Skip to content

Archive for


New FX subscription streams shows ad-free for $6 a month

Comcast announced today that it, along with FX Networks, will launch a new on-demand and streaming service that will give viewers commercial-free access to current and past episodes of FX and FXX series. However, you’ll have to be an Xfinity TV subscriber and the service — FX+ — will cost you an additional $6 per month.

Like most networks, FX already has an app that lets you watch new episodes of currently airing seasons, and as long as you have some sort of cable package that includes FX, you can do so for free. But with FXNow, you don’t get access to back seasons, for the most part, and you can’t watch episodes of old shows that are currently not on the air. Plus, whatever you can watch comes with ad interruptions.

On the other hand, FX+ offers both currently airing seasons of its shows as well as complete back season catalogs of a number of originals that are no longer on the air including Nip/Tuck, Louie and Damages. Comcast said in a statement that due to the number of episodes many of these shows have, the full library won’t be available immediately. Instead, it will be rolled out slowly with the full catalog expected to be accessible sometime in 2018.

Offering an add-on with an additional fee for something that you can largely get for free or through some other service doesn’t seem like the most innovative move. But FX isn’t the first to go in this direction.

FX+ launches September 5th and Xfinity customers can access it through Xfinity On Demand, the Xfinity Stream app and website as well as FXNow.

Source: Comcast


Google no longer forces its search on Android users in Russia

Back in April the Russian government ruled that Android phones in the region would have to allow Yandex — essentially Russia’s version of Google — as a default search provider. Now that’s playing out in real time. With the latest version of Chrome (v.60 if you’re keeping track at home), Russians are asked to pick their default search engine when the browser launches, according to Yandex. “This is a huge milestone for Russian users and something we have been working toward for a long time,” it wrote in a blog post. Now that this is settled, Yandex can get back to evaluating its relationship with Uber.

Source: Yandex


Intel unveils full specs for its 18-core i9 Extreme Edition CPU

Intel made a big splash at Computex with its new Core i9 X-series family, with the crown jewel being its 18-core processor for desktops. But until we haven’t heard much in the way of technical details. Today, Intel revealed that the 18-core i9-7980XE will feature a base speed of 2.6GHz, with a Turbo Boost 2.0 clock of 4.2GHz. And using Turbo Boost 3.0, which speeds up performance of its fastest two cores, it’ll reach 4.4GHz.

That’s just below the 4.5GHz top speed of Intel’s Core i7-7700K, its fastest mainstream processor for desktops. Basically, that means the 18-core chip will be no slouch when it comes single-threaded performance for games. (Check out our in-depth story on the development of the 18-core processor here.)

Yes, it might seem strange to see the company’s most powerful processor with a base clock speed under 3GHz. But what’s more important are the boost figures, which will kick in when you actually need more computing power. As for the other members of the X-series family, the 16-core model will feature speeds between 2.8GHz and 4.4GHz, while the 14-core version starts at 3.1GHz. As usual, Intel can reach higher speeds on chips with fewer cores, since there’s less of a heat issue to worry about.

It’ll be a while until we get full benchmarks from these chips, but Intel gave us a small preview from its own testing. The 16-core i9 CPU reached a Cinebench R15 score of 3,200, while running an NVIDIA GTX 1080Ti GPU. That’s below a 24-core Xeon E5 2697, according to 3D Fluff’s database. The quad-core i7-7700K, meanwhile, scored just 966 on that same benchmark.

You can nab the 14- to 18-core i9 CPUs on September 25th, while the 12-core version is coming sooner, on August 28th. The other chips are already available.



Source: Intel


Intel’s 18-core chip was a risk. It will probably pay off.

Intel’s high brass made a decidedly un-Intel move last August. During a routine business meeting at the company’s Santa Clara headquarters, they decided to upend their desktop CPU roadmap for 2017 to prepare something new: the beastly 18-core i9-7980XE X-series. It’s the company’s most powerful consumer processor ever, and it marks the first time Intel hsd been able to cram that many cores into a desktop CPU. At $2,000, it’s the sort of thing hardware fanatics will salivate over, and regular consumers can only dream about.

