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Dell on the Future of Alienware, Building the Smallest Webcam, and More

In part one of our interview with Alienware VP, Frank Azor, we touched upon Dell’s hero product for CES 2019 — the Area-51m flagship gaming laptop. We talked about what went into designing the laptop, Nvidia’s roll in the creation of the modular graphics cards, and how the company plans to market this fairly expensive…

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Dell on the Future of Alienware, Building the Smallest Webcam, and More

In part one of our interview with Alienware VP, Frank Azor, we touched upon Dell’s hero product for CES 2019 — the Area-51m flagship gaming laptop. We talked about what went into designing the laptop, Nvidia’s roll in the creation of the modular graphics cards, and how the company plans to market this fairly expensive laptop.

In this second and final part, we begin with Dell’s G series gaming laptops which include the new G5 and G7. This series originally started off as the Inspiron 7000 Gaming series, and later on, was rebranded to the G series with a different design identity to separate it from Dell’s Inspiron laptops. The target audience for these laptops are typically entry-level or casual gamers that want an affordable gaming laptop.

The new Dell G5 is only available in a 15-inch model whereas the Dell G7 now comes in 15-inch and 17-inch options. What really surprised us though is that Dell is no longer limiting this series to mid-range level graphics cards. Till now, you could only go up to a GeForce GTX 1060 on the G series, while the more powerful cards like the GTX 1070 and GTX 1080 were reserved for Dell’s Alienware line.

“If you don’t have haters, you aren’t doing anything right”: Alienware VP

Now, the new G5 and G7 will offer GPUs all the way up to a GeForce RTX 2080 (non-Max Q), while keeping the overall cost less than the equivalent Alienware offering. So our question to Azor is, why should anyone go for Alienware over this?

“If you’re buying a product based on its core specifications, buy the G7 or the G5,” says Azor. “What Alienware offers — besides the components in the system — is that the [Alienware] m15 is going to be lighter weight because it’s expensive to go thin. That cost we can only afford in the Alienware class. The second thing you’re going to get is the industrial design — the paint finishes, the build quality will be a little bit different from the G series.”

 

The conversation shifts to the new Alienware m15 and Alienware m17, which are two new slim-and-light gaming laptops from Dell. The Alienware m15 launched late last year in the US and the one that was showcased at CES was essentially a refresh, with newer Intel and Nvidia graphics options. However, the Alienware m17 is all-new and is currently Dell’s thinnest and lightest 17-inch gaming laptop.

Azor says that the thin-and-light segment is quickly gaining in popularity and that’s where the industry is gravitating towards. However, Dell is currently also selling the standard (read: thicker) editions of Alienware 15-inch and 17-inch laptops but that should soon change.

“The standard ones will be replaced by what you see today, the m15 and m17 and then the Area-51m at the top,” says Azor. “Our thinking here is, if you’re buying the smaller form factor — the 15-inch — you’re buying it not primarily because there’s a price difference, because it’s pretty minimal. You’re buying the 15 because that’s smaller and lighter weight. So having a thicker version of the 15-inch notebook doesn’t make sense in our portfolio.”

Dell Alienware Area-51m First Impressions

Most gaming laptop manufacturers these days have a dizzying number of offerings on hand, which can be very daunting when it comes to making a buying decision. The approach Alienware is taking may just streamline the product stack which not only makes it easier to choose the right model, but could also pose less overhead when it comes to after-sales support. Plus, there don’t seem to be any compromises in feature set with the smaller 15-inch model, compared to the 17-inch one. Despite the difference in size, they share very similar hardware configurations and even have the same number of physical ports.

These laptops continue Alienware’s signature design language that we’ve come to expect for the past five or six years now, but this might change very soon. The company is in the process of re-inventing its gaming identity with the new ‘Legend’ design language, and the Area-51m laptop and the upcoming 55-inch 4K monitor are the first products to feature it. To understand what prompted Dell to re-think this new design strategy from the ground-up, Gadgets 360 also spoke to Justin Lyles, who’s the VP of Consumer Design and Experience at Dell.

