBDR isn’t an approach that is completely unique to Imagination, although there have only ever been a few successful GPU architectures (among the many experimental approaches that have failed). This is similar to the CPU world–currently dominated by ARM in mobile devices and Intel’s x86 in PCs and servers–despite many failed attempts to disrupt the status quo by competitors (and even Intel itself).

Apple’s Metal 2 now exposes the details of TBDR to developers for its A11 Bionic GPU so they can further optimize memory use and to “provide finer-grained synchronization to keep more work on the GPU.” The company also states that its new GPU “delivers several features that significantly enhance TBDR,” allowing third-party apps and games to “realize new levels of performance and capability.”

Dual core ISP Neural Engine

Creating an entirely new GPU architecture “wasn’t innovative enough,” so A11 Bionic also features an entirely new Neural Engine within its Image Signal Processor, tuned to solve very specific problems such as matching, analyzing and calculating thousands of reference points within a flood of image data rushing from the camera sensor.

Those tasks could be sent to the GPU, but having logic optimized specifically for matrix multiplications and floating-point processing allows the Neural Engine to excel at those tasks.

The Neural Engine itself has two parallel cores designed to handle real-time processing, capable of performing 600 billion operations per second. That means in addition to applying sophisticated effects to a photo, as Apple has been doing in previous generations of its ISP, it can now perform effects on live video. Beyond effects, this also appears to be what enables the camera system to identify objects and their composition in a scene, allowing it to track and focus on the subject you are filming.

This Neural Engine is credited with giving the A11 Bionic its name. “Bionic” generally refers to a human having electromechanical enhancements, and suggests the idea of superhuman abilities due to those enhancements. One could think of A11 Bionic being the opposite of this, as it is actually a machine enhanced with human-like capabilities. Alternatively, you could think of the chip as a bionic enhancement of the human using it, allowing the user to leap over tasks ordinary Androids can’t.

Apple’s 6 new CPU cores, 2G performance controller

The third chunk of the A11 Bionic is Apple’s original custom implementation of ARM Architecture CPU cores. Apple delivered its original customized A4 SoC back in 2010, and has rapidly iterated on its design. In 2013 it created A7, first 64-bit ARM chip, sending chip rivals into a tailspin.

Last year’s A10 Fusion got its name from a new architecture that managed tasks between a pair of performance cores and a pair of efficiency cores, enabling flexibility between running at full power and at an efficient idle.

This year, Apple is touting its “second-generation performance controller,” designed to scale tasks across more low-power cores, or to surge the workflow to its even faster high-power cores–or even light up the entire 6 core CPU in bursts. Using asymmetric multiprocessing, the A11 Bionic can ramp up to activate any number of cores individually, in proportion to the task at hand.Using asymmetric multiprocessing, the A11 Bionic can ramp up to activate any number of cores individually, in proportion to the task at hand

Scaling a queue of incoming tasks across multiple cores requires more than just multiple cores on the SoC; apps and OS features have to be designed to take advantage of those multiple cores. That’s something Apple has been working on at the OS level–and with its third developers–for years before the iPhone even existed.

Apple has detailed its software OS strategies oriented around turning off unnecessary processor units and efficiently ordering processes to so they can be scheduled to run as quickly and efficiently as possible. It’s now implementing those same kinds of practices in silicon hardware. Other mobile device makers, including Samsung and LG, have never needed to develop their own PC OS platforms.

Google, which adapted Android from its origins as portable (JavaME) mobile platform, isn’t selling it to users who pay for performance. It has no real tablet or desktop computing business, and its phone platform is aimed at hitting an average selling price of less than $300–Android One phones have an aggressive price target of $100. Android buyers are an audience for advertisers, not customers demanding UI polish, app performance or sophisticated features like multiprocessing support. Android apps are optimized to deliver ads.

Apple states that the two performance-optimized general-purpose CPU cores of the A11 Bionic are up to 25 percent faster than those in last year’s A10 Fusion; even larger gains come from its efficiency cores, which have doubled in number to four, and are now up to 70 percent faster.

In Geekbench tests comparing the similarly specced iPhone 7 to iPhone 8 (they share the same RAM and same display resolution), the A11 Bionic scored 25 percent faster in single core and 80 percent faster in multicore scores.

This is particularly noteworthy because Apple’s latest chip also delivers its new Neural Engine, GPU, camera ISP and other capabilities that are above and beyond what a generic processor benchmark effectively measures.

In stark contrast, Samsung has for years been marketing “octa-core” processors that are actually slower in per-core performance and run an OS that isn’t optimized to take effective advantage of multiple cores in apps outside of benchmarks. Google itself once even bragged up its poorly built Nexus 7 at launch as having “basically 16 cores,” (the sum of its CPU and GPU cores) a purely false, meaningless marketing claim that didn’t make it any faster. It was actually not speedy to begin with and rapidly lost performance over time.

Rather than excessively bragging about its quantities of abstract technical specifications, Apple’s marketing focuses on real-world applications, noting, for example, that the A11 Bionic is “optimized for amazing 3D games and AR experiences,” claims that can be experienced every day by App Store visitors.

Secret sauce SSD silicon speeds, secures storage

There are also other specialized features of the A11 Bionic, including its super speedy SSD storage controller with custom ECC (error-correcting code) algorithms, as Johny Srouji, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Technologies, detailed in an interview with Mashable. This isn’t just for speed. “When the user buys the device,” Srouji noted, “the endurance and performance of our storage is going to be consistent across the product.”

In other words, data stored on the device (documents, apps, photos) is better protected from corruption and storage failure (as SSD cells wear out, literally), lowering the prospect of losing your memories and documents, and the frustration of having a device that mysteriously gets slower as time wears on. That’s a common problem with many Android devices.

Apple first introduced its own custom NVMe SSD storage controller for 2015 MacBooks, enabling it to optimize the hardware side of reading and writing from Solid State Storage (ie chips, rather than spinning hard drives).

The company then brought that technology to its iOS devices within the A9, starting with iPhone 6s. NVMe was originally created with the enterprise market in mind, rather than consumer electronics. There are no off the shelf solutions for adding an NVMe controller to a phone, and there are cheaper existing (albeit archaic) protocols to access SSD storage. Apple built and wrote its own.

A11 Fusion delivers what is apparently Apple’s third-generation iOS storage controller. What’s more interesting is that Apple didn’t even talk about this on stage, because it had too much else to talk about that was even sexier.

A new Apple-designed video encoder

Two years ago, Apple’s A9 introduced a hardware-based HEVC decoder, enabling devices to efficiently play back H.265 / “High Efficiency” video content. Last year’s A10 Fusion introduced a hardware encoder, enabling iPhone 7 to create and save content in the format. The advantage with these High Efficiency formats is that they greatly reduce the space taken up by high-resolution photos and video

The new feature was made available in iOS 11, and is exposed as a preference in Camera Settings for “High Efficiency camera capture.” When turned on, photos are compressed using HEIF (High Efficiency Image Format) and video is recorded using HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec).

The advantage with these High Efficiency formats is that they greatly reduce the space taken up by high-resolution photos and video.

Apple states that a minute-long 4K 30fps video recorded in the new HEVC format will be about 170MB, while the same thing using the previous H.264 would be 350MB–more than twice as large.

To play this HEVC content back a device needs to be able to decode it. iOS devices earlier than A9 can decode in software, but this takes longer and has a larger hit on the battery than having efficient, dedicated hardware decoding.

HEIF video can be transcoded to H.264 (which takes conversion time), or users can also default to “Most Compatible,” which continues to save photos as JPG and videos in H.264. However this disables the new video recording options for capturing 4K video at 60fps (as well as the 24fps cinematic setting new to A11 Bionic iPhones).

It is interesting that Apple developed its own video encoder for the A11 Bionic, and also that it made this fact public. In the past, Apple has used off-the-shelf components in its iPods and other devices that incorporated support for a variety of proprietary audio and video codecs, including Microsoft’s WMA, WMV and VC-1. Apple didn’t activate this capability, preferring instead to use industry standards developed by MPEG LA partners.

