Super Retina

I thought adding prefixes like Super to a sub-brand like Retina to a piece of technology to make it sound more awesome was something companies like Samsung did. Here is an hideous example: HD Super AMOLED Plus.

Unfortunately Apple is doing it too. I should have known this would happen eventually. The writing on the wall was when Apple added the Plus suffix to its larger-sized iPhone, in addition to the ‘s’ (to denote speed). Here: iPhone 6s Plus. Ugh.

If (when?) Apple introduces a larger iPhone X, and based on the company’s nomenclature up until this point, the larger iPhone X would probably be called iPhone X Plus. And, it would feature a Super Retina display.

“iPhone X Plus with Super Retina display.” Sounds uncomfortably similar to how Samsung marketing folks might go about naming their stuff.

Update 2017.09.16 10:50: It’s actually worse. I forgot the HD part. Apple calls the new OLED display in the iPhone X “Super Retina HD”. Terrible.

Display Terminology: ‘AMOLED’

I was watching The Verge’s OnePlus 5 review on YouTube, but when Dan Seifert began going through the specs of the display and mentioned the OnePlus 5 having a 5.5-inch ‘AMOLED’ display (around the 1:00 minute mark) I became a little perturbed. I have several pet peeves when it comes to display terminology and this is one of them. Let me explain.

AMOLED. It stands for Active Matrix OLED (OLED stands for Organic Light-Emitting Diode). OLED displays in modern smartphones, tablets, laptops, monitors, TVs, etc. are almost all of the active matrix variety. The other older, less-used technology is passive matrix, but it’s been a long time since I have been exposed to a modern device sporting a PMOLED display.

Let’s use an example from the automotive industry. What would your response be if Car and Driver mentioned that the new 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS features an insane 700-horsepower turbocharged 3.6-liter flat-six fuel-injected engine? (What an engineering marvel, by the way!) Sure, there are engines without fuel injection… are there? Any cars with an engine without fuel injection? Probably not. You’d probably react, “That’s kinda weird. Why mention it’s fuel injected? Are there any modern car engines without fuel injection?” Your reaction would be appropriate since the fuel-injected part of a gasoline engine specification is assumed, and rightly so since almost all modern engines feature fuel injection. You might also start wondering if Porsche made gasoline engines without fuel injection.

Back to ‘AMOLED’. Is AM necessary, or even desirable? Absolutely not; it can be safely assumed when mentioning a modern smartphone features an OLED display that it is an active matrix OLED. Few occasions would warrant pointing out the active matrix-ness of an OLED display: when you’re comparing it to a passive matrix OLED display. And how often does that happen?

So why do knowledgeable technology sites like The Verge continue to mention the active matrix portion of an OLED display? Maybe out of habit. Or not being as anal about terminology as folks like me. Perhaps both. Utter AMOLED to long-time professionals in the display industry and it may sound to some as redundant, or worse; just OLED is, in my humble opinion, more than sufficient.

OnePlus 5 Focus on Dual-Lens Camera

Dan Seifert:

Even with the advantage of being based in Shenzhen, OnePlus still can’t always get the best components other companies might have. After all, both Apple and Samsung make their own processors, and Samsung is one of the leading manufacturers of display technologies in the world. Those in-house display and chip technologies show up in their phones long before they make it anywhere else. (Or in the case of Apple’s chips, they never show up in other companies’ products at all.)

For the OnePlus 5, that meant the company wasn’t able to utilize the tall, edge-to-edge screens that Samsung and LG have pushed this year. “This is something we want to try,” says Lau. “But we don’t currently have the resources or access to those displays.”

So OnePlus zeroed in its efforts on the part it can get: a better camera. The OnePlus 5 features a dual-camera system, a first for the company.

The “tall, edge-to-edge screens that Samsung and LG have pushed this year” are not merely tall and edge-to-edge; it is not just a different form factor. Those screens are the best screens that have been integrated into smartphones; they are even better than some of the best TV screens. These two companies’ smartphone displays are at the top or very near the top in color gamut, color accuracy, contrast, reflectance, brightness, and a plethora of other display metrics. Samsung has OLED, and LG has IPS LCD; Samsung’s OLED is curved, and LG’s IPS LCD is not. Either way you can’t go wrong with their tall, edge-to-edge screens, but the truth is as Seifert wrote: it will be a while before these beautiful displays get into the hands of other brands. The one exception would be Apple with its next iPhone expected to be announced around September with OLED displays that will likely be supplied by both Samsung and LG.

I expect the OnePLus 5 to have a good implementation of a dual-lens camera, especially the camera’s portrait capabilities. Similar in design and in function to the dual-lens iPhone 7 Plus. But the focus on making a better camera is not good enough. The challenge is to make the display as good as the camera. The display has to be just as good at transforming electrons back into photons as the camera is at transforming photons into electrons. For smartphone photography a great display with a so-so camera is just as useless as a so-so display with a great camera. The two go hand in hand. This camera-and-screen one-two punch is one of the many reasons why the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG G6, and the iPhone 7 Plus are considered to be the best smartphones on the market today. The OnePlus 5 launches tomorrow at noon in New York City.

