Xbox One X inside

The latest Microsoft 2017 home game console, the Xbox One X, which features major hardware upgrades focused on enabling games to be rendered at 4K resolution, it’s really impressive, with a SoC of 6 Tflops power from AMD, 12GB GDDR5 and 1TB of inner storage.

Microsoft_Xbox_One_X_000

Really paves the future for the coming years, and faces face to face with its next and closest competitor, Sony’s PS4 Pro (with 4.2 Tflops).

Their acclaimed game controller, due its ergonomy and good response, can be also color tailored, and this Volcano Shadow Special Edition really looks pretty good:

Microsoft_Xbox_One_X_Volcano_controller

And for curiosity, you take a take a close look inside:

Xbox One X Console Explode Dark Gray

And there, you can easily identify the big efforts in RF shielding, Thermal management and board size optimization.

Apple iPhone X Design Evo

This year, and after ten years of iterations, Apple exceptionally released at same time two new devices: iPhone 8 and iPhone X (three if we count the 8 Plus variant).

iPhoneX_iPhone8_iPhone8Plus.jpg

We can really identify an evolution and a polish of their industrial design in the current most iconic product line as it is the ‘iPhone’.

Sir Jony Ive made several movements in material selection along the years:

  • iPhone 2G (soft Aluminium) [2007]
  • iPhone 3G (Polycarbonate) [2008]
  • iPhone 4 (Steel frame with back glass)  [2010]
  • iPhone 5 (Alum Series 6000)  [2012]
  • iPhone 6s (Alum Series 7000)  [2015]
  • iPhone 8 (Alum 7000 frame with back glass strengthened [but not shatterproof])
  • iPhone X (Steel frame with back glass strengthened [but not shatterproof]) [2017]

The iPhone 4 made the first milestone, introducing a precious design based solely on noble materials such as Glass and Steel:

iPhone4S

The users have seen the polishing of the original iPhone industrial design, making it Better, more simple, robust and elegant along the last years.

One step further, Apple introduced a fully unibody alum case making the device (iPhone 5) even more robust against falls and over time, and reaching the maximum expression of inner specs and nice design with the still available iPhone SE (2016). And still pretty loved small and handy 4″ screen iPhone for single hand usage.

iPhoneSE_Flying

But I would say this was until 2014 with the iPhone 6 introduction. It became slimmer and rounded but the introduction of the Back Camera Turret destroyed the beautiful job done until the iPhone 5s. I can understand the engineering trade-off’s and Apple’s eagerness to continuously improve its photographic system; but that doesn’t mean that the final solution was pretty inconvenient in terms of simply ID.

iPhone6s_flying

And in 2014 year, also the iPhone 6s Plus (the bigger iPhone made until today) was also presented, which due its size, also explained the fact of making the device thinner and rounded (despite the back turret); to avoid a feeling of having a mastodon in the hands of the end user.

iPhone6s

Personally, I have been a really fan lover of the Plus FHD 5.5″ screen, despite the fact that the overall device size was never as handy as other more compact smartphones with 5,2″ FHD screens. So, I was also always waiting to what happen this year with the iPhone X, a more compact device with a massive screen.

You can see how the 4″ size is not enough anymore nowadays, and how the design of the iPhone X with bigger screen fixed it (compared with also iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus models):

iPhoneSE_iPhone7_iPhone8.jpg

But coming back to the desing of the device itself, I would like to remark several things.

I was not a big fan of losing the 3.5″ analog audio jack (although, I think is a good movement to push the market to improve the wireless earbuds developments), but the iPhone 7 (2016) fixed several design holes of the previous generations.

iPhone7

First of all, the black matte color came back and due the new alloy and treatment processes, it was stronger against scratches, just perfect!

Secondly, the back camera turret design was embraced with the whole housing design, making of it something Smoother and Flowing more naturally to the lens, not like a ‘nut’ screwed into the housing. Look at it:

iPhone7Plus.jpg

Third, the plastic lines embedded in the housing for the RF antennas, were delicately re-designed and pushed to the side borders to go undetected. So beautiful and handy engineering trade-off solution, again very well done in both black color variants.

And last, but not less important, the Touch ID mechanical push button was fully removed, but keeping perfectly its functionality! I really love this change. Because it eliminated a mechanical piece, more or less delicate, and with a certain tendency to break with time, even maybe being very careful with it.