It’s not clear if Microsoft got licensing royalties from the Windows Media IP on the chips Apple bought, but the larger issue was that Apple had to pay for components with stuff it didn’t want to use. By building its own video encoder, it can optimize for only the formats it supports, rather than the generic package of codecs its chip providers select.

Google’s YouTube initially partnered with Apple to provide H.264 video content to iOS users. But the company has since tried to advance its own VP8 and VP9 codecs acquired from On2. While it continues to send H.264 video to iOS users, it is not publishing its higher resolution 4K YouTube content in H.264 or the new H.265/HEVC, which makes YouTube 4K unavailable to Safari users on the web.

This has also created the narrative that Apple TV 4K “can’t play YouTube 4K content,” when in reality it is Google that is refusing to provide the content Apple TV 4K is designed to decode. It remains to be seen how that will work out, and whether Google will also refuse to support 4K on iOS devices going forward.

Having an efficient, optimized HEVC encoder on iPhone 7, 8 and X (along with iPad, Apple TV and recent generations of Intel Core processors used in Macs) means that users will be able to store far more photos and videos–generally the largest storage hog–in less space. It would also conceivably reduce wear on SSD storage, because there’s half as much to write out, move around and subsequently erase.

However, another thing that HEVC makes possible is recording higher frame rate content. iPhone 8 and X can now enable capture of 4K video at 60fps, for smoother camera pans. Existing 4K video on iPhone 7 is sharply detailed, but if your camera or the subject moves too quickly, it can have a jittery effect. With smooth 60fps capture, videos look a lot better.

However, that’s twice as many frames, meaning that without more advanced compression, a minute of video would consume about 800MB. Using HEVC, the end video is comparable in size to 4K 30fps capture. Note that 60fps video in HEVC requires significant processing power or a dedicated hardware decoder to play. Older Macs already have trouble playing existing 4K clips from iPhone 7.

Separate from its CPU, GPU, ISP and other custom components, Apple also designed the Secure Enclave in A7 to handle storage of sensitive data (fingerprint biometrics) in silicon walled off the rest of the system. That SoC also incorporated what Apple called the M7, a helper chip that performed background tasks such as tracking data from motion sensors, the barometer and later, listening for Siri commands on the microphone. Apple said it made improvements to both the Secure Enclave and the M11 built into the A11 Bionic, but didn’t detail those changes.

One of the remaining interesting facets of the A11 Bionic is that if you stack together the parts of the chip that Apple detailed, there’s a whole lot of surface area on it that remains completely mysterious.

What’s new #6: Larger, faster, smarter cameras with Slow Sync flash

As with the iPhone 8 display, its front and back cameras do not jump to a higher new resolution compared with last year’s iPhone 7. However, there are new qualitative enhancements to the sensors that have a greater impact on the kind of photos it can take.

The rear sensor is now physically larger (Apple doesn’t detail its size)–which is the best way to improve the quality of the images it can capture. The sensor features deeper pixels that better isolate the incoming light, reducing crosstalk between pixels. The camera sensor is also faster and, teamed up with the camera ISP of the A11 Bionic, smarter. It can better focus on fast moving objects, does HDR automatically and dramatically enhances capture in low light.

The larger, faster sensor also provides extra room for overscan, enabling the A11 Bionic ISP to perform better video stabilization (like a digital Steadicam). It can also capture higher video frame rates–something that is enhanced by its support for new HEVC compression, which makes photos and videos about half their usual size, or alternatively doubles the frame rate of 4K capture (for much smoother video) at about the same video size.

Support for the new HEVC video and HEIF photos is included in macOS X High Sierra, but older Macs might have issues playing back higher resolution, high frame rate video simply because decoding it is so processor intensive. HEVC is not just more efficient in making videos smaller but more adaptive in analyzing motion and adjusting its encoding settings to optimize the compression to the content being recorded.

iPhone 8 True Tone flash with Slow Sync

The rear camera also radically enhances its True Tone flash with a new Slow Sync feature designed to improve exposure in low light conditions by slowing the shutter speed while using a “short strobe pulse.”

Rather than only serving as harsh illumination for the foreground in scenes too dark to capture without a flash, the new flash is now broadly useful for improving the lighting of photos.

Building upon advancements in the 4-level True Tone flash made last year, iPhone 8’s improved flash system automatically configures and provides flattering illumination for faces without blowing them out, allowing the background to expose properly and greatly reducing the flash flares on windows or glasses that often ruin photos when you use the flash.

Major improvements in low light image capture

Even without using the greatly improved functionality of the LED flash, the faster sensor and smarter logic driving the camera system results in major improvements when taking shots in low light. You’ll probably need to tap on the subject you want to capture to adjust exposure based on what you’re trying to capture, but there’s vast improvement in how well the system works to grab what you see. Particularly in low light, the image that it takes is much closer to what the scene looks like to your eye.

In the images below, the left column shows the default point-and-shoot exposure of iPhone 8 (top) and iPhone 7 (bottom). On the right, after tapping to adjust the exposure on the storefront, iPhone 8 composes a balanced scene that accurately reproduced the lighting of the scene, while iPhone 7 made the overall scene too dark in order to compensate for the brightly lit store.

With the huge enhancement in how the flash works, the weakest remaining link in iPhone 8 photography is probably its use of tiny plastic lenses. Light refraction, lens flares and bright point artifacts continue to be a problem on iPhone 8, and apparently won’t go away until Apple decides to improve upon its lens, ideally including some sort of option for supporting external lens attachments for specialty lenses.

However, the kinds of sophisticated computational processing Apple is showing off may eventually erase the limitations of tiny mobile lenses by simply adjusting for their artifacts and digitally erasing them in real time.

iOS 11 Quick Start auto-setup

Fresh out of the box, a new iPhone 8 boots up and asks you to select a display language and region, then offers to skip past the typical setup screens (where you’d normally set up your WiFi network, authenticate, set up a passcode and then log into and set up iCloud services) using iOS 11’s new Quick Start.

From this screen, all you need to do is present your existing phone, which should be freshly backed up and updated to iOS 11. Your old phone will discover the new one and pop up a panel offering to set the new phone up, just like a new pair of AirPods.

Once you select this option, the new phone displays a rotating ball of particles that serve as a target for your old phone to capture with its camera, effectively a complex, secure equivalent to barcode or QR code. Once scanned, the new phone asks you enter the passcode from your old phone, then completes its own setup.

After it finishes, it lets you choose between setting up the new phone as a fresh install, or restoring from an iCloud backup or an iTunes backup stored on your computer. You can also migrate data and settings from an Android phone. Restoring from a backup copies over all of your personal data and saved passwords (or just the basic settings, if your iTunes backup isn’t encrypted).

Improved Voice over LTE; louder speakers and flexible wireless audio

iPhone 8 now supports the emerging EVS (enhanced voice services) codec for Voice over LTE, improving the sound quality of voice calls made on carriers that support the technology.

Compared to AMR-WB, which was initially used to deliver Voice over LTE, EVS handles a wider range of sound frequencies, increased compression stability and backwards compatibility with legacy standards. While AMR-WB is limited to 7KHz, giving it basic telephone voice quality, EVS spans from 50Hz to 14.4KHz to greatly improve audio reproduction and clarity to deliver richer, more lifelike voice audio.

Multiple readers have already reported noticing improved sound quality on iPhone 8 voice calls, both over the handset and when used as a speakerphone.

When launching iPhone 7, Apple gave short shrift to its decision to drop the analog headphone jack, focusing instead upon its proposed alternatives. A year later, many flagship Androids are following suit and Apple’s AirPods have rapidly grown into a smash hit for their convenient wireless design and simple setup.

iPhone 8 models ship with Lightning earbuds and a Lightning to minijack adapter

As with last year, iPhone 8 models ship with Lightning earbuds (which to me sound identical to the previous analog jack version). There’s also a Lighting converter to use standard headphones.