Source: The Verge

Classroom Friendly Supplies Pencil Sharpener

Classroom Friendly Sharpener

INTRODUCTION

The Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener is a hefty desktop pencil sharpener. The old-fashioned design and weight gives you a sense it has been built well with quality materials. Functionally, the manual crank single-burr sharpener carves a long, slightly concave, sharp point.

As a designer I prefer to draw with a pencil; the simplicity of putting lead on paper helps me focus. For at least a while.

The main disadvantage of using a pencil is the sharp point doesn’t last as long you want. All too soon the pencil gets dull and needs a sharpening. This is when a good pencil sharpener makes a considerable difference. A pencil sharpener that gives you a long, sharp point lets you draw, write, color for a bit longer. The Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener gives you just that.

A GOOD PENCIL SHARPENER

Finding a good pencil sharpener is not easy. I searched a while. I looked through eBay for old Panasonic automatic pencil sharpeners that were made in Japan. I think older Japanese products are of the highest quality because of the work ethic that was prevalent in Japan and because most Japanese brands manufactured in Japan. Still I never bought an old Made-in-Japan Panasonic because none had a warranty and if they broke there was little I could do to fix it. I could contact my electrical engineering and mechanical engineering friends.

I searched through Amazon, but most were US brands that were made in China. Let me just say not all products made in China are of low quality. Apple’s iPhones are made in China, but I hear there are legions of Apple engineers who stay at Foxconn factories for months at a time to ensure manufacturing quality is of the highest quality. Both Apple and Foxconn are also aggressively automating the manufacturing process to maximize quality. That being said, the made-in-China pencil sharpeners are probably not the result of similar efforts by brands such as Westcott, X-Acto, Bostitch, Prismacolor, OfficePro, Linkyo, etc. There is also double-burr crank sharpeners like the El Casco M-430, considered to be the finest pencil sharpener in the world, but that requires a hefty investment of about USD 200, and up. Not for everyone.

I needed something affordable, reliable, and easily fixable or replaceable. So, a couple of years ago I purchased a Staedtler tub pencil sharpener from Amazon. It’s a manual sharpener with two holes: one for regular pencils and the other for larger diameter pencils. It works okay for the most part, but the leads of lower quality pencils will easily break. I’ve even used my Swiss Army knife to whittle my pencils, old school style. I eventually gave up and went back to a couple of my favorite mechanical pencils: a Parker and a Pilot.

One Saturday I wanted to organize all the leftover and unwanted pencils and color pencils lying around the house. I asked my kids to help and all together we found about 50 unloved pencils. Most of them had dull leads and needed a good sharpening. I tried sharpening a few of them with the Staedtler, but I decided I didn’t want to torment myself. I needed a good pencil sharpener.

Classroom Friendly Sharpener Back

Like I do with everything I purchase, I googled “best manual pencil sharpener review” and on many of the lists the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener showed up, so I hopped on over to their website. Thankfully they were looking for folks to review their pencil sharpener so I signed up. A few days later my black Classroom Friendly Sharpener came knocking on my door.

Here are some specs:

  • Burr Grinder: Single
  • Opening: 8-mm
  • Material: Metal body, mechanics, handle; plastic tray and small parts.
  • Clear plastic shavings tray
  • Point Type: Long, concave, sharp
  • Clamp: Metallic

SHARPENING YOUR PENCIL

 

Classroom Friendly Sharpener Holding Pencil

A little primer on how to sharpen your pencils with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener:

  • Use both hands. Hold the sharpener with one hand and with your other hand pull out the metal plate.
  • Pinch the black clamps while holding the sharpener. Insert a pencil through the hole in the metal plate, all the way in.
  • Hold the sharpener and start turning the crank, clockwise.
  • Stop cranking when there is little to no friction.
  • Pinch the black clamps and pull your pencil out.

UNICEF Colored Pencils

UNICEF Colored Pencils, Sharpened

I sharpened all 50 or so of my pencils: regular and color. The sharpening experience was overall very pleasant. The metal burr grinding against wood felt and sounded really nice, but not too loud. The experience depends on the quality of the wood and the lead. I had quite a few Crayola color pencils and the leads tended to break in the middle of sharpening; the wood was quite stubborn, too. Taking the handle off and removing the broken lead stuck inside the burr didn’t make for a pleasant experience, but after I had removed broken leads several times I was able to do it fairly quickly and get back to roughing it with the Crayola color pencils.

The UNICEF color pencils you see above, made-in-Japan Shinkansen color pencils by Sanrio (a gift from my friend Itaru), made-in-Korea Natural HB by Dong-A, and made-in-Germany Art Grip Aquarelle color pencils by Faber-Castell were all smooth, easy to sharpen and not one lead broke while sharpening.