The chip’s very existence came down to a surprising revelation at that meeting last year: Intel’s 10-core Broadwell-E CPU, which was only on the market for a few months and cost a hefty $1,723, was selling incredibly well. And for Intel, that was a sign that there was even more opportunity in the high-end computing world.

“The 10-core part was absolutely breaking all of our sales expectations,” Intel’s Anand Srivatsa, general manager of its Desktop Platform Group, told Engadget in an interview. “We thought we’d wait six months or so to figure out whether this was actually going to be successful. But within the first couple months, it was absolutely clear that our community wanted as much technology as we could deliver to them.”

Intel introduced the new Intel® Core⢠X-series processor family on May 30, 2017. Intelâs most scalable, accessible and powerful desktop platform ever, it includes the new Intel® Core⢠i9 processor brand and the Intel® Core⢠i9 Extreme Edition processor â the first consumer desktop CPU with 18 cores and 36 threads of power. The company also introduced the Intel® X299, which adds even more I/O and overclocking capabilities. (Credit: Intel Corporation)

Who wants a $2,000, 18-core processor?

Most consumers these days don’t need a full-sized desktop. That’s no surprise. The rise of smartphones, tablets and ultraportable laptops — along with hybrid devices like Microsoft’s Surface — saw to that. But while it might seem like high-end desktop users are merely a niche audience, Intel recognized that they were a niche worth catering to.

As always, there are the gamers who want to eke out the best possible performance. But now that plenty of video game fanatics are broadcasting their exploits live on services like Twitch, there’s more demand for computing power than ever before. Their systems need to ensure that their games look good — especially if they’re playing at high resolutions like 4K — but they also need to handle video encoding and streaming at the same time without any hiccups.

There are also around 130 million content creators out there, according to Intel’s stats. Armed with high-quality cameras and easy-to-use editing tools, they cater to online audiences hungry for videos. And of course, they want machines that can also handle a few games as well.

With all of that in mind, Intel set out to make its most uncompromising enthusiast processors yet. Reaching 18 cores was the most prominent achievement, but the entire X-series family (which steps all the way down to four cores) also has plenty of features to satisfy more demanding users.

“Typically a lot of these users are doing prosumer type work; this is time to money,” Srivatsa said. “It was clearly indicated to us that if we offered more, people would come back in and refresh faster. That’s really where we think the money is.”

Meet the Core i9 X-series family

While we got a taste of Intel’s new lineup back in May at Computex, the company today is officially revealing specs for the higher-end i9 family, codenamed “Basin Falls.” At the top end, the 18-core i9-7980XE features a base speed of 2.6GHz, and a Turbo Boost 2.0 speed of 4.2GHz. It might seem odd for the creme da le creme CPU these days to rock a base clock under 3GHz — especially at $2,000 — but the boost figure is more important when you’re actually trying to get work done. The chip can also reach up to 4.4GHz with Turbo Boost 3.0, which ups the performance even more on two cores (more on that below).

It’ll be a while before we know just how well these chips actually perform, but Intel gave us a small preview from its own benchmarks: the 16-core i9 CPU reached a Cinebench R15 score of 3200, while running an NVIDIA GTX 1080Ti GPU. That puts it right below a 24-core Xeon E5 2697, according to 3D Fluff’s database. Another point of comparison: Intel’s quad-core i7-7700K — its fastest consumer CPU from earlier this year — scored just 966 on that same benchmark.

You’ll be able to get your hands on the 14-18 Core i9 CPUs on September 25th, while the 12-core will arrive sooner, on August 28th. The other chips are already available.



The road to 18 cores

You can trace Intel’s path to its new Core i9 chip back to 2013, when the company decided to refocus its energy on enthusiasts. Up until that point, Srivatsa admits, Intel was paying more attention to new form factors, like ultraportables and convertibles, rather than innovating with desktop chips. The company noticed that enthusiasts were the one key audience that was “absolutely livid” that it decided to skip fifth-generation Core chips on desktops in 2014. Their anger was showed they cared far more about Intel’s actual products than most other customers. So, it was probably a good idea to show them some love.