New support for wireless charging now offers the ability to play music out over a cable or to headphones while the phone lays on a Qi charging pad. Apple also continues to offer its color-matched $49 iPhone Lightning Docks so you can charge and sync while using auxiliary audio cables or wired headphones.

Later this year, Apple is releasing HomePod, which works like a pair of AirPods for your home–using the same effortless setup and providing tight integration with Siri. Additionally, iOS 11 further enhances sound distribution with multiple channel outputs to different devices using AirPlay 2.

Like the previous iPhone 7 models, the new phones feature built-in stereo speakers, one in the base and the other in the earpiece, for listening without earphones or external speakers. The speakers on the new iPhone 8 models are 25 percent louder (so you can turn the volume up past 11 to reach 12.5).

The sound quality is good but certainly a bit short of spectacular, given that it uses such small speakers. It’s very usable, although I felt like the sound is a bit too crisp. You can adjust audio output to your preference using EQ settings under Apple Music. The “Small Speakers” setting seemed to result in impressive sound given that it’s coming from an iPhone.

LTE Advanced

Apple is reportedly using either an Intel XMM7480 modem, or a Qualcomm Snapdragon X16 for LTE support with CDMA. That means if your carrier supports LTE Advanced, iPhone 8 appears to support 3GP Release 12, or 4CA (four x carrier aggregation) for insane (yet theoretical) mobile speeds of up to 600Mbps (basic LTE service typically tops out around 40Mbps).

Of course, this technology only helps if your carrier supports it. In the U.S., AT&T has been deploying LTE Advanced networks in a series of cities and Verizon now claims LTE Advanced coverage in “more than 450 cities,” although neither make any promises about actual throughput speeds. Even solid 40Mbps LTE service delivers a spectacular experience for mobile users browsing the web and downloading music.

Carriers also may advertise support for brand names such as Verizon’s XLTE (Band 13) or Tmobile’s Extended Range LTE (Band 12). These bands (like AT&T Band 17) use lower frequencies for spreading out service to cover more area and to better penetrate buildings. However these lower frequencies are intended to stretch network usability, not to deliver maximum data rates.

Qualcomm has sought to create a media narrative that portrays Apple as distantly behind in various technologies, in particular the idea that the company’s newest iPhone 8 and iPhone X do not support Qualcomm’s newest 5CA or 6CA 1 or 1.2Gbps LTE (because Apple is not exclusively using Qualcomm modems; Intel’s modem is limited to Release 12 and 4CA).

However, carriers around the world currently do not yet take full advantage of LTE Advanced’s Release 12 600Mbps theoretical maximum, let alone Qualcomm’s promise to facilitate nearly doubling this with Gbps LTE. While Gbps networks are slowly being rolled out, the reality is that very fast mobile data rates require dedicating lots of valuable spectrum using techniques such as carrier aggregation.

The new technology makes for a great demo and confers bragging rights to the carriers who have claimed to implement it first, but in reality spectrum will continue to be allocated to enable hosting the most paying subscribers at lower real-world rates, not super high data rates. Carriers have historically preferred to deliver service to 5 times the users than to a fifth the users at five times the speed, as 1 Gbps LTE 5CA does.

LTE carriers already broadly have the potential to deliver 40Mbps, but rarely actually deliver such speeds. OpenSignal reported this year that the top U.S. carriers only achieved average LTE download speeds of less than 17Mbps, while the global LTE download average was only 17.4 Mbps. It sure looks like carriers are optimizing their networks for volumes of users, not speed.

There are also other factors impacting the deployment of super fast networks in the future. As Cherlynn Low wrote for Engadget earlier this year, new Gbps LTE technologies can “achieve speeds of up to 1 Gbps in simulations and controlled environments. In the real world, though, speeds are expected to be closer to between 100 and 300 Mbps.”

802.11ac WiFi and Bluetooth 5

Along similar lines, while the 802.11ac WiFi specification theoretically enables up to 6.7Gbps with 8 antennas, iPhone 8 continues to support the same WiFi specs as iPhone 6s/7: four antenna 802.11ac (the latest standard used in Apple’s tall form factor AirPort and Time Capsule base stations, newer Macs as well as a variety of third-party WiFi base stations) with 2T2R multiple antenna MIMO technology (2T2R) that supports wireless speeds of up to 867MHz (twice the maximum of iPhone 6).

Most people won’t make anything close to sustained use of 867Mbps WiFi on their phone. Taking advantage of these faster network specification speeds requires an 802.11ac network. If you’re connecting at Starbucks or using the same home router you bought several years ago, your WiFi speeds will likely be limited to 802.11n (150Mbps) or the older 802.11g (54Mpbs) or perhaps even slower. Unlike your carrier’s LTE however, you can install your own WiFi network to take greater advantage of the phone’s built-in capabilities, although that doesn’t mean your internet provider (or hosts on the internet) will also support the high end of wireless data, fully maxing out the abilities of a modern iPhone.

iPhone 8 also adds support for the newest Bluetooth 5 specification, which supports faster communications over longer distances when communicating with low power devices such as health sensors and beacons (but not classic Bluetooth devices such as external speakers or AirPods). The new iPhones also support NFC tag reading apart from just Apple Pay, so developers can now take advantage of RFID tags in their own apps.

Leather and silicon cases

Apple’s $49 leather covers remain the same improved design as last year, sold in an array of new colors (the cases work with both iPhone 7 and 8): Cosmos Blue, Pink Fuchsia, Dark Aubergine, Charcoal Gray as well as the familiar Taupe, Saddle Brown, Black and Midnight Blue and a rich (Product)RED.

While both iPhone 7 and 8 models sport the same IP67 water resistance as the original Apple Watch, the natural leather covers are not impervious to water damage and will scuff up faster if you get them wet. Wet leather also feels kind of slimy until it dries out.

If you plan on getting wet, Apple also offers a $39 Silicone case with a rubbery, grippy feel that doesn’t have any problem with water. They’re now available Cobalt Blue, Rose Red, Ultra Violet and Dark Olive as well as last year’s bright White, solid Black, Pink Sand, Midnight Blue and the very bright (Product)RED.

iPhone 8 in Review

iPhone 8 delivers a solid upgrade over last year’s iPhone 7, particularly in its advanced camera and a speedy processor that promises to deliver involving new augmented reality apps, utilities and games built upon new ARKit framework.

Wireless charging is a nice addition, but Fast Charging feels even more valuable, particularly if you’ve already entered the USB-C world with recent MacBooks (or have already begun taking advantage of Fast Charging on an iPad Pro). Few things are more frustrating than leaving the house with a partial charge because you don’t have time to wait around.

If you already own Apple’s last generation iPhone 7 and are considering an upgrade, you’ll likely want to spring for iPhone X, which will feel even more advanced and new that the workhorse 8 line, combined with some changes to how things work, thanks to its use of Face ID and a departure from the Home button that has defined iPhones for the last ten years.

However, for users with older models who don’t upgrade every year, iPhone 8 offers a major set of advancements in speed, camera features and water resistance with a familiar shape and functionality that won’t require you to pay the higher premium of iPhone X nor change how you use your phone.

Score: 4.0 out of 5

Pros:

  • New design is beautiful on the back with little changing up front
  • Great battery life in line with last year’s iPhone 7
  • Speedy A11 Bionic chip enhances gaming, AR apps
  • New camera smarts capture better photos in low light and with better HDR
  • 60fps 4K recording captures impressively smooth, high quality video
  • New True Tone flash massively improves how useful the flash is
  • Water resistance means you can take it virtually anywhere

Cons:

    Base price rises $50 with higher 64GB storage on entry tier

  • Glass back only looks nice until it shatters
  • Still ships with an inadequate, slow 5 watt charger

Speed, Thermal & Performance Comparison of Fast Charging Standards

OnePlus DashCharge Takes the Crown

One of the most common qualms from smartphone users is how their phones never last through the whole day. Despite all the advances in smartphones in recent years, such as quick charging solutions like Quick Charge, Dash Charge and SuperCharge, batteries feel like they have not evolved quick enough to keep up with our needs.