Classroom Friendly Sharpener Pencil Long Sharp Point

The sharpening mechanism is quiet enough, but is not silent. The noise depends on the wood — nice, soft wood emits a nice burring sound, but not with low-quality wood — but overall sharpening pencils with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener has a satisfying sound to it. I might like the grinding experience more than the regular Joe: I prefer and enjoy manually grinding my own coffee beans with a Hario manual burr grinder, a gift my brother-in-law and sister graciously gave to me.

As you can see the point is long, slightly concave, and fairly sharp, but not so sharp at the end that with the slightest pressure it will break off. Just sharp enough for you to use, though I think it would be best for those who have a lighter grip on their pencils. I do, so this works well for me.

Going back to the sharpening mechanism: the sharpener loses friction and beckons you to stop cranking once the perfect point has been achieved. The Classroom Friendly Sharpener won’t chew through your pencils unnecessarily; only low-quality wood with brittle lead will end up being chewed through. The pencil grip holds your pencil at a constant pressure and pulls the pencil in toward the burr grinder. When you stop cranking the result is a consistently long and sharp point. Bear in mind the sharpener works best with standard-width pencils.

QUESTIONABLES

Classroom Friendly Sharpener Teeth

Teeth

About holding the pencil. The Classroom Friendly Sharpener has a metal plate that comes out and inside that plate is a set of metal teeth you open and close with a clasp. The teeth grip the pencil; it doesn’t slide around or go in at an angle; it goes straight in. The plate pulls the pencil — held firmly by the teeth — into the burr grinder. That’s good, but the not-so-good part is the teeth leave tooth marks.

Classroom Friendly Sharpener Tooth Mark

Tooth Mark

As you can see the tooth marks are visually unpleasant, especially if you enjoy looking at and feeling your pencils. As you continue to sharpen your pencil tooth marks will unfortunately have thoroughly blemished it. At this point you’ll need to decide whether the relatively long and fairly sharp point is important enough to sacrifice the look and feel of your pencil. I don’t have many expensive pencils save for a few, but I think I’d end up minding if my pencils had tooth marks all over it. There is a solution, though it will require an additional pencil sharpener.

From Pencil Revolution’s article Frankenstein’s Sharpener I found out the burr from the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener can be transplanted into the the Carl A-5 and Carl CP-100A pencil sharpeners. What makes this interesting is that both the Carl A-5 and the Carl CP-100A have rubber clutches without wood-damaging teeth. I might actually do this; if I do, I will follow up with an update to this article in the future.

REPAIR

Classroom Friendly Sharpener Burr Grinder

Single Burr Grinder

I prefer manual over automatic. Automatic pencil sharpeners eventually break and when they do there’s little you can do about it, especially if there’s something wrong with the electronics. The one exception would be if I had a very helpful electrical engineering friend nearby. On the other hand, a manual pencil sharpener like this one lasts a long time, but if it does break there’s a good chance you can fix it. You can pick up replacement parts and supplies directly from Classroom Friendly Supplies. If you are in need of instructions to help you maintain your sharpener here are some photos and videos at Classroom Friendly Supplies.

SUMMARY

The Classroom Friendly Sharpener is a single-burr pencil sharpener that leaves your pencils with a long, sharp point. I’ve not ever seen a point so long; it’s best for those of us who hold our pencils slightly on the lighter side. As a designer I enjoy putting ideas unto paper with a pencil. All 50 or so of my pencils have been sharpened with the Classroom Friendly Sharpener and all are beautiful with long, sharp points.

One caveat though: the metal teeth that firmly hold your pencil will leave tooth marks on your pencil’s lacquer. I know some of us want our precious pencils to be as pristine as can be, and leaving tooth marks might be a deal breaker. I personally don’t have many expensive pencils, but I would have preferred if my favorite pencils were left unmarred. If you don’t mind tooth marks on your pencils, but do appreciate the long, sharp point, the build quality, and how easy it is to sharpen your pencils, then the Classroom Friendly Sharpener may be just the right pencil sharpener for you.

The Not-So-Good:

  • A certain level of dexterity required, but you’ll get used to it quickly.
  • Smallish shavings container; need to empty often.
  • Shavings container not super secured.
  • Single, not double burr, grinder.
  • Teeth leave tooth marks on pencil lacquer. (It is possible to transplant the burr into other pencil sharpeners with rubber clutches.)

The Good:

  • Long, sharp point.
  • Build is generally solid, inside and out.
  • On the quieter side.
  • Experience of putting a metal burr to wood is great.
  • Almost impossible to over-sharpen.
  • Fast.
  • Works with both left-handed and right-handed folks.
  • Easy to fix and easy to replace parts.
  • Easy to unstuck a broken lead inside.

I hope this review helped you make an informed purchasing decision. Priced at USD 24.99. Check out the pencil sharpeners from Classroom Friendly Supplies.

iPhone 8 Design: New Home Button / Touch ID Location

Sonny Dickson tweeted a photo of what looks like a schematic of the new iPhone, which I will refer to as iPhone 8, specifically the largest most premium 5.8-inch iPhone 8, in this article. The supposed iPhone 8 schematic shows a couple of different design elements from iPhone 7s.