“It was not customer feedback, it was an internal intuition,” Lyles says, explaining what prompted the overhaul. He adds that it was Azor who came to him nearly two-and-a-half years ago with the intention of completely overhauling Alienware’s design language.

 

“For the past six years, we’ve had products in the market with a certain identity, that was called ‘Epic’ at the time,” says Lyles. “When it first launched in 2012…very unique, [but] in the past five [to] six years, the whole industry has arrived at a very common recipe for gaming design. We see it [as] getting very dark in colour, very angular and geometric. So we decided that we need to step out of that. We need to redefine what Alienware can be…what the gaming industry is going to be in the future.”

Lyles tells us that the inspiration for ‘Legend’ design comes from “various industries like sporting athletic equipment, automotive architecture” but e-sports has also played a big role in arriving at this final look.

“On the LCD back [of the Area-51m], we have this giant graphic ‘A51′,” says Lyles. “That’s almost like the number on the back of a sporting jersey. The high contrast of the white and black for the Lunar Light version [is also] based on this competitive, aggressive, kind of bold, high-visibility kind of nature.”

“We fully expect a lot of the industry to follow our design cues very quickly, over the next couple of years,” he adds. “They’ll chase us again, we’ll jump again.”

Of course, being head of design for Dell means Lyles pretty much has his hands full in overseeing all consumer products, which brings us to some of the other new launches such as the new XPS 13 and the Inspiron 7000 2-in-1.

The new XPS 13 (9380) looks very similar to last year’s XPS 13 (9370) and the one that came before it. The highlight feature continues to be the three-sided thin bezel display. However, the new model for 2019 finally puts the webcam back on the top of the display, instead of the bottom.

Dell XPS 13 camera ndtv dell

The size difference between the older XPS 13 webcam (above) and the new one on the XPS 13 9380 (below) is huge

 

In order to do this, Dell created a new webcam measuring just 2.25mm, all in-house, which allowed them to place it in the narrow bezel on the top.

“Shrinking [the webcam] was half the battle. But maintaining the quality so it’s not grainy was another challenge,” explains Lyles. He tells us that the team started working on a solution more than two years ago and took a lot of back and forth to get the right balance between image quality and size.

The design of the new Inspiron 7000 2-in-1 is also something Lyles is very proud of. The new laptop has a cut-out in the hinge, which acts as a dock for Dell’s Active Pen and is held in place with the help of magnets.

Lyles explains that even though it might seem like a simple idea, the engineering needed to get it right was challenging. Also, since the laptop can be converted to a tablet, the pen had to be accessible in any usage orientation.

“That’s a very clever innovation,” says Lyles. It took the team just 12 months from conceptualisation to delivering a final product, ready to ship this year, which he considers a big achievement.

As we begin to wrap up our chat, we ask Lyles about what sort of new design innovation we can look forward to from Dell going ahead. “It varies based on different verticals. Alienware will always be about performance and how to get the best thermals,” says Lyles.

Building thinner laptop keyboards, while still maintaining good tactile response seems to be an ongoing design challenge. “The future could be haptic or a hybrid between mechanical and haptic keys, [but] you’ll see a lot of innovation in that space going forward,” he adds.

Disclosure: Dell sponsored the correspondent’s flights and hotel for the trip to CES, Las Vegas.

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Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) With 11th Gen Intel Core i9 Processor, 4K Mini LED Display Launched in India

Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) was launched in India on Monday. The laptop comes with an 11th-generation Intel Core i9 and features a 120Hz mini-LED display. It also carries Thunderbolt 4 ports and is equipped with DTS:X Ultra sound. Additionally, there are preloaded modes to deliver a customised performance experience. Acer initially unveiled the Predator…

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Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) With 11th Gen Intel Core i9 Processor, 4K Mini LED Display Launched in India

Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) was launched in India on Monday. The laptop comes with an 11th-generation Intel Core i9 and features a 120Hz mini-LED display. It also carries Thunderbolt 4 ports and is equipped with DTS:X Ultra sound. Additionally, there are preloaded modes to deliver a customised performance experience. Acer initially unveiled the Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) in the US. The laptop is aimed at hardcore gaming enthusiasts and PC gamers looking to play graphically demanding games.Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) price in India, availability detailsAcer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) price in India starts at Rs. 3,79,999. The laptop will be available for purchase in the country through the Acer Online Store, Acer Exclusive Stores, and other authorised retail stores.In August, the Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) was launched in the US with a starting price of $2,499.99 (roughly Rs. 1,88,600).Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) specificationsThe Acer Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) features a 17.3-inch 4K Mini LED display that is powered by an AUO AmLED technology and has a 120Hz refresh rate. Under the hood, the laptop has an overclockable 11th-generation Intel Core i9 processor (supporting up to 5.01GHz clock speed), along with Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU (16GB GDDR6 VRAM) and 64GB DDR4 3200MHz memory. The machine also has a pair of PCIe NVMe SSDs in RAID 0 and one SATA HDD. Further, there is a Vortex Flow technology that uses two fans, including a fifth-generation AeroBlade 3D Fan. The proprietary technology is claimed to help redirect airflow to critical components and boost performance during heavy gaming sessions.Acer has also provided its PredatorSense technology on the Predator Helios 500 that can be used to customise the light cluster and personalise keyboard using the built-in per-key RGB backlighting. The laptop also has the WASD key assembly that works with Acer’s MagForce keys and includes a MagTek mechanical switch to help gamers transform regular keypress functions into a joystick mechanism. This is claimed to gradually increase pressure on the key for precise control over the character’s / car’s speed – from the initial (0.8 mm), press all the way to full speed at 100 percent (3 / 3.1 mm) actuation.Connectivity options on the Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) include an HDMI 2.1, mini-DP1.4, two USB Type-C Thunderbolt 4, three USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports with offline charging support, and an RJ45 port. The laptop also has an Intel Killer E3100 Ethernet Controller, Intel Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650, and the Killer Intelligence Center for an enhanced connectivity experience.The Predator Helios 500 (PH517-52) includes DTS:X Ultra audio that helps provide a 360-degree surround sound experience using a pair of headphones or speakers.

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Nvidia to Launch RTX 2060 From 2019, Now With 12GB Memory, to Combat Global GPU Shortage

Nvidia has confirmed the reissue of the RTX 2060 but now with 12GB of VRAM, a GPU that was launched in 2019, as part of a move to alleviate sky-high prices of GPUs during the global chip shortage. The original Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card was released in 2019 and came with 6GB of memory.…

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Nvidia to Launch RTX 2060 From 2019, Now With 12GB Memory, to Combat Global GPU Shortage

Nvidia has confirmed the reissue of the RTX 2060 but now with 12GB of VRAM, a GPU that was launched in 2019, as part of a move to alleviate sky-high prices of GPUs during the global chip shortage. The original Nvidia RTX 2060 graphics card was released in 2019 and came with 6GB of memory. The company has announced that the renewed Nvidia RTX 2060 GPU with double the memory of the original model will soon be available, although pricing is yet to be announced.The company has announced the revised Nvidia RTX 2060 in the release notes for the company’s Game Ready Driver 497.00 that was launched on December 2. Nvidia has also listed the specifications on its website, revealing that the new GeForce RTX 2060 will feature a higher base clock speed and offers 2,176 CUDA cores, instead of the 1,920 cores found on the 2019 model.Power consumption is also higher at 185W, up from 160W on the older model, according to Nvidia. As previously mentioned, the GPU will also feature 12GB of memory, twice that of the RTX 2060 from two years ago. The specifications of the renewed RTX 2060 GPU suggest it could be positioned as an entry-level graphics card for gamers, in a market with a high demand for GPUs. The company has not provided a launch date, but The Verge reports that the GPU will be available from December 7.Earlier this year, Nvidia had announced that it would relaunch the GTX 1050 Ti and the RTX 2060, in an attempt to alleviate the problems caused by the global semiconductor shortage that has hit the computing industry. Over the past year, scalpers (who buy GPUs in bulk and sell them at a premium) and cryptocurrency mining have ensured that the prices of GPUs like the Nvidia RTX 3060 are high, while stocks are limited. The company is re-releasing older, lower-powered GPUs is to ensure graphics cards are available for those who need to purchase GPUs without waiting for restocks.