Part of the blame goes onto OEMs, who do work towards making our smartphones more efficient year-on-year. But on the flip side, the increasing efficiency of our smartphones are seen as perfect excuses to thin down our phones by yet another millimeter. And to retain the practicality of the phone, advances in the field of charging are advertised as a key feature of the device. So what if your phone dies after 6 hours of standby? Now you can get a day’s power in half an hour, or some other slogan.

Choice, one of Android’s strongest selling points, also ends up confusing users when it comes to charging standards. There are multiple charging solutions available across Android flagships, with their own positive and negatives attributes, intricacies and particularities. Some charging solutions are quick, some are efficient and some aren’t really quite as great as one would expect.

In this article, we will take a look at the performance and efficiency of some popular charging standards, namely Huawei’s SuperCharge, USB Power Delivery, OnePlus’s Dash Charge, Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging, and Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0.

Index

Conclusion
OnePlus Dash ChargeHuawei SuperchargeQuick Charge 3.0Adaptive Fast ChargingUSB Power Delivery


Current Winner 9/16/2017

Offering an excellent balance between speed and stability, Dash Charge surprised us with its ability to charge your phone quickly and painlessly. Its custom charging adapter and signature red cable allow newer OnePlus devices to remain cool while charging, without sacrificing performance on device nor charging rates. This means you use your device while it’s getting topped up and keep on messaging, browsing the web or even playing a game. Dash Charge cannot offer wide compatibility or a diverse set of charger options, but in the end it provides an excellent charging solution that does not get in the way of the user experience.


Methodology

The data we collected involved the use of a script that automatically measured key charging parameters  (as reported by Android) and dumped them into a data file for us to analyze. All charging standards were tested with their stock charging adapter and cable to ensure that the data is representative of what we can expect from each standard. All data collection began with the battery at 5% and ended with the battery at 95%. To test thermal performance and charging speeds during screen-on use cases, the script looped PCMark tests while the phone was charging to simulate a real-world usage environment; temperature readings are gathered from the OS, and they are not measured externally. For the sake of clarity in this presentation, averaged data was rounded off while preparing the graphs.


Quickest Charging Standard

When we measured the charging times of the popular charging solutions, we came across a peculiar conclusion: USB Power Delivery was the slowest of all fast charging solutions that we tested, at least as implemented on the Pixel XL. This is only surprising because USB Power Delivery is the “standard” pushed forth by the USB-IF standards body, and the one that Google strongly encourages as well — once we look at each standard’s workings further down this article, it’ll make more sense.

USB Power Delivery has been implemented in the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL. The smaller Google Pixel is marketed at being capable of 15W-18W charging, while the bigger Google Pixel XL is capable of 18W charging. As we noted in our Google Pixel XL review, actual charge times on the device were not competitive, ending up in the last place when compared with other solutions, and our extensive testing on the charging times for the purposes of comparison reveals the same. Below you can see the charging time of each standard from 5% to 80% when scaling the battery capacity across test devices to 3,000mAh — this does not represent how each standard would charge such battery capacity with perfect accuracy, and the graph should be used to get an approximate idea as to how they compare.

When we look at which device charged the fastest, the quickest charging solution we tested is OnePlus’s Dash Charge functionality, which on the OnePlus 3 ends up being quicker than competitors by about 10 minutes in the end (before adjusting for battery capacity), and by a good half hour against USB Power Delivery. On the flip side, Dash Charging is proprietary technology, which adds its own set of complications which we will discuss later on in this article. Dash Charge does end up behind Huawei Supercharge when we take into account, and adjust for, battery capacity in the device, as the Huawei Mate 9 has a substantially larger battery than the OnePlus 3. While Supercharge achieves a faster peak charging rate, the Huawei Mate 9 does not reach 95% charge the earliest because of its larger battery capacity. So while the OnePlus 3 tops up faster in terms of reaching the higher percentages of its battery capacity, the Mate 9 is actually adding more charge per unit of time (a function of Huawei’s higher power delivery ouput).

Huawei Supercharge and Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0 performed similarly, while Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charge had less of an initial speed advantage but it still managed to reach the goal of 95% charge while giving close competition to the other two.

We also have temperature data alongside the charging time. This graph coincides with the charge percentage, but had to be separated to keep things simpler, uncluttered and easy to understand.

We were unable to finely control all the starting temperatures of our test devices because of the varying temperatures in the different locations they were tested in, so our focus should be on consistency and stability rather than the absolute highs and lows displayed by each data set. Battery temperature was obtained from Android’s low-level system record of battery temperature.

The most thermally consistent of the lot is Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging as it maintains a good hold over the device temperature throughout the entire session. Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 was the “coolest”, though again, we would need better-controlled initial conditions with perfect starting points and minimal extraneous variables to crown it the king. Similarly, we cannot call USB Power Delivery the “hottest”, but it definitely displays the widest range of temperatures. It’s also worth noting that most of these devices end up cooling down once their charging rate begins slowing down, and USB-PD does a good job at managing temperature past its peak.

The situation changes when you look at how these technologies perform when the device is subjected to a real-world workload. As stated before, we looped PCMark’s Work 2.0 test to simulate real-world usage while charging these devices, in order to measure how charging times and temperatures differed.

OnePlus’s Dash Charging remains as the top performer primarily because of its implementation, which we’ll detail further down. The voltage and current regulating circuitry is situated in the Dash Charger, which leads to lower temperatures while charging. So Dash Charge’s idle-charging and under-load charging scores tend to show very little variation.

On the other hand, Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging shows the worst performance when subjected to charging under a real-world workload. The device takes about twice the time to charge if it is being used, and the charging also increases in a peculiarly linear fashion (given voltage and current remain constant) that is not seen across any of our other tests. In fact, according to Samsung’s support page for the S6, its Adaptive Fast Charging solution is entirely disabled when the screen is on. Express mentions like these could not be found on newer support pages, but Samsung continues to recommend devices to be switched off while using Fast Charging.

Other standards continue to occupy positions between these extremes, most lying on the better side of the scale. Even USB Power Delivery, the worst performer of idle-charging takes just about 10 minutes more to achieve the same charge levels under load.

Temperature-wise, Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging (if we can call it that under this test) maintains a consistent range of temperatures, flowing within a 5°C range. Huawei’s Supercharge follows along next, followed by OnePlus’s Dash Charge. Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 and USB Power Delivery are the worst performer temperature-wise with large inconsistencies and variations throughout their cycles.


With inter-standard comparison out of the way, let’s take a closer look at how the standards performed individually under idle-charging and load-charging scenarios, with a short explanation as to why they behave this way and how they work.


Huawei Supercharge

Huawei’s SuperCharge is one of the more interesting standards we’ve tested, showing impressive results under most conditions. Unlike traditional high-voltage charging solutions, Supercharge employs a relatively low-voltage and high-current formula that aims to maximize the amount of current going into the device, while minimizing efficiency losses, heat, and throttling. Coupled with the Smart Charge protocol, the Mate 9 also adapts its charging parameters based on the requirements of the battery, as well as the charger supplied (for example, it can make full use of a USB-PD charger). The actual Supercharge charger comes with 5V 2A, 4.5V 5A, or 5V 4.5A (for up to 25W, or a common 22.5 throughout the most relevant segment) and uses a chipset in-charger to regulate voltage as well — this means that there is no additional in-phone voltage transformation, in turn reducing temperature and efficiency losses. Coupled with what Huawei calls “8- layer thermal mechanics” in its design, the Mate 9 promised fast charging speeds at low temperature. Focusing on current over voltage, and going for a less-lopsided distribution is similar to the Dash Charge standard’s approach, and in many ways both OnePlus (or Oppo’s) solution is similar to Huawei’s Super Charge.

