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Asus ZenFone 3 Release Date, Price and Specs – CNET

With the new ZenFone 3, Asus has come a long way in handset design. Where previous models sported plastic bodies, the newly revamped ZenFone 3 series of phones — which also includes the high-end ZenFone Deluxe and big screen ZenFone Ultra — comes packing premium materials such as glass and aluminum.

In particular, the midrange ZenFone 3 has a beautiful glass design that’s reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S7, especially the rear camera, while sporting curves that are somewhat similar to the iPhone 6S. If anything, it seems that Asus has taken the best of both designs and combined them into what should be a relatively affordable device.

The Asus ZenFone 3 will have a starting price of $249 (around £170 or AU$350) for the 3GB RAM and 32GB onboard storage model. It seems very competitively priced and will be launched globally in Q3, so expect to see the phones in July or later.

Asus ZenFone 3 gets a beautiful new glass…
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Brand new hardware

The ZenFone 3 is the first device to sport Qualcomm’s new 14 nanometer Snapdragon 625 octa-core chip, and the one thing you need to know about this new chip is that it is a lot more power-efficient than the previous model, Asus says — by up to 35 percent due to a new manufacturing process.

That’s a good thing, and seeing how the previous Snapdragon 600 range of processors have usually held up well in terms of performance, the new 625 should do well too.

The ZenFone 3 doesn’t skimp on the other aspects of the hardware, either. It packs a full-HD 5.5-inch IPS display (1,920×1,080 pixels), up to 4GB and 64GB of onboard storage, a fingerprint sensor on the back and USB Type-C support.


The 16-megapixel rear camera of the ZenFone 3 sits just above the rear fingerprint sensor.

Aloysius Low/CNET

Shooting capabilities

Midrange devices usually chuck in a pretty good camera and leave it at just that, but Asus couldn’t help but up the ante. The ZenFone 3 adds four-axis optical image stabilization to its 16-megapixel rear camera and it’s rare to see such a feature in this price category. It means that photos will be more in focus when there’s motion, like jittery hands or a strong breeze. On the front, you get an 8-megapixel shooter for selfies.

Key specs

  • 5.5-inch display, full HD resolution (1,920×1,080 pixels)
  • 3,000mAh battery
  • Dual-SIM 4G support
  • New Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core processor
  • Five magnet speaker and NXT amp
  • Four colors: Gold, Blue, Black and White

Asus has done a very good job in revamping its ZenFone line. From the looks of it, we won’t be plagued by a wide range of similar devices with just minor spec changes like with the ZenFone 2 lineup.

Instead, Asus told me that it will keep such variation low by injecting the higher-end Deluxe and larger Ultra. It’ll be interesting to see how these pricier phones will affect Asus’ marketshare in emerging markets hungry for cheaper handsets.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a review unit. I’m impressed with the ZenFone 3’s promise, and this new phone reassures me that Asus still has plenty of room to grow in the future.


The new Asus ZenFone 3 packs impressive features into its beautiful new glass body.

Aloysius Low/CNET


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Mercedes-Benz C220d AMG Line Coupe first drive: Covering all bases

What’s in a name? For their medium-sized executive coupes, both Audi and BMW have chosen to position their more sporting offerings as stand-alone to the saloon versions, with the respective A5 and 4-Series. That means a different name and different styling.

Mercedes? Well, despite a sometimes bewildering array of CL- and SL- models which have all just been renamed, the coupe version of the C-Class doesn’t become the CLC, it’s still just a C-Class coupe. Shortly, you’ll be able to get a cabriolet too.

But this is our first drive of the C-Class coupe on UK soil. Plus we got our hands on what’s likely to be the biggest-selling version: the C220d in sporting AMG Line trim. Priced from £30,995, the range includes C200, C300 and C63 AMG petrols as well as this C220d and the higher-powered C250d diesels.

The C220d is just the sort of car that higher-end company car drivers will like. It produces 170bhp, but more importantly 400Nm of torque, which makes it feel a lot faster than it sounds. Both 6-speed manual and 9-speed automatic gearboxes are available, and there’s no CO2 penalty for choosing either — both kick out an impressively low 106 g/km of CO2 which makes them benefit-in-kind tax friendly. That potentially makes the C-Class far more attractive than a BMW 420d (124g/km CO2) or an Audi A5 2.0 TDI ultra, which although close at 109g/km is less powerful.