NEW DESIGN

There are two cutouts that are of particular interest. One is related to the camera: the two-lens cutout and LED flash are aligned vertically. Not such a big deal in my opinion, but I wonder if there are any advantages of positioning the two lenses vertically when it comes to machine learning-based bokeh generation.

The other cutout that peaks my interest is round, and underneath the Apple logo. That round cutout seems to be located right in the middle, height wise and width wise, of the back of iPhone 8. If the schematic is real, and that’s a big if, and if that cutout is for the home button / Touch ID, Apple is embarking on a wholely new home button / Touch ID user experience significantly different from all previous generations of iPhones.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing things differently, as long as the user experience doesn’t suffer too much for too long. And you don’t want to change too many things all at once. Regarding iPhone users many of us are still struggling to get used to not having a 3.5-mm audio jack. We get dongles; we get Bluetooth earphones, but none are as simple as connecting a set of headphones we already have. We all get used to new things but when we are used to doing something a certain way the new can get frustrating because it requires change in our thoughts and actions, both of which can take considerable time and effort. For some of us change comes easy, but for others change can be frustrating.

 

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Apple iPhone 7 Plus

Our productivity takes a dive in the short term too, but if the new thing is designed better than the old thing productivity should eventually improve to a level unreachable before the new thing. Maybe the new home button location on the back is such a new thing. Maybe not. But ergonomically it makes sense to me: when we hold our smartphones our index fingers whether left or right naturally and automatically nestles into about where the cutout is shown in the schematic.

Or perhaps Apple is separating the home button and Touch ID. Keep the home button in the front and move Touch ID to the back. The home button can be both touch and force sensitive while Touch ID simply reads fingerprints. There are times when I want to press only the home button without activating Touch ID. This need is somewhat mitigated by a new feature that automatically turns on the display when iPhone thinks I want to take a look at the screen; it’s a nice feature borrowed from Apple Watch. Separating Touch ID from the home button could be one explanation for the rear circular cutout. But the only sure thing is that we will have to wait and see.

OLED

Let’s assume Apple is transitioning away from IPS LCDs to OLED displays on its next iPhones. It might seem Apple doesn’t have a lot of experience with integrating OLED displays into devices, but that’s not completely the case. Apple Watch uses an OLED display and so does the 2016 TouchBar-equipped MacBook Pro. Granted they are not smartphone OLED displays. So Apple has some experience, but not as much as say Samsung. Another area where Apple doesn’t have a lot of experience is working with Samsung’s display team in developing new technology and solutions. When it comes to displays Apple has worked mostly with LG Display to push the envelope further. Again, assuming Apple is going OLED in the next iPhone or one of the next iPhones, the question then becomes: Is Apple having difficulties integrating fingerprint sensing and force sensing into/onto the OLED display? Looks like it.

Apple has patents when it comes to this. Back in October of 2016, AppleInsider reported Apple was awarded a patent that allows fingerprint sensing through displays: US Patent No. 9,460,332. The patent if successfully implemented can replace the physical home button with a virtual one. Perhaps Apple is experiencing technical challenges with integrating a virtual Touch ID that also senses force. Earlier in 2016 Apple was also granted US Patent No. 20060007222 for an “integrated sensing display” that “includes display elements integrated with image sensing elements” (source: The Mac Observer via DISPLAYBLOG). But patents are one thing, building real products based on those patents is another.

On April 12th of this year, AppleInsider cited analyst Timothy Arcuri of Cowen and Company stating potential yield issues for  iPhone 8’s “under-glass” fingerprint sensor solution by Apple’s in-house AuthenTec. Note: Melbourne, Florida-based AuthenTec was purchased by Apple in 2012 for US$356 million (source: Reuters). According to Arcuri Apple is unwilling to use a solution provided by a third party.

LG Innotek Under Cover Glass Fingerprint Sensor

LG Innotek Under Cover Glass Fingerprint Sensor

Apple’s AuthenTec isn’t the only company trying to develop fingerprint sensors that can work underneath the screen. LG Innotek announced in May 2016 that it developed a new fingerprint sensor that fits into a 0.01-inch (0.03 mm) space cut into the underside of a smartphone cover glass (source: The Korea Times via The Verge). A circular or rectangular fingerprint sensor button becomes unnecessary allowing for a more seamless design.

Synaptics also introduced its Natural ID FS9100 optical fingerprint sensors late last year. The FS9100 sensors can scan fingerprints through 1mm-thick cover glass. But neither solution is something Apple can use for its iPhone 8’s supposedly all-screen design.

According to The Korea Herald a South Korea-based biometric sensor company CrucialTec announced that it had patented a technology allowing the installation of a fingerprint sensor underneath a smartphone display panel:

Touch screens embedded with fingerprint sensors will allow users to authenticate their identity by simply touching the smartphone display.

