Computex 2016 Roundup: From robots to VR, everything that Taiwan had to offer

Computex is one of the largest technology shows in the whole of Asia and it primarily concentrates on computing and, off late, the internet of things (IoT).


Computex is one of the largest technology shows in the whole of Asia and it primarily concentrates on computing and, off late, the internet of things (IoT). Over the years, the focus of Computex seems to be going from hardcore computing towards mobility. Of course, the presence of major home-grown brands such as Nvidia, Asus, BenQ, MediaTek, Acer, Gigabyte and many more, ensures that the conference does not get too mobile heavy. But over the last couple of years there has been an increasing shift towards IoT, smart devices for use in smart homes and smart cities and more.

This year saw players such as Asus, Intel, Qualcomm and ARM, among others, make some major announcements across various segments. HTC, which is generally not seen much at Computex had a dedicated Vive booth setup inside the Taiwan World Trade Centre. This of course doesn't include the numerous stalls demoing the Vive to showcase their VR-ready state.

Asus: ZenFones, ZenBooks and Zenbo

 Computex 2016 Roundup: From robots to VR, everything that Taiwan had to offer

Asus clearly had everyone's attention as far as smartphones were concerned, thanks to its launch of the Zenfone 3 series - the Zenfone 3 Deluxe, the Zenfone 3 and the Zenfone 3 Ultra. Sporting metallic builds in some form or the other, the Zenfone 3 series is a major departure from the plasticky Zenfone 2s that we had seen last year. Asus has also moved on from Intel to Qualcomm for all its phone chipsets, and it has employed Sony’s latest 23MP IMX318 sensor on the Zenfone 3 Deluxe and the Zenfone 3 Ultra. The Zenfone 3 gets a 16MP sensor.

ASUS ZenBook 3 UX390 computex 2016 front top

 

Apart from smartphones, Asus also refreshed its ultrabook lineup with the ridiculously thin Zenbook 3. This is lighter and slimmer than the Apple Macbook and comes with Intel Core i5 or Core i7 processors onboard. The 2-in-1 product portfolio from Asus got a shot in the arm as well with the Transformer 3 Pro, Transformer 3 and Transformer Mini launches.

ASUS Zenbo COMPUTEX 2016

The real surprise from Asus Zenbo. It's a "smart" companion robot of sorts which Asus announced at a retail price tag of $599. The “robot” itself looks like an iMac G4, but with a smaller screen and larger body. Oh, and it’s got wheels. Think of it as Alexa or Siri, but embedded in an actual robot. You can ask Zenbo questions, get it to tell you jokes, ask it to follow you around and even read instructions. It’ll also inform you of your daily agenda and reminders if you want it to. Kids can play with Zenbo and it can tell them stories, complete with animations, dancing and a voice-over. While not much was revealed in terms of internal specifications, Zenbo is still a work in progress. Asus hopes to get more partners on board to fully exploit the functionalities of Zenbo. But seeing the demo with Zenbo was certainly a fun experience.

Intel: 10 cores of pure awesome, at a mind-boggling price

Intel Broadwell-E Extreme Edition Core i7

Intel has a keynote at Computex annually and is also involved on stage with a lot of brands due to the fact that they sport Intel Inside. As part of its keynote, Intel announced a 10-core Broadwell E series processors, the flagship Core i7-6950X extreme edition—which is Intel’s fastest and most powerful desktop grade processor to date. The 10 cores, when hyper-threaded, give 20 virtual cores to get things done quicker. Intel claims a 35 percent increase in performance in the rendering of 3D games in 4K resolution. The Broadwell E processor is targeted at gamers who push their machines to the limit and because the processor is unlocked, you can also overclock it to your heart’s content. The other processors introduced were: Intel Core i7-6900K, Intel Core i7-6850K and Intel Core i7-6800K. All these processors are 140W parts.

Intel also gave a teaser of the 7th generation Intel core processor series which is expected to come later this year and it's called Kaby Lake.

AMD: Hitting a price to performance sweet spot

Raja Koduri Radeon Technologies Group AMD Radeon RX480

AMD announced the launch of its brand new graphics card called the Radeon RX 480. The graphics card is the answer to AMD’s graphics and VR problem and it's priced at just $199 (approximately Rs 13,500) delivering a premium desktop graphics solution at a low price, or so say AMD. Set for launch on 29 June, the Radeon RX 480 is said to deliver an affordable solution for premium PC VR experiences, delivering VR capability commonly found in $500 GPUs.