Our test car featured the automatic gearbox, which always feels a lot more suited to the Mercedes approach to life than a 6-speed manual. It gives a suitably easy, waft-like drive. If that makes the C-Class coupe sound like it’s a bit of soft barge to drive, that’s not exactly true. This car’s ace card is its ability to cosset and smooth road imperfections, while at the same time being quite “up for fun” when you pick up the speed on a country road. And laying some weight to the idea that if feels punchier than its on-paper figures, you always seem to be travelling 10-15 miles per hour faster than you expect to be.

A look at the spec sheet of our car gives a key clue to the way this car drives — it includes the steering, transmission and suspension package (an £895 option). It includes airmatic suspension which self-levels the car, and variable dampers which can firm or soften things up. It works very well, but it made us curious as to what a regularly sprung and damped C-Class would be like.

Inside the C220d AMG it’s no surprises if you’ve already seen the new C-Class saloon or GLC interior. Which means to say that it feels much fresher than an Audi A5 and much more special than a BMW 4-Series. You still need to spend extra to get the larger, 8.4-inch Comand online system, but we’re big fans and think it’s worth it.

Here the Comand system was bundled as part of Mercedes’ Premium Plus package, which for a fiver short of £3k also brings a Burmester stereo, keyless go, memory seats and a panoramic glass roof. If you don’t feel like you need all of those bits, Comand is available as a standalone option for less money. Combined with the grey leather upholstery option (£795) and leather upper dash and door beltline (£400) on our car, it makes for an extremely pleasant place to while away the time.


And even if you don’t want to go shelling out on options, the C-Class coupe is a well-equipped car. LED headlamps, sports seats, DAB radio, 19-inch alloys and Artico leather seats are all things you might expect to spend extra for on a Merc. But not here. If you wanted this specific model, you could maybe add the Airmatic handling pack and Comand, then for a shade under £40k this would be a car that wants for very little in terms of performance or equipment.

It looks impressive too. Well, with the exception of the odd, contrast chrome strip running along the underside of the front bumper, which clashes with our car’s blue metallic paint. The C-Class coupe is an elegant shape; longer than the car it replaces, with a longer wheelbase for a better ride and more rear legroom.

Although it’s called a C-Class, the differences compared to the saloon are similar to those of a BMW 4-Series relative to a 3-Series. The C-Class Coupe is noticeably lower and wider-looking than the saloon — and in terms of the body panels, it shares only its front wing and bonnet.

First Impressions

With many buyers of this type of car looking for a premium badge, elegant looks, a refined drive and high levels of efficiency with decent performance, the C-Class coupe is a car that has all the bases covered. More than that, it appeals to both heart and head, too.


ASUS’ ZenBook 3 is thinner, lighter and faster than the MacBook

How much more can ASUS shave off of the ZenBook, its flagship ultraportable? Apparently, quite a bit. The company’s new ZenBook 3, announced today at Computex, clocks in at just 2 pounds and 11.9mm (0.46-inches) thick. In comparison, the previous ZenBook UX305 weighed 2.64 pounds and was 12.9mm thick (0.51-inches). Sure, those might just seem like incremental improvements, but they’re remarkable when you consider just how insanely thin and light the previous model was. Most impressively? The ZenBook 3 just barely edges out Apple’s svelte MacBook, which weighs 2.03lbs and is 13.2mm (0.52-inches) thick, all the while packing in a larger 12.5-inch display.

ASUS attributes the ZenBook 3’s weight loss to a new “aerospace-grade aluminum alloy,” which it says is 40 percent stronger than what’s typically used in laptops. Honestly, that just sounds like marketing fluff, but there must be something special about the laptop’s new material to lose 0.6 pounds from the last gen. ASUS is still sticking with its “spun metal” style, so hopefully you’re a fan of the concentric metallic rings on its cases. It’ll be available in “Quartz Grey,” “Royal Blue,” and the seemingly ubiquitous “Rose Gold.”

Unlike the MacBook, the ZenBook 3 won’t be under-powered. At the top end, you’ll be able to configure it with an Intel Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM and a 1TB PCIe SSD (which should be faster than a typical SATA drive). The display is covered in Gorilla Glass 4, and it looks like Asus was also able to slim down the bezel (now it covers 82 percent of the laptop’s front). The ZenBook 3 packs in a Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port for charging (which it says can juice the laptop’s battery up to 60 percent in 49 minutes), and it should last around 9 hours of typical battery life. As for cooling, Asus says it’s developed the “world’s thinnest” fan at just 3mm. There’s also a built-in fingerprint sensor with Windows Hello support.