This might be the solution Apple is seeking to mass manufacture, but Apple is unwilling to work with third parties for its under-the-screen Touch ID fingerprint reader; it is after all an extremely sensitive area of the iPhone.

NEW IS HARD

It takes guts, an unwillingness to accept failure, tremendous grit, etc. to do things no one has done before, even if it is merely integrating parts that already exist. The original iPhone was born through that process. I’m rooting for all the Apple engineers trying to make this happen. But even if they don’t succeed this time I’m certain a solution will be developed in the future.

As for the 5.8-inch iPhone 8 schematic with what looks like a home button cutout in the back, I don’t think that’s a bad idea at all if that means the OLED screen in the front is really seamless.

 

2016 15-inch MacBook Pro: Quadruple GPU Power with External NVIDIA GTX 1080 Ti

2016 15-inch MacBook Pro

2016 15-inch MacBook Pro

Powerusers who demand powerful graphics performance from their laptops have lamented the weak GPUs Apple have been incorporating into its MacBook Pro notebooks. The lastest 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro did not allay that concern. Fortunately the high-end MacBook Pro comes with full-throttle Thunderbolt 3 connections.

Put in a NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti, one of the most powerful desktop GPU NVIDIA has to offer (the top honor goes to the TITAN Xp, at the moment), into an AkiTio Node or a Mantiz Venus enclosure, connect the eGPU to a 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro and quadruple the GPU power. This is exactly what eGPU.io did.

AkiTio Node Thunderbolt 3 eGPU Enclosure

AkiTio Node

The AkiTio Node features a new Texas Instrument TI83 controller that macOS recognizes. A full-sized dual-width GPU — like the GTX 1080 Ti — fits inside. The Node is spacious: 17-inches long (all the way back to the rear handle), 5.75-inches wide, and almost 9-inches tall (including the feet). One x16 PCIe slot is available, with two PCIe 6+2-pin connectors, and is powered by a 400W SFX power supply unit (PSU). In the back is a single Thunderbolt 3 connection.

Make sure NVIDIA’s web drivers for Pascal driver support on macOS are the latest (https://images.nvidia.com/mac/pkg/378/WebDriver-378.05.05.05f01.pkg). Update the Node’s firmware too (https://www.akitio.com/firmware/node-firmware). eGPU.io is reporting some visual glitches using Goalque’s automate-eGPU script that enables eGPU support on macOS for NVIDIA GTX 10 series GPUs. Though compatibility is improving plug-and-play is not how eGPU and MacBook Pro’s work at the moment.

A well-architected Thunderbolt 3 host is a must. And the late 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro is currently the best Thunderbolt 3 host for an eGPU implementation. The reason? The PCIe lanes are directly connected to the quad-core i7 CPU, without having to go through the PCH (Platform Controller Hub). Maximum bandwidth per eGPU in a direct Thunderbolt 3-to-CPU configuration is 22Gbps with a single eGPU attached. Most other Thunderbolt 3-equipped laptops route the PCIe lanes through the PCH. Because the PCH shares bandwidth with other internal components such as network cards, USB ports, etc. the eGPU-connected Thunderbolt 3 connection can get congested, limiting the performance of the eGPU. The direct-to-CPU design of the Thunderbolt 3 ports maybe the key to future eGPU implementations not only for MacBooks but for iMacs and the new modular Mac Pro Apple is working on.

Unigine Valley Benchmark Screenshot

Unigine Valley Benchmark Screenshot

eGPU.io conducted benchmarks comparing the integrated GPUs — AMD Radeon Pro 460 + Intel HD 530 — and the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 Ti TB3 eGPU. The results are a dramatic improvement in GPU capability for the 2016 15-inch MacBook Pro:

  • LuxMark 3.1: 6,056 vs 23,172 (+283%)
  • Valley 1.0: 895 vs 2,353 (+163%)
  • Heaven 4.0: 495 vs 1,422 (+187%)

eGPU benchmarks increase even more using an external display:

  • Valley 1.0: 3,031 (+239%)
  • Heaven 4.0: 2,640 (+433%)

Bear in mind the top LuxMark score for a single device (CPU+GPU) using OpenCL 1.2 and CUDA 8.0.0 running the LuxBall HDR simple scene is 28,456 with a TITAN Xp GPU and a 3.5GHz i7-5930K CPU. This eGPU solution isn’t too far behind the top performer, considering it started from a measly 6,056. According to the top Valley benchmark scores (Valley 1.0 Scoreboard Google Sheets) the highest score is 7,375 powered by a 2GHz Titan X and a Core i7-7700K.

The late 2016 15-inch MacBook with GPU scores like these are incredible, but this eGPU solution does not come cheap. A Mantiz MZ-02 (Venus) eGPU enclosure costs US$389 while the AkiTio Node will set you back $300. The GTX 1080 Ti goes for around $700. Combined is an extra $1000 or so. Of course not everyone needs a GTX 1080 Ti, but even the most affordable VR-ready AMD Radeon RX 480 will set you back about $200, for a total of around $400-$500.