This made the most robust, powerful and reliable iPhone device until today.

But unfortunately, the history doesn’t end here, and in 2017 iPhone 8 and X, Apple decided to came back to back glass covers.

iPhone8_iPhoneX_iPhone8Plus.jpg

I understand the reasons behind for this movement: Inductive Charging feature introduction; as the main trend of Apple is to make its iPhone an fully ubiquitous device and fully cable loss dependent.

But this doesn’t mean that this marketing and engineering decision hard a tough impact in the design.

Now, we are again having a ‘nut’ embossed in the glass:

iPhone8.jpg

Which is even worse in the iPhone X, which straight turret is above 1mm height:

iPhoneX_flying.jpg

On top of that, the new “Space Gray” 2017 tone, is not dark/light enough gray, nor black, but some kind of slighly ‘ugly’ and a bit ‘dirty perception‘ gray tone, which makes it lose all the magic to the device. In the photos is not clearly noticeable, but in live it is, and loses many points in its favor; go to a shop and take a look yourself if you have the opportunity.

Another detail is that Apple bring back the frame made in Steell to the iPhone X (to differentiate further from iPhone 8), but I believe that the Alum alloy series 7000 continues being the best approach in terms of Hardness, Durability and Compensated weight for metal usage in smartphones:

iPhone8VSiPhoneX.jpg

And the worse is that the new back cover made in glass, and even reinforced, it is not shatterproof against falls. What, together with the higher back camera turrets, will make the need to use a cover more necessary than ever before, and not due the possible scratches of daily use, but to avoid instability on flat surfaces and possible glass breakages against falls.

Another problem of usability and perception is that the rear glass (despite being less slippery than the metal) is too warm and gives the impression of being cheaper and more bad than it really is; as it gives the feeling of being some kind of plastic material instead of glass, and not a premium material, something that back metal actually transmitted to the end user much perfectly.

iPhone8_Gold.jpg

Nor does it give it a feeling of being a Monolithic device, something that the previous iPhone 7 Jet Black model transmitted much better, despite its inherent problem of being prone to scratches or micro abrasions after some daily usage without any cover.

iPhone7_Jet_Black.jpg

I also personally think that the decission to avoid a black variant in 2017 was to avoid any possible reminiscences with the old iPhone 4 and any kind of annoying comparison with an obsolete device of seven years ago. Although another possibility is that Apple has a silver bullet for next year minor update, and they would introduce the Pure Black in the iPhone 2018 as a variant novelty, we’ll see. As this also happened in the past.

So, as conclusion, even if this year new devices are really great iPhones (I have not any doubt about it) and I know for sure that Apple will make another hit of sales; they didn’t move a step forward with respect pure to Industry Design, but management decided to focus on offering a truly exceptional photographic experience, putting aside the aesthetic details; at least until R&D can find a viable technical solution that puts everything all together: Photography + Wireless + Design

To end, my wish would be that in next years iPhone milestones, Apple solves the engineering issue for the wireless charging (keeping it, of course) but changing the back material to something more robust for daily use and without hiding its great industrial design under a case: Aluminum again, another metal alloy or maybe even any innovative material (a new kind of ceramic?); and also the back camera it becomes again completely flat maintaining all its spectacular functionalities 😉

P.S. By the way ,I did not want to put too much emphasis on the iPhone X’s notch (Face ID), or ‘ears’ as some people call them:

FaceID_TrueDepth-iPhoneX_a

because the idea (True Depth cameras technology) has been implemented in a so sublime way taking into account all the engineering trade-off’s, look by yourself the inners complexity (8 tiny and extremely complex electronic components putted together in a row and perfectly alligned along the millions of units to be made):

FaceID_TrueDepth-iPhoneX_b.jpg

This is again a big step ahead in the consumer electronics in terms of strong seamless security system; and anyone can not, and should not, neglect all the merit behind to bring it to market; because it is another milestone in the smartphone industry, as it was the Touch ID at 2012. And I know that Apple UX team will find the best balance (maybe after few iOS iterations) to use those couple of ears to simply show useful information to the user without making ugly the whole interface always, adapting them depending of the app being used, and without bringing back a useless bottom black band just to simply offer a full symmetrical design, which will again wrongly oversize the device, making it less handy.