In my brief hands-on time with the ZenBook 3, after wrestling through the crowds at Computex, I can confirm that it’s seriously thin and light. ASUS’ numbers don’t lie — it definitely feels on-par with Apple’s MacBook. I didn’t feel much of a difference with the new metal case, compared to older ZenBooks, but it still felt sturdy, with little flex when I tried to bend the laptop. After handling it, I’m even more impressed that ASUS managed to cram a Core i7 processor into such a thin case.

Unfortunately, the ZenBook 3’s keyboard feels incredibly shallow, to the point where I couldn’t imagine using it to type much. That’s particularly strange, since ASUS made a big deal about having even more key travel space than the MacBook. From what I can remember, though, the MacBook’s keyboard simply felt better.

The ZenBook 3 will start at $999 with a Core i5 processor, 4GB of RAM and 256GB SSD. Stepping up, you can get it with a 512GB SSD for $1,499, and you can add a Core i7 processor, 1TB SSD and 16GB of RAM for $1,999. ASUS isn’t talking about availability details yet. We’ll definitely be paying attention to this ultraportable.


ASUS’ latest Transformers take heavy cues from Microsoft’s Surface

ASUS has just unveiled a line of new Transformer 2-in-1 PCs that look suspiciously like a certain product from Microsoft. With their touchscreens, kickstands and portable keyboards, they do remind us a lot of, you guessed it, the Surface. And, of course, they all run Windows 10, which makes the Surface connection even more undeniable. Of the new announcements, the Transformer 3 Pro is the most advanced of the lot, the Transformer 3 sits somewhere in the middle, while the Mini is the lightest.

Both the Transformer 3 Pro and the Transformer 3 have a 12.6-inch display with a 2880 x 1920 resolution and 275 ppi pixel density. There are other similarities as well: Both feature USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 connections, Harmon Kardon speakers, and USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. They both also have built-in fingerprint readers. As you might expect, both 2-in-1s are also compatible with ASUS accessories such as the Pen, a Universal Dock, an AudioPod (a quad speaker with surround sound) and the ROG XG Station 2, a graphics dock that gives the humble tablet PC the power of a desktop computer (and it’s VR-ready to boot!). Both tablets are available in Icicle Gold as well as Glacier Gray.

Of the two, the Transformer 3 Pro is the heftier one at 8.35mm thick. Its kickstand has a “stepless hinge” that lets you set the device at any viewing angle up to 170-degrees. The 3 Pro also comes with a Cover Keyboard that’s backlit and offers “laptop-grade 1.4mm key travel” which ASUS says will provide a typing experience similar to that of a normal-sized notebook. It also boasts an Intel Core i7 processor and up to 1TB PCIe x4 SSD and 16GB of 2133MHz RAM. It has a 13-megapixel rear camera plus a front-facing one as well.

While the Transformer 3 has the same display size as the Transformer 3 Pro, the 3 is thinner and lighter with a thickness and weight of 6.9mm and 695 grams respectively. The Transformer 3 features a 7th generation Intel Core processor plus up to 512GB SSD and up to 8GB of RAM. Its display stand is not quite as flexible, with only two positions. It ships with a Transformer Sleeve Keyboard, also with 1.4mm of key travel and is available in the same four colors as the Cover Keyboard (Stone, Charcoal, Taupe, and Amber).

If you think both of these tablets are just too big for your tastes, ASUS also offers the Transformer Mini. It has a 10.1-inch display, is 8.2mm thin and weighs 790 grams with the keyboard attached and 530 grams without. Like the Transformer Pro 3, it also has an integrated kickstand with that stepless smart hinge design that lets you view it at any angle you like. It too has a built-in fingerprint reader.

The keyboard is a little smaller with 1.5mm key travel but it does have an integrated palm rest. Other features include a ZenSync smartphone integration that lets you sync up your text messages much in the same way you can with iOS and OS X El Capitan. The Transformer Mini and keyboard will ship in a variety of different colors such as Quartz Gray, Pearl White, Amber, Mint Green and Icicle Gold.

Pricing for the ASUS Transformer 3 Pro starts at $999 while the Transformer 3 will start at $799. No word on availability just yet, but we’ll update you when we know.


ASUS ZenFone 3 looks and feels twice its price

Intel may have already quit the smartphone market, but its buddy ASUS continues to fight the good fight with a slightly different approach this year. At Computex, the Taiwanese giant announced not just one, but three new Android M smartphones: ZenFone 3, ZenFone 3 Deluxe and ZenFone 3 Ultra. These share a common design language, though in our opinion, it’s the $249 base model that has the best appearance thanks to the 2.5D Gorilla Glass on both sides, as well as the spun-metal finish on the back (underneath the glass). Together, these work well with any of the four color options: “Shimmer Gold,” “Aqua Blue,” “Sapphire Black” and “Moonlight White.” The sandblasted metallic frame around it adds a nice touch, too.