A $400-$1000 investment to significantly improve GPU performance that enables a professional to accomplish the job on time and with less frustration might be more than worth it.

via The Verge

Tesla Solar Panels

Tesla Solar Panels

Tesla knows how to beautify things. Compare the solar panels in the photo above to some of the other solar panels you see elsewhere, including Solarcity’s own solar panels, and you’ll notice a simpler, less reflective, and a more seamless design. Integrated front skits with no visible mounting hardware make the Tesla solar panels blend into your existing roof a lot better.

The seamless mounting system — the integrated front skirts and no visible mounting hardware — was developed by Zep Solar, which was acquired by Solar City in 2013, which again was merged into Tesla. The mounting system allows for faster module installation, a reduction of installation costs, in addition to making the overall look a lot sleeker.

The 325W solar panels are manufactured by Panasonic exclusively for Tesla at Tesla’s Gigafactory 2 in Buffalo, with solar module production expected to commence during Summer 2017. Panasonic’s current 325W solar panels features an efficiency of about 20% and comes with a 25-year power output warranty. Tesla is sure to meet or better that with its own 325W solar panels.

As long as the cost for the solar panels and installation are competitive there’s really no reason not to go with Tesla, especially if you’re considering the Powerwall and a future Tesla car, like the Model 3.

Source: Tesla

Google Seeks Strategic Investment & Relationship With LG Display To Secure OLED Smartphone Displays

Google Pixel

According to Korea-based ETNews (Korean), Mountain View, California-based Google has approached LG Display and offered a strategic investment of ₩1 trillion (around US$880 million) toward constructing a single line in a Gen. 6 small/medium flexible OLED fabrication plant. Instead of engaging LG Display toward establishing a long term supply agreement Google is seeking to establish a strategic relationship with one of the world’s largest supplier of displays.

Google is most likely experiencing difficulties acquiring OLED displays for its flagship Pixel smartphone. The world’s dominant supplier of smartphone OLED displays is Samsung, but Samsung will be using its own OLED supply for its newly launched Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones. In addition there is speculation that Apple has secured most of the rest of Samsung’s OLED capacity for the next iPhone, which is expected to be named iPhone 8 or iPhone X. With Samsung’s OLED capacity earmarked for the Galaxy S8, S8+ and the next iPhone, Google needed to find another supplier and for the long term. The switch from LCD to OLED is underway and when Apple signals the smartphone world that OLED is the display technology of choice with its next iPhone all major brands will probably transition to OLED as well especially for their high-end smartphone offerings.

LG Display Paju Cluster

LG Display is currently building out two Gen. 6 flexible OLED fabrication plants: E5 in Gumi and Paju-based E6. E5 is expected to start production in Q3’17 while E6 is slated to come online in the second half of 2018. About $1.7 billion will be invested toward constructing the Gen 6 (1500x1850mm) flexible OLED fab; E6 is expected to have a monthly input capacity of 15,000 substrates. LG Display has invested $900 million to build its E5 fab, which is slated for production in 1H’17 with an initial monthly input capacity of 7,500 substrates or about 1.5 million 5.5-inch flexible OLED displays.

If Google and LG Display sign a strategic investment agreement flexible OLED displays earmarked for Google will probably be manufactured at LG Display’s E5 fab. Google’s investment would be coming at an important time for LG Display as the company builds its flexible OLED capacity for smartphones and other small/medium applications.

LG Display has been the main supplier of displays to Apple for many years. Apple’s iPhones, iPads, iMacs, MacBooks, etc. are mostly supplied by LG Display due to the company’s well received and superior IPS LCD technology. But if Apple switches to OLED displays for the company’s iPhones it will be a major blow to LG Display. Samsung has been honing its smartphone OLED display technology for many years and it will likely be an uphill battle for LG Display to catch up. Although Apple might use LG Display as a second or third supplier of flexible OLED displays in the future, the probability that it will be sooner than later seems low. LG Display needs Google as much as Google needs LG Display.

Google is expected to announce a new Pixel smartphone this fall and to secure a reliable supply of flexible OLED displays via a strategic relationship with LG Display makes a lot of sense.

Samsung Galaxy S8 & S8+

Samsung Galaxy S8 S8+ Front

[ Samsung ] The Samsung Galaxy S8 comes in two sizes: the regular version, simply called S8, sports a 5.8-inch OLED display while the larger S8+ is equipped with a slightly larger 6.2-inch screen. The main design difference between the S8 and the S7 is the thickness of the forehead and the lip: those are much thinner on the S8. And by incorporating a longer screen Samsung incorporated a larger display without making it wider. The overall look is quite nice, handsome even.

