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Samsung’s Space Monitor is practical and minimal – TechCrunch

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Samsung always has a huge presence at CES, but it isn’t the giant TVs and flashy next-generation gadgets that have my attention this year; it’s this simple, flexible monitor that looks like it would be right at home in any workspace. It’s called the Space Monitor, presumably because it gives you space, not because it’s meant for use in space. I don’t see why you couldn’t, though.

What the Space Monitor does is very simple: it clamps to your desk and sits straight up from the edge — up against the wall if there is one — and takes up about as little space as it’s possible for a display to.

When you want to bring something closer, or lower, or just need to adjust the angle or whatever, the neck of the monitor lets you bring it down all the way to the level of your desk and tilt it up or down as well (though not side to side). Cables go up through the stand so you won’t see them at all.

Combined with very thin bezels on the sides (there’s a thicker, but still very reasonable one on the bottom) this makes for quite a minimal presence, and it could allow someone (like me) to shrink their workspace in some dimension or other. I like my Dell Ultrasharps, but if I was putting together a new desk situation, I’d probably look very hard at these Samsungs.

Sure, you could do a wall mount, but this is much easier and you don’t have to fiddle around with tools or load calculations. Just clamp it on there.

There are two models, a 27-inch QHD (2560×1440) model and a 32-inch 4K one (3840×2160); the latter costs $500, so the former will probably be a bit less. They use VA panels, which hopefully will be about as good as IPS, though of course not quite so good as OLED (though for that tech you’d have to add another zero to the price).

Only downside: 60 Hz maximum refresh rate. That’s a possible dealbreaker for some. But the specs also list a 4 ms response time, without explaining further. Perhaps I’ve misunderstood, but I asked Samsung to explain the discrepancy. The specs for the 27-inch display could also differ.

It feels nice to have a reason to visit the actual CES main halls this year. And of course, for the maximalists out there, I’ll also be sure to check out the mammoth new ultrawide:

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US declares Xiaomi a “Communist Chinese military company,” bans investments

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Enlarge / The Xiaomi Mi 11.

Xiaomi

The latest shot in the US Government’s war on leading Chinese smartphone vendors is directed at Xiaomi, which today has landed on the US government’s list of “Communist Chinese Military Companies” via a new executive order. The declaration makes it illegal for US citizens to own Xiaomi stock.

The US and China have been trading blows for a year and a half now over Huawei, which was added to the “entity list” by the US Department of Commerce. While on the entity list, American companies can’t collaborate with Huawei or export products to it. It becomes illegal for Huawei to import any product of “US-Origin.” US Origin doesn’t just mean products made in the US by US companies; there’s also a “viral” component to the law, where any product made internationally with some US-origin components also counts as a US-origin product.

While Huawei got an all-encompassing ban, it doesn’t look like Xiaomi is in the same boat right now. Huawei landed on the Department of Commerce’s entity list, while Xiaomi is now on the Department of Defense’s list of “Communist Chinese Military Companies” (Huawei is also on this list). The DOD designation seems to only ban US investment in Xiaomi, and any American stakeholders need to divest their holdings by November 11, 2021. (Xiaomi is a public company and had an IPO back in 2018.) The suffocating supply chain restrictions that apply to Huawei don’t (yet?) apply to Xiaomi.

The DOD says the list is meant to “highlight and counter the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Military-Civil Fusion development strategy,” which the government says is a plan to funnel advanced technology to the Chinese Military through “PRC companies, universities, and research programs that appear to be civilian entities.”

Xiaomi has issued a response on Twitter, saying it “is not owned, controlled, or affiliated with the Chinese military, and is not a “Communist Chinese Military Company” as defined by the NDAA” (the NDAA is the National Defense Authorization Act that gives the DOD the power to make this list).

The IDC has Xiaomi as the number 3 smartphone manufacturer worldwide, behind Samsung and Huawei, and a spot ahead of Apple. Xiaomi regularly pumps out high-spec, low-cost Android phones to compete in the cutthroat Chinese and Indian markets. It started life as an Apple clone maker, but today Xiaomi is one of the fastest movers in the industry and regularly beats bigger companies in shipping new technologies and components to the market. It shipped the world’s first Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 phone, the Xiaomi Mi 11, and it’s leading the charge in under-display cameras. Being Chinese is a market advantage for Xiaomi. A company like Apple has to have US designers communicate to Chinese manufacturing across a 12-hour time zone difference and a language barrier, while Xiaomi’s Chinese designers and Chinese manufacturers can communicate more easily and quickly, allowing the company to develop products faster.