While the ZenFone 3 doesn’t feature Qualcomm’s top chipset, it’s the first phone to officially pack the mid-range Snapdragon 625 which is based on a 14nm process and has eight Cortex-A53 cores capped at 2 GHz, so its 3,000 mAh battery should last quite some time. You also get Cat 6 LTE (300 Mbps downlink, 50 Mbps uplink), dual-SIM support (one Micro SIM and one Nano SIM), 802.11ac MU-MIMO WiFi, Bluetooth 4.2 and a mid-range Adreno 506 GPU as part of the package. The aforementioned $249 price point offers 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage, and you can add more storage with a microSD card via the second SIM slot.

Like its plastic predecessor, this model features a 5.5-inch 1080p IPS screen, though its speaker at the bottom has been upgraded with a loud “5-magnet” driver powered by an NXP smart amp, and it’s Hi-Res Audio-certified for headphone output. Next to the speaker you’ll find a USB Type-C port — a first for ASUS phones — with USB 2.0 connectivity. Another addition is the new fingerprint sensor on the back, where it doubles as the center of the spun-metal finish.

The cameras play a big part on the ZenFone 3. The main one is now powered by Sony’s 16-megapixel IMX298 sensor (as featured on the Xiaomi Mi 5, Huawei Mate 8, Vivo Xplay5 and Oppo R9 Plus) with f/2.0 aperture, second-gen laser autofocus, phase detection autofocus, color-correction RGB sensor, dual-tone LED flash, 4-axis optical stabilization for stills and 3-axis electronic stabilization for video. Alas, the trade-off here is that you’ll have to make-do with the camera bump.

The same old low light mode (combines four pixels into one to boost sensitivity) and super resolution mode (produces 64-megapixel shots) are here to stay, and you can do long exposure of up to 32 seconds or even play with the full manual mode. As for the front imager, it’s now an 8-megapixel camera with an 85-degree wide view, and the usual beautification features are there for you selfie addicts.

The fancier ZenFone 3 Deluxe looks similar to the base model, except it uses a subtly curved metal unibody instead of a glass back, and ASUS is somewhat proud of the fact that it’s managed to hide most of the plastic antenna bands, leaving just a bit on the chamfer. For the sake of consistency, the spun-metal look is applied to the ear pillow and the chin instead of the back. It also uses a 5.7-inch 1080p Super AMOLED display instead, thus offering 100-percent NTSC color space, as well as enabling an always-on screen feature for some handy information.

As you’ve probably guessed, the ZenFone 3 Deluxe is powered by a Snapdragon 820 so it also does Cat 13 LTE with tri-band carrier aggregation (150 Mbps uplink), USB 3.0 connectivity and Quick Charge 3.0. It also has a sharper camera; in fact, it’s the first smartphone to use Sony’s 23-megapixel IMX318 sensor, and apart from the added 4K video recording support plus the fact that the super resolution mode has been bumped up to 92 megapixels, the feature set is otherwise identical to that on the ZenFone 3. Starting at $499, you get 6GB of RAM plus 64GB of UFS 2.0 internal storage, and there’ll be a 256GB variant arriving later.

Last but not least, the big daddy that is the ZenFone 3 Ultra is a 6.8-inch phablet with a 1080p LCD (95-percent NTSC gamut), a PixelWorks iris2+ TV grade processor (for optimized 4K playback), two speakers at the bottom and DTS Headphone:X 7.1 surround sound (a world-first, apparently), so it’s clearly made with multimedia entertainment in mind. As a bonus, there’s a larger 4,600 mAh battery that can act reverse charge other devices over a 1.5A current.

To keep it relatively affordable ($479 with 4GB RAM and 64GB storage), though, the ZenFone 3 Ultra uses just an octa-core Snapdragon 652 (which is slightly more powerful than the ZenFone 3’s chipset) so there’s no USB 3.0 here, but you still get Cat 6 LTE, 802.11ac WiFi and Quick Charge 3.0. The cameras are also identical to those on the ZenFone 3 Deluxe, and the fingerprint reader is here to stay, though it’s been moved from the back to below the screen. Not bad at all for this price point, so it’s just a matter of whether you are fine with carrying such a beastly phone.

We’ll be keeping an eye out for release dates for all three models. Until then, stay tuned for our hands-on.