The iPhone 7 Plus is physically wider and taller but sports a smaller 5.5-inch LCD with a lot less pixels (1920×1080), thanks to the now relatively huge forehead, lip, and bezels on the sides. The Galaxy S8 is similar to the LG G6, which features a longer 18:9 (2:1) aspect ratio 2880×1440 display, both Samsung’s S8 and S8+ have a tiny bit more stretch with a 2960×1440 pixel format and a 2.06:1 aspect ratio. The extra 80 pixels comes in handy as they are used for the Overview (Menu or Open Apps), Home, and Back soft buttons. The remaining 2880 pixels can be used to have two 1440×1440 square windows, while still having access to the soft navigation buttons.

The smaller S8 has a slightly higher 570 ppi resolution while the larger S8+ features a resolution of 529 ppi. These displays have a name, like they always do, and are called: Quad HD+ Super AMOLED. Meaningless, but I guess someone’s getting paid to have fun.

DisplayMate president Raymond Soneira took a battery of display-related tests and found impressive results for the Samsung S8 and S8+.

Color Gamut 100% DCI-P3, thanks to the new high saturation “Deep Red” OLED. The Galaxy S8 can display the latest 4K video content. The measured absolute color accuracy is 2.7 JNCD, which most likely is more accurate than the 4K UHD TV in our living room.

In the AMOLED Photo screen mode the Galaxy S8’s color gamut is 98% Adobe RGB, the color profile many photographers prefer due to the 17% larger color gamut than sRGB/Rec.709.

UHD Alliance Mobile HDR Premium

HDR First smartphone to be UHD Alliance certified for Mobile HDR Premium. This little bit here is a big deal. We watch a lot of view on our smartphones and the format has gone from SD, 720p HD, and 1080p HD. Some enjoy 4K. HDR or High Dynamic Range improves contrast and color making those pixels even more enjoyable to watch. But beware of brands touting HDR without OLED displays or without a LED-backlit LCDs with a bunch of LED zones; that type of HDR combines edge-lit backlights and “intelligent” software, which is not as good, and sometimes terrible, compared to the real hardware version.

Brightness 1000+ nits. This is bright, and will be good when we’re out in the sun and need to check our phones. For comparison the iPhone 7 has a peak brightness of 602 cd/m2 (same thing as nit), test results by Soneira. Brightness can significantly help us see out in the sun, but combine that with low screen reflectance and sunlight viewability becomes greatly improved. The S8’s screen reflectance is 4.5%; the iPhone 7 beats it by a hair with 4.4%. Combine brightness and screen reflectance and it’s a no brainer which smartphone is better out in the sun: the Galaxy S8/S8+.

Night Mode Blue Light Filter reduces the amount of blue light. On an RGB OLED night mode is effective, because the B (blue) OLED sub-pixel’s brightness can be turned down. Night Mode on an LCD is non-sense: all the light coming out of the backlight is generated by a blue LED with a yellow phosphor coating. The combination of the blue light coming out of the LED and the yellow phosphor results in white light. This white light however is not full-spectrum, meaning more saturated colors such as red are not rendered very well.

The reason why brands such as Samsung and Apple are coming out with Night Mode is to reduce the negative effect of blue light on our circadian rhythm, or our sleep cycles. Light, especially light in the blue wavelength region of the spectrum, is the most powerful signal for shifting or resetting our circadian rhythm. Low levels of melatonin is present during the day and those levels go up a few hours before going to sleep and peaks in the middle of the night. Melatonin is a natural hormone found in the body that regulates sleep and wakefulness; in other words melatonin is what synchronizes our mind and body to our sleep cycles. Light suppresses melatonin. When we are watching our LCD or OLED TVs, working on our LCD monitors, watching movies on our tablets and/or smartphones we are letting a bunch of light especially blue light into our eyes that suppresses melatonin. Light in the evening causes a circadian delay and shifts our circadian rhythm to a later schedule. The more we look at our devices in the evening the harder it is for us to fall asleep when we want to. The best thing to do to reset our circadian rhythm to a healthy cycle is to put down our devices in the early evenings, but if that’s not possible having a display with an effective Night Mode is essential to prevent your circadian cycle to be shifted toward later in the evening. Finally and most importantly all of this is to sleep well, which is paramount if you want to feel good and be productive the next day.

Samsung Galaxy S8 Camera System

Camera Most of us have one camera: our smartphones. That’s why having a good camera on our smartphones has become so important. The S8 and S8+ has a fast ƒ/1.7 aperture lens, on both the back and front lenses. The iPhone 7’s lens is fast too, at ƒ/1.8 (the wide-angle lens), but falls a little behind. The faster the lens the more light it brings into the image sensor. In other words, we can take photos in darker settings without resorting to the flash.

The image sensor pixel size is important too. The larger the pixel size the more light it can absorb. The S8 and S8+ has a 1/2.55-inch image sensor, coupled with 12 megapixels, results in the pixel size of 1.4µm. According to Chipworks the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus sport the same 12 megapixels but image sensor pixels are smaller: 1.22µm. We will be able to take photos in darker environments with the S8 than we can with the iPhone 7.