Intel’s first big volley for enthusiasts came during Computex in 2014, with the launch of its “Devil’s Canyon” chips. While they were basically just souped-up versions of the company’s fourth-generation processors, which originally debuted in 2013, they were still the fastest desktop chips Intel had ever made. The Core i7-4790K (which still sits in my rig today) was the company’s first quad-core CPU clocked at 4GHz.

Sweetening the pot even more for gear heads, these were all unlocked chips with better power management than previous models, so overclocking them was a cinch. While Devil’s Canyon processors didn’t quite lived up to their initial hype — many overclockers hoped they could reach speeds of 5GHz with just air cooling — they still performed better than what came before.

The company quickly followed up in 2014 with the $1,000 8-core Haswell-E “Extreme Edition” processor. It lived up to the promise of being Intel’s most powerful desktop CPU by that point — but it was also disappointing to gamers, since it was clocked much lower (between 3GHz and 3.5GHz) than the Devil’s Canyon chips, which had come out just four months prior. For anyone who cared more about clock speed, it paradoxically made more sense to stick with previous-generation chips. Still, that apparently didn’t matter to some buyers.

“Devil’s Canyon and this [Haswell-E] part were really a test to see if the engagement that the enthusiast community had with our products was going to translate into them buying these chips,” Srivatsa said. With Haswell-E, Intel ended up seeing a 25 percent jump in sales compared to the previous generation.


Intel’s Navin Shenoy showing off the Broadwell-E CPU.

Richard Lai/AOL

Broadwell-E, which debuted at Computex in 2016, was the next major CPU milestone. It was the first time Intel managed to deliver a 10-core desktop chip, and even at $1,723, enthusiasts ate it up. Its early success put Intel on the path to developing the 18-core i9 Extreme Edition, by forcing it to open up its roadmap. Without the success of Broadwell-E, Intel would have stuck to its original plan and waited much longer before making the jump to 18 cores.

“I’ll be honest, there was a lot of discussion about whether we were putting put cores nobody wanted,” Srivatsa said. “We had this expectation that the actual workloads don’t typically need as much as we think they would. We thought maybe there wasn’t as much of a demand for additional cores and additional performance in this segment.”

Turbo Boost Max… to the max

Beyond reaching a new core count milestone, Intel also aimed to fix a longstanding dilemma with its Extreme Series CPUs. Typically, if you wanted one of these chips, you’d have to sacrifice a bit of clock speed in exchange for having more cores. That’s why the Haswell-E was 1GHz slower than the older Devil’s Canyon CPU, despite costing three times as much.

The problem for consumers: Games rely more heavily on single-threaded performance, so you’d want the highest speed possible. Things like encoding and broadcasting video, meanwhile, take advantage of multi-threaded performance, which means the more cores the better. That left many buyers with a tough choice: Should they buy a system better suited for games, or one that was better for content creation?

Srivatsa notes that tradeoff is “honestly a part of physics.” The more cores you cram onto a CPU, the more you have to worry about cooling them all down. But last year, Intel introduced something on the Broadwell-E chip that could help deal with that issue: Turbo Boost Max 3.0. Simply put, it’s an evolution of the company’s Turbo Boost technology that allows one core to perform much faster than it could before.

Last year at Computex, Intel’s Navin Shenoy (now vice president and manager of its data center group), explained it like so: “Let’s say you’ve got 10 cores running … There’s a distribution curve in our manufacturing profile, so one core may run slightly faster than the others. Historically we would just say, we’ll run all the cores at the frequency of the weakest link. Now we’re able to, on a 10-core processor, say one core is faster than the other nine, and we can dedicate single-threaded workload to that core so you can get faster speeds.”

While it was a noble effort, the original incarnation of Turbo Boost Max was difficult to use. You needed a motherboard that supported it, and it was controlled by a driver, which required manually choosing programs to speed up. Or, if you were lazy, you could just have it work on whatever application you had in the foreground.

This time around, with the Core i9 X-series chips, Intel made Turbo Boost Max both more powerful and easier to use. It can now push two cores and four computing threads up to 4.5GHz, instead of just getting a single core to 4GHz. That makes it just as powerful as its fastest single-threaded performer, the Core i7-7700K, which should be a boon for gamers. And Intel also made Turbo Boost Max natively compatible with Windows, so you don’t have to worry about managing a driver and any additional software to take advantage of faster speeds. The OS will do all the work for you.