Make music with the Large Hadron Collider through a web app

Now that music has come to the Large Hadron Collider, it’s time for the giant science ring to make some music of its own. Meet Quantizer, a project from students Juliana Cherston and Ewan Hill that turns the ATLAS experiment’s many, many particle collisions into music. The web app grabs data (in real-time when possible), cleans it up and maps it to musical notes. After that, it’s just a question of the style you want to hear. There are cosmic sounds if you prefer an ambient vibe, or house music if you’d like something a little more dance-worthy.

One peek at Quantizer and you’ll know that it’s fairly limited right now. You can’t hand-pick the data you want to turn into music, and you’ll have to contact the creators if you want to be more adventurous. Even so, this is a clever way to translate raw scientific data into something more approachable.


Source: Quantizer


ASUS’ Zenbo robot walks, talks and controls your home

ASUS chairman Jonney Shih took to stage to announce something a little different, if completely on trend: a home robot. “Our ambition is to enable robotic computing for every household,” he said before revealing ZenBo the home robot. With the goals of “assistance, entertainment and companionship,” it’s particularly aimed at older people. However, the most interesting feature here is the promise that the robot will connect with traditional and smart home devices: you’ll be able to check who’s at the door from a connected camera, and then remote-unlock the door from the robot’s, er, face. Zenbo will be able to connect to lights, TVs, air conditioners — if it talks the right languages.

The robot can roam around independently, and take directions by voice command. ZenBo’s face also acts as a touchpad interface: you’ll be able to place video calls, shop online, as well as stream video content, when it’s not blushing.

It’s still early days, but ASUS says ZenBo will offer spoken reminders to its owners, like doctor appointment and medication cues. It’ll also be able to send emergency messages to family members if someone falls down — you can even take control of the robot and check the situation from ZenBo’s built in camera. For kids, the robot will be able to (awkwardly, robotically) dance along to music as well as read stories aloud from its built-in library. Naturally, ASUS is promoting a Zenbo developer program, with access to the bot’s SDK and more information to help birth apps — something very important if the robot is to be a success.

It will be inevitably compared to Softbank’s Pepper home robot, and there’s a few similarities, but if it can learn one major lesson from its taller Japanese rival, it’s that it needs a reason to exist, a reason to buy. It could be those smart home tricks that make or break Zenbo. Although that $599 price tag is pretty cheap for a home robot — that will certainly help.

Meet the #ASUS #Zenbo home robot! #zenvolution #Computex2016

A video posted by Engadget (@engadget) on May 30, 2016 at 12:12am PDT


Pope meets YouTube creators from around the world

Popes are no stranger to YouTube (Benedict XVI got a YouTube channel years ago), but Pope Francis is stepping things up a notch. He just met with 11 YouTube creators from around the world in a “first-of-its-kind” chat to share perspectives on issues of peace and tolerance, such as gender equality and immigrant rights. In the weeks ahead, each of those online video makers will produce clips sharing what they learned from the meeting. This probably won’t usher in a brave new era of generosity and kindness, but we also haven’t seen YouTubers get this kind of access before. At the least, it should lead to fresh perspectives on important topics.

Source: YouTube Official Blog


ARM prepares for VR in 2017’s phones with new chips

Come next year, ARM has one major theme in mind for its next batch of mobile processors: virtual reality. Its new Cortex-A73 chip and Mali-G71 GPU are, naturally, faster than its current lineup. But more so than the past few years, where incremental improvements were enough, ARM sees VR as the ideal goalpost for its chips. The new Mali chip, for example, will be able to push up 4K screens with refresh rates of up to 120Hz (90Hz is the bare minimum for decent VR). And both new processors will also be easier on battery life, which means you’ll be able to stay jacked into virtual worlds for much longer.

The Cortex-A73 is both 30 percent faster and more power efficient than last year’s A72. ARM says it’s able to sustain peak performance speeds far more than its previous chips, and it has the smallest footprint yet for one of its mobile processors (under 0.65mm sq). The A73 is built on a 10nm FinFET (a type of 3D transistor) design, which is a big reason why it’s so much more compact and power efficient than ARM’s previous chips.

The Mali-G71 is an even bigger leap, with 50 percent faster graphics performance and 20 percent better energy efficiency. It’s built on ARM’s new Bifrost architecture, and it’ll also be able spit out graphics with a low latency of 4ms (also ideal for VR). The G71 also has 32 shader cores, twice as much as its predecessor, the Mali-T880.

ARM says ten companies have already licensed its new chip designs including Mediatek, Marvell and HiSilicon. But, as usual, it’ll be awhile before you’ll see the A73 and G71 in new devices. ARM’s partners have only just started testing out the hardware, so you’ll have to wait until early next year to see it in phones.

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