Selfies are huge. And Samsung made sure to update the front camera. The selfie camera sports an 8 megapixel image sensor, an improved face detection algorithm for faster and more accurate autofocus. The aperture is the same as the rear camera at ƒ/1.7, but with a slightly smaller pixel size of 1.22µm. The FOV (field of view) is a wide 80 degrees. Often we are taking selfies with a group of people and that’s when a wider FOV becomes important.

EverythingApplePro took the Galaxy S8 and the iPhone 7 out for some side-by-side comparison testing. The conclusion? The S8 had the upper edge, but it was quite close. Take a look for yourself.

The Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ is without a doubt a much more beautiful smartphone than the LG G6 and especially the iPhone 7 Plus. How our smartphone looks is definitely important, but beauty isn’t everything. In terms of overall system speed, that’s a different story: check out EverythingApplePro’s “Samsung Galaxy S8 vs iPhone 7 Plus Speed Test”. iPhone 7 Plus wins, especially when already opened apps are relaunched. The multicore performance GeekBench benchmarks are similar between the two, but the single core performance of the iPhone 7 Plus is a little less than 2x that of the Galaxy S8.

iMac Pro

iMac 5K

[ BuzzFeed ] Phil Schiller, Apple’s SVP of Worldwide Marketing:

We have big plans for the iMac. We’re going to begin making configurations of iMac specifically with the pro customer in mind.

I hope that doesn’t mean the type of “pro configuration” we see on the new MacBook Pro’s. Touchscreen?

No. Touch doesn’t even register on the list of things pro users are interested in talking about. They’re interested in things like performance and storage and expandability.

Microsoft’s Surface Studio comes to mind, as an example of exactly the opposite of what Schiller thinks professional users want to do with their large displays. Of course not every professional is a designer, and maybe non-designers were who Schiller was thinking of when he answered the question regarding a touchscreen.

Microsoft Surface Studio

Craig Federighi, Apple’s SVP of Software Engineering:

The iMac has seen an incredible evolution over the past decade. The original iMac you wouldn’t have thought of as remotely touching pro uses. But today’s 5K iMac in its top configurations? It’s incredibly powerful. Tasks that previously would have required the Mac Pros of old are now being well addressed by today’s iMac.

A 5K iMac in its top configuration costs US$4128.00, which includes:

  • 27-inch Retina 5K display
  • 4.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
  • 32GB 1867MHz DDR3 SDRAM – four 8GB
  • 1TB Flash Storage
  • AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory
  • Magic Mouse 2 + Magic Trackpad 2

$4128 is a lot of money, especially considering the slower RAM and less powerful GPU. Other all-in-one options include:

  • $1900 HP ENVY 27: 27-inch 3840×2160 4K UHD display, 2.9GHz 7th Gen Core i7-7700T up to 3.8GHz, 16GB DDR4-2133 SDRAM – two 8GB, 256GB PCIe NVMe M.2 SSD and 2TB 5400RPM HDD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 950M 4GB GDDR5.
  • $3300 Dell XPS 27: 27-inch 4K UHD display, 3.4Ghz 6th Gen Core i7-6700 up to 4.0GHz, 32GB 2133MHz DDR4, 1TG PCIe SSD, AMD R9 M485X 4GB GDDR5.
  • $4200 Microsoft Surface Studio: 28-inch 4500×3000 10-point multi-touch, 2.7GHz 6th Gen Core i7 up to 3.6GHz, 32GB DDR4 RAM, 128GB SSD with 2TB HDD, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980M 4GB GDDR5.

The HP ENVY 27 all-in-one is the most economic of the four — you can actually buy two for less than the price of one 5K iMac — but it does have some weaknesses. The CPU is less powerful, RAM is maxed out at 16GB, the M.2 SSD is slower and HDD is way slower, and the GPU is weaker.

Dell XPS 27 All-In-One

The Dell XPS 27 has less pixels, less CPU power, but faster RAM, equivalent SSD, and more powerful GPU, the most powerful R9 series GPU AMD currently has to offer actually.

The Surface Studio by Microsoft has a bit less pixels, but those you can touch, less CPU power, but faster RAM, slower larger storage, and more powerful GPU.

So how would Schiller configure a  iMac Pro? The current iMac’s weakest points are the slow RAM and weak GPU. RAM will most likely be increased to DDR4 perhaps with the maximum increased to 64GB. If Apple is planning to release a iMac Pro later this year, then it’s probably being tested right now. With NVIDIA having the lead in mobile GPU with its 1.733GHz GeForce GTX 1080 with 8GB GDDR5X the iMac Pro will most likely be equipped with it, unless Apple shifts toward an external GPU (eGPU) unit that can hold one or two desktop-class GPUs. Examples of eGPUs are the Razor Core, Alienware Graphics Amplifier, MSI Gaming Dock; these may be coming in the near future: ASUS ROG XG Station 2, Gigabyte GP-T3GFx, and the designed-for-Mac The Wolfe. I’m sure Apple can design a beautiful and powerful Thunderbolt 3-based eGPU enclosure for the iMac Pro.