Intel v. AMD, again

If you’ve been feeling nostalgic for an old-school computing hardware war, we’re about to get one. AMD also announced its Threadripper CPUs for high-end desktops a few months ago, and, as usual, they’re significantly cheaper than Intel’s offerings. The 16-core AMD 1950X will cost $999, with speeds between 3.4GHz and 4GHz .That’s the same price as Intel’s 10-core i9 X-series processor, while the 16-core model will run you $1,699.

This is a familiar battle. AMD gained a reputation among enthusiasts for delivering CPUs that were a better overall value than Intel’s. But while it hasn’t innovated much on the desktop front over the past few years, AMD is betting big on its new Ryzen CPU architecture, which could give it more of a fighting chance against Intel. The Threadripper scored 2,876 on Cinebench R15 — but while that’s below Intel’s 16-core X-series result of 3200, it’s also $699 cheaper.

Looking ahead

It’ll be years before most consumers need a CPU as extravagant as Intel’s 18-core powerhouse X-series. And by the time they do, you can bet that an equivalent chip will be much cheaper in just a few years. But the fact that it exists tells us a lot about Intel’s current priorities. The company is finally betting big on enthusiasts. And since plenty of its high-end innovations will eventually trickle down to rest of the market, that’s ultimately a good thing for everyone.


Scientists may have found a functional cure for type-1 diabetes

Type-1 diabetes is a chronic condition that affects an estimated 42 million people worldwide, and occurs when the pancreas produces little to no insulin. Those with the condition must take supplemental insulin so their bodies can process sugars. But now, researchers at ViaCyte, a regenerative medicine company, have some good news: They’re working on a therapy based on stem cells that can automatically release insulin into the body when it’s needed.

The treatment is specifically aimed at patients with high-risk type-1 diabetes. ViaCyte estimates that around 140,000 people in the US and Canada suffer from the condition, which can cause life-threatening events. The use of stem cells to replace pancreatic insulin cells has been tried before, but without much success. ViaCyte’s approach shows promise because the stem cells can mature within the body itself through an implant the company calls PEC-Direct.

There has already been a round of clinical trials to test whether the stem cells could fully grow into the type of cells necessary to produce insulin — called islet cells. That was a success. But the number of cells within the implants wasn’t enough to actually treat the patients; it was solely to test whether the cells could, in fact, be grown. Now, in coordination with JDRF, an organization that funds type-1 diabetes research, ViaCyte has implanted PEC-Directs into two patients as a trial.

It’s important to note that this isn’t a full cure. It’s what ViaCyte President and CEO Paul Laikind calls “a functional cure.” It doesn’t address and treat the specific causes of the condition. Additionally, patients using this treatment would be required to take immunosuppressive drugs to protect the created cells from the body’s immune system, according to New Scientist. Regardless, it’s great news for anyone with the condition, especially considering so many stem cell therapies have turned into predatory and useless treatments.

Source: ViaCyte, New Scientist


The best apps and streaming services for students

It’s true that most of Engadget’s back-to-school guide has comprised, well, gadgets, but as every nerd knows, a piece of hardware is only as good as the software it runs. That’s why, to close out our guide, we wanted to highlight some apps and services worth downloading or subscribing to.

On the media front, this is as good a time as any to see if you can survive in the adult world as a cord-cutter — it’s not like you’re going to have a cable subscription in your dorm room, after all. If your parents are willing to share (or at least foot the bill), we recommend loading up on subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and HBO Now — you’ll want different programs from each at some point. If you’re a gamer and own a PlayStation, Sony’s PS Now service is also worth the extra bucks, while Xbox One owners might want to pony up for EA Access. Music lovers will enjoy either Apple Music or Spotify, but your choice will come down partially to the other devices you own.

As for schoolwork (yes, that thing), Google Drive is our favorite cloud-storage service, while Evernote and Bear both rank highly against other note-taking apps. Adobe’s Creative Cloud could be worth it (or even necessary), depending on your major. Oh, and if you’re worried about the “freshman 15,” try MyFitnessPal — it’s a free app many of Engadget’s own editors use to keep their calorie intake in check.

