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Acer ups its high-end game

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After a tough year in the notebook market, Acer aims to claw back market share with dazzling new devices aimed at the high-end, mid-range and entry-level gamer market, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

The personal computer market took a beating in 2016, but few felt it as painfully as Acer. The Taipei-headquartered company renowned for its slim notebooks and elegant 2-in1 devices has seen its market share slip from more than 10 per cent five years ago to below 7 per cent last year.

It’s bad enough that global PC sales also slumped over this period, meaning that Acer had a declining share of a declining market. In 2017, Acer is aiming for a reversal of fortunes on all fronts.

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At the Next@Acer launch event in New York last week, it launched a gaming notebook that, to the serious gamer, is a thing of eye-watering beauty. The Predator Triton 700 drew gasps of approval from the media, not least for new cooling technology that enabled it to pack the most power yet seen in a gaming laptop of its size.

It is just 18mm thick, but includes a 15.6-inch Full High-Definition monitor, the kind of mechanical keyboard preferred by gamers, a powerful 7th Generation Intel Core processor, the latest Nvidia GeForce GTX 10-Series graphics card, and up to 32GB of memory.

Normally, much of the space in the chassis would be taken up by the powerful fans needed to cool such a machine. However, Acer has ploughed research and development into cooling, and has used the Triton 700 to showcase the innovative dual AeroBlade 3D metal fans that increase airflow by 35 per cent, yet take up less space within the device.

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And you can see the fans in action: in its quest to make the device distinctive, Acer has placed the trackpad behind the keyboard, in the form of a transparent glass plate. In other words, the trackpad is a window into the insides of the machine.

If the Triton 700 turns gamers’ heads, it is likely only because they have managed to wrench their attention away from the new jewels in Acer’s Predator range of gaming hardware. The New York event saw the unveiling of two new 27-inch Predator gaming monitors, each more eye-catching than the other.

The Predator X27 brings absurdly high resolution to the gaming experience, using Nvidia’s G-Sync high-dynamic range (HDR) technology. The screen resolution is four times that of regular high-definition, hence the term 4K used to describe it, and it used Quantum Dot technology for better colour accuracy. Most importantly for gamers, it features a 144 Hz refresh rate, almost consigning motion blur to history.

Only fellow-Taipei manufacturer Asus has made an equivalent monitor, turning the high-end gaming display market into a two-horse race, at least for now. But that’s not the only trick Acer had up its sleeve.

It also unveiled a 27-inch curved monitor, the Predator Z271UV, which it says “puts every corner of the screen at the same distance from the gamer’s eyes – this creates more immersive gameplay with a wider field of view and increased perceived area of peripheral vision”.

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It also features Quantum Dot, which Acer explains in similar terms to that used by TV manufacturers: “With a Quantum Dot film that is coated with nano-sized dots of various types that emit very specific colored lights, the new displays can produce a wider color gamut compared to standard monitors, increasing color purity and efficiency.”

According to Victor Chien, president of the Digital Display Business at Acer, this makes gameplay more lifelike than ever before.

“The Predator X27’s 4K resolution at 144 Hz and Acer HDR Ultra technology create dazzling visuals that must be seen to be believed,” he said. “Acer’s new Predator Z271UV will also thrill gaming enthusiasts with its rich color gamut and immersive curved display.”

Does it just look good, or does it make for better gameplay? Acer says of the

HDR technology: “It not only delivers a broader, more deeply saturated color gamut, but a luminance range several times greater than that of traditional dynamic range monitors. By dimming the backlight behind parts of the screen displaying black, blacks appear deeper and darker on those parts of the panel, a significant bonus for people who play games with darker scenes.”

The monitors include eye-tracking technology, designed to complement a traditional keyboard and mouse: the camera automatically rotates as the gamer focuses on the sides of the screen.

“Pairing eye tracking with mouse and keyboard or gamepad controls offers a richer, more immersive gaming experience as gamers are able to mimic actions that occur in real life, such as ducking for cover or aiming at a target,” says Acer. So far, a hundred games support eye tracking.

Acer also announced a new entry-level laptop for casual gamers, but it is unlikely to be released in South Africa, with its small but hard-core gamer community. However, The Predator Triton 700 will arrive before long, at a price that is as eye-watering as the device: R34 999. Only serious gamers need apply.

A slightly more accessible device, the Predator Helios 300, also announced during Next@Acer, will arrive later in the year, starting at R25 999.

Designed for both gaming and movie watching, it offers 15.6-inch or 17.3-inch Full HD displays, while Dolby Audio Premium and Acer TrueHarmony promise “immersive audio with crisp, rich acoustics”. Running on Windows 10, it is certified for Skype for Business an includes Microsoft’s voice-activated Cortana smart assistant application.

Most of the new products were demonstrated in the IMAX theatre at New York’s Lincoln Square, featuring the largest IMAX screen in the world. While the message was not spelled out, it was clear that Acer hoped it would symbolise the company going large once again.

* For more information, visit www.acer.com/nextatacer

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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