Looking at the data we’ve gathered, we see the typical pattern of temperature beginning to go down past the 55% mark, the point at which current begins dropping off as well. Peak current comes close to the 5A rating of the charger, and sustains the 4.5 nominal current throughout the first 20 minutes, or until around 45%. The fastest charging rate occurs from 10% to 5%, with a linear slope that begins curving at that current drop-off, where voltage starts remaining somewhat constant after a fast climb from 2V to over 3.5V. Throughout this test, peak temperature hits 38° Celsius, which is significantly hotter than most other standards in this list. However, temperature will become really important when we take a look at our “under load” test, where we simulate activity on the device to compare charging speeds. We can clearly see temperature decreasing alongside the current, which doesn’t drop in clearly-defined steps as other standards in this article, but with a set downwards trajectory

In terms of charging speed, Huawei SuperCharge arrives to 90% in about 60 minutes, putting it second in in terms of speed behind OnePlus’ Dash Charge. However, the Huawei Mate 9 we tested also has a 4,000mAh battery, which means the mAh per percentage are higher than on all OnePlus devices, actually putting the standard in a better light and ahead of OnePlus. There are differences, however, in terms of charging speed, as Super Charge begins leveling off harder than Dash Charge at the 30 minute mark. Most of these companies advertise how much battery life one can obtain in half an hour, and Huawei’s claims were surpassed by our testing as the device managed to climb past 60% in that time period.

Under workloads, the rate of charging naturally is lower than during idle charging. Instead of a steep drop off, we see a more relaxed curve that trails off at around 75%. Current and temperature drop off is experienced when the device approaches 60%.


OnePlus Dash Charge

One of the newer champions of fast charging is Dash Charge, which surfaced in 2016 with the OnePlus 3. While the OnePlus 2 had disappointingly long charging via a regular 2A charger, the OnePlus 3 brought what OnePlus called “exclusive technology [that] sets a new benchmark for fast charging solutions”. As with most marketing statements from OEMs, this is only half true. Dash Charging technology is actually licensed from OPPO, which OnePlus is a subsidiary of, and mimics their VOOC charging system — Voltage Open Multi-Step Constant-Current Charging. While Dash Charge is a much better name, VOOC charging can be found on OPPO devices like the R9 and R11, though in this article we are focusing on Dash Charge as implemented on the OnePlus 3 / 3T and OnePlus 5.

So what’s special about Dash Charge? Not unlike Huawei SuperCharge, it produces a larger electrical current of 4A and at 5V for 20W power delivery. Rather than increasing voltage, OnePlus opted for a more even distribution with larger electrical current, meaning more electrical charge delivered per unit of time. This is accomplished via both software and, primarily, through hardware — specifically the charger used, which is non-standard (unlike the plethora of QC chargers, for example) and thus you need a VOOC or Dash Charger to make use of these charging speeds.

Much like Huawei’s solution, OnePlus employs dedicated circuitry in the charger itself, and both VOOC and Dash Charge deliver higher amperage thanks to many components of the charger, including a microcontroller that monitors charge level; voltage and current regulating circuitry; heat management and dissipation components (that contribute to a 5-point safety check); and a thicker cable that delivers greater current, specializing in minimizing power fluctuations. Because the charger converts the high voltage from your wall into the lower voltage the battery requires, most of the heat from this conversion never leaves the charger — in turn, your phone remains cooler. The consistent current going into the phone coupled with the lower temperatures on the actual handset allow for reduced thermal throttling, which impacts both charging speed and consistency as well as the direct user experience.

OnePlus proudly proclaims it can give you “a day of power in half an hour”, which in reality means you are looking at around 60% of battery capacity in 30 minutes. This is not only extremely fast, but there are also a few perks that come with it. The charging speed is fastest and one of the fastest at those lower percentages, ensuring you can get extreme amounts of charge in just a few minutes should you be running low on battery. Moreover, the thermal consistency and lack of throttling is no joke. As we can see from the data supplied, the difference between under-load charging and regular charging is minimal. And this does mean that you will not notice slowdowns, additional stutter or general throttling side effects whilst using your device. This is a great plus and, as we’ve noted in a past analysis, it does truly mean you can play demanding 3D games such as Asphalt 8 while still getting nearly the same charging speed, with the difference being explained by the drain incurred by gaming itself.

Dash Charge does have a major disadvantage, and that’s compatibility. The OnePlus 3 and 3T, for example, are not able to fully utilize USB-PD should you not have a Dash Charge cable and charger handy. And you need both the charger and the cable to make Dash Charge work its magic. Unlike with Qualcomm Quick Charge, you won’t find multiple charger offerings and accessories from various suppliers — you are stuck with OnePlus and their stock, which includes regular chargers and also car chargers (that have been known to be out of stock in regular and somewhat frequent intervals). You could try getting your hands on a VOOC charger, but that’s arguably more difficult in many markets. There’s also a noticeable and disappointing lack of battery packs supporting Dash Charge speeds, as OnePlus offers none — you could try OPPO’s power bank with an adapter, but this is far from ideal.

If you can look past those inconveniences and incompatibilities, Dash Charge is a clear winner in both speed and consistency. It’s a charging standard that does its job quickly and efficiently, without tying down the users to a wall for long periods of time, and without hindering their real-world usage while plugged in. The heat reduction could even lead to increased battery longevity. Your phone will remain cool, but your charger will not — so just make sure not to touch it while it’s doing its thing!


Qualcomm Quick Charge 3.0

Qualcomm Quick Charge is by all accounts the most popular charging standard in this list, and for good reason. Its paradigm is different than what we see with OnePlus and Huawei, because most of the magic happens through Qualcomm’s power management IC, their SoC and the algorithms they employ — all of this enabled Quick Charge to be a relatively low-cost solution (to OEMs) who are already packing a Snapdragon chipset in their smartphones anyway, and while it might not be as impressive as some of the dedicated solutions in this list, the reach of Qualcomm Quick Charge comes with its own set of benefits. While we are focusing on Quick Charge 3.0, keep in mind Quick Charge 4.0 is already available with considerable improvements. The latest revision is also compatible with USB-PD, as strongly recommended by the Android Compatibility Definition Document.

Quick Charge 3.0 has been offered in chipsets including the Snapdragon 820, 620, 618, 617 and 430, and offers backwards compatibility with previous Quick Charge standard chargers (meaning you can benefit from a plethora of lower-cost, slower chargers). This is mainly because the power draw is handled entirely on-device, with you only needing to provide a charge capable of supplying the requisite current to make use of its advantages — there’s no shortage of Quick Charge-certified chargers, so it shouldn’t be hard to stumble upon one. But again, we should re-emphasize that Quick Charge 3.0 even allows a phone to charge faster or more efficiently than non-Quick Charge devices while using a non-certified charger, precisely because so much of what makes it tick is independent of specific charger hardware, unlike Supercharge and Dash Charge.

Quick Charge 3.0 makes use of ‘Intelligent Negotiation for Optimum Voltage’ (INOV), and as the name suggests this allows for intelligent voltage control in order to determine the most efficient voltage, for the most efficient power delivery, at any given point while charging. This coupled with a higher voltage than competitors does allow the standard to expedite charging time, while preventing overheating and ensuring battery safety. INOV is also a step up from Quick Charge 2.0, which had rather discrete power modes of 5V/2A, 9V/2A, 12V/1.67A and 20V); instead, this revision allows for fine-grained voltage scaling, anything from 3.6V to 20V in 200mV increments. By determining which power level to request at any point in time, QuickCharge also prevents damaging the chemical composition of the battery while still providing an optimum charging speed taking into account factors like temperature and available power output. A potential downside is more inconsistency in charging speeds across charging scenarios and chargers, and the improvements do manifest in the earlier stages of charging and a noticeable decline around the 80% mark.