Source: Engadget’s 2017 Back to School Guide


Faraday Future leases new California plant amidst financial uncertainty

After abandoning its plans to open a manufacturing plant in Las Vegas, electric car maker Faraday Future has found a new home. The company has signed a lease for a 1,000,000-square foot facility in Hanford, California, and more than 500 employees were already onsite last Saturday decorating the building.

Considering Faraday’s close ties to troubled Chinese tech conglomerate LeEco and its own financial woes, we’re not entirely sure if the EV maker has the money to see this development through. COO/CFO Stefan Krause addressed the uncertainty and skepticism around Faraday’s future (ha) in a statement about the new plant, saying “We know there is a lot of work and risks ahead, but this event represents a major step forward for the company.”

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Faraday recently secured a $14 million loan that helps cover the cost of this lease. As for the relationship with LeEco, which the two companies previously described as a “strategic partnership,” Krause is downplaying Faraday’s reliance on the failing Chinese corporation. He told CNET, “Technically, there is no legal relationship with LeEco… They are a supplier and if we would lose them as a supplier there are many suppliers.”

That contradicts what was previously reported. LeEco’s founder and then-CEO was Faraday’s largest investor, and sources within both organizations reportedly saw the car maker’s employees working at LeEco’s offices. Things may have changed since the Chinese company started to implode. Meanwhile, Faraday says it is continuing to prepare its new site, and that “significant movement” will begin in early 2018, after the current tenants move out in late November.



T-Mobile’s latest plan gives seniors a discount on unlimited data

You can’t really sugarcoat it: senior citizens get a raw deal when it comes to cellphones. Carriers tend to either assume that you don’t use data (and want a basic cellphone) or else give you a modest discount at best. T-Mobile thinks it can do better: it’s launching a One Unlimited 55+ plan on August 9th that, for the most part, acknowledges that many seniors use smartphones as enthusiastically as the younger crowd. The offer gives you two lines with unlimited data, talk and texting for $60 per month, or $50 for one line. There are a few gotchas, but it still amounts to a huge deal for empty-nesters who want to post their vacation shots on Instagram.

The plan offers many of the perks that everyone else gets, including unlimited text and basic data when traveling (plus full service in Canada and Mexico), freebies on Tuesdays, Digits phone number syncing and some free use of your phone on Gogo’s in-flight wireless access. The catches? You need to set up automatic payments to get those rates (it’s $5 more per line otherwise), and you won’t get Kickback, Insider Hookup or a handful of other discounts. There’s also no mention of video streaming at higher quality than 480p or tethering beyond 3G speeds, although we’ve asked the carrier if customers can upgrade to higher video quality and faster hotspot connections.

This isn’t necessarily the best option if you don’t make heavy use of your phone (Google’s Project Fi could cost as much or less with modest use, for example). However, it might just beat the alternatives. AT&T and Verizon will both give you a 65-plus plan at $30 for one line, but that doesn’t include data. Verizon asks at least $30 to add a reasonable amount of data, at which point you might as well pay for regular service. You can get discounts on some carriers if you’re an AARP member (AT&T’s is 10 percent), but you might still end up paying more. In short: so long as you actually intend to take advantage of all that data and airtime, T-Mobile might have the edge.

It’s not surprising why T-Mobile would cut a deal like this, at least. Cellphone use is near a saturation point in the US, with few new customers — by courting a relatively untapped market, T-Mobile might continue growing at the expense of rivals who only make minimal efforts to accommodate older users.

Source: T-Mobile Newsroom


YouTube adds in-app direct messaging and sharing features

Don’t look now, but Google has yet another messaging service — sort of. Today, YouTube announced that it is rolling out a new in-app direct messaging feature, much like what you’ll find in Instagram. Google’s been testing and teasing this feature for over a year now, but after taking user feedback into consideration, the company is rolling it out to all of its users around the world.

As noted, it’s not dissimilar to what Instagram has been doing with its own direct messaging features that arrived in December 2013. When users tap the “share” button on a video, they’ll now have the option to send it directly through the YouTube app to their contacts. The share pane shows people you’ve recently chatted with, as well as some suggestions for people to add to your list. When you tap the “add contacts” button, the app asks if you want to pull in people from your phone book or send an invite link.