Apple HomePod – Breaking Barriers

After sometime waiting something new from the big Apple, they surprised us again with a new product line to compete face-to-face with Google and Amazon.

Apple_HomePod_001

But in this case, it is slightly different. From CPU side, it is so powerful as an iPhone 6, as it uses the Apple A8 as main core. And from sound point of view, its woofer and seven-tweeter array disposed in 360º, will be able to cover perfectly a big room.

One of the cool things, besides Siri interaction is that this “smartspeaker” can be palced anywhere in the room, as it automatically analyzes the acoustics, adjusts the sound based on the speaker’s location, and steers the music in the optimal direction. Whether HomePod is against the wall, on a shelf, or in the middle of the room, everyone gets an immersive listening experience.

And from its inners, we can see again its delicious and exquisite arrangement of components:

Apple_HomePod_003

Something really amazing for what many people will consider only as a speaker:

Apple_HomePod_002

And of course, available in two different colors: Black and White, so finally an awesome and nice smart speaker which  you want to place in any spot of your room so that it looks good, and not to go unnoticed, quite the opposite. 😉

MSI Vortex – Radical Desktop Design

From time to time we see new desktop designs with some changes in their housing and approach, but this new MSI, really caught  my attention, reminding me so much the Mac Pro approach, but with a more aggressive design:

MSI_Vortex_001

It is not taller than 27cm and close to 4Kg weight, being quite compact and powerful for our desks.

In next image you can see a complete 3D exploded view of all its internals and how they are arranged; which is complex and awesome at same time:

MSI_Vortex_002

And also how is intented to dissipate all its inner heat generated:

MSI_Vortex_003

Simply, a tiny but powerful Beast 😀

Samsung Gear 360 (Looking inside)

It looks like 2016 will be the year of Virtual Reality explosion phenomenom and general availability for everybody, and not only for consumption of contents (glasses), but also for creation.

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_000a

And being a market that nobody wants to neglect, Samsung seems that will present they first product, interballly called as “Proyect Beyond” (started at 2014) but commertially as Samsung Gear 360 (SM-C200) in the next MWC 2016.

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_000b

It looks like very promising although the price is still not disclosed.

And we look inside, we can see the level of complexity that this “16 Full-HD + 1 Top camera” implies:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_000c

In the next images you can take a look of how it is build and all its inners parts. It looks like its assembly/dis-assembly will not be easy:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_001

Being though as portable system, Samsung engineer’s had to add up to 3 battery packs at bottom side:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_003

And thermically speaking, a big aluminum plate on top of the PCBA and cameras to dissipate the heat:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_004

We can also see the Ultra Wide-Angle Optics, composed by several lens, in each of the cameras:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_005

Then, after last year first aproach to VR from vendors, proposing their high resolution high-end smartphones screens to main screens for the VR glasses, this year, many user will be able to create their own VR videos and share them all over the world.

Ad here a prototype used for first Samsung field tests:

Samsung360_Proyect_Beyond_006

Let’s see how the people surprises us with their inner VR creativity! 🙂

Sega Mega Drive – 25th Anniversary

The electronics evolves by leaps and bounds, but today, 25 years ago, the first 16bits home console reached Europe.

It was the SEGA Mega Drive, a console which stills today have a cool and smooth mechanical design:

Sega_Mega_Drive_16bits_000

But what you can find even more interesting are its internals, look in next photo its inner mother board:

Sega_Mega_Drive_16bits_001

As you can see most of the IC’s were still through-hole devices, being the main CPU and GPU the only ones SMD chips; which were also even designed in-house, and some patch wire-wrapping too! 😀

Those days are already gone, but I still feel somewhat nostalgic when I look at this pre-historic electronics for someones 😉

Smartphones, Premium Materials,… and Cases?

Since the first smartphones with premium materials were released in the market with Glass, Metal, Leather, Wood, … I realized that something was changing, making these devices more personal, more human, and less commodity parts.

But since then, many smartphones models and manufacturers have joined the party, but most of them still have the same problem.

We still need to use (or are adviced to do it) a case or protector in case we can keep our daily devices as new as first day:

Samsung_S6_case

This is something that I really don’t understand and don’t like at all; which is the purpose of adding strengthen Glass front or back panels, Metal frames of even full metal unibody housings if at the end the feeling that I will have in my hands will be the touch of a soft, and common plastic?