AMD Radeon RX 480 GPU Side

Apart from graphics cards, AMD also announced its 7th generation A-series processors as well, targetted at mobile devices such as laptops and 2-in-1s. The ‘Bristol Ridge’ lineup consists of 35- and 15-watt versions of the AMD FX, A12 and A10 processors, while ‘Stoney Ridge’ processors include 15-watt A9, A6 and E2 configurations.

AMD also announced that it would bring out a new Zen line of 16-core CPUs by the end of 2016 or early 2017. Zen processors will first be used in desktops and later in servers. The processors, codenamed ‘Summit Ridge’ will have eight-cores and 16 threads and target high-end systems.

Qualcomm targets wearables

Qualcomm announced an update to its Snapdragon Wear platform with the announcement of Snapdragon Wear 1100. The Snapdragon Wear 1100 comes with a built-in LTE modem, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and an apps processor for Linux apps. Qualcomm’s focus for the Wear 1100 chipset is for it to be used in child-tracking wearables. The Snapdragon Wear 1100 measures 79 square mm, houses an ARM Cortex A7 processor, has a Cat 1 modem, supports Linux and RTOS and supports hardware level security. The chipset will start shipping on 31 May.

Qualcomm Snapdragon Wear 1100 6270 6155 Computex 2016

Qualcomm has announced collaborations with companies such as Aricent, Borqs, Infomark, and SurfaceInk to showcase what can be done with the 2100 and 1100 chips.

Acer launches 2-in-1s and other assorted gadgets

Acer didn’t have many consumer facing announcements apart from the launch of the Switch One 10 and Switch V 10 models of 2-in-1s. These are budget 2-in-1s sporting Atom processors and the display can be arranged in various modes such as tent, stand, notebook and tablet. They come with Window 10 OS pre-loaded and a dedicated keyboard. Both Switch models sport a 10-inch display with different resolutions. Switch One 10 resembles the Canvas Laptab that Micromax had launched earlier this year. Also it is priced at around $199 for the US market.

Apart from this, the other interesting product we saw at the booth was the Liquid Zest smartphone which was announced at MWC. It comes with a 5-inch HD display and has a 5000mAh battery inside. The phone comes with a 13MP rear camera and and an 8MP front camera. The cover of this smartphone brings in some interesting ways to access quick menus such as profiles, torch, voice memos and so on.

MediaTek pumps things up

MediaTek’s major announcement at this year’s Computex was the Pump Express 3.0 quick battery charging technology. According to this technology, MediaTek claims that you can charge your device from 0 to 70 percent in just 20 minutes—but there was no mention of the battery capacity, so that claim is pretty much up in the air for the moment. MediaTek claims that the phone does not overheat during charging as it has routed the electrical current directly from the adapter to the battery, rather than passing through the charging circuitry inside the phone. Pump Express 3.0 uses multiple safety measures to ensure that the fast charging does not affect the battery adversely. MediaTek claims safety measures such as constant temperature monitoring and voltage adjustment to provide optimal charge times. Devices powered by Helio P20, expected to come in second half of 2016, will support Pump Charge 3.0, according to MediaTek.

Virtual Reality: The major trend at Computex this year

Virtual reality was clearly the star of Computex. There was barely any major booth which did not have a VR-play experience going on. Everyone from Asus, MSI, Intel, Nvidia, HTC to a great many independent developers had on-going VR sessions, some of which involved waiting in queues to get to experience VR. HTC's Vive in particular was seen everywhere. Between the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, if we had to pick one in terms of immersiveness, then we'd go with the Vive. But this came at a cost—that of someone requiring to constantly monitor you lest you entangle yourself in the tethered wires on the Vive.

VR Computex 2016

HTC’s very own booth had demo sessions of its in-house game Front Defense, which looked lovely. Also, the Vive controller lends itself really well to shooting-games. The Asus ROG inside multiple booths featured an Oculus Rift setup. The one we tried, involved playing a game with a PlayStation controller while sitting steady—not really as immersive as the Vive. The ones with Oculus Rift controllers were a bit laggy from what we saw with other players. Majority of the booths had a gaming demo on for the VR experience, but surely there’s much more to VR than that.

We were surprised to not find a HoloLens at the Microsoft booth though—that would have surely added some spice to the showfloor. The VR experiences were quite polished this year around, as compared to last year, where only a handful of booths had showcased VR. We expect this to get even bigger next year. And it’s not just in the interest of the VR headset makers themselves, but for the component makers as well. Lag-free VR experience requires fast computing and graphics—which is what the major brands at Computex are gunning for each year. With a decline in the PC sales, VR is definitely an area which is going to see a large scale adoption by component makers. Next year should easily see many more native VR games and applications being showcased at Computex.


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