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Snapdragon 2022 Chips Coming for Chromebooks, Nintendo Switch, and Android Flagships

At the annual Snapdragon Tech Summit this week Qualcomm announced a new generation of chips under its Snapdragon branding. The showstopper was Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that is essentially an incremental update to last year’s Snapdragon 888 and is meant for next-generation flagship Android phones coming later this year and next year. The San Diego-based…

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Snapdragon 2022 Chips Coming for Chromebooks, Nintendo Switch, and Android Flagships

At the annual Snapdragon Tech Summit this week Qualcomm announced a new generation of chips under its Snapdragon branding. The showstopper was Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 that is essentially an incremental update to last year’s Snapdragon 888 and is meant for next-generation flagship Android phones coming later this year and next year. The San Diego-based company, however, also brought the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 as two of its new system-on-chip (SoC) models for Windows laptops and Chromebooks, and the Snapdragon G3x as its chip designed for handheld gaming devices.Host Akhil Arora speaks with Reviews Editor Jamshed Avari and Senior Reviewer Sheldon Pinto on this week’s episode of Gadgets 360 podcast Orbital to discuss Qualcomm’s new announcements.The big launch for phones at this year’s Snapdragon Tech Summit was the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC. The chip doesn’t have massive upgrades over the Snapdragon 888 that was launched last year. However, it does have some incremental changes that are claimed to help deliver better processing, faster artificial intelligence (AI) performance, and an upgraded graphics rendering.The one big change that comes with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is the new branding that moves away from the existing number series. This was obvious as Qualcomm was running out of numbers — thanks to the launch of various Snapdragon number-series models in the recent past. Qualcomm also seems to now be promoting Snapdragon as a distinct brand by using the new nomenclature.Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 carries an all-new branding that sans the company’s number-series titlePhoto Credit: Qualcomm Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 is also claimed to have some compelling features including an 18-bit image signal processor (ISP) that enables capturing of 8K HDR videos. There is also a new always-on ISP that Qualcomm says will help enable always-on face unlocking, and lock the device when you are not looking at the screen. This particular update may raise some privacy concerns though.Qualcomm has also developed an on-device AI technology in partnership with health-tech company Sonde Health that is claimed to analyse users’ vocal patterns to determine whether they are at risk of health conditions including asthma, depression, and COVID-19.The features that come with the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 may help Qualcomm retain its strong presence in the smartphone market in 2022 and make it an active competitor against Taiwan’s MediaTek that also has its Dimensity range of 5G chips.Alongside the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 SoC, Qualcomm unveiled the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 as its new chip for premium Windows laptops and Chromebooks. It comes as the successor to the Snapdragon 8cx Gen 2 and is built using the 5nm process technology. The chip claims to offer faster performance over competitive x86 platforms. The company also brought the Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 chip for affordable laptops and Chromebooks, along with 5G connectivity support.Both Snapdragon 8cx Gen 3 and Snapdragon 7c+ Gen 3 appear to be Qualcomm’s answer to Intel and AMD — the traditional chipmakers in the market of laptops. However, Qualcomm rival MediaTek is also exploring to gain both revenues and popularity in the laptop market with its own chips.And as a foray into a new market, Qualcomm introduced the Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 as its first chip for handheld gaming devices. This could be embraced by manufacturers looking to develop dedicated hardware for mobile gamers. Companies including Asus, Black Shark, and Nubia in the past tried to please that audience with their gaming phones. But Qualcomm seems to have taken a different approach this time.Qualcomm showcased a handheld gaming device concept in collaboration with Razer that it is giving to developers to build games for its new move. We are, though, yet to see how big the chipmaker and partners like Razer could do to make a shift in the gaming industry with their ongoing efforts.Snapdragon G3x Gen 1 Handheld Gaming Developer Kit is a concept of what we could see in the futurePhoto Credit: Qualcomm We discuss all this and more in this episode of Orbital. You can catch it by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.You can also find the Gadgets 360 podcast on Amazon Music, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Gaana, JioSaavn, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.Don’t forget to follow/ subscribe to Orbital wherever you’re listening. Please also rate us and leave a review.New Orbital episodes release every Friday, so make sure to tune in each week.

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