Still, looking at the graphs provided, one can see the finer granularity and wider range of voltage steps are clearly being taken advantage of. It’s worth noting that the Quick Charge 3.0 samples shown here do not behave as efficiently under load as other alternatives that offload much of the voltage conversion and heat dissipation to outside hardware; it’s more than serviceable if you want to use it while charging, however we don’t see the lack of throttling and heat buildup found on solutions like Dash Charge. And, unlike with other standards, you really won’t have a hard time finding power banks that’ll provide the rated charging speeds — this isn’t the case for SuperCharge or OnePlus, unless you are willing to spend more money, spend more time, or make extra concessions.

It’s precisely this level of versatility and support that make Quick Charge a great standard, and some OEMs do ultimately rebrand it as a superior “customized” alternative. But in the end, Quick Charge is an excellent solution for most OEMs looking to implement fast charging that’s efficient, highly compatible, and does not need special accessories. This holds extreme significance given Qualcomm is essentially granting the option to provide faster charging to dozens of smaller OEMs, or of bringing faster charging to mid-range devices through mid-range chipsets. This, in turn, improves the minimum baseline of fast charging offerings, in turn promoting competition and prompting those brands that do offer fast charging as a specific selling point to aggressively improve or market their solution.


USB Power Delivery

USB as a standard has been evolving for years, from a simple data interface that eventually became widely-used as a constrained power supplier, to a fully-fledged primary power provider alongside a data interface. Many small devices have featured USB charging for years, and you probably have a handful of peripherals being powered up by USB cables right at this moment. Power management in the initial generations of USB, however, was not meant for battery charging — rather, it was cleverly exploited for that by manufacturers who saw the slow power delivery was enough for the small batteries of their products. Since then, we’ve seen a tremendous jump — from the USB 2.0 power source of 5V/500mA (2.5W), to USB 3.0 and 3.1’s 5V/900mAh (which was very, very underutilized on Android) and finally, USB PDs 100W charging maximum.

Of course, smartphones have no need (and cannot take in!) such power draw — while 20V/5A is a peak for USB PD, actual chargers see a much lower specification with our tested Pixel clocking in at up to 15W (5V/3A), and the Pixel XL up to 18W. In most charging circumstances, however, voltage goes up to 5V with current sitting just under 2A, with the highest power draw we found during charging being just under 12.25W. As shown in the data provided here, USB-PD really isn’t the fastest charging standard, nor does it offer the best thermal consistency/lack of throttling. It does charge quite quickly under load, however, and overall it offers a very satisfactory – if unspectacular – charging profile.

It is, however, an extremely versatile standard that’s relatively easy to implement and that’s increasingly being pushed forth by Google in products like the Pixel C, Pixel Chromebooks, and Pixel smartphones as well as by various other manufacturers for laptops and other devices of varying sizes. Moreover, USB-PD is now part of the Android Compatibility Definition Document. Last year, the following entry made the rounds because it showed Google’s commitment to the standard, and what many interpreted as discouragement of proprietary solutions.

Type-C devices are STRONGLY RECOMMENDED to not support proprietary charging methods that modify Vbus voltage beyond default levels, or alter sink/source roles as such may result in interoperability issues with the chargers or devices that support the standard USB Power Delivery methods. While this is called out as “STRONGLY RECOMMENDED”, in future Android versions we might REQUIRE all type-C devices to support full interoperability with standard type-C chargers.

Since then, we’ve seen Qualcomm adopt USB-PD spec compliance with their Quick Charge 4.0 release for newer Snapdragon chipsets, which is a huge victory for both Google and Qualcomm. The increasing proliferation of USB-PD and Type C ports can lead us to a future where we see more device interconnectivity, with a near-universal port for audio, video, data transfer and charging needs. USB Type C devices like the Pixel XL currently allow the option to charge other devices using their battery as a power source, for example, and widespread USB Type C and USB-PD adoption in other devices such as laptops could lead to more convenient charging and cable-management use cases.

There’s also no shortage of charger options available for USB-PD devices, and if the standard can co-exist with proprietary standards, that opens up even more possibilities for device manufacturers. As it stands, though, it’s not present in many Android devices yet, with the Pixel and Pixel XL leading the charge. For these two phones and their adequate battery capacities, the charging rate and resulting times are sufficient, and Pixel / Pixel XL owners have multiple options at their fingertips — one just needs to make sure the charger is able to meet the 9V/2A or 5V/3A requirements of the phone, and that it meets specifications. With the emergence of USB Type C and USB-PD, we did see a few reports of potentially dangerous cables being sold online, as they didn’t meet the specifications of the resistor in the cable, for example. Luckily such issues are disappearing and if you make sure to research your purchase properly, you should be OK. Keep in mind that the standard is scaleable, and there will be more voltage and current configurations that OEMs can experiment with.


Adaptive Fast Charging

Adaptive Fast Charging has been Samsung’s preferred charging solution for many years and, unfortunately, it has largely stayed the same since. While our results show that it’s one of the slowest (yet more stable) standards, Samsung opts for it year after year over either a charging solution more in line with what OnePlus and Huawei are doing, or the proper Qualcomm Quick Charge (however, Samsung devices can make use of Quick Charge chargers for fast chargers!). The latter is a consequence of their split chipset strategy, given that their Exynos chipsets wouldn’t be able to take readily take advantage of Qualcomm’s charging technology. Samsung’s Adaptive Fast Charging is thus present in their devices across the globe, and limited to Samsung devices.

While Adaptive Fast charging is faster than USB-PD when adjusting for battery capacity, it’s still significantly slower than Supercharge and Dash Charge, and slightly slower than Quick Charge. It features a peak power delivery of 15W (5V/3A) which is in line with other standards, but Samsung seems to be quite conservative with its charging times — this is particularly evident when charging under load, as the charging rate becomes nearly linear, and has the slowest charging rate out of all devices we’ve tested for this article. That being said, the temperature difference is also the smallest of the bunch, and throttling the charging speeds and minimizing temperature led to consistent performance under usage.

 

Under both circumstances (regular charging and charging under load*) Samsung’s solution is the slowest (without adjusting for battery capacities) and the coolest (or, rather, features the smallest range of temperatures). This emphasis on stability and consideration for thermals is now more important to Samsung more than ever, after what happened with their Galaxy Note 7 and its faulty batteries. While there might be no correlation between this approach to fast charging and this incident – after all, as we’ve mentioned, their standard has remained largely constant over time – it’s still worth considering that a safer approach to fast charging is not bad in and of itself.

 

This is especially true for Samsung devices, which also provide an additional different rapid charging solution altogether — fast wireless charging. While conventional wireless charging was gaining popularity a few years back, Samsung is one of the few that stuck with it and then improved upon their implementation by adopting faster wireless charging, which originally cut down charging times from around three hours to just around two. Having this alternative can make up for some of the disadvantages of Adaptive Fast Charging, given wireless charging is a more passive approach that is less cumbersome and thus allows for more regular charging intervals, effectively taking the hassle out of topping up a phone around an office or bedroom space.

* You might notice that the intervals between points in these data sets are smaller than on other stubs and graphs. While gathering data from the GS8+, we stumbled upon a device-specific issue that prevented the PCMark test with UI automation from being carried out properly. We thus revised our data collection and automation tool for the GS8+ and improved the polling mechanism while we were at it. Data added in the future will benefit from these improvements resulting in more accurate or smoother graphs.


This article will be continuously updated as we get our hands on more devices, and get to test newer or updated standards. Stay tuned for more comparisons!

iPhone X, 8 ‘fast’ wireless chargers may be slower than Samsung

Just drop it on the charger, no need for a plug. That’s how inductive wireless charging works — and it’s becoming a standard feature on the new iPhone X, iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus. You should be able to use practically any Qi wireless charger to top them up.

But not all wireless charging is created equal, and it seems like Apple may have opted for a slower version of the technology than rival Samsung. 

