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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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Millennials turning 40: NOW will you stop targeting them?

It’s one of the most overused terms in youth marketing, and probably the most inaccurate, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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One of the most irritating buzzwords embraced by marketers in recent years is the term “millennial”. Most are clueless about its true meaning, and use it as a supposedly cool synonym for “young adults”. The flaw in this targeting – and the word “flaw” here is like calling the Grand Canyon a trench – is that it utterly ignores the meaning of the term. “Millennials” are formally defined as anyone born from 1980 to 2000, meaning they have typically come of age after the dawn of the millennium, or during the 21st century.

Think about that for a moment. Next year, the millennial will be formally defined as anyone aged from 20 to 40. So here you have an entire advertising, marketing and public relations industry hanging onto a cool definition, while in effect arguing that 40-year-olds are youths who want the same thing as newly-minted university graduates or job entrants.

When the communications industry discovers just how embarrassing its glib use of the term really is, it will no doubt pivot – millennial-speak for “changing your business model when it proves to be a disaster, but you still appear to be cool” – to the next big thing in generational theory.

That next big thing is currently Generation Z, or people born after the turn of the century. It’s very convenient to lump them all together and claim they have a different set of values and expectations to those who went before. Allegedly, they are engaged in a quest for experience, compared to millennials – the 19-year-olds and 39-olds alike – supposedly all on a quest for relevance.

In reality, all are part of Generation #, latching onto the latest hashtag trend that sweeps social media, desperate to go viral if they are producers of social content, desperate to have caught onto the trend before their peers.

The irony is that marketers’ quest for cutting edge target markets is, in reality, a hangover from the days when there was no such thing as generational theory, and marketing was all about clearly defined target markets. In the era of big data and mass personalization, that idea seems rather quaint.

Indeed, according to Grant Lapping, managing director of DataCore Media, it no longer matters who brands think their target market is.

“The reason for this is simple: with the technology and data digital marketers have access to today, we no longer need to limit our potential target audience to a set of personas or segments derived through customer research. While this type of customer segmentation was – and remains – important for engagements across traditional above-the-line engagements in mass media, digital marketing gives us the tools we need to target customers on a far more granular and personalised level.

“Where customer research gives us an indication of who the audience is, data can tell us exactly what they want and how they may behave.”

Netflix, he points out, is an example of a company that is changing its industry by avoiding audience segmentation, once the holy grail of entertainment.

In other words, it understands that 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds are very different – but so is everyone in between.

* 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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Robots coming to IFA

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Robotics is no longer about mechanical humanoids, but rather becoming an interface between man and machine. That is a key message being delivered at next month’s IFA consumer electronics expo in Berlin. An entire hall will be devoted to IFA Next, which will not only offer a look into the future, but also show what form it will take.

The concepts are as varied as the exhibitors themselves. However, there are similarities in the various products, some more human than others, in the fascinating ways in which they establish a link between fun, learning and programming. In many cases, they are aimed at children and young people.

The following will be among the exhibitors making Hall 26 a must-visit:

Leju Robotics (Stand 115) from China is featuring what we all imagine a robot to be. The bipedal Aelos 1s can walk, dance and play football. And in carrying out all these actions it responds to spoken commands. But it also challenges young researchers to apply their creativity in programming it and teaching it new actions. And conversely, it also imparts scholastic knowledge.

Cubroid (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Korea starts off by promoting an independent approach to the way it deals with tasks. Multi-functional cubes, glowing as they play music, or equipped with a tiny rotating motor, join together like Lego pieces. Configuration and programming are thus combined, providing a basic idea of what constitutes artificial intelligence.

Spain is represented by Ebotics (Stand 218). This company is presenting an entire portfolio of building components, including the “Mint” educational program. The modular system explains about modern construction, programming and the entire field of robotics.

Elematec Corporation (Stand 208) from Japan is presenting the two-armed SCARA, which is not intended to deal with any tasks, but in particular to assist people with their work.

Everybot (Stand 231, KIRIA) from Japan approaches the concept of robotics by introducing an autonomous floor-cleaning machine, similar to a robot vacuum cleaner.

And Segway (Stand 222) is using a number of products to explain the modern approach to battery-powered locomotion.

IFA will take place at the Berlin Exhibition Grounds (ExpoCenter City) from 6 to 11 September 2019. For more information, visit www.ifa-berlin.com

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