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Mobvoi launches new $200 smartwatch and $130 AirPods alternative – TechCrunch



Chinese AI company Mobvoi has consistently been one of the best also-rans in the smartwatch game, which remains dominated by Apple. Today, it launched a sequel to its 2016 TicWatch, which was a viral hit raising over $2 million on Kickstarter, and it unveiled a cheaper take on Apple’s AirPods.

The new TicWatch C2 was outed at a London event and is priced at $199.99. Unlike its predecessor, it has shifted from Mobvoi’s own OS to Google’s Wear OS. That isn’t a huge surprise, though, since Mobvoi’s newer budget watches and ‘pro’ watch have both already made that jump.

The C2 — which stands for classic 2 — packs NFC, Bluetooth, NFC and a voice assistant. It comes in black, platinum and rose gold. The latter color option — shown below — is thinner so presumably it is designed for female wrists.

However, there’s a compromise since the watch isn’t shipping with Qualcomm’s newest Snapdragon Wear 3100 chip. Mobvoi has instead picked the older 2100 processor. That might explain the price, but it will mean that newer Android Wear watches shipping in the company months have better performance, particularly around battery life. As it stands, the TicWatch C2 claims a day-two life but the processor should be a consideration for would-be buyers.

Mobvoi also outed TicPods Free, its take on Apple’s wireless AirPods. They are priced at $129.99 and available in red, white and blue.

The earbuds already raised over $2.8 million from Indiegogo — Mobvoi typically uses crowdfunding to gather feedback and assess customer interest — and early reviews have been positive.

They work on Android and iOS and include support for Alex and Google Assistant. They also include gesture-based controls beyond the Apple-style taps for skipping music, etc. Battery life without the case, which doubles as a charger, is estimated at 18 hours, or four hours of listening time.

The TicPods are available to buy online now. The TicWatch C2 is up for pre-sale ahead of a “wide” launch that’s planned for December 6.

Mobvoi specializes in AI and it includes Google among its investors. It also has a joint venture with VW that is focused on bringing Ai into the automotive industry. In China it is best known for AI services but globally, in the consumer space, it also offers a Google Assistant speaker called TicHome Mini.

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Intel’s 13th-gen “Raptor Lake” CPUs are official, launch October 20



Enlarge / An overview of the improvements coming to Intel’s 13th-gen desktop chips.


If there’s one thing Intel has gotten good at in the last few years, it’s refining a CPU architecture. Between 2015 and 2020, manufacturing troubles pushed Intel to release not one, not two, but five processor generations based on iterations of the sixth-gen Skylake core, while still managing to increase clock speeds and core counts enough to stay competitive through most of that timespan.

It’s an approach Intel is returning to for its 13th-generation Core CPUs, the first of which are being officially announced today. Codenamed Raptor Lake, Intel says it has made some improvements to the CPU architecture and the Intel 7 manufacturing process, but the strategy for improving their performance is both time-tested and easy to understand: add more cores, and make them run at higher clock speeds.

Intel is announcing three new CPUs today, each with and without integrated graphics (per usual, the models with no GPUs have an “F” at the end): the Core i9-13900K, Core i7-13700K, and Core i5-13600K will launch on October 20 alongside new Z790 chipsets and motherboards. They will also work in all current-generation 600-series motherboards as long as your motherboard maker has provided a BIOS update, and will continue to support both DDR4 and DDR5 memory.

Raptor Lake uses the hybrid architecture that Intel introduced in its 12th-generation Alder Lake chips last year—a combination of large performance cores (P-cores) that keep games and other performance-sensitive applications running quickly, plus clusters of smaller efficiency cores (E-cores) that use less power—though in our testing across laptops and desktops, it’s clear that “efficiency” is more about the number of cores can be fit into a given area on a CPU die, and less about lower overall system power consumption.

There have been a handful of other additions as well. The amount of L2 cache per core has been nearly doubled, going from 1.25MB to 2MB per P-core and from 2MB to 4MB per E-core cluster (E-cores always come in clusters of four). The CPUs will officially support DDR5-5600 RAM, up from a current maximum of DDR5-4800, though that DDR5-4800 maximum can easily be surpassed with XMP memory kits in 12th-generation motherboards.

The maximum officially supported DDR4 RAM speed remains DDR4-3200, though the caveat about XMP applies there as well.

Extra cache, faster memory speeds, and boosted clock speed are responsible for the single-threaded performance gains for the i9-13900K. Additional E-cores make the multi-core improvements much more significant.
Enlarge / Extra cache, faster memory speeds, and boosted clock speed are responsible for the single-threaded performance gains for the i9-13900K. Additional E-cores make the multi-core improvements much more significant.


As far as core counts and frequencies go, the Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs each pick up one extra E-core cluster, going from four E-cores to eight. The Core i9 gets two new E-core clusters, boosting the core count from eight all the way up to 16. All E-cores have maximum boost clocks that are 400MHz higher than they were before. P-core count stays the same across the lineup, but the maximum boost clock has been increased by 600MHz, 400MHz, and 200MHz for the Core i9, i7, and i5, respectively. As K-series chips, these are all unlocked for overclocking when used with Z690 or Z790 motherboards.

Launch pricing is going up by $30 for the Core i5 models, but staying level for the other two. As usual, Intel doesn’t include any CPU coolers with K- or KF-series chips. Here’s how each CPU stacks up to its predecessor:

CPU Launch MSRP P/E-cores Clocks (Base/Boost) Total cache (L2+L3) Base/Max Power
Core i9-13900K $589
$564 (F)
8P/16E 3.0/5.8 GHz (P)
2.2/4.3 GHz (E)
68MB (32 + 36) 125/253 W
Core i9-12900K $589
$564 (F)
8P/8E 3.2/5.2 GHz (P)
2.4/3.9 GHz (E)
34MB (14 + 30) 125/241 W
Core i7-13700K $409
$384 (F)
8P/8E 3.4/5.4 GHz (P)
2.5/4.2 GHz (E)
54 MB (24 + 30) 125/253 W
Core i7-12700K $490
$384 (F)
8P/4E 3.6/5.0 GHz (P)
2.7/3.8 GHz (E)
37 MB (12 + 25) 125/190 W
Core i5-13600K $319
$294 (F)
6P/8E 3.5/5.1 GHz (P)
2.6/3.9 GHz (E)
44 MB (24 + 20) 125/181 W
Core i5-12600K $289
$264 (F)
6P/4E 3.7/4.9 GHz (P)
2.8/3.6 GHz (E)
29.5 MB (9.5 + 20) 125/150 W

According to Intel, all of the changes together will boost the i9-13900K’s single-threaded performance by around 15 percent, with most of the improvement attributable to P-core clock speed increases. That’s short of the 29 percent AMD accomplished across the lineup with its Zen 4 chips, and it will be lower for the i7 and the i5. But it’s reasonably respectable for a year-over-year increase. Multi-threaded performance is where you’ll see the biggest gains, with the added cache, boosted clock speeds, and increased E-core counts all coming together to improve the i9-13900K’s performance by 41 percent compared to the i9-12900K (though, again, that number may be less impressive for the i7 and i5).

Since the manufacturing process is, at best, only improving modestly, the price you’ll pay for the extra clock speed and core counts is higher power usage. Intel is keeping the base power of these 13th-gen CPUs unchanged at 125 W, but the Maximum Turbo Power numbers have gone up quite a bit—the Core i9-13900K’s 253 W maximum is the maximum amount of power officially supported by the LGA1700 socket, though it’s possible that some high-end motherboards could let it go even higher.

The i9-13900K can be quite power-efficient compared to the i9-12900K, though its default configuration allows for higher power use overall.
Enlarge / The i9-13900K can be quite power-efficient compared to the i9-12900K, though its default configuration allows for higher power use overall.


But that doesn’t mean Intel is throwing power efficiency entirely out the window, either. When restricted to a 65 W base power, Intel says that the improvements to Raptor Lake will allow the chips to run multi-threaded workloads just as quickly as a Core i9-12900K running at 241 W. As has become the norm for these kinds of high-end parts, they will default to fast performance with high power usage, but users can rein them in if they want.

As for the accompanying Z790 chipset, it has a few improvements over the previous-generation Z690, but is likely nothing worth upgrading for if you’re already using a 600-series motherboard you like. The chipset now sports a total of 20 PCIe 4.0 lanes for SSDs and other accessories, plus eight PCIe 8.0 lanes—Z690 has 12 PCIe 4.0 lanes and 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes, so clearly Intel is just shifting the balance in the direction of the faster interconnect. Z790 also supports one additional 20Gbps USB 3.2 Gen 2×2 port, for a total of five, and removes support for basic USB 2.0 ports entirely. The platform’s PCIe 5.0 lanes for GPUs and next-gen SSDs are still built into the processor, not the chipset itself.

The Z790 chipset has more PCIe 4.0 lanes and 20Gbps USB ports than Z690. But if you have a 600-series motherboard you already like, it will probably get a BIOS update allowing it to support 13th-gen CPUs, and none of the improvements to Z790 are worth an additional purchase.
Enlarge / The Z790 chipset has more PCIe 4.0 lanes and 20Gbps USB ports than Z690. But if you have a 600-series motherboard you already like, it will probably get a BIOS update allowing it to support 13th-gen CPUs, and none of the improvements to Z790 are worth an additional purchase.


Intel didn’t announce any other 13th-generation CPU models today, but it teased that the standard range of chips would be following in the coming months—lower-wattage, lower-cost desktop parts, as well as laptop CPUs designed for everything from thin-and-light ultrabooks to bulky LED-festooned gaming laptops. Intel says that we can expect other desktop CPUs in the lineup to get more E-cores, too, something that previous rumors had already suggested. We’d expect to learn more about these chips at CES in January.

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Alienware QD-OLED monitor picks open standards over G-Sync, is $200 cheaper



Enlarge / Alienware’s latest QD-OLED monitor, the AW3423DWF.


Alienware announced today a new QD-OLED monitor SKU that looks awfully similar to the Alienware AW3423DW released for $1,300 this spring. The AW3423DWF has many of the same specs but skips Nvidia G-Sync certification and hardware in favor of AMD’s and VESA’s open standards for fighting screen tears, while costing $200 less than its predecessor.

Like the AW3423DW, the AW3423DWF uses QD-OLED technology from Samsung. This is a form of OLED that uses a blue self-emitting layer as its light source, which goes through a layer of quantum dots. The primary goal is better color coverage, including more consistent colors across brightness levels, combined with the deep blacks and incredible contrast for which OLED displays are known.

The 34.18-inch AW3423DWF and AW3423DW’s specs sheets match closely, including 3440×1440 resolution, an 1800R curve, 99.3 percent DCI-P3 and 149 percent sRGB color coverage, up to a 165 Hz refresh rate via DisplayPort and 100 Hz via HDMI 2.0, and 0.1ms gray-to-gray (GtG) response time.

But while the AW3423DW uses G-Sync Ultimate, which confirms 1,000 nits’ brightness with HDR in addition to fighting screen tears when paired with an Nvidia GPU, the new AW3423DWF uses AMD’s FreeSync Premium Pro and VESA’s AdaptiveSync standards.

There's ventilation around the back for heat dissipation.
Enlarge / There’s ventilation around the back for heat dissipation.


AMD’s FreeSync Premium Pro works with AMD GPUs, including those within the latest Xbox and PlayStation consoles. The Premium Pro qualifier confirms the feature works with HDR (the monitor is VESA DisplayHDR TrueBlack400-certified) and adds low frame rate compensation, which displays frames multiple times to make up for when frame rates fall under the monitor’s lowest supported refresh rate.

VESA announced its AdaptiveSync certification program in May. It includes testing for judder, dropped frames, and more strenuous GtG response time testing that looks at 20 GtG combinations.

VESA’s AdaptiveSync requires functionality with refresh rates from at least 60–144 Hz and a 5 ms GtG response time as per VESA’s testing. Support with Nvidia, AMD, and Intel graphics cards, meanwhile, simplifies the compatibility question.

Even before VESA announced its AdaptiveSync program, the lines between G-Sync and FreeSync were already diminishing somewhat, with many FreeSync monitors also being able to run G-Sync without Nvidia hardware and, thus, maintain lower prices.

By skipping Nvidia certification or using the G-Sync module, Alienware has a $200 cheaper QD-OLED monitor with largely the same performance expectations. When VESA announced the AdaptiveSync performance tier (there’s also a MediaSync one), the industry group acknowledged to Ars Technica that while this isn’t its goal, the tiers could lead to the end of GPU-specific flavors of variable refresh rates (VRR).

Alienware also threw in a couple of extra features with the new AW3423DWF, including purportedly improved cable management and a five-way joystick that can bring up different image modes, including a new Creator Mode that switches the color gamut to sRGB and lets you adjust gamma. However, at 149 percent sRGB color coverage, you’ll need to do significant calibration for color-critical work in this space.

Alienware also claims the new monitor will be easier to mount than the prior one, thanks to a slimmer profile. The AW3423DWF is 5 inches deep without the stand versus the AW3423DW’s 5.4 inches.

A peek at port selection, which includes one HDMI 2.0 port and two DisplayPort 1.4 ports.
Enlarge / A peek at port selection, which includes one HDMI 2.0 port and two DisplayPort 1.4 ports.


With a 21:9 aspect ratio that lends to black bars when console gaming at 16:9 and HDMI 2.0 connectivity maxing out at 100 Hz at the monitors’ max resolutions, neither QD-OLED display is the perfect fit for modern console gaming. However, the display should support VRR at up to 120 Hz on the Xbox Series X/S and PlayStation 5 at 2560×1440 resolutions.

Alienware will start accepting orders for the AW3423DWF this fall.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Editor’s note: This article originally stated that orders for the monitor would start on a specific date, but an Alienware representative reached out to Ars, saying that the company’s no longer providing a specific date for taking orders. 

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The Roomba j7+ learns to mop with a dramatic swing-arm setup



iRobot—soon to be owned by Amazon—is announcing a flagship Roomba with a new feature: It can vacuum and mop simultaneously. Meet the Roomba Combo j7+, a $1,100 combo cleaning robot that ships on October 4.

iRobot is not doing a ground-up redesign of the j7+ series to add mop functionality. In fact, the update almost looks like a retrofit. The new j7 looks just like the old j7 with a camera in the front, a big dust bin in the back, and a bottom layout that is almost identical to the old bot. There’s a new dust bin and… is that a rear spoiler?

The mop functionality lives on the top (yes, the top) of the j7+, which has a big rear cutout now. The top of this cutout is plastic, and the bottom is the wet mop pad, which is connected to the robot by two side arms. When it’s time to do some mopping, a dramatic, Transformers-like transition occurs. Two flaps on the side of the Roomba open up, revealing that the top mop cutout is actually connected to the robot by a pair of swing arms. The cutout section on top of the robot is lifted up and swings down and under the robot in a big, 180-degree motion. Now you’re dragging a wet mop pad across the floor with minimal changes to the layout of the j7+.

It doesn’t sound like the j7+ will provide iRobot’s top-of-the-line mopping experience, which will still belong to the purpose-built Braava Jet M6. iRobot’s dedicated mop bot beats the j7+ because about 50 percent of the Braava’s body is a water tank, and it has a front water sprayer. The j7+ has a redesigned dust bin that is now a dust and water combo tank. The dust area is smaller to make way for a 210ml water tank. That means way less dust capacity, but that doesn’t really matter since the Roomba will just visit the base station to get cleaned out anytime the bin is full.

The mop raising in action. When it’s time to go over a carpet, the mop swings up to the top of the robot, so it will never get your carpet wet.


The state of the art in combo cleaning robots is probably the $1,400 Roborock S7 MaxV Ultra or $1,550 Ecovacs Deebot X1 Omni, both of which have a dust bin and water tank in the robot, along with a giant base station that empties the robot of dust, fills it with fresh water, and then washes the mop and stores the wastewater in a separate tank. iRobot has a long way to go to catch up to that.

The swing-arm setup looks cool, but you have to wonder about its longevity. These robots take a lot of abuse by bumping into everything and constantly dealing with dust—it’s just the nature of the job. That large motion requires a ton of small moving parts and tiny pivot points. Something like a Roborock, by contrast, just has a mop permanently affixed to the bottom of the robot, and the mop setup is on a variable-height suspension, so it can be lifted up slightly to avoid touching carpet. That works for thinner carpets, but if you have a serious pile going on, the robot can sink down too far and get your carpet wet. iRobot says the swing arm setup is designed to avoid that.

iRobot’s press release throws some shade at the competition, saying, “Other 2-in-1 mops lift only a few millimeters—if at all—and, as a result, can leave wet messes on many carpets or rugs. The Roomba Combo j7+ is the only 2-in-1 with a mop that lifts itself to the top of the robot, completely away from carpet and rugs. Two fully retracting, durable, metal mop arms raise the mop pad when the robot senses carpet and rugs, preventing unwanted wet messes.”

The new combo bot is up for preorder now.

Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Listing image by Roomba

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