Even though both the new iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy devices use the same Qi wireless power standard, Apple’s accessory partners have just announced a pair of “fast” wireless charging stations that support a maximum of 7.5-watt output — half the power of Samsung’s 15-watt fast wireless chargers. (The Qi standard allows fast chargers to top out at 15 watts as of Version 1.2.)

Both the $60 Belkin Boost Up and $60 Mophie Wireless Charging Base do suggest that their 7.5 watts of power will charge a new iPhone faster than a traditional 5-watt Qi charger, and that’s probably true. But it seems unlikely that they’d charge as quickly as if they had twice the electricity at their disposal. 

The 7.5-watt chargers would seem to confirm a rumor from August that Apple’s wireless charging would be slower. 

(While Apple does claim you can charge these new iPhones to 50 percent in 30 minutes — a speed we’ve seen companies with 15-watt wireless chargers claim before — Apple’s site suggests it tested that with a physical USB-C cable and 29W power adapter, not a wireless charger.)    

Still, it’s possible that Apple’s own custom AirPower charger (see video above) will offer more juice. Apple hasn’t yet said how many watts it offers or how quickly it will charge a phone, only that it can charge three devices at the same time. 

Apple didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Redout for Xbox One review: A fast, furious and futuristic racing game

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One Abruzzo Coastline Pure

Xbox One has no shortage of racing games, but good futuristic racers are few and far between.

That changes with Redout: Lightspeed Edition from Italian developer 34BigThings, an ultrafast racer in the style of F-Zero and Wipeout. With lots of content, split-screen and online multiplayer, and upcoming Xbox One X support, Redout is officially the Xbox racer of the future.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Amazon

The last form of entertainment

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Redout takes place in the far-off year 2560, shortly after the classic song “In the Year 2525.” Our planet’s ecosystem is in ruins, tropical storms ravaging the surface and its natural resources depleted. Despite the widespread desolation, the earth still hosts a few forms of entertainment such as zooes, parks, and races. The Solar Redout Racing League has become one of the most popular diversions. The fastest racing league ever, it challenges pilots to drive ultrafast anti-gravity ships on magnetic tracks at great danger to themselves.

The premise works well for a futuristic racer, but don’t expect much in-game story. Besides some narrative text here and there, Redout is virtually devoid of in-game story (not unlike co-op favorite shooter Killing Floor 2). Luckily, the career setup and racing are strong enough to make up for that slight presentational weakness.

Far-future racing

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Redout is clearly inspired by the two most beloved futuristic racing game series: F-Zero and Wipeout. The visuals (which look great on Xbox One and will be even more amazing with promised 4K support and 60 frames per second [FPS] on Xbox One X) look the most like Wipeout’s, with excellent sci-fi ship designs, seven distinct planets and moons to race on, and loads of gorgeous colors.

The track design is also a highlight, thanks to large jumps, steep ramps, and thrilling loops that truly take advantage of the antigravity concept. This is one of those racing games in which you might not see your opponents for long stretches, but the track design, visuals, and blistering speed keep things exciting throughout.

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Being an arcade-style racer, you won’t have to worry about sim elements outside of the simple upgrade system. Quite often you can win a race without even using the break, though it definitely helps on tracks with tighter turns and tunnels.

There is an element of finesse involving the right analog stick, though. Tapping the stick to the side makes your vehicle strafe left or right, which helps take turns without slowing down. And you can tilt your ship forward or backward in order to avoid grinding against the track on steep ramps and loops.

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Finally, players have a boost that constantly recharges when not in use, as well as an equippable powerup. Although the game offers six different powerups (each with buyable upgrades), you can only take one into a race. This limits the combat element that many arcade racing fans enjoy, but it also keeps things fair since you need to concentrate on skillful racing over annihilating opponents.

Go from F-Zero to hero in career mode

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Redout’s career mode offers an interestingly nonlinear structure. After completing the first race, the game automatically offers the next event in the series. But players can choose to skip forward or backward, sticking with preferred event types or replaying previous events for more money and XP.

Races are still restricted to classes, so you can’t jump to class II events before leveling up enough to unlock that type of vehicle. Leveling up also unlocks upgrades and other features, in addition to providing an overall sense of progression. Another cool element you’ll experience in career is the occasional sponsorship challenge. Accept the sponsor’s deal and you’ll have to win a race in a specific way. Do so to win huge money payouts or even free ships.

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Speaking of which, Redout has four classes of vehicles to pilot, with each class significantly faster than the one before it and each class of events that much harder as well. The console version offers seven total racing teams, some of which were released as DLC on the Steam version. Each team has four vehicles to buy, so that’s a total of 28 futuristic craft in the game.

Each ship has its own unique stats that make it feel much different from others in its class. That means you probably won’t actually want to buy all the ships, but at least there’s something for every style of racer. They all have distinct looks that can be further customized with numerous color sets and liveries.

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

The career spans a total of 100 events, 11 types of races, and seven planets (each with multiple track layouts). Arena races are particularly challenging, pitting six participants against each other on a tiny arena track with no respawns. Take too much damage and your craft will explode, knocking you out of the race.

Boss races are extra intense, stringing together all of a location’s track variations into a single race via teleportation gates. Not every race type is a winner (the time trials are so dry compared to the rest), but the career has a good mix of events that don’t overstay their welcome (unlike the extra grindy Riptide GP Renegade).

Multiplayer

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Redout features two types of multiplayer on consoles: two-player split-screen, and online races for up to twelve players. in either mode, the host player can only access tracks unlocked in career mode – so you’ll want to play a bit of career before hosting multiplayer races. You don’t earn money and XP for multiplayer races, unfortunately.

In split-screen, the second player has access to vehicles and upgrades unlocked by the first player, so the guest player doesn’t get to use his or her own profile. Four types of races are available in split-screen, as is the option to include AI opponents. The split-screen uses a vertical aspect ratio that recalls that of the Wipeout series and looks beautiful in motion.

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Online multiplayer only offers three race types: race, pure race (in which powerups are disabled), and boss (which mixes all of a location’s track variations together into one long course). Players can instantly join an open game, browse servers, or host a game. As of this writing, there doesn’t seem to be a large online community on Xbox One. Hopefully it will continue to grow over time, as racing against other players is thrilling.

Overall impressions of Redout: Lightspeed Edition

Redout Lightspeed Edition for Xbox One

Realistic games like Forza Motorsport 7 are definitely the in-type of racing game nowadays, but you can hardly beat the excitement that a super-fast futuristic racer like Redout offers. This game looks excellent, conveys a fantastic sense of speed, and doesn’t get too hard or complicated to slow down the fun. With a good variety of races, great track design, and both local and online multiplayer, this is the start of a series that deserves to continue long into the future.

Redout: Lightspeed Edition costs $39.99 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4, though Amazon currently offers it at a nice discount. The Steam version sells for $34.99 but doesn’t include some of the DLC of the console versions.

Pros:

  • A gorgeous futuristic racing game with excellent design and lots of color.
  • Career structure is well thought out and doesn’t require much grinding.
  • Both local and online multiplayer are supported, so friends can race too.

Cons:

  • Career difficulty ramps up way too much in the second tier of events.
  • Multiplayer races don’t contribute to overall progress, limiting multiplayer potential.
  • Powerups feel like an afterthought compared to some arcade racers.

See on the Xbox Store
See on Amazon
See on Steam

Xbox One review copy provided by the publisher.

Samsung’s new portable hard drive is almost as small as a flash drive and twice as fast

The Insider Picks team writes about stuff we think you’ll like. Business Insider has affiliate partnerships, so we get a share of the revenue from your purchase.

MU PA2T0B_8_Ready anytimeSamsungThe cloud may be one of the most convenient places to store your data, but it’s not always the best solution.

You may find yourself needing to transfer data quickly with a less-than-ideal internet connection. In that case, your valuable files are as good as trapped.

I’ve traditionally recommended using a standard flash drive instead, but I’ve been spending some time with Samsung’s new portable SSD, the T5, and it’s an even better solution depending on your needs.

Small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, the T5 transfers data and draws power through a single USB-C port. You can connect it to your computer through a USB-C to USB-A cable, or a USB-C to USB-C cable, and I was surprised to encounter a difference during one of my tests.

If portability is your highest priority, a USB 3.0 flash drive is still the way to go, but if you don’t mind carrying around an extra cable, you might find this option well worth your while. The reason why is simple: raw performance.

Using a third-party benchmarking tool, I clocked my flash drive at a respectable 112mbps (megabytes per second) write speed and 181mbps read speed. For most people doing most things, that’s perfectly fine. I store a 150+ GB iTunes library on one so I can listen to music at work, and only notice some stuttering when I first boot up my computer. 

But the T5 is on another level; it had a 407 mbps write speed and 420 mbps write speed using the same test when connected to my computer through a USB-C to USB-A cable. When the tests were run using a USB-C to USB-C cable the performance jumped even higher, with a read speed of 479mbps and a read speed of 509mbps. That’s a pretty substantial increase over the flash drive.

I should note that these tests were conducted on a 2017 iMac, which has Thunderbolt 3 ports instead of standard USB-C ports. Your read and write speeds could differ if your computer only has standard USB-C ports. Either way, having read and write speeds that exceed 400mbps is very impressive.

To put this to the test, I transferred a 36GB file from my computer to the flash drive, and then the T5. Both had been recently formatted and were empty when the test took place. The transfer to the flash drive took a respectable 4:39, but seemed sluggish compared to the T5’s 1:12 time. That’s a big difference if you’re trying to create a quick computer backup, or move large project files from one computer to another for work.

Samsung’s T5 is the fastest portable hard drive of any kind I’ve ever tried, and given its fast speed and small size, it’s definitely worth picking up. How much of a benefit you’ll gain from the speed bump will depend on what you do, but if you truly believe time is money, this may be your best tech purchase this year.

Samsung T5 Portable SSD, [250GB], $127.99, available at Amazon

Samsung T5 Portable SSD, [500GB], $197.99, available at Amazon

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PSN flash sale begins on all PlayStation platforms, but you need to act fast

Just in time for the weekend, Sony has launched a flash sale on the PlayStation Network. The exciting thing about this flash sale is that it isn’t just limited to PlayStation 4. You’ll be able to save on games regardless of your platform of choice, whether that’s PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PS Vita, or even PSP.

Of course, there are more games discounted for a newer platform like PS4 than there are for an older one like PSP, but it’s nice to see PSP included in this sale nonetheless. On PS4, some of the standout offers include discounts on games like Overcooked Gourmet Edition (on sale for $7.99), Dead Rising (on sale for $7.99), and Darksiders II: Deathinitive Edition (on sale for $5.99). For the most part, though, many of the games on sale for PS4 are indie titles.

On PS3, you’ll find a number of PS One Classics are on sale, many of which are also available on PSP and PS Vita. Standouts there include Metal Gear Solid, Suikoden II, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for $4.99 each. If you’re looking to pick up some actual PS3 games during this sale, some games to look at include all three games in the BioShock series and Saints Row IV National Treasure Edition, which are all $4.99 each.

Over on Sony’s portable systems, the pickings get a little slimmer. There are a handful of PSOne Classics on sale, along with other titles PS Vita’s Broken Sword 5: The Serpent’s Curse for $3.39 and Steamworld Dig for $2.49. It should be noted that most of the PS Vita games on sale are also available on PSP, but there are a few exceptions to that rule.

Interestingly, Sony also advertises that movies are discounted in this flash sale, but the link to see those deals just leads to an error page. In any case, you’ve only got until August 28 at 8 AM Pacific to take advantage of these deals, so if you see something you like, be sure to hop on it before then. Check out the sale over on the PlayStation Store, and be sure to head down to the comments section to let us know if anything has caught your eye.

Samsung Fast Charge Portable Battery Pack 5100 review

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samsung fast charge portable battery pack 5100

Samsung

  • Fast Charge Portable Battery Pack 5100

    PCWorld Rating

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Note: The following is part of our roundup of USB-C battery packs. Go there for details on how we tested this device.

Samsung may have earned the honor of being at the end of random battery jokes, and suggesting a battery pack from Samsung may seem unlikely. But just put the Note 7 debacle in a box—keep it there, just in case something else bad happens.

Now, look at the Fast Charge Portable Battery Pack 5100. This $59 pack has a 5100 mAh (19.38Wh) capacity, is slightly thicker than a Galaxy S8, and is easy on the eyes.
A carrying loop sticks out of the top, with a power button and a USB-C port for charging the pack found on one side. On the other side you’ll find a USB-A port, used to charge your phone.

Pressing the power button when nothing is connected will animate a light on top of the pack, revealing just how much juice is left in the pack.

It’s not QC 2.0/3.0 compatible, but it will fast-charge your Samsung Galaxy devices (naturally). Our testing found the small pack to be impressively efficient at 83.03 percent. Total amount of time to recharge the pack was just over two and a half hours.

The one downside to this pack? Youre going to pay a premium for the smaller design and the Samsung name on it. 

It may not win the honor of top pick for portable battery pack, but should you find a deal on this pack, don’t hesitate. Click buy and don’t look back.

To comment on this article and other PCWorld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
  • PCWorld Rating

    A unique design combined with an efficient battery makes this Samsung pack appealing.

    Pros

    • Portable
    • Efficient
    • Unique design

    Cons

    • Only one port for charging





Samsung’s New LTE Modem Technology Supports Industry-First 6CA, Delivering Fast and Seamless Mobile Communication Experiences

SEOUL, South Korea–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., a world leader in advanced semiconductor
technology, today announced that it has developed LTE modem technology
for the company’s next-generation mobile processors that supports 6CA
(carrier aggregation) for the first time in the industry. The new
technology has successfully achieved a maximum downlink speed of 1.2
gigabits per second (Gbps).

Earlier this year, the Samsung Exynos 9 Series (8895) SoC presented its
Cat.16 LTE modem with 1.0 gigabit (Gb) downlink speed and the industry’s
first 5CA support. By working closely with Anritsu, a telecommunication
measuring instrument provider, Samsung’s new Cat.18 6CA-supported LTE
modem technology achieves up to 1.2 Gbps downlink speed. The 20-percent
improvement in maximum downlink speed can allow mobile device users to
download a full-length movie in HD resolution within 10 seconds. Users
will also be able to enjoy buffer-less video calls and mobile
live-broadcasting.

Carrier aggregation (CA) combines a given number of component carriers
with various bandwidths, improving data transfer rates and network
performance. By increasing the aggregation capability from the previous
model’s five bandwidths to six, the new LTE modem technology will offer
faster yet more stable data transfers. Furthermore, the technology
supports 4×4 MIMO (Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output) and higher-order 256
QAM (Quadrature amplitude modulation) scheme to maximize the data
transfer rate. By utilizing enhanced Licensed-Assisted Access (eLAA)
that can aggregate licensed and unlicensed spectra, the technology also
allows telecommunications operators to make fuller use of their
equipment.

“With the increase of high-quality online content services, the demand
for high-performance LTE modems continue to rise as well,” said
Woonhaing Hur, Vice President of System LSI Protocol Development at
Samsung Electronics. “The 1.2Gbps maximum downlink speed with 6CA
support highlights Samsung’s leading design capabilities and
well-positions Samsung for the upcoming 5G era.”

Samsung’s mobile processor adopting the new Cat.18 6CA-supported LTE
modem technology is expected to be in mass production by the end of this
year.

About Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. inspires the world and shapes the future
with transformative ideas and technologies. The company is redefining
the worlds of TVs, smartphones, wearable devices, tablets, cameras,
digital appliances, medical equipment, network systems, and
semiconductor and LED solutions. For the latest news, please visit
Samsung Newsroom at http://news.samsung.com.