As Xiaomi may be the number 3 smartphone manufacturer worldwide, any kind of ban on the company in the US isn’t going to do much. Years ago, Xiaomi gave hints about entering the US smartphone market, but it never had the stomach to go through with it and instead only launched the US version of Mi.com as a seller of small accessories. In the US, you can buy a Xiaomi Android TV box, headphones, security cameras, and battery packs, along with stranger things like air purifiers, light bulbs, and toy robots.

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Report: MagSafe will return in new Apple Silicon MacBook Pro models

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Enlarge / This is the 16-inch MacBook Pro as it’s being sold now. According to today’s report, the new one will generally look quite similar.

According to a report in Bloomberg, Apple plans to launch new versions of its MacBook Pro laptops “around the middle of the year,” and these machines will feature speed and display enhancements, as well as a return of the MagSafe charging design seen in MacBook computers several generations ago.

Citing “a person with knowledge of the plans,” the Bloomberg story claims that Apple’s 13-inch MacBook Pro will get a 14-inch successor, just as the 15-inch MacBook Pro became a 16-inch model when the screen bezel was reduced to allow more screen real estate in a similarly sized chassis.

Both the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro are slated for the middle of the year and will incorporate Apple’s custom silicon. The company first introduced its own silicon with the M1 chip included in November refreshes of the low-end 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and Mac mini. The new machines described today would have a successor to Apple’s M1 chip with more CPU cores and “enhanced graphics.”

While the overall design of the laptops is not expected to be significantly different from current models (beyond the screen size in the smaller MacBook Pro), there is one major design change that may please fans of Macs prior to the Touch Bar and USB-C redesign introduced a few years ago: the return of the MagSafe charger.

Mac laptops once had charging cables that slotted easily into their ports, thanks to magnets, and were intended to gracefully disconnect without tugging on the laptop if someone pulled the cord or tripped on it. Over the past few years, the company purged this feature from its lineup, but it introduced a related tech using the same name in its iPhone 12 lineup last year.

According to the report, the MagSafe connector in the new MacBook Pro models will have a similar shape to that of MagSafe connectors in Macs of old. It will also allow the laptops to charge faster than before. The report does note that the computers will still have multiple USB-C ports as well, though.

The new MacBook Pros are also said to have brighter displays with better contrast. This report doesn’t explain how Apple will achieve this exactly, but recent supply-chain rumors and analysts have been predicting that Apple will incorporate Mini LED displays in its upcoming machines, which would likely produce that result.

Bloomberg’s source also says that Apple has been testing versions of the laptops without the Touch Bar, which was introduced to the lineup a few years back. The Touch Bar is a strip-shaped touch screen at the top of the keyboard that replaces the function keys with either virtual versions of those keys or other, app-specific functions.

While many apps support the Touch Bar, some power users have complained that they are not always as convenient as physical keys.

Finally, the report ends with a footnote that Apple plans to also update the MacBook Air with a new design but that it won’t arrive as soon as the MacBook Pro updates. It doesn’t outline any details about the MacBook Air redesign.

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AMD claims new Ryzen 5000 mobile CPUs best Intel for gaming, content creation

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As expected, AMD took to the CES stage this week to announce new laptop CPUs. Most of the new Ryzen 5000 mobile family of chips share similarities with the desktop CPUs the company announced a few months ago, and they’ll start shipping with laptops from some of the bigger computer-makers in February.

The new chips are divided into two sub-families, both at least in part based on 7nm Zen 3 tech: there’s the H-series, which is meant for high-end, performance-oriented gaming and content creation notebooks, and the U-series, which takes aim at Intel’s dominance in the ultraportable space with a greater focus on power efficiency.

The lineup’s biggest lifters are the Ryzen 9 5980HX and 5980HS. The former is a gaming-oriented chip that will be unlocked for overclocking in some machines. The latter, meanwhile, is tuned more for laptops made for creatives. Both of these (and all but two of the chips in the Ryzen 5000 mobile family) sport eight CPU cores and 16 threads at up to 4.8Hz.

Here’s a chart including specs for all the chips announced, from AMD’s website:

The AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile lineup.
Enlarge / The AMD Ryzen 5000 mobile lineup.

The U-series lineup also includes 8-core chips, but as you can see, a couple 6-core ones are in there, too. While AMD has been making rival Intel’s life difficult in performance-oriented machines of late, Intel still dominates the ultraportable space (for now), so AMD is surely hoping to achieve some growth there. To that point, AMD claims that the 5800U can deliver almost 18 hours of battery life for normal use cases and up to 21 for video playback. (Intel announced its own laptop chips this week, too.)

On the gaming side, AMD says the 5900HX beats Intel’s Core i9-10980HK by more than 20 percent in 3DMark, which certainly seems plausible given what we saw on the desktop side—though it would of course be wise to wait and see benchmarks from someone other than AMD.

OEMs have already started announcing laptops with these chips, so we expect to see those illuminating benchmarks as early as next month.

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