Well, the good thing, is that I am not the only one realizing this situation, and some market players, as Apple and Jony Ive team, already began to solve it. But how, simply using more robust materials in their creations, as the latest iPhone 6s, which uses the strongest 7000 Series aluminum alloy for metal body and the strongest cover glass used on any smartphone in the world; using a special dual ion‑exchange process, which makes it stronger at a molecular level and the most durable in the smartphone industry.

iPhone6s

Of course, the research is still not over. I believe that current metal alloy is strong enough to avoid scratches and floor impacts, and even the screen is already strengthen to don’t worry anymore about having your keyrings and iPhone’s in the same pocket. Anyhow, even if I am not fully convinced about the total reliability of the front cover glass against floor fallings, I believe that Cupertino guys are going in the right direction and next iPhone generations (as the next iPhone 7 – 2016) and next ones, will be even more roboust enough to avoid using no more cases neither screen protectors at all in normal user cases.

But, of course, not only Apple is working in that direction, also Moto by Lenovo did it with their first Moto X Force with Shattershield display:

moto_x_force_0

And Motorola is so proud and convinced about it that the company will offer 4 years warranty on the screen of the device, and claimed they have spent 3 years developing this shatterproof screen; which has five layers to ensure its durability and are designed to absorb shock and protect the display from breaking:

moto_x_force_1

Basically, the first layer is an exterior protective glass which Moto says comes with a proprietary hard coat designed to guard against dents and abrasion, followed by an interior glass in the second layer to provide a clear protective shield. Then, there is a dual touch layer, which ensures that in case of an impact where the primary touch sensitive layer is damaged, the second one takes over to maintain touchscreen performance. The fourth layer is the AMOLED display, which Moto says can absorb shocks. And finally the fifth layer is the aluminum chassis, which provides structural integrity and durability.

New Technology may Double RF data capacity

In a more and mover crowded radio frequency spectrum and higher bandwidth requirements by all kind of wireless technology users: WiFi, Bluetooth, Cellular 3G/4G/5G, a new chip (called as CoSMIC) developed at the Engineering Department of Columbia University by a team of researchers leaded by Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Harish Krishnaswamy, has proven up to now, it had been thought to be impossible: Transmitters and Receivers working at same time in the same frequency band.

Full_Duplex_Chip

[Photo of the CoSMIC (Columbia high-Speed and Mm-wave IC) full-duplex transceiver IC that can be implemented in nanoscale CMOS to enable simultaneous transmission and reception at the same frequency in a wireless radio].

You can see below how typical works a TDD vs. FDD vs. Full-Duplex Radio system:

Half_vs_Full_Duplex

“This is a game-changer”, said Krishnaswamy, director of the Columbia high-Speed and Mm-wave IC Lab. “By leveraging our new technology, networks can effectively double the frequency spectrum resources available for devices like smartphones and tablets.”

The biggest challenge the team faced with full duplex was canceling the transmitter’s echo. Imagine that you are trying to listen to someone whispering from far away while at the same time someone else is yelling while standing next to you. But, if you could cancel the echo of the person yelling, you could also hear the other person whispering far away.

“If everyone could do this, everyone could talk and listen at the same time, and conversations would take half the amount of time and resources as they take right now,” explained Jin Zhou, Krishnaswamy’s PhD student and the paper’s lead author. “Transmitter echo or ‘self-interference’ cancellation has been a fundamental challenge, especially when performed in a tiny nanoscale IC, and we have found a way to solve that challenge”.

In following video, they demonstrate the world’s first mm-Wave same-channel full-duplex wireless link using Tolga’s 60GHz 45nm SOI CMOS full-duplex transceiver IC:

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The key innovation is that to cancel the transmitter self-interference with one part per billion accuracy, the chip needs to make a near-exact replica of the transmitter self-interference. This is hard to do especially because the transmitter self-interference or echo will distort and change as it reflects off objects in the nearby environment.

Krishnaswamy and Zhou plan next to test a number of full-duplex nodes to understand what the gains are at the network level. “We are working closely with Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Gil Zussman and his PhD student Jelena Marasevic, who are network theory experts here at Columbia Engineering”, Krishnaswamy mentioned.

This work was funded by the DARPA RF-FPGA program, and successfully shown with  in the Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2015 at San Francisco.