Sadly, the phone book doesn’t actually show whether or not your contacts are using YouTube; it just pulls up a “add me as a contact on YouTube” message and dumps it into an SMS. It would be a lot more elegant if the app could recognize which of your friends are signed into YouTube and just start the conversation there. That’s the challenge with what YouTube is trying to do here: It’s easy enough to just use the standard Android or iOS sharing pane to drop a video into iMessage or your chat app of choice, but it’s beneficial for YouTube to keep the conversation going on its own platform.

YouTube’s suggested contacts feature makes it a little easier to get started sharing things. With those people, you can send and confirm invites within the app itself, no SMS needed. Google says those suggestions take into account which people you interact with on YouTube and other Google services, which is to say, people that you email or chat with in Hangouts will presumably show up here as well. Regardless of whether you invite someone through SMS or in the app itself, once the invite is accepted you can freely share videos back and forth.

Fortunately, this new feature works pretty well once you get past dealing with contacts. Once you share a video (your first conversation with a contact needs to be initiated by sharing a video), you and your friend can just chat about it right in YouTube. Whether just one-on-one or in a group, you can chat just as you would with basically any other chat app. Naturally, there’s a button right in the compose area to drop another video into the conversation. Pressing it pulls up your most recently viewed videos, but you can also tap a search button to find basically anything else you’d want to add to the conversation.

Given YouTube’s focus on video, you can only add other videos to the conversation. Otherwise, you’re limited to text and emoji. There are also limited “reaction” features; users can add a heart to any message or video dropped in their chat. But other than that, YouTube wisely keeps things basic here, as there’s no real need for this to compete with more full-featured chat apps like Facebook Messenger, iMessage or even Google’s own Alto.

Indeed, this new feature will probably be most utilized by heavy YouTube users — probably the kinds of people who frequently upload and create their own videos as well as just watch. But even more casual YouTube users will probably find themselves using this new feature pretty quickly. The in-app option is now the default way to share YouTube videos, so chances are good that you’ll either send or receive a video like this pretty quickly.

And while it’s easy to chide Google for coming up with yet another messaging system, it’s also something the company had to do to keep people sharing video on its platform instead of through other apps. Instagram made in-app sharing and messaging a focus over the years, and it makes sense for YouTube to do the same — it helps control the experience users have and makes it more likely they’ll keep sharing more clips. Fortunately, YouTube implemented this feature in a way that makes sense and is easy to use, my one qualm about SMS invites aside. If it means my friends are more likely to share ridiculous videos with me, so much the better.


Researchers develop method for real-time speech animation

Researchers at the University of East Anglia, Caltech, Carnegie Mellon University and Disney have created a way to animate speech in real-time. With their method, rather than having skilled animators manually match an animated character’s mouth to recorded speech, new dialogue can be incorporated automatically in much less time with a lot less effort.

To do this, the researchers recorded over eight hours of audio and video of a speaker reciting more than 2500 different sentences. The speaker’s face was tracked as they spoke, which was used to create a reference face for an animation model. Off-the-shelf speech recognition software was then used to transcribe the speech sounds. All of this information was subsequently used to train a neural network to animate a reference face, frame-by-frame, based on phonemes — or individual distinct bits of sound — pulled from new audio. That reference face was then superimposed on and matched to computer generated characters in real-time.

Training the AI with the reference video and audio takes only a couple of hours and this method lets you use speech from any speaker with any accent and even in different languages. It also accommodates singing. “Realistic speech animation is essential for effective character animation. Done badly, it can be distracting and lead to a box office flop,” said lead researcher Sarah Taylor in a statement. “Doing it well however is both time consuming and costly as it has to be manually produced by a skilled animator. Our goal is to automatically generate production-quality animated speech for any style of character, given only audio speech as an input.”

This new method was recently published in ACM Transactions on Graphics and presented at SIGGRAPH 2017. You can check out a video of the method at work through the study’s supplementary material download here.

Source: University of East Anglia, ACM Transactions on Graphics

